- “Hiding, are we? Good! I could use a challenge, because after I get rid of you, rounding up your little ape family will be ALL TOO EASY!”
- ―Clayton taunting Tarzan[src]
In Tarzan, Clayton, a veteran hunter and guide, served as guide for Jane and her father Archimedes Q. Porter on an expedition to Africa in search for gorillas, but his secret agenda was to use the trip as a means to hunt gorillas in order to sell them on the black market. Clayton was arrogant and totally convinced in his own abilities and invulnerability.
Clayton initially appeared to be a chivalrous gentleman, albeit with a fragile temper and intolerance for treating the African expedition as a vacation experience, rather than a business endeavor, as the Porters were often sidetracked by sights and wildlife other than the gorillas. He has also shown a hint of hatred toward animals, and ignorance in terms of understanding them, believing gorillas to be savage beasts, in spite of Professor Porter's hypothesis that gorillas are generally social creatures. This also ties to Clayton's slight paranoia of the jungle, as he was shown to be overly protective of himself, as well as trigger-happy, blasting his gun the second he suspects that an animal, other than a gorilla, may be nearby.
As time goes on throughout the film, Clayton's patience with the Porters wanes thin, and with it, his true nature begins to unfold; one that is vicious, abusive, and conniving. By the time the climax comes forth, he is revealed to be a very sinister individual who was planning to make wealth from selling gorillas. According to the audio commentary of the Tarzan DVD, Clayton's actions during his final moments in the film were meant to mirror the film's initial antagonist, Sabor, thus symbolizing Clayton's increasing lack of humanity and descent into animalistic madness.
With the introduction of Tarzan to the Porters' expedition, Clayton made several attempts (all unsuccessful) to get the location of the gorillas from Tarzan, who was far more fascinated by what Jane had to teach him about humans.
Days later, a cargo ship arrived to pick up the explorers and escort them back to England, much to their dismay. As the ship's crew loaded up their luggage and supplies, Clayton and Jane attempted to reason with the captain and request more time, but the captain refused, fearing falling behind his schedule. Clayton subsequently blamed Jane for distracting herself with teaching Tarzan, but Jane retorted that she was just as upset about not being able to find the gorillas. With both his and his employers' goals thwarted, Clayton prepared to leave Africa with Jane and Professor Porter until he witnessed Tarzan asking Jane to stay while presenting her flowers. Realizing Tarzan had strong feelings for Jane, he manipulated the ape-man into believing that they'll stay if he took them to the gorillas. This is, of course, not true—Jane would have had to return to England at some point anyway. Tarzan, however, was convinced and had Kerchak, the head gorilla, distracted so that he could lead Jane to the gorillas. Upon arrival, Clayton secretly forged a map to the troop's home. Kerchak returned unexpectedly, though, and was angered by the trespassers and attacked Clayton after the hunter threatened one of the family during a skirmish.
Luckily for Clayton, Tarzan managed to pin down Kerchak. Disowned from the family by Kerchak, he agreed to return to England with Jane and the professor. However, when they boarded the ship, they were unexpectedly ambushed by the captain's crew who had also turned on the captain and his officers. As Jane and her father were taken to the ship's brig to be imprisoned, Tarzan tried to flee the thugs but was eventually captured them. The scuffle ended when Clayton intervened and fired his rifle. Tarzan was initially relieved to see him and begged for his help, but was soon surprised by Clayton's casual behavior toward the ape man's situation and realized that he led the thugs. After striking the angry Tarzan in the chest with his rifle's handle, Clayton revealed to him his plan to 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). In order to further emotionally damage Tarzan's spirit, Clayton sadistically reminded him that only by his own unknowing efforts would he have succeeded and ordered him to be imprisoned with the other captives. He and his men then left in a small boat loaded with large cages and made way for the gorilla's nests.
The poachers eventually reached the nests and began capturing the gorillas, netting them, forcing them in the cages, and throwing the babies into burlap sacks. Kerchak attempted to rescue his group but was captured as well. Clayton slowly approached the restrained ape leader and prepared to shoot him in revenge for having been attacked by him earlier but was interrupted when he heard Tarzan's trademark yell. Tarzan and his friends, who had escaped imprisonment earlier, ambushed and frightened Clayton's henchmen (trapping some of them in the same cages they intended to trap the gorillas in), and freed the gorillas, including Kala, Tarzan's adoptive mother. Clayton was forced to take cover during the scuffle but soon set out to kill Tarzan for interfering in his plans.
From the undergrowth, Clayton shot at Tarzan, but the bullet only grazed his arm. Kerchak was fatally shot when he charged Clayton. After knocking an invervening Jane aside savagely with his rifle, putting her out of the fight, Clayton confronted Tarzan, who took the battle to the treetops. They both exchanged blows briefly, nature versus civilization, but nature won when Tarzan caused Clayton to drop his rifle. Tarzan then grabbed the rifle and pointed it at him. Clayton teased Tarzan by telling him to "be a man" and shoot him, but Tarzan realized that doing it would only make him no better than Clayton. In retaliation, Tarzan angrily pressed the rifle's muzzle against Clayton's neck and instead imitated a loud gunshot noise, startling Clayton. Tarzan then retorted that he was not a man like him, and smashed the rifle. After watching the pieces of his beloved gun fall to the ground, Clayton flew into a rage and drew his machete. Tarzan jumped back into a mass of vines to escape Clayton's furious swipes. The ape man managed to ensnare Clayton in the vines, but Clayton mindlessly hacked at them with his machete in an attempt to free himself, not noticing that one of the vines had slipped like a noose around his neck. Seeing this, Tarzan tried to warn the hunter, but in his rage, Clayton accidentally cut the vine he was holding on to, causing him and Tarzan to plummet toward the ground. Tarzan landed safely, but Clayton was hanged by the vine and died when it snapped his neck. A flash of lightning briefly illuminated the shadow of his hanged corpse, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze, the jungle having claimed him.
There was an alternate ending to the original movie where Clayton and Tarzan fight on a boat where Clayton had some gorillas in cages and was trying to make an escape along with his henchmen.
In this version, Clayton battled Tarzan with a machine gun and a dagger while making references to Tarzan being a savage and not a real man, which was reminiscent of the statement made in the actual ending. In this version, he died when some barrels of oil caught fire and blow up the boat. Tarzan and Clayton were both trapped on the boat and Clayton met his end when support ropes snagged his legs and brought him down with the boat, drowning him.
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.
In The Legend of Tarzan episode "The Gauntlet of Vengeance", it is revealed that Clayton has a sister named Lady Waltham who plotted revenge on Tarzan (whom she thought killed Clayton on purpose). Lady Waltham had 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 could go to save them, Lady Waltham shot 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 saved her life, she gave him the antidote for the poison and finally understood that Tarzan never killed her brother.
In the episode Tarzan and the Race Against Time, after Tarzan was bitten by a venomous spider, Jane and the others learnt that the only cure is the Mububu flower, found on the top of a waterfall. Terk began to feel jealous of Jane and thought that she was not suited for jungle life, so Terk made a bet that she could not make it. But as Tarzan's condition worsened, one of Tarzan's hallucinations was of Clayton.
Clayton is one of the villains brought back to life and imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost. He now has a son named Clay.
Clayton appears as a minor antagonist in the first installment of the series, residing in the world of Deep Jungle. His role in the game's storyline largely follows that of the original film.
Clayton finds Donald and Goofy in a bamboo thicket after they crash landed in the world, taking 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 stopped when startled by Donald's squawking. To defend himself, Clayton lied that he shot at a snake threatening Terk's life.
Once back at the tent, a furious Jane reprimanded Clayton for his actions, forbidding him from going anywhere near the gorillas for the remainder of the trip. Furious, Clayton leaves the tent to lament to himself, but his anger and determination had unknowingly lured the Heartless to Deep Jungle. Frightened of them at first, Clayton took a shot at the Heartless, but the darkness in his heart took him over and he realized that he could use his new-found mastery over 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. After a battle with Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Tarzan arrived, Clayton summoned a Heartless known as the Stealth Sneak, to assist him in defeating the heroes. Just as Clayton prepared to finish Sora off, the Stealth Sneak, having been defeated and dazed, fell and ultimately crushed Clayton to death.
In Hollow Bastion, Maleficent and her legion of villains discussed the presence of the Heartless in Deep Jungle due to Clayton's darkness, saying that his darkness was a bit too tasty to the Heartless for his own good, believing the hunter to have been weak-hearted.
- When the lightning flashes in the original film, viewers can see Clayton's shadow in the flash, dangling from the vine-turned-noose for several seconds. This makes Clayton's death scene one of the most graphic in Disney's animated history. Due to the graphic appearance of his death, it is often rewritten in media such as children's novelizations, such as that he merely fell to his death rather than being hanged.
- In the episode "Gauntlet of Vengeance", it had a flashback of Clayton's death which implied him falling to his death, However, if one views carefully, the vines are visible around Clayton's neck and Tarzan looking up at what would be Clayton's off-screen corpse.
- Airings of the film have also re-animated it so that it looks like Clayton fell to his death, even though they still show the vines around his neck when he falls and Tarzan still looks up to where Clayton's body is.
- Clayton is the only villain in the first Kingdom Hearts to control the Heartless without being a member of Maleficent's council.
- Although Brian Blessed is the voice of Clayton, he proved to be better at the Tarzan yell than Tony Goldwyn.
- Originally Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were considered for the role of Clayton before Brian Blessed.
- Brian Blessed has stated that Clayton is one of his two most cherished roles in his career, the other being Blackadder's father, King Richard IV, in the British sitcom The Black Adder.
- Clayton appears in the stage musical adaptation, but not even there does he have any singing parts. Also, in this version, Clayton is American, not British, and has romantic feelings toward Jane. He also lives in this version.
- According to the film commentary, Clayton's outfit was designed to appear like Sabor's yellow fur to designate him as the new villain. When he's introduced, he's covered in shadows that give him the look of spots similar to Sabor's. Likewise his animators were advised that he should move in a similar predatory manner.
- Many people assume that Clayton's gun is a double barreled shotgun, but it is actually a rifle. British hunters back in the day carried double barreled rifles that shot big bullets capable of putting down any animal, including gorillas and elephants.
- In the novels, Clayton's real name is William Cecil Clayton and is Tarzan's younger cousin. If the movie had addressed the relation between these two, he would more likely be Tarzan's older cousin given his appearance and age between his forties to fifties.