I said he could stay. That doesn't make him my son.
~ Kerchak allows Kala to keep Tarzan, but refuses to accept him as his son, and as one of the family.
Tarzan... (Tarzan: Kerchak, forgive me.) No. Forgive me for not understanding... that you have always been one of us. Our family will look to you now. (Tarzan: No. Kerchak.) Take care of them, my son. Take care of them.
~ Kerchak passing his leadership onto Tarzan and finally accepting him as his son before he passes away.
Kerchak the chief protagonist in Disney's Tarzan. He was the leader of the gorilla family, the husband of Kala, the adoptive father of Tarzan, the uncle of Terk and an anti-hero in Disney's 1999 animated film Tarzan.
He was voiced by Lance Henriksen, while in the 1999 video game, he was voiced by Gregg Berger, who also voiced Odie in the Garfield franchise. In the Japanese dub of the movie, he was voiced by the late Kenji Utsumi.
Kerchak lived in the African jungle with his mate, Kala, their young son, niece Terk and the rest of their troop, which Kerchak led. Kerchak was a loving and warm father to his son. But then one night while Kerchak and Kala were sleeping, their son saw a frog and chased after it. However, the youngster ends up running into a leopard named Sabor, who chases after him. Kerchak and Kala hear what’s happening and race to their son's aid only to show up and see him being devoured by Sabor. A devastated Kerchak and Kala mourn their son's death.
Afterwards, Kerchak changed from being loving and warm to uncompromising and austere. Kerchak moves the troop to another part of the jungle, most likely to protect the troop's other youngsters from danger. Unbeknownst to the troop, Kala leaves after she hears crying. Later that day, Terk notices Kala coming back, which alerts the others. A relieved Kerchak goes to Kala and sees Terk holding a human baby boy. Upon seeing Kerchak, Terk hands the baby to Kala and tells Kerchak that Kala is going to be the baby's new mother. Kala tells Kerchak that she rescued the baby from Sabor. Kerchak tells Kala the baby will not replace the one they lost and tells her to take the boy back, saying that he cannot let Kala endanger their family, to which Kala holds up the baby asking if he looks dangerous to Kerchak, causing Kerchak to roar in fury. Kerchak calms down and asks Kala if the baby was alone, to which Kala replies that Sabor killed his parents and that there are no others. Kerchak reluctantly concurs to allow Kala to keep the baby but he tells her it doesn’t make the baby his son. That night, as the troop go to bed, Kerchak looks over at Kala and the baby, who Kala has named Tarzan and gives Kala a disapproval look.
A few years later, Tarzan (now a young boy) runs into Kerchak, but he is able to be led away by Terk. Later that day, a herd of elephants stampede through the jungle where the troop are devouring from termite mounts. Kerchak rescues one of the troop's infants from the stampede and takes it to its mother. Then he goes to the river's edge where Tarzan claims to be accountable for causing the stampede. Kerchak reprimands Tarzan as he would have killed someone. Then Kala comes to Tarzan's defense and calls out Kerchak for not giving Tarzan a chance to prove himself, to which Kerchak calls out Kala for defending Tarzan, who Kerchak says will never be one of them.
Then Kerchak is seen during a montage of Tarzan continuing to trying to fit with the group as he grows up.
When Tarzan becomes a young adult, Kerchak watches in aggravation as he and Terk play fight. Just then, Sabor shows up and ambushes the troop. Kerchak battles Sabor, who manages to get the upper hand. Fortunately, Tarzan comes to Kerchak's defense and battles and crucifies Sabor. Then Tarzan presents Sabor's corpse to Kerchak and earns the silverback's reluctant respect. Suddenly a gunshot is heard, resulting in the troop departing and Tarzan, who goes to investigate the noise. Later that day, Kerchak along with Kala and some of the troop hear music and go to investigate and search for Tarzan, Terk, Tantor and several of the troop's younger members playing in a human camp. Upon seeing a human lady named Jane Porter, Kerchak tells the troop to depart the camp. Later, Kerchak tells the troop to avoid the humans, much to the aggravation of Tarzan. Kerchak tells Tarzan to protect the family and stay away from the humans.
Wanting Jane, her father Archimedes and their guide Clayton to see his troop, Tarzan has Terk and Tantor disguise themselves as Jane and her father in order to keep Kerchak away. However, the pair accidentally bring Kerchak back to the troop. Kerchak is shocked to see the humans and attacks Clayton after seeing him point his rifle at a young gorilla who snatch it from him. Tarzan restrains Kerchak and tells the humans to depart. Tarzan lets go of Kerchak and says he is sorry. Kerchak says to Tarzan that he asked him to protect the family, instead he has betrayed them.
Later, Clayton turns against the Porters and Tarzan and imprisons them, before he and his men assault the gorillas and begins to put them in cages to sell them on the black market. Kerchak attempts to defend his troop, only to be restrained. Clayton, remembering Kerchak, declares that he would be better off stuffed. Just then, Tarzan, the Porters, Terk and Tantor show up, battle Clayton and his men and free the gorillas. When Clayton threatens Tarzan, Kerchak comes to his defense, only to be fatally shot in the chest by Clayton.
After Clayton's demise, Tarzan comes back to the troop and sees Kala tending to Kerchak. Tarzan asks for Kerchak's forgiveness, to which Kerchak replies that Tarzan must forgive him for not knowing that he was one of them all along. In his dying breath, Kerchak makes Tarzan the new leader of the troop and accepts him as his son.
"I said he can stay. That doesn’t make him my son".
"You almost killed someone."
"That’s no excuse, Kala. You can't keep defending him."
"You came back."
I asked you to protect our family and you betrayed us all.
In the original novel, Kerchak was a major antagonist. This role, however, is given to Clayton in the film, with Kerchak becoming the false antagonist instead.
Kerchak is not bad or an antagonist, since he only wants to protect the gorillas and his adoptive son Tarzan from danger, just because he wants Tarzan to protect his family from Clayton (but later except Jane and her father), so he was still neutral first at the beginning.
He was stopped by Tarzan from attacking Jane and her father. This doesn’t mean he was bad, he was just neutral first because he was over-protective to Tarzan.
It is possible that besides his and Kala's son, Kerchak have been the father of Terk, Flynt, Mungo and the other young gorillas in the troop as he is the only mature adult male in the troop and that in real life, only the silverback male of a gorilla troop can mate with the females. Though there have been cases of silverbacks allowing other males to mate with the females. This could be the case for the film as Terk and the other young gorillas do not refer to Kerchak as Dad or Father.