Unlike his two best friends, Tantor is extremely cowardly. He is riddled with various phobias, such as a fear of germs and the unknown. This causes him to go about his days with much caution and hesitation, and can occasionally cause him to fall into fits of panic before cowering in fear. He is nevertheless Tarzan's most loyal and warm-hearted friend; so much so, that he can become surprisingly bold and daring should his friends fall into danger and need his assistance.
As far as intelligence goes, Tantor doesn't appear too bright. He assumed Tarzan was a sub-species of elephant, solely due to the fact that they both enjoyed peanuts. Despite this, as seen during his introduction and throughout episodes of the television series, he is very knowledge of scientific terms and various phobias, being that he suffers from a large amount of them.
Tantor is an African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). He has red brownish skin. When he's young, his ears are shorter and his tusks don't grow yet, and speaks in a high voice. When he's an adult, his ears achieve their full size, his tusks are longer and sharper and his voice is noticeably deeper.
Tantor is first seen as a toddler, accompanying his mother at an elephant watering hole. There, he is reluctant to enter the water out of fears of bacteria, though his mother assures the water is fine. Suddenly, something enters the water and Tantor assumes it to be a piranha. He warns his mother and her friends, but the "piranha" attacks and causes a stampede. It turns out, the creature was just Tarzan, who is saved by his cousin, Terk. Tantor meets the two as Tarzan reveals to be alive, and their friendship grows over the years from there.
At adulthood, Tantor has apparently left his herd of elephants to reside with Tarzan and Kerchak's gorilla family. On one particular day, Tarzan goes missing, prompting a search party led by Terk. Tantor tags along and they find a human campsite, albeit abandoned. They explore the area and discover how to make music with the human equipment at hand; Tantor uses a lampshade as a trumpet to accompany Terk's scatting lyrics. Before long, Tarzan arrives, but with another human, shocking Terk and Tantor, while infuriating Kerchak. Kerchak declares that the family keeps away from the humans, but Tarzan's curiosity overrides this rule, and he secretly goes out to spend time with Jane and her accomplices.
Later on, Tarzan asks Tantor and Terk to lure Kerchak out of the gorilla nesting grounds so that Jane and her accomplices can visit and study the family. Tantor is happy to help, but Terk refuses until Tarzan uses pity to convince her otherwise. To distract Kerchak, Tantor disguises his trunk as Jane's father, Archimedes Q. Porter, while Terk disguises herself as Jane. Kerchak spots their disguises and chases after them. The duo eventually run to the gorilla nesting ground for safety, unintentionally exposing Tarzan's plot.
Tarzan eventually decides that he must live amongst humans, and leaves with Jane on a ship heading to England. Tantor and Terk rush to the beach to bid farewell, but are too late. The two mourn the loss of their friend, though Terk tries to hide her sadness with anger. Tantor sees past this and tries to comfort her, though to no avail. They return to the jungle, and as they do, Tangor heads the cries of Tarzan, and believes him to be in trouble. Terk doesn't seem to care, angering Tantor, who finds courage and forces Terk to accompany him on a rescue mission. They hijack the ship and fight off Clayton's men to free Tarzan, Jane, and her father. The group then returns to the jungle to battle Clayton, who wishes to capture and sell the gorillas.
In the end, Tantor and Terk accompany Tarzan to the beach as he prepares to bid farewell to Jane. However, Jane and her father decided to stay in the jungle, much to the delight of both Tarzan and his family. Tantor is last seen alongside Tarzan and Jane, during their vine-swinging finale.
By the time of the series, Jane and Professor Porter had since learned how to communicate with the animals.
Tantor himself played a major part in several episodes. In Tarzan and the Rogue Elephant, a group of elephants move into the jungle escaping the rogue elephant Mabaya, Tantor becomes a mentor to the young Jabari, who has a strong resemblance to a young Tantor. Another episode, Tarzan and the All-Seeing Elephant, focuses on Tantor searching for a mysterious deity to elephants high in the mountains. The experience serves to strengthen his friendship with Terk and he eventually, alongside his friends, sees the deity when he appears before them as a perfectly formed elephant-shaped cloud. In Tarzan and the Rift, Tantor finds a new girlfriend who thinks Terk is loud and obnoxious and forces Tantor to choose between them
In a compilation of three episodes (Tarzan and the British Invasion, Tarzan and the Volcanic Diamond Mine and Tarzan and the Flying Ace) in Tarzan & Jane, Terk and Tantor are assisting Tarzan and Jane in preparing their first wedding anniversary and preparing the treehouse for the party.
Jim Cummings provides Tantor's voice from the start of this series.
When a young Tarzan runs away from the gorilla family to try and find his own place in the jungle, a young Tantor and Terk go out to find him and bring him back home. He initially refuses to go back, but when he rescues the two of them from Uto, Kago and Mama Gunda, they become friends again and with Kala's arrival onto the scene, they all return home.
Tantor is notably the only character from Tarzan to appear on House of Mouse, which was made at the same time as The Legend of Tarzan. He appeared at the end of "The Stolen Cartoons" to help Mickey and friends block off Pete's escape and throw him out of the club. He also appeared in "Donald and the Aracuan Bird".
Tantor appears in the Disney INFINITY series as a mode of transportation for playable characters, being available as a Power Disc.
Tantor is featured in the jungle-themed parade float of the Festival of Fantasy parade in the park.
- The character Tantor was actually created specifically for the Disney movie. In the original books, "Tantor" is actually the Mangani (a fictional apelike species) language term for any elephant in the African jungle.
- Tantor does not appear in the stage musical adaptation.
- Tantor could be described as belonging to the species known as African forest elephants, as he lives in the jungle. However, he looks similar to the African bush elephants native to the Savannah that are traditionally seen in many movies that feature elephants.
- Tantor claims to be a bit of a homebody that doesn't travel much in The Legend of Tarzan episode "Tarzan and the All-Seeing Elephant", as he has never been to the savannah.