|“||Water, Mr. Rango, water. Without it, there's nothing but dust and decay. But with water, there's life…That's the immutable law of the desert. You control the water, and you control everything. But I don't have to tell you that, being a true man of the West as you are.||„|
|~ Tortoise John, explaining his motives and his plan to Rango.|
|“||That's what the future holds. You can either be part of it or you can be left behind.||„|
|~ Tortoise John.|
Tortoise John, also referred to in the film as simply The Mayor, is the main antagonist of Nickelodeon's 23rd feature film Rango. He is the wheelchair-bound tortoise mayor of Dirt, where there is a major water shortage. He also has Rattlesnake Jake as his (former) enforcer, and Bad Bill as his servant. He is also Rango's arch-nemesis.
From the very start, Mayor Tortoise John is made out to be very untrustworthy, duplicitous, menacing, greedy and corrupt (such as keeping a large personal supply of water for himself while the rest of the town is going through a severe drought), although he appeared to be like a grandfatherly figure towards Rango.
When he first appears after Rango kills a hawk and defeats Bad Bill, he appoints Rango as the new sheriff and mentions that "whoever controls the water controls everything". He believes that Rango is not a problem, but a solution.
Later in the movie, it is shown that the mayor is building a modern city over the desert surrounding Dirt, and that he has been intentionally cutting off the town's water supply by using an emergency valve, which is actually connected to Las Vegas, and making citizens believe that there is actually a drought, intending to let the town die out to make way for his new plans.
The mayor murdered the town bank-keeper, Johannes Merrimack III, by drowning him and when Rango starts to deduce his schemes, he hires the bounty hunter named Rattlesnake Jake to drive Rango out of town, but he comes back to stop them after fully discovering the mayor's plan. He captures Rango and Beans and starts to drown them in the town's water supply bottle. He then later betrays Jake by pointing Rango's gun at him, telling him that he is also part of the obsolete Western era that he intends to destroy; but when he pulls the trigger, he finds that the last bullet was taken by Rango, who uses it to break open the water bottle, flooding the town hall and sending them all outside. The mayor is left on his back at the mercy of Rango who he pleads to but the latter turns him over to an angry Rattlesnake Jake, who then acknowledges Rango as another great desert legend worthy to save his life.
With Tortoise John at his mercy, Rattlesnake Jake uses the mayor's previous words "Pretty soon no one will believe you even existed." in a show of cruel irony to him. Jake then takes the mayor away into the desert to severely punish him for his treachery, as the mayor screams in terror, most likely killing him, thus taking a soul as Bad Bill said.
At first, it was thought that Tortoise John was a nice, caring, authentic and protective mayor. When he met Rango, the people were happy to see him, meaning he was trustworthy as he showed a desire to give them a protector as he gave Rango his sheriff badge as a reward for killing the hawk.
Later on, it turned out that he was actually a manipulative, traitorous, corrupt, greedy and ruthless individual who maintained his position by depriving the town of its water. This was seen when he had Rattlesnake Jake force Rango out of town or when he drowned the town bank-keeper and tried to drown both Rango and Beans for uncovering his plans. After Jake fulfilled his purpose, he then betrayed him and attempted to kill him while calling him an old relic.
When defeated by Rango, he pleaded to him for mercy before the latter turned him over to Jake who used his words against him, thus proving him to be a coward. Tortoise John then frantically pleaded to him before he was dragged away screaming, presumably killing him in the process.
However, despite his attempt to drown Beans along with Rango, he called out Jake for his rough treatment of her proving he had some standards. Outside of this, however, John shows no redeeming traits as he is nothing more than a greedy coward who would do anything to prevent the town from knowing about his corruption. Even his praise towards Rango was likely nothing more than an attempt to sway him.
- He was inspired by Noah Cross, the villain from Chinatown. Unlike Cross, John lost in the end.
- Despite being called Tortoise John, he is never referred to as such throughout the film. Instead, he is solely referred to as The Mayor.
- His real age is unknown, but the actor providing his voice was around 73 years old at the time.
- Tommy Lee Jones and Christopher Walken were both considered for the role of Tortoise John before Ned Beatty was cast.