Role in the film
Later in the film, Jane Porter meets a baby baboon and tries to sketch him; however, the Baboon likes the drawing so much that it steals it, and when Jane tries to recover it, she is attacked by the entire troop of Baboons. She runs as fast as she can as the baboons chase her down, and rips her dress in the process. Tarzan follows her and rescue her from the baboons. As Jane is running, she jumps off of a cliff but Tarzan grabs her skirt before she falls. She looks down and sees that she is flying and looks up at Tarzan. But they still chase them down and Jane loses her boot and umbrella during the chase. The baboons chase Tarzan and Jane and one eventually jumps on Jane trying to bite down on her head. She knocks it off, but gets her umbrella caught on a vine. The baboons jump on Jane and Tarzan grabs Jane's foot as she falls. Tarzan swings Jane onto a tree, where the baboons are closing in. They all fall into a huge hollow branch of a tree. The tree breaks and falls to the ground. Tarzan and Jane manage to land on another tree and the baboons flee. But in order to fully calm them down, Tarzan speaks with their leader (in ape language) and gives the drawing back to them, making the baby baboon happy again.
Later, the Baboons are among the wild animals summoned by Tarzan to fight against Clayton and his men. This implies that they are not really evil but rather extremely short-tempered and vicious, as are Baboons in real life.
The baboons are completely neutral beings, who are both fierce but noble. They are typical wild animals, who generally keep to themselves and have a desire to breed and colonize. When they mistook Jane for an infanticidal predator, they justifiably tried to eliminate her at all costs to ensure their babies safety and take back whatever was taken from them, regardless of whether or not they took it first. In fairness, they had never seen a female human, so she must have alarmed them.
However, despite their fierceness, they are also aware of their own safety as they were just as shocked as Tarzan and Jane when they were heading to the bare edge of the tree they were on. They also can set aside their differences and help another species, not just to save themselves but because they genuinely care about the gorillas.
In the TV show when they were attacking Tarzan and Jane's treehouse they ran off when they heard Tarzan's signature yell suggesting that they fear Tarzan.
- Interestingly, the Baboons in Tarzan don't fit into any real life species, as they have traits common to both baboons and mandrills (for example, the brightly colored faces).
- It is possible that they are more like mandrills due to their appearance (the leader: adult male, baby baboon: infant, others: adult female).
- The Baboons (in particular the leader) look very similar to Rafiki from The Lion King, who also has traits of both baboons and mandrills.