Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Return to the Planet of the Apes

I have said it before and I'll say it again: YouTube is a treasure trove for science fiction fans.

It has reunited me with an animated series that just two days ago was a hazy, fuzzy memory. Now, thanks to binge watching on YouTube, I have plucked it from my kindergarten days of the 1970s and revisited it in the entirety...all as I graded papers, of course.

I'm talking about Return to the Planet of the Apes.

The pilot episode of the cartoon series is basically a reboot/retelling of the original Planet of the Apes film. It starts out with a really trippy, psychedelic intro. Despite cartoons being almost solely meant for children back then, the creators must have felt there needed to be an acid flashback in order to keep with the times. Anyway, three astronauts going by Judy, Bill, and Jeff, travel through space in what looks like an old Gemini capsule. Just like in the movie, they crash on Earth.

Or at least they thought it was Earth. What they find is a desert wasteland. In the course of traversing it, Judy is separated from her fellow marooned astronauts by a geological whosiwhatsis. The two men venture on and find what looks like Mount Rushmore...only all the faces are apes. After that, Bill and Jeff come across a settlement of primitive humans. There they meet a woman named Nova. Yes, the same character played by Linda Harrison in the first two movies, only not as hot. She is wearing military-issued dog tags. The name on the tags reads "Ronald, Brent." Astute viewers will recall that Brent Ronald was the name of the astronaut from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The tags also say that he was born in 2079.

But the astronauts left Earth in 1976.


What's happened to them? Well I think we all know the answer. It isn't long until the humans meet up with apes like Dr. Zaius (get the song out of your head), General Urko (also in a glowing orange outfit), and Cornelius and Zira, just as in the film. But there's one critical difference when it comes to the animated series: Ape City is as modern as any 20th Century civilization. For example, the gorilla army drives jeeps, trucks, and tanks (in fact, it all looks strikingly similar to any of the solid green, plastic "army men" sets you could get in the dimestore during the 1970s.) Given that it's a cartoon, this show can do all kinds of cool things with the apes that would have been cost prohibitive in film.

To give further example, the post-apocalyptic Earth that the apes inhabit is far more exotic and exciting than its big screen counterparts. There's an enormous, prehistoric-like flying lizard along with a many tentacled monster. There's a gigantic gorilla similar to King Kong named Kigor, worshiped in a Buddhist-esque temple. See what they did there? They took the ape factor and cranked it up to 11. Dope.

Speaking of worship, the nuclear missile-worshiping mutants who dwelt under the remains of New York City in Beneath the Planet of the Apes are back. This time they're called "the Underdwellers" and they live in a volcano and shoot lasers from their eyes. They also augment their mind control abilities with technological devices since the budget now allows for it.

Let's see, what else? Politics continues among the apes as Urko suffers demotions and verbal defenestrations and de-pantsings as he loses control of the military. There are continual calls by Zaius and Urko to wipe the humans while Cornelius and Zira fight to buy time for them and the astronauts. There's an ape general who looks just like Fidel Castro and we get to hear an ape country music tune called, "I'm Going Humanoid Over You." We also get to see a platoon of gorilla ski troopers in arctic gear. What else could you want except for Charlton Heston?

I've embedded the first episode below for your viewing pleasure. Just one more service that ESE provides.

You're welcome, America!

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