Sabor is the secondary antagonist in Disney's Tarzan. She is a female leopard who killed both Tarzan's parents and Kala and Kerchak's baby son at the beginning of the film. She was introduced as the antagonist of the film's first act, replaced by Clayton in the second act.
Sabor is a large female leopard with a slender, strongly built form which allows her to move quickly to hunt down her prey. Clad in bright yellow fur with dark spots, she always displays a fierce expression with sharp fangs and large green eyes.
Sabor is an aggressive and ferocious leopard who was well known throughout the jungle. Notably she is the only animal character in the film who never speaks, instead communicating with snarls and roars. In addition to being a stealthy predator, Sabor was also extremely brave and never backed down from a fight as shown when she fought Kerchak and Tarzan.
Sabor is one of the most lethal fighters in Disney to date; she is exceptionally deadly in battle and merciless as a carnivore. While she was still a young leopard she killed and devoured the infant son of Kerchak and Kala, slaughtered both of Tarzan's parents, and fought Kala over the infant Tarzan, although Kala managed to escape with the baby. Approximately twenty years later, Sabor had not only lived a remarkably long life for a leopard, but was still an incredibly lethal fighter considering her age. Not only did she defeat Kerchak, displaying incredible speed which gave her an advantage over the gorilla's brute strength, but she came even closer to killing Tarzan than Clayton ever did as she was literally right on top of Tarzan when the latter struck the fatal blow.
In the opening song, "Two Worlds", Sabor's vivid eyes are seen as she growls, and soon later when Kerchak and Kala are resting, their young baby is playing far off. Sabor chases him and kills him off-screen, leaving Kala horrified and cries into Kerchak's arms. Later on, as the family is passing by the tree house Tarzan's parents built, Kala hears a baby's cry and rushes to Tarzan's old tree house, to find it trashed and his parents' bodies lifeless. She finds the baby and cuddles it, when Sabor suddenly leaps from a beam and attacks. As Kala escapes with on a lowering rowboat, Sabor gets her foot caught on the ropes lowering the boat, and is hoisted up into the air, leaving her dangling from the top of the treehouse.
Sabor later appears in about the middle of the film, where she ambushes and attacks the gorillas. Kerchak fights her, but is no match for the leopard's speed and agility, and receives a wound to the chest. Before Sabor can deliver the fatal blow, however, Tarzan comes in swinging on a vine, kicking the leopard backwards. During the fight, Sabor slashes off the tip of Tarzan's spear, and she also scratches Tarzan's chest, almost into his heart. The spear tip falls onto a flimsy covering of a pit and Tarzan heads after it and eventually grabs it. Sabor leaps down on him and they plunge into the pit, and the leopard is incidentally impaled on the head of Tarzan's shattered spear as the ape man raises it against her, finally killing Sabor. Tarzan then calls out the famous ape man cry, as he lifts up Sabor's dead body.
Sheeta, the discarded original Burroughs designation, was later used in The Legend of Tarzan show as the name for one of two black panthers that attack together (the name of the other was Nuru). Black panthers are actually a color variety of leopards and they do exist in African jungles, although they seem to be rare. In a few episodes, Sabor has been mentioned. In some episodes of the series, Tarzan battles an unnamed leopard resembling Sabor. In Tarzan and the Flying Ace, when Tarzan meets Jane's former childhood friend Robert Canler, Tarzan says that when he looks into Robert's eyes, he feels as if Sabor is looking back at him.
In the seventh book of the series - The Insider - Sabor appears as one of the minions of the Overtakers. Finn is investigating Tarzan's Treehouse for clues to the Osiris Myth for brining Mickey Mouse back to life. He takes notice of the Sabor statue, and knowing full well that it could be brought to life asks the Dillard hologram to keep watch on it with the cameras. No sooner does this occur and Finn leaves, Sabor comes to life and tries to kill him. Luckily, Finn's girlfriend Amanda is able to use a powerful telekinetic blast to knock her out of the tree and down below, where she resumes her statue form.
Sabor is seen in Tarzan's Treehouse attraction. Guests walk up multiple steps until they come upon a small hut with everything wrecked, ripped, and broken. You see Sabor in the middle of it, with her mouth wide open in a crazy way.
In the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the name Sabor is a feminine term was used to describe lionesses, while the name Numa described male lions. Sheeta was the proper term in the fictional ape language of Mangani for leopards in the novels.
As lions are not found in jungles, Sabor was changed from a lion to a leopard for the film, which is the real apex predator of the jungle.
Despite being a leopard, Sabor was portrayed in a very stylized way, with a body and head with strange angles, very long, thin fangs (almost like those of a saber-toothed cat), and scarce spots unlike those of a real leopard. As usual in film depictions of big cats, Sabor's roars and growls are a mixture of sounds of several felines, including leopards, jaguars, lions, tigers, and cougars.
When Sabor attacks the gorilla family, she seems to initially focus her efforts on Tarzan alone. After missing Tarzan with her first lunge, she completely ignores the nearby Terk and Tantor, and pursues Tarzan up a tree, at which point Kerchak intervenes.
In real life, leopards do in fact hunt gorillas and are apex predators.
Originally, Sabor was shown killing Tarzan's father in the beginning of the film, but the scene was removed. It can still be seen in the 2-disc DVD.
Though designated as female in the film, Kingdom Hearts credits Sabor as a male instead.
Sabor kills at least three minor characters in the movie (Kala's first son and Tarzan's parents) and injures another three of the protagonists (Kala, Kerchak and Tarzan, making the latter bleed). This makes her one of, if not the, most dangerous animal villains in Disney films.
Sabor has a total of thirty to seventy spots.
Sabor lived a remarkably long life for a wild leopard, being over twenty years old at the time of her death. Interestingly, she shows no signs of aging and her physical condition had not deteriorated at all. In real life, the average typical life span of a wild leopard is between 12 and 17 years. The oldest recorded leopard was a female named Roxanne living in captivity at McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary in The Acreage, Palm Beach County, Florida. She died August 8, 2014 at the age of 24 years, 2 months and 13 days.
According to the film commentary, the lighting in Tarzan's duel against Sabor is symbolic. Whenever Tarzan is safe from Sabor, he's always in the shade, but he's vulnerable to Sabor when he's outside of the shadows. The commentators say this reflected how the gorillas were safe in their shady and secluded tree nests.
Despite being classified as a villain, Sabor is not truly evil. Rather, she is simply a fierce predator that is trying to survive in a harsh jungle.
Though Tarzan is undeniably brave in the face of Sabor, he is actually very scared of her. This is show multiples times throughout the film:
When Tarzan is struggling underneath Sabor, his eyes are shut tight, clearly showing fear.
When Tarzan is hiding in the tree branches from Sabor, his eyes are wide and he grits his teeth. He can also be heard whimpering slightly as he backs away from her.
Before Tarzan grabs the stone and jams it against Sabor's paw, he briefly says "No!" in a deep voice. He doesn't move his mouth when he says it, and it can only be heard if one listens closely.