- “He was confused at first, as if he had never seen another human before. His eyes were intense... and focused, and... I've never seen such eyes.”
- ―Jane about Tarzan
Tarzan is the titular protagonist of Disney's 1999 animated feature film of the same name. Commonly known as the Ape Man, Tarzan was rescued and raised by a colony of apes after his parents were killed by the bloodthirsty Sabor. With help from his childhood friends Terk and Tantor, Tarzan would grow to become the valiant protector of the apes and the jungle at large—all the while never knowing the outside world.
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's also 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 kill him and kidnap his whole gorilla family. This also proves that, like most heroes, he is one to spare the antagonist mistakenly.
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.
In The Legend of Tarzan series, he has shown to take over as the leader and while he retains the majority of his personality from the film, there are some other aspects explored and expanded. For example, he shows a hatred of leopards (understandably so since they killed his parents and attacked him and his family in the past) and refused to accept a baby cub that Jane found. He also displayed very similar traits to Kerchak as he refused to accept the baby because it was different and a threat to him and his family (which is very similar to Kerchak's reaction to Tarzan growing up and Jane defending the cub as Kala defending Tarzan). This could imply that Kerchak influenced Tarzan. Also, he hates hunters and is very protective of the forest, often kicking the hunters out and destroying their guns. Another aspect is his leadership, where another gorilla challenged him for leadership and won because Tarzan saved him. However, the gorilla mistakenly leads the pack to a different route than Tarzan which turned out to be a pit of tar housing a ferocious gigantic snake. Tarzan not only rescued his pack but ingeniously hid himself and his friends with mud so the snake couldn't see them. Another aspect seen is when his personal life with Jane, her father, and humans, in general, tend to interfere with his duties as pack leader. Once the gorillas were kicked out of their home and he had to choose between staying with his family or with Jane because Jane and her father (As humans) couldn't live with them. The gorilla that challenged Tarzan also stated he let his personal life get in the way of his duties and when Jane's friends came to visit and he unintentionally embarrassed her in front of them, he tried to act civilized to impress them.
He has also shown to surprisingly romantic, as shown through his interactions with Jane, often complimenting her protecting her, and giving her flowers while proclaiming her to be the best woman there is. He takes romance seriously, as shown when he was forced to act in a movie about him in "Silver Screen" and was told to kiss a woman he didn't love saying how confusing acting was. He is also good at telling when people are telling lies, though he can be tricked. He is also noted for being fairly intelligent, as he often thinks his way out of situations given the fact many of his opponents are species that are stronger than him, and he made weapons self-taught. In "Jungle Madness", he was able to figure out what made the animals go mad and in "Lost Treasure" he was able to outsmart some treasure hunters who threatened to kill Jane if he didn't do what they said. He is also noted to be fairly civilized despite never letting go of his "wild man" persona, with Jane noting he is more civilized and kind than most and is shown throughout the series to have high morals. In "One Punch Mulligan", he refuses to fight Mulligan because he does not want to give in to his demands and doesn't believe fighting for sport is right and in another where he saves his mortal enemy Tublat from being a caged animal despite hating him because it is the right thing to do. He is surprisingly very well read and is seen reading books on occasion in order to learn more, showing he has culture.
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, and he is also barefoot. He wears his father's clothes once when he decides to go to England with Jane and Clayton. His eyes are blue-green in color and his muscular body is tanned from living in the jungle all his life.
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, slide across branches, hold things with his feet, and had a good sense of hearing and smell that excelled many human beings. He was an incredible fighter, being able to hold his own against some of the jungles deadliest predators. Tarzan has been known to fight and win from leopards, hyenas, gorillas, baboons, hippos, rhinoceros, snakes, crocodiles, elephants, jackals, and dinosaurs. One of Tarzan's most notable accomplishments was when he managed to hold his own against Sabor, a ferocious and powerful leopard who had killed his parents many years earlier and killed her. Tarzan often fought with a spear but would also commonly use his bare hands to defeat his opponents. He is also incredibly strong; this is seen when he pins down Kerchak and lifts 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. Because he knew no humans in his youth, it can be speculated that he taught himself through trial and error.
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.
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 and scaring the birds away. He grew up as an adult that he tied the branches to sleep dry, fighting a snake, eating termites, etc. 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 but is injured by the leopard. Tarzan fights the leopard, and get scratched on the chest 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 Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and his daughter, Jane 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 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, 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 with their research. They teach him about human behaviors, English, as well as things he's never seen before (city, astronomy...). During this time, he's starting to fall in love with Jane. 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 from letting the explorers run away.
Kerchak confronts Tarzan's actions, telling him that he has betrayed his family. While Tarzan's sitting on a tree, Kala comes near him and he expresses his confusion. 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. Tarzan is 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 gun. He aims it at the ruthless poacher with Clayton taunting him to be a man and shoot him. Realizing that killing him would make him no better than Clayton, Tarzan fools him with a gunshot imitation and then smashes the gun to pieces on a tree branch declaring that he is not a man like him. Infuriated, Clayton pulls out a machete and furiously tries 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 the vines with his teeth and machete, unaware that one of them has slipped like a noose around his neck. Tarzan realizes this and tries to warn him, but Clayton, blind with rage, continues to the cut vines until he accidentally cuts the one he is hanging on to, causing both him 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, who told 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 pounds his chest, indicates his leading to the gorillas.
The next day, after his arm has been treated and bandaged from the almost fatal gunshot, Tarzan stands on the beach, watching sadly as Jane and her father leave him. One of her gloves flies 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 every day," 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's childhood and the origin of his unique identity are out into the forefront. Tarzan was an awkward kid trying to fit in with his ape family. When he was growing up, Tarzan had a childhood fear of the Zugor, a mythical monster said to live on Dark mountain. His second fear was that his mother, Kala would get hurt because of him. Although he walks like an ape, he is nowhere as fast as one, which results in the accident that leads his family to believe he is dead. When he overhears his mother tell Kerchak she would have given her life for him, and three ape females who say Kala and the family are better off without him, he decides to run away. After he traveling perhaps two to three days he is chased by Sabor into a valley. After escaping the family of three apes who is trapped there, Tarzan follows an old gorilla into a tree the ape calls home. When Tarzan discovers the old ape is really the Zugor, he blackmails him into mentoring him into becoming the best ape be can be, and when he realizes he isn't an ape, he forces Zugor to help him figure out what he is. Later on in the movie, he finally finds out that he is where he belonged, and calls himself a "Tarzan". This being his name and the only thing that he, at the time, knew himself to be, (other than an ape).
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 wanted 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 eats 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 has 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 emerges 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 Samuel T. Philander, a rival of Archimedes who often tries to steal his research. And there was Tublat, a rogue gorilla and Kerchak's former rival who 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 nesting 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.
In Disney California Adventure, Tarzan appeared in the original version of World of Color that ran through 2010. His scene with Jane during the "So Close" sequence was later replaced by an appearance from Flynn Rider and Rapunzel.
Tarzan also appeared in Parade of the Stars, riding a golden Tantor.
Tarzan makes occasional meet-and-greet appearances at Disney's Animal Kingdom, near the entrance and Discovery Island. In the same park, Tarzan was also the leader of the former stage show, Tarzan Rocks!, which ran from 1999 to 2006.
In France, Tarzan appears in a segment of La Forêt de l'Enchantement: Une aventure musicale Disney, which is a musical celebration of nature in Disney animated films. Tarzan's segment consists of a performance of "Son of a Man".
Tarzan plays a starring role in the park's stunt show, Tarzan: Call of the Jungle, which is a retelling of Tarzan's origins and the events that transpired in the film.
- In the book, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan's real name is John Clayton III. In the film, his 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. Goldwyn does, however, do the Tarzan yell in Kingdom Hearts. Michael T. Weiss provides both Tarzan's regular speaking voice and Tarzan yell in The Legend of Tarzan.
- Brendan Fraser, who starred as the title character in George of the Jungle, auditioned for the role 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 until he was dying.
- Despite not appearing in House of Mouse, Tarzan was featured in some online games for the television series. 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's knuckle walking contradicts realistic human anatomy. Some of Tarzan's quadrupedal poses are physically impossible due to the fact that human legs are longer than their arms, unlike gorillas. If Tarzan attempts to knuckle walk as his daily gait, it would be exhausting since humans are designed to walk bipedally.
- Tarzan is the fifth Disney hero to be shown as a baby, child and adult, the other four being Bambi, Tod, Simba and Hercules.