- “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 sadistically taunting Tarzan
Clayton is the main antagonist of Disney's 1999 animated feature film Tarzan. He initially served as a protector 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.
Initially, Clayton 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 sinister individual who was planning to make wealth from selling gorillas. He also never shows any signs of cowardice; when he is cornered with his own gun, he is far from begging for his life and even mocks Tarzan to pull the trigger. 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 makes several attempts (all unsuccessful) to get information on the location of the gorillas from Tarzan, who is far more fascinated by what Jane has to teach him about humans.
Days later, a cargo ship arrives to pick up the explorers and escort them back to England, much to their dismay. As the ship's crew load up their luggage and supplies, Clayton and Jane try to reason with the captain and request more time, but the captain refuses, fearing falling behind his schedule. Clayton subsequently blames Jane for distracting herself with teaching Tarzan, but Jane retorts that she is just as upset about not being able to find the gorillas. With both his and his employers' goals thwarted, Clayton prepares to leave Africa with Jane and Professor Porter until he witnesses Tarzan asking Jane to stay while presenting her flowers. Realizing Tarzan has strong feelings for Jane, he fools Tarzan into thinking they will stay if he took them to the gorillas. This is, of course, not true—Jane will have had to return to England at some point anyway. However, Tarzan is convinced and has Kerchak, the head gorilla, distracted, so he can lead Jane to the gorillas. Upon arrival, Clayton secretly forges a map to the troop's home. However, Kerchak returns unexpectedly and is furious upon seeing 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. Kick out of the family by Kerchak, a crestfallen Tarzan agrees to return to England with Jane and the professor. However, when they board the ship, they are unexpectedly ambushed by the crew who have also turned on the captain and his officers. As Jane and her father are taken to the ship's brig to be imprisoned, Tarzan tries to flee the thugs but was eventually captured by them. The scuffle ended when Clayton intervene and fires his rifle. Tarzan is initially relieved to see him and begs for his help, but was soon shocked by Clayton's casual behavior toward the situation and realizes that he is the leader of the thugs. After striking an angry Tarzan in the chest with his rifle's handle, Clayton reveals 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 film 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 with the other captives. He and his henchmen then leave in a small boat loaded with large cages and make way for the gorilla's nests.
The poachers eventually reach the nests and begin to capture the gorillas, netting them, forcing them in the cages, and throwing the babies into burlap sacks. Kerchak tries to rescue his group, but is captured as well. Clayton slowly approaches the restrained ape leader and prepared to shoot him in revenge for having been attacked by him earlier, but is interrupted when he heard Tarzan's trademark yell. Tarzan and his friends, who have escaped imprisonment with the help of Terk and Tantor the Elephant, ambush and frighten Clayton's henchmen (trapping some of them in the same cages they intended to trap the gorillas in), and free the gorillas, including Kala. Clayton is forced to take cover during the scuffle, but soon sets out to kill Tarzan for interfering in his plans.
From the undergrowth, Clayton shoots at Tarzan, but the bullet only grazes his arm. Instead, Kerchak, who has reconciled with Tarzan after he returned, is fatally shot when he charges Clayton. After knocking an intervening Jane aside savagely with his rifle, putting her out of the fight, Clayton confronts Tarzan, and they take their battle to the treetops. They both exchange blows briefly, nature versus civilization, but nature wins when Tarzan makes Clayton drop his rifle, which he grabs and points it at the poacher. Clayton teases Tarzan by telling him to "be a man" and shoot him, but Tarzan realizes that doing it will only make him no better than Clayton. In retaliation, he angrily presses the rifle's muzzle against Clayton's neck and instead imitates a loud gunshot noise, startling Clayton. Tarzan then retorts he was not a man like him and smashes the rifle to pieces. After watching the pieces of his gun fall to the jungle floor, Clayton flies into a rage and pulls out his machete. A startled Tarzan jumps back to escape Clayton's furious swipes, ensnare Clayton in a mass of vines. However, Clayton mindlessly slashes the vines, one by one, with his machete in an attempt to free himself. However, he fails to notice that one of the vines has slipped and coiled like a noose around his neck. Seeing this, Tarzan tries to warn Clayton to stop, but in his rage, the hunter does not heed to his warning and inadvertently hacks the final vine holding him up. This sends him and Tarzan plummeting towards the ground. Tarzan lands safely, but Clayton, vainly struggling to free himself is hanged by the vine, which snaps his neck, killing him instantly. A flash of lightning briefly illuminating the tree behind Tarzan reveals the gruesome shadow of his hanging, lifeless corpse, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze, the jungle having claimed him.
There was an alternate ending to the original film where Tarzan and Clayton battle on a boat where Clayton had some gorillas in cages (who are later freed) and attempted to make an escape, along with his henchmen.
In this version, Clayton battled Tarzan with a machine gun and a dagger while making offensive 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 blew up the boat. Tarzan and Clayton were both trapped on the boat, but Tarzan and the remaining gorillas escaped, while Clayton met his end when support ropes snagged his legs and brought him down with the boat, drowning him.
This ending was dropped since it was too dark and violent for young viewers and was felt it was more appropriate to have the final fight in the jungle so it could 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 will not 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 "Tarzan and the Gauntlet of Vengeance", it is revealed that Clayton has a sister named Lady Waltham who planned 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, making Tarzan be poisoned, giving him 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 "Tarzan and the Race Against Time", after Tarzan was bitten by a venomous spider, Jane and the others learned 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. However, as Tarzan's condition worsened, Tarzan hallucinated Professor Porter as Clayton.
Descendants: Isle of the Lost
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 tree house. 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 he could use his new-found mastery over these "animals" to help him catch the gorillas.
While Tarzan, Sora, Donald, 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 and audio recordings that he merely fell to his death rather than being hanged (though the vine slipping around his neck is still mentioned).
- In the episode "Gauntlet of Vengeance", it had a flashback of Clayton's death which implied him falling to his death, However, if one view carefully, the vine is 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’s death is widely considered to be the darkest and most terrifying death in any Disney movie due to it being so graphic. This is especially dark for children because hanging is a gruesome image.
- 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 the casting of Brian Blessed.
- Blessed even 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 introduced, he is 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 biological younger cousin. If the movie had addressed the relationship between these two, he would more likely be Tarzan's older cousin given his appearance and age between his forties and fifties.
- Although Clayton is the main villain, he doesn't appear until thirty minutes into the movie, and only has about seven minutes of screen time.