Commonly known as the "Lord of the Jungle", Tarzan was rescued and raised by a colony of apes after his parents were killed by the bloodthirsty Sabor. As the years passed, he turned into an ape man, protecting all of the apes, and never knowing the outside world, apart from the jungle.
Tarzan is an extremely brave, loyal and honorable character. He cares deeply about his family and friends and was willing to risk his life to save them. He has also been known to be willing to rescue his enemies; an example of this was when Clayton was about to fall to his death, and Tarzan exclaimed "Clayton! Clayton, don't!" and reached out to save him, even though Clayton had fatally wounded Kerchak and attempted to kidnap his whole gorilla family.
In his youth, Tarzan was playful and fun loving, but also felt like an outcast due to the fact that he was human. Until Jane Porter, her father and Clayton arrived he had never seen another human before and was therefore unaware of what species he was. And as an adult, he had matured into a more serious character but still displayed a playful and friendly side when around his family and friends. Tarzan was also very curious and when he heard a gunshot he went to investigate while the rest of his family moved deeper into the jungle. It was because of his curious nature that he met Jane, Professor Porter and Clayton.
Having lived in the jungle his whole life, Tarzan developed exceptional abilities that would be impossible for other humans. He was able to swing through the trees, hold things with his feet and had a good sense of hearing and smell. He frequently moved like a gorilla, walking on his knuckles but would walk upright at times too. He was an incredible fighter being able to hold his own against some of the jungles deadliest predator. One of Tarzan's most notable accomplishments was when he managed to kill Sabor, a ferocious and powerful leopard who had killed his parents many years earlier. Tarzan often fought with a spear but would also commonly use his bare hands to defeat his opponents. He is also incredibly strong being able to pin down Kerchak and lift at least two fully grown humans at the same time without any apparent effort. Another remarkable ability is his cleverness, as a child he made and used simple tools and weapons (a spear, a lasso, a sling) that other children his age can learn to make only when under the supervision of an adult. He also made a hammock for Zugor and a booby trap in Tarzan II. Since he knew no humans in his youth, it can be speculated that he taught himself through trial and error.
Tarzan's brown hair is styled in long dreadlocks. He wears almost no clothes. The only piece of clothing he wears is a tattered, brown loincloth around his waist. He wears his father's clothes once when he decides to go to England. His eyes are blue-green in color and his muscular body is tanned from living in the jungle all his life.
In the original movie, Tarzan starts off as a baby who escapes a burning ship with his biological parents and lives in a treehouse built by them as a happy family. Tragedy falls upon the new family, however, as his parents are killed by Sabor the Leopard later on (Two Worlds). Luckily, the baby is rescued by a female gorilla named Kala who had lost her baby gorilla son to Sabor. After escaping Sabor, Kala brings the baby back to her gorilla family and tells her mate Kerchak, the leader, that she wants to adopt the baby since his parents were killed by Sabor and there are no more humans left in the Jungle, to which Kerchak agrees but says that the baby won't be his son. Kala names the baby, Tarzan, and sings him a lullaby about being in her heart forever ("You'll Be In My Heart").
A few years later, Tarzan grows into a boy and likes to tag along with his best friend, Terk and some other gorillas. One day, while tagging along, Terk jokingly tells Tarzan to get an elephant hair off an elephant tail while Terk is busy with some other gorillas hoping to keep him away, to which Tarzan takes seriously and, unfortunately, jumps into the water and swims up to an elephant and grabs its tail causing the elephants to run wild and rush through the gorillas' territory. When Kerchak sees this, he scowls at Tarzan, who survived the stampede, met and befriended a young elephant named Tantor, and actually got the elephant hair, telling him that he will never be one of them. Disappointed and hurt by this, Tarzan runs down to the edge of the water and puts mud all over himself and then Kala shows up at night. Tarzan is encouraged by Kala that he's "not that different" at all.
During his entire teenage years, he grew up with continuous struggles to fit in with the gorillas; performing various monkey-like action and other animal actions such as picking fruit, learning other animal languages, fighting a snake, eating termites, etc. ("Son of Man").
One day, as he is playing with Terk and Tantor, he hears a noise in the bush. As he comes close, it turns out to be Sabor. Kerchak fights and is injured by the leopard. Tarzan fights the leopard, and get scratched on the heart in the process, but lives. Tarzan steps in and kills the leopard with Kala, Kerchak (in a way), Tantor, Terk and the entire gorilla pack cheering for his victory. He then presents Kerchak Sabor's corpse earning his reluctant respect.
Almost instantly later, they hear a loud noise in the forest. While the other gorillas (and Tantor) run away, Tarzan-driven by his curiosity-decides to figure out the noise, which turns out to be a gunshot from Clayton-who is the bodyguard of the gorilla explorers pack of Jane Porter and her father, Professor Archimedes Q. Porter. Fascinated by them, due to the fact he's never seen another human being before, Tarzan spends some time (possibly a while) to spy on them without being noticed.
Later, Jane is drawing a picture of a baby baboon, the baboon likes it and takes it from her. When she tricks him to give the picture back, his crying angers a huge pack of baboons. Luckily, Tarzan comes to the rescue. After a number of events, when they're safe on the tree, Tarzan settles the chase, which is the first time the viewers saw the movie from the human angle (as the scene showed he was able to communicate with the baboons) by returning the drawing to the baby baboon. As Jane tries to leave, it's raining and they are forced into the shade of the big tree. When on the tree, he shows an extremely curiosity by her, does various of weird action (listens to her heartbeat, tickles her, touches her hand...). Finally, he has the ability to talk human as he said his name "Tarzan" (although how is not clear, as this name was given by Kala, which means, despite his parents could teach him English before they were killed, he logically can't say his name in English). After it stops raining, he carries Jane back to her camp. When Terk, younger gorillas, and Tantor are trashing the camp while making music ("Trashin' the Camp"), Tarzan steps in and solves the problem. Unfortunately, Kerchak appears and tells everyone to come back. Later, Kerchak warns everyone and Tarzan about the danger of humans. However, Tarzan disobeys and keeps returning to the camp.
In the next morning, he jumps between Jane and Clayton's argument. Clayton, Jane and her father realize he is the perfect person to help them which their research. They teach him about human behaviours, English, as well as thing he's never seen before (city, astronomy...). During this time, he's starting to fall in love with Jane ("Strangers Like Me"). Although he refuses to lead the explorers to the gorilla nest, concerned about their safety. His affection towards Jane and weird actions (riding a bicycle, leaving early in the morning...) leave Kala and Terk concerned and feel left out.
As the explorers, unfortunately, are starting to return to England, Tarzan displays hurt, to one point even tries to convince Jane to stay with him. However, Clayton uses this situation as an advantage to his plans and misleads Tarzan into thinking that Jane would stay if he showed them the gorillas. Tarzan agrees and leads the party to the gorilla pack's home, while Terk and Tantor lure Kerchak away to avoid having him attack the humans. Jane and her father are excited to mingle with the gorillas. However, Kerchak returns and tries to attack them. Tarzan stops him to let the explorers to run away.
Back at the nest, Tarzan fights Kerchak to let everyone, including Jane and the professor escape (he was being dumb). Kerchak says he was trying to protect their family and confronts Tarzan's action as well, telling him that he has betrayed his family. While Tarzan's sitting on a tree, Kala comes near him. He says that he is so confused. Kala leads him to the old treehouse, tells him that she should've told him about it long ago and that she isn't his biological mother. He realizes that he was a human all along and, after Kala said that she'll be happy whatever makes him happy, dresses in his father's suit and follows the explorers to England. Before leaving, he says to Kala: "No matter where I go, you'll always be my mother."
When he's on the ship, he is surprised to find that Clayton's men had captured the crew and that they were doing the same with Archimedes and Jane. The thugs try to capture him, but thanks to his agility he manages to avoid them by jumping on the cages and climbing the ship's mast. However, they weren't exactly slow, as one of them manages to grab him from his ankle and leave him hanging from the mast. After shaking him off, and seeing the rest of the thugs closing in on him, he makes a huge leap from the top of the mast towards the funnel's end, managing to hold onto it. Here is where his strength and monkey-like acrobatics turned out useless, as his shoes would slip as he tried to climb up, while his hands would slowly slip away due to tiredness. This resulted in him falling from a great height, right into a pile of boxes. As soon as he crawled out of the remnants, two of the thugs grab him and slam him against the superstructure's wall; he then asks Clayton for help but Clayton reveals to him that he'll attack the gorilla's nest. Clayton then stabs Tarzan almost in the chest with a machete. He has him locked up in the ship, desperately trying to get out, at one point even shows aggression toward Jane when she tries to calm him down and realizes that Kerchak was right about him betraying his family. Ultimately, he is rescued by Terk and Tantor after they heard Tarzan's cry.
After being rescued, he returns to wear his usual clothes, rescues the gorilla pack and defeats Clayton's men, with the help of some more animals he summoned to help him in the rescue; including Terk and Tantor and Jane and her father. After the rescue, Clayton shoots Tarzan in his arm. When Kerchak sees this, he tries to intervene but is unfortunately, shot by Clayton. In a fit of rage, Tarzan aggressively attacks him, but is forced back by Clayton's shots. Realizing he doesn't have the advantage over Clayton, he moves up to the trees, which lures Clayton to follow him. On the tree branches, Tarzan and Clayton engage in a struggle in which the two are evenly matched. He manages to kick Clayton off and goes after his rifle, smashing the rifle to pieces. Infuriated, Clayton pulls out a machete and furiously tires to kill him. Tarzan manages to escape with the aid of nearby vines, but quickly meets a dead end. Clayton manages to catch up and continues to hack and slash at Tarzan, but to no avail.
Using the vines, Tarzan ensnares Clayton in them and seemingly brings the fight to a stand still. Refusing to lose to the ape man, Clayton aggressively rips them with his teeth and machete, unaware that one of them is hanging into his neck while the vine he is hanging on is weakening, just waiting to snap. Tarzan realizes this and tries to warn him, but Clayton continues to the cut vines around and eventually cuts the one he was hanging on to, causing both he and Tarzan to fall. Clayton unfortunately meets his end when the vine around him snaps his neck while Tarzan lands to the ground as lightning illuminates the jungle, allowing him to witness the corpse of his enemy.
Tarzan moves toward a near-death Kerchak, whom telling him that he'll now lead the pack. Kerchak also tells him that he was wrong about him and that Tarzan has been a member of the pack all along. Kerchak, having finally accepted Tarzan as his son, then dies in the scene of heavy rain and the sadness of Jane, her father, Tarzan, and the gorillas. Tarzan later yells his famous call, indicates his leading to the gorillas.
The next day, after his chest has been treated and bandaged from the almost fatal gunshot, Tarzan stands on the beach, looks sadly as Jane and her father leave him. One of her gloves fly towards him, which only made him more depressed. After Jane realizes that she loves him, she jumps off the boat and runs toward him, much to his surprise and the two finally share a kiss. Later, Jane's father joins his daughter, telling the captain to tell everyone back in England that he never found them; "After all, people get lost in the jungle everyday," he says.
Finally, Tarzan is seen swinging with his wife, Jane, to a tree with his big family (including Jane's father, Kala, and Terk with Tantor as a little help) as the King of The Jungle.
In the midquel film, Tarzan is still a child, and is still having trouble fitting in with his family. He is shunned by the other apes after he causes an accident that endangers the babies.
Tarzan appears as the protagonist of the animated series. Since the end of the film, Tarzan assumed his role as leader of the Gorillas. He married Jane and they live happily in the jungle, residing in the old treehouse that Tarzan's parents had built before their deaths. Although Tarzan doesn't live with his mother and the other gorillas, Tarzan will still leap into action to protect them at any length, and he often returns to seek Kala's advice in dealing with situations such as the doubts of the other gorillas, and Jane wanting him to be more "civilized". While helping Jane get over her more romantic ideas about jungle life, she acts as his guide to the duplicity in human nature—and insists he eat his food from a plate. It is a never-ending growth process for both, with some startling insights into what "civilized" means, and some uproarious stumbling blocks along the way.
Many episodes revolve around his romance with Jane, interacting with the human world, as well as meeting and encountering various visitors of the jungle from England, with the rainforest having become a place of trade and port established by the recurring, Renard Dumont.
With Clayton and Sabor having been killed, a new line of enemies emerge for Tarzan to face, most notably Queen La, who fell in love with Tarzan and began an endless pursuit to eliminate Jane and have him as her mate. Another would include Tublat, a rouge gorilla and Kerchak's former rival who one does wishes to rule over the gorillas.
Tarzan appears as a party member in the first Kingdom Hearts game.
When Sora crash lands into Tarzan's former treehouse, he is attacked by Sabor, only to be rescued by Tarzan moments after. He chases the leopard off and leads Sora to the encampment of Jane and her bodyguard Clayton, after being asked to help find his friends Riku and Kairi. Like in the film, Jane wishes to see the gorillas and study them, though Clayton would rather cage them, return them to England, and make a profit. Nevertheless, Tarzan denies the humans access to the gorillas camping grounds, due to Kerchak's orders and stubbornness. Even so, Clayton soon feeds into the darkness and loses his heart, allying himself with the threatening Heartless. However, due to the efforts of Sora and Tarzan, Clayton is defeated and the jungle is saved. In gratitude, Kerchak leads the heroes to the world's keyhole, which is meant to be sealed by Sora and co. Once that's done, they bid their farewells, and the journey continues.
He is voiced by Tony Goldwyn in English, and his Japanese voice is done by Jūrōta Kosugi.
Tarzan makes occasional appearances in the Disney parks. Though an uncommon walk-around character, he does appear in the Tarzan's Treehouse attractions at Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland as well as appearing in various shows inspired by the film. At Tokyo DisneySea, Tarzan appears in that park's version of Fantasmic!, swinging on vines with Jane in projected footage during the jungle sequence.
- In the book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan's real name is John Clayton III. In the film, Tarzan's real name is never addressed.
- Also in the book, Tarzan and Jane have a son named Korak, also known as Jack Clayton or John 'Jack' Paul Clayton IV. In Disney's version of Tarzan, Korak doesn't appear, and Tarzan and Jane have no children. However, Korak may be born in or prior to a new sequel or a new television series of Tarzan.
- He is one of two Disney characters to meet their author. The other is Ariel of The Little Mermaid. In both cases they meet them in their television series, made after the film they first appear in, and in each case they are unaware of the significance of the meeting.
- When Tony Goldwyn was unable to provide a satisfactory version of the Tarzan yell, Brian Blessed, the voice of Clayton, stepped in and provided the yells for the film instead. Michael T. Weiss provides both Tarzan's regular speaking voice and Tarzan yell in The Legend of Tarzan.
- Tarzan bares a striking resemblance to his late father, albeit without the beard and with longer hair.
- Despite being taught English by English people, Tarzan speaks English with an American accent. Reportedly, Tony Goldwyn was originally meant to use an American accent when speaking with the gorillas and a British accent when speaking with humans in order to differentiate gorilla language and English, but the idea was dropped when Goldwyn could not pull off a convincing English accent.
- While Tarzan called Kala "Mother", he never called Kerchak "Father", since Kerchak didn't consider him his son.
- Despite not appearing in the show itself, Tarzan was featured in some online games for the television series House of Mouse. However, Tantor made brief appearances in the show.
- When Tarzan is fighting Sabor, during the moment when Tarzan is lying on his back and Sabor is lying on top of him, Tarzan has his legs bent (he lifts his belly / waist to try to lift Sabor) but in the next shot, despite the fact that we don't see his legs, Tarzan appears to be lying firmly on his back.
- Tarzan evidently shows fear, as during his fight with Sabor, when Tarzan is backing away in the tree branches, if one listens past Tarzan grunts and the branches snapping, they can hear Tarzan let out a deep, slight whimper.
- He's also demonstrated fear in the scene that takes place on the boat, first when he realizes Clayton's men had taken the boat's crew members hostages and then went chasing after him (though this is mostly due to not expecting them to do that), and then moments after when he's holding onto the funnel's top before falling from there (probably due to being aware that he was having difficulties trying to climb it and he'd fall from unexpected heights).
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