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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Animation > Return To The Planet Of The Apes (1975/Animated TV series)

Return To The Planet Of The Apes (1975/animated TV series)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B



At the time, one of the only film franchises besides James Bond to appeal to teens that was not for young children was The Planet Of The Apes, the first film of which was a hit in 1968.  Played out by its fifth feature film (all reviewed elsewhere on this site), all were doing strong re-release theatrical business along with strong broadcast TV ratings.  Trying to target the subject matter more towards the younger audience, two TV shows were conceived and Fox cut a deal with Mego Toys to do an elaborate action figures line.  Though the toys did not do so well, even with knockoffs from other toy companies that led to lawsuits, all became very valuable memorabilia.  The shows that were made were also very good.


Roddy McDowall was the lead for the live action show (which we hope to catch up with the DVD set of soon) and the DePatie-Freleng animation company did what we can consider their only non-comical animation work ever.  The same house that did The Pink Panther, later theatrical & TV Warner Looney Tunes animation and Time For Timer shorts created one of the smartest, most mature animated TV shows still to ever hit American TV and especially from American TV sources and especially excluding Superhero genre series.


Return To The Planet Of The Apes (far more than the disastrous Tim Burton feature in 2001 could ever hope to claim) goes back to the Pierre Boulle book in a way live-action budgets of the time could not afford to do.  The art design showed a more advanced Ape civilization and city that did not look like The Flintstones, something the Burton film still looked like, even if darkened as if that was enough of a disguise.  This time, it is astronauts Jeff Allen, Bill Hudson and Judy Franklin that crash-land in the future (3939 here, as if we are paying attention & not the same as the live action show) and they discover the hard way how upside down this new world is.


For all intents and purposes, the series is a very smart recap of the first two films minus the ending of Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, logging a lucky if way too short 13 half-hour broadcast episodes.  However, since Taylor (Charlton Heston from both films) and Brent (James Franciscus strictly from the sequel) are noted, they are either in another dimension or some of the film’s major points and events are being skipped.  Since the show did not become a hit, we may never know.  However, this is a great version of the material and the last to work, even though another Apes show was attempted before the Burton debacle.


Though there is no Galen here, Cornelius (voiced by Edwin Mills) and Zira (voiced by Philippa Harris) are here, having never met or heard of Taylor or Brent.  Henry Corden (a later voice for Fred Flintstone) is the corrupt General Urko, Austin Stoker voiced Jeff Allen, Tom Williams and then Richard Blackburn voice Bill Hudson and Claudette Nevins voiced both Nova (she’s here too) and Judy Franklin.  The nuclear mutants have been replaced with a cult of hooded ground-dwellers with laser beams (no joke) that zap out of their eyes.


As the show brings the story to life, they add healthy doses of Johnny Quest and the then-more-recent Hanna Barbera show Valley Of The Dinosaurs, which was sadly as limited a series as this one was.  The focus was on more adventure, something the other versions were limited in.  The art may remind older fans of the comic book/45rpm vinyl record combinations under the Power Records label that you read as the record reenacted each comic book frame for you.  Those have yet to hit CD and see any reprints, but these are just as fun.


Lead Animator Bob Richardson had headed many Pink Panther theatrical shorts and later went on to Bugs Bunny and Spider-Woman for TV before moving on to directing with the likes of Muppet Babies and the recent straight-to-video Ultimate Avengers features (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  Doug Wildey directed these shows, coming (no surprise) from the original Johnny Quest (which he helped create when Hanna Barbera decided not to license Jack Armstrong) and doing art direction on 1960s Marvel Comics animated TV classics Sub-Mariner, Iron Man and Hulk, as well as directing Captain America.  He also wrote for the latter three shows and created the animated Godzilla show that gave us Godzuki.  The combination of their expertise and general ambition of DePatie-Freleng to break out into a new direction produced a superior show that holds up amazingly well.  If you have never seen the show, this is a great double DVD set worth your time and money.


The 1.33 X 1 image is amazing, with great color, definition, depth and clean condition that does amazing justice to this great show.  The art design is just so clever than any limited animation by today’s standards does not hurt the production at all.  This is one of the best looking classic animated shows on DVD, up there with Disney’s remarkable set of the 1967 animated Spider-Man series and also of demonstration quality.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is very clean and clear for its age, with good music by Dean Elliott and Eric Rogers is also very good.  Though no extras are mentioned on the case to the detriment of sales, all but the last show offer the option of watching the animated preview clip for the next episode.


That is something key fans would love to know about, like the Easter Egg Mego action figure ad on the first feature film.  Fox cannot dig enough of these goodies out of the archive and this series with Filmation’s 1979 Flash Gordon (reviewed elsewhere on this site) belong on all serious animation and adventure fans’ DVD shelves!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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