An Interview with Danton Burroughs

In 1912, Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced the character of Tarzan to the world in his imaginative tale, "Tarzan of the Apes," and in no time, his career was off and running. Tarzan has since been featured in 26 authorized novels and 44 motion pictures.

Burroughs decided to take his career a step further by launching his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. He died on March 19, 1950. His writing and characters entertained three generations of readers and moviegoers. At present, the Burroughs family, including grandson, Danton Burroughs manages the corporation.

Danton Burroughs and I sat down to speak about Tarzan, the Broadway Musical, as well as the life of his grandfather.

Nick Orlando: Danton, it is nice speaking with you.  What was your grandfather's inspiration for creating the character, Tarzan?

Danton Burroughs: Money! He, at the time, pawned my grandmother's jewelry. He had written Tarzan as his third novel. His third story was submitted to "All Story Magazine." The editor loved it! It came out in the October issue of the magazine. It sold for 15 cents and today, if you can find a nice copy, it is $15,000-$30,000. Extremely rare; it was the whole story in one volume which was not done before.

Nick Orlando: How did this character evolve?

Danton Burroughs: My grandfather played with the evolution theory and he created the name Tarzan. The first name he had was Nazrat and then he changed the syllables around to Tarzan. We have the original manuscript and you can see where he is actually thinking and changing the names. He just had a way with words and he created a mythical character in 1911. As soon as Tarzan came out, it was an immediate success. It also came out in England. My grandfather got so much fan mail. His pseudonym was Normal Bean, but when the book came out in 1914, he was credited as Edgar Rice Burroughs. First movie was 1918. It was also one of the first movies to gross over a million dollars. It starred Gordon Griffith as the young Tarzan and Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan himself. Elmo Lincoln was a big hit at the time.

Nick Orlando: Did your grandfather have any significant obstacles he had to overcome or did things come easy?

Danton Burroughs: He was a hell of a business man. He incorporated himself in 1923, which was odd for an author to do, but he liked the protection of a corporation because he was involved in early lawsuits with some of the Tarzan pictures. He went on to do the merchandising and publishing on his own. He had my father come in during the 1930s and illustrate Tarzan and the other books my grandfather wrote. He kept it as a family corporation and to this day, it is owned by the heirs of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Nick Orlando: Danton, are there things going on in your life that parallels your grandfathers? Are you following in his footsteps?

Danton Burroughs: Only as an archivist and trying to save everything. Also, working on documentaries and coming to see amazing musicals, like Tarzan, the Broadway Musical. The legend lives on!

Nick Orlando: I'm sure your grandfather would be very proud to see Disney putting on Tarzan, the Broadway Musical.

Danton Burroughs: He would be beside himself and there is enjoyment from the Burroughs family!

Disney Theatrical Productions and Stage Entertainment, the largest theatrical producing company in Europe announced Monday, May 22nd, 2006, that Disney's newest musical, Tarzan, will be their next co-production in Europe, set to open in Holland next spring at the Circustheatre near Amsterdam with a second production scheduled to open in Germany in 2008.

Tarzan, the Broadway Musical, is currently playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (226 West 46th Street). The cast album will be released on June 27th on Walt Disney Records. The production stars Josh Strickland and Jenn Gambatese as Tarzan and Jane. Performances run Tuesday through Saturday at , with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at

An audio stream from the upcoming cast album can be heard at this link.

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