Clayton looks like many classic Disney villains, hungry for money and power. But what makes him stand out from the crowd is his harshness.
Like Cruella De Vil before him, Clayton's cruel treatment of animals (in this case, the apes), and Tarzan himself, makes him a chillingly cold villain so different from the run-of-the-mill animated bad guy. His character is also a home-hitting statement on poachers.
Clayton usually acted like a calm, chivalrous gentleman, but in truth, he is in fact violent, selfish, greedy and ruthless. Clayton was very manipulative using the Porters to get him to Africa and manipulating Tarzan into showing him where the gorillas were by telling him that Tarzan's love interest, Jane, was devastated about not being able to see gorillas. He thought that gorillas and any other creature that wasn't human were nothing more than beasts and wanted to use the gorillas to make himself rich. A talented hunter and tracker, Clayton was a very dangerous man. He was also very willing to risk death at the hands of his enemies if it ensured they descended down to his level of savagery (or in his words, "fight like a man"), although other than that, he does fear death. This is especially evident when he attempted to cut himself free from the vines, only to kill himself in the process.
In Tarzan, Clayton, a veteran hunter and guide, serves as guide for Jane and her father Archimedes Q. Porter on an expedition to Africa in search for gorillas, but his secret agenda is to use the trip as a means to hunt gorillas to sell on the black market. Clayton is arrogant and totally convinced in his own abilities and invulnerability.
With the introduction of Tarzan to the expedition, Clayton makes several attempts (all unsuccessful) to get the location of the gorillas from Tarzan, who is far more fascinated by what Jane has to teach him about humans.
With both his and his employers' goals thwarted, Clayton prepares to leave Africa with Jane and Professor Porter. Manipulating Tarzan's feelings for Jane, he tells the ape man that they'll stay if he takes them to the gorillas. This is of course, not true—Jane would have had to return to England at some point anyway. Tarzan, however, is convinced, and has Kerchak, the head gorilla, distracted so that he can lead Jane to the gorillas. Kerchak returns unexpectedly though, and is angered by the trespassers and attacks Clayton, considering him the greatest threat. Luckily for Clayton, Tarzan manages to pin down Kerchak. Disowned from the family by Kerchak, he agrees to return to England with Jane and the professor, only to be surprised and imprisoned with them by Clayton and the captain's crew (who working for him after turning on the captain and his officers) when they board the ship. Now that the villain no longer needs them, he wants them all out of the way so that he and his cronies can capture the gorillas and sell them to a zoo for three hundred pounds each (a substantial amount of money in the days when the movie was set).
The heroes manage to escape, scare Clayton's henchmen (trapping them in the same cages they intended to trap the gorillas in), and free the gorillas, including Kala, Tarzan's adoptive mother. From the undergrowth, Clayton shoots at Tarzan, but the bullet only grazes his arm. Kerchak is fatally shot when he charges Clayton. After knocking Jane aside savagely with his rifle, putting her out of the fight, Clayton confronts Tarzan, who takes the battle to the treetops. The two of them exchange blows briefly, where Tarzan causes Clayton to drop his rifle. Tarzan then takes the rifle and points it at him. Clayton mocks Tarzan by telling him to "be a man" and shoot him. Tarzan says he's not a man like him and smashes the rifle. After watching the pieces of his gun fall to the ground, Clayton flies into a rage and draws his machete. Tarzan jumps back into a mass of vines to escape Clayton's furious swipes. He manages to entangle Clayton in the vines, but Clayton mindlessly hacks at them with his machete in an attempt to free himself, not noticing that one vine has slipped like a noose around his own neck. Tarzan tries to warn him, but in his rage Clayton accidentally cuts the vine he's holding on to. He and Tarzan plummet towards the ground.Tarzan lands safely, but Clayton is hanged by the vine when it snaps his neck. A flash of lightning illuminates his hanged corpse, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze, briefly before he is left to the jungle.
There was an alternate ending to the original movie where Clayton and Tarzan fight on a boat where Clayton has some gorillas in cages and is trying to make an escape along with his henchmen.
In this version, Clayton battles Tarzan with a machine gun and a dagger while making references to Tarzan being a savage and not a real man, which is reminiscent of the statement made in the actual ending. In this version, he dies when some barrels of oil catch fire and blow up the boat. Both Tarzan and Clayton are trapped on the boat, but Clayton meets his end when support ropes tie up his legs and bring him down with the boat, making him drown.
This ending was dropped because it was too dark and violent for young viewers and was felt that it was more appropriate to have the final fight in the jungle and allow the jungle to play a part in Clayton’s downfall (the vine around his neck). Another reason for it being dropped was because it also contradicted Tarzan's remark that he won't kill as a "man like [Clayton]." They also wanted Clayton to appear more animalistic and rely more on brute force in his battle with Tarzan. Hence, he has a lot less dialogue in the final version, except for his xenophobic remark, and is a lot more violent in his attacks. This alternate ending can be found on the Special Edition 2-Disc DVD.
The Legend of Tarzan
In The Legend of Tarzan, it is revealed that Clayton has a sister named Lady Watham who plots revenge on Tarzan (whom she thinks killed Clayton on purpose). Lady Watham has her butler kidnap Jane, Professor Porter, Terk, and Tantor, hiding them in places all over the jungle with dangerous traps set to kill them. Before Tarzan can go to save them, Lady Watham shoots him with a dart, causing Tarzan to be poisoned, giving Tarzan a choice to suffer the way she did by having someone he loves die or suffer the way Clayton did and die.
However after Tarzan saves her life, she gives him the antidote for the poison and finally understands that Tarzan never killed her brother.
Clayton also appears in one of Tarzan's hallucinations in one episode.Donald and Goofy in a bamboo thicket after they landed in the Deep Jungle. He toke them to the Encampment Site, where they reunited with Sora and met Tarzan and Jane. Suspicion over Clayton's activity arose when Clayton said that Donald and Goofy were "not much use for hunting gorillas", when he and Jane actually came there for research. He questioned Tarzan about the gorillas' nesting grounds, secretly desiring to hunt them down as they would fetch a great price at the zoos. Eventually, Tarzan agreed to take him to the nesting grounds and met with the pack leader, Kerchak, while Clayton snuck to the abandoned treehouse. There, he tried to shoot Terk, but was stopped by Donald. To defend himself, Clayton lied that he shot at a snake threatening Terk's life. Once back at the tent, Clayton was yelled at by a furious Jane and forbidden from seeing the gorillas. Hiding his anger with a nervous smile, Clayton grumbled to himself in private that he'd stake his life to hunt down the gorillas. Little did he know, the Heartless had been lured to Deep Jungle by his anger and determination to hunt the gorillas. Frightened of them at first, he took a shot at the Heartless, but the darkness in his heart took him over and he realised thart he could use these "animals" to help him catch the gorillas. While Tarzan, Donald, Sora, and Goofy were out looking for him, Clayton kidnapped Jane and Terk and imprisoned them in the jungle. He then hunted out the location of the gorillas, with the help of the Heartless. Just as he was about to kill them, Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Tarzan arrived, finding that Clayton had nearly lost his heart. Sora and company did battle with him and his Heartless. Even though he proved to be proficient at using a shotgun at long range and even close range (swinging it like a club), Clayton and his Heartless were easily defeated. Outnumbered, Clayton summoned a Heartless called the Stealth Sneak, mounting it and starting a boss battle. When Clayton was thrown from his steed, Sora defeated him. Afterward, as Clayton prepared to finish Sora once and for all, the Stealth Sneak fell and ultimately crushed Clayton to death; the whereabouts of his body after the battle is unknown, although it may have disappeared with the Heartless.
- For more pictures and screenshots of John Clayton, click here.
- When the lightning flashes in the original movie, viewers can see Clayton's shadow in the flash, dangling from the vine-turned-noose for a brief moment. This makes Clayton's death scene one of the most graphic in Disney's animated history the other's being Scar, Ursula and Roscoe and DeSoto—characters are rarely shown to be dead because of injuries; they usually fall and are never seen again(Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast), or lie dead, but without a scratch on them (Mufasa from The Lion King and Megara from Hercules).
- Tarzan's true name is never shown. In the original Tarzan of the Apes, John Clayton is the name of both Tarzan and his father, and the man who accompanies Jane to Africa is William Cecil Clayton, Tarzan's biological cousin.
- Unlike most villains that fell to their death, Clayton is one of the few that was actually seen landing. The others include Frollo, Zira, Queen Narissa, and Mother Gothel (Scar doesn't count, as he wasn't killed by the fall itself).
- Clayton is somewhat similar to the Amos Slade of The Fox and the Hound and Percival C. McLeach from The Rescuers Down Under. All are hunters and both possess guns, however Clayton does not have any animal sidekicks whereas Amos Slade had Chief and Copper and McLeach had Joanna the Goanna.
- Although Brian Blessed is the voice of Clayton, he proved to be better at the Tarzan yell than Tony Goldwyn.
Tarzan | The Legend of Tarzan | Tarzan & Jane | House of Mouse | Tarzan II
Park Attractions: Tarzan's Treehouse
Characters: Tarzan | Terk | Tantor | Kala | Kerchak | Flynt and Mungo | Sabor | Lord and Lady Greystroke | Manu | Jane Porter | Archimedes Q. Porter | Clayton | Tublat | Lady Watham | Queen La | Kats | Dr. Doyle | Eleanor | Greenly | Hazel | Ian | Lieutenant Colonel Staquait | Renard Dumont | Samuel T. Philander | Theodore Roosevelt | Usula | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Mama Gunda | Kago and Uto | Zugor