- “Go ahead, shoot me. Be a man.”
- ―Clayton's last words, to Tarzan
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, "be 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.
AppearancesJane 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. Upon arrival Clayton secretly forges a map to the troop's home. Kerchak returns unexpectedly though, and is angered by the trespassers and attacks Clayton,after the hunter threatens one of the family during a skirmish. 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). In order to further emotionally damage Tarzan's spirit, Clayton sadistically reminds him that only by his own unknowing efforts would he have succeeded and orders him to be imprisoned. 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, but Tarzan realizes he'd only be stooping to Clayton's level. Tarzan says he's not a man like him, and smashes the rifle. After watching the pieces of his beloved 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, causing him and Tarzan to plummet towards the ground. Tarzan lands safely, but Clayton is hanged by the vine and dies when it snaps his neck. A flash of lightning briefly illuminates the shadow of his hanged corpse, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze.
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.
In The Legend of Tarzan episode The Gauntlet of Vengeance, It is revealed that Clayton has a sister named Lady Waltham who plots revenge on Tarzan (whom she thinks killed Clayton on purpose). Lady Waltham 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 Waltham 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.
In the episode Tarzan and the Race Against Time, After Tarzan is bitten by a venomous spider, Jane and the others learn that the only cure is the Mububu flower, found on the top of a waterfall. Terk begins to feel jealous of Jane and thinks that she is not suited for jungle life, so Terk makes a bet that she cannot make it. But as Tarzan's condition worsens, one of Tarzan's hallucinations was of Clayton.
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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, Clayton was yelled at by a furious Jane and forbidden from seeing the gorillas. Hiding his anger with a nervous smile, Clayton backed out of the tent. Grumbling to himself in private, Clayton said that he'd stake his life to hunt down the gorillas. Little did he know, his anger and determination to hunt the gorillas had 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. Just as he was about to kill them, Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Tarzan arrived, finding Clayton was on the verge of losing 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, having been defeated and dazed, 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.
Clayton's actions do not go unnoticed, however. In Hollow Bastion, Maleficent's group would discuss the presence of the Heartless in Deep Jungle due to Clayton's darkness, saying that his darkness was a bait too tasty to the Heartless for his own good. Oogie Boogie would laugh that "he got chomped instead," referring to Stealth Sneak's open mouth revealing Clayton's crushed body, while Jafar labels Clayton a "weak-hearted fool."
- 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 others 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). 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 getting hanged.
- Tarzan's true name is never shown. In the original Tarzan of the Apes, Clayton is the surname 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 who fell to their death, Clayton is one of the few who 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 because the Hyenas devoured his flesh in revenge for pinning the blame of his brother's murder on them).
- Clayton is similar to Prince Hans from Frozen as they don't appear to be bad at first only for their true colors to be revealed before the climatic scene.
- Clayton is similar to Amos Slade from The Fox and the Hound and Percival McLeach from The Rescuers Down Under. All are hunters who possess guns and try to kill one of the main characters (Clayton/Tarzan who is a protagonist, Amos/Tod who is also a protagonist, McLeach/Cody who is the deuteragonist); however, Clayton does not have any animal sidekicks, whereas Amos had Chief and Copper and McLeach had Joanna the Goanna.
- Clayton is also similar to William Boone from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Both are hunters, are villains who aren't revealed to be bad at first, are British villains, possess guns and swords, have some henchmen, treat the protagonists like animals and try to kill them, and use the protagonists to help them get what they are after (Tarzan/The Ape Family, Mowgli/The Treasure of Monkey City), however Clayton isn't a soldier and doesn't have a former love interest whereas Boone was a Captain of the British Army and had Kitty.
- Although Brian Blessed is the voice of Clayton, he proved to be better at the Tarzan yell than Tony Goldwyn.
- 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.
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