Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Planet of the Apes

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Pierre Boulle

La Planète des Singes

Original work
La Planète des Singes

Planet of the Apes

Original series Planet of the Apes (1968) Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Remake Planet of the Apes (2001) Reboot series Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Television series
Planet of the Apes Return to the Planet of the Apes

Video games
Planet of the Apes Revenge of the Apes

Planet of the Apes is an American science fiction media franchise consisting of films, books, television series, comics, and other media about a world in which humans and intelligent apes clash for control. The series began with French author Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel La Planète des Singes, translated into English as both Planet of the Apes and Monkey Planet. The 1968 film adaptation, Planet of the Apes, was a critical and commercial success, initiating a series of sequels, tie-ins, and derivative works. Arthur P. Jacobs produced the series under APJAC Productions until his death in 1973; since then 20th Century Fox has owned the franchise.


Four sequels followed the original film between 1970 and 1973: Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. The series also spawned two television series: Planet of the Apes in 1974 and the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes in 1975. Plans for a film remake stalled in "development hell" for over ten years before Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes was released in 2001. A new reboot film series commenced in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014; another sequel, titled War for the Planet of the Apes, is planned for a 2017 release. Other media and merchandising tie-ins include books, comics, video games, and toys.

Planet of the Apes has received particular attention for its treatment of race, which critics consider its primary theme. Critics have also written on its Cold War and animal rights themes. The series has had a wide influence on subsequent films, media, and art, as well as popular culture and political discourse.

La Planète des Singes

The series began with French author Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel La Planète des Singes. Boulle wrote the novel in six months after the "humanlike expressions" of gorillas at the zoo inspired him to contemplate the relationship between man and ape. La Planète des Singes was heavily influenced by 18th- and 19th-century fantastical travel narratives, especially Jonathan Swift's satirical Gulliver's Travels. It is one of several of Boulle's works to use science fiction tropes and plot devices to comment on the failings of human nature and mankind's overreliance on technology. However, Boulle rejected the science fiction label for his work, instead terming it "social fantasy".

The novel is a social satire following French journalist Ulysse Mérou, who participates in a voyage to a distant planet where speechless, animalistic humans are hunted and enslaved by an advanced society of apes. Eventually Mérou discovers that humans once dominated the planet until their complacency allowed the more industrious apes to overthrow them. The novel's central message is that human intelligence is not a fixed quality and could atrophy if taken for granted. Boulle considered the novel one of his minor works, though it proved to be a hit. Xan Fielding translated it into English; it was published in the United Kingdom as Monkey Planet and in the United States as Planet of the Apes.

Boulle's literary agent Allain Bernheim brought the novel to the attention of American film producer Arthur P. Jacobs, who had come to Paris looking for new properties to adapt with his new company, APJAC Productions. To explain his interests, Jacobs had mentioned to agents, "I wish King Kong hadn't been made so I could make it." Bernheim initially approached Jacobs about a Françoise Sagan novel, which Jacobs turned down. Remembering Jacobs' earlier comment about King Kong, Bernheim mentioned La Planète des Singes, not expecting Jacobs would be interested. However, the story intrigued Jacobs, who bought the film rights immediately.

Planet of the Apes

After optioning the novel's film rights, Arthur P. Jacobs spent over three years trying to convince filmmakers to take on the project. He hired a succession of artists to create test sketches, and hired veteran television writer Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, to pen the script. Serling's script changed elements of Boulle's novel, introducing Cold War themes; notably he wrote a new twist ending that revealed the planet to be a future Earth where humans had destroyed themselves through nuclear warfare. As production costs were estimated at over $10 million, no studio in either Hollywood or Europe would assume the risk. Jacobs and associate producer Mort Abrahams persevered, and eventually persuaded Charlton Heston to star; Heston in turn recommended director Franklin J. Schaffner. The team recorded a brief screen test featuring Heston, which ultimately convinced 20th Century Fox the film could succeed.

Fox insisted on changes to reduce the budget to a more manageable $5.8 million. The producers hired veteran writer Michael Wilson, who had previously adapted Boulle's novel The Bridge over the River Kwai, to rewrite Serling's script. To save on special effects costs, Wilson's script called for an ape society more primitive than appeared in the novel. The new script changed much of the plot and dialogue, but retained the Cold War themes and Serling's ending. John Chambers created the innovative makeup effects.

Heston played 20th-century American astronaut George Taylor, who travels to a strange planet where intelligent apes dominate mute, primitive humans. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall played the sympathetic chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius, and Linda Harrison portrayed Taylor's love interest Nova. Maurice Evans played the villain, orangutan science minister Dr. Zaius. The finale, in which Taylor comes upon a ruined Statue of Liberty and realizes he has been on Earth all along, became the series' defining scene and one of the most iconic images in 1960s film. The film was released on February 8, 1968, and was a smash success with both critics and audiences, breaking contemporary box office records and earning rave reviews. John Chambers received an honorary Oscar at the 41st Academy Awards for his make-up effects, the first ever given to a make-up artist. Jerry Goldsmith's score and Morton Haack's costume design also earned Oscar nominations. Fox approached Jacobs and Abrahams about filming a sequel. Though they had not made the film with sequels in mind, its success led them to consider the prospect.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Planning for the sequel, eventually titled Beneath the Planet of the Apes, began two months after the original film's release. Jacobs and Abrahams initially considered several treatments by Rod Serling and Pierre Boulle, but ultimately turned them down. In fall 1968 the producers hired Paul Dehn to write the script; he would become the primary writer for the franchise. Charlton Heston was uninterested in a sequel, but agreed to shoot a few scenes if his character were killed off and his salary donated to charity. In one of many major rewrites, Dehn altered the script to center on a new character, Brent, played by James Franciscus. With director Franklin J. Shaffner unavailable due to his work on Patton, the producers hired Ted Post on January 8, 1969. Post struggled with the material, especially after the studio cut the budget to $3.4 million.

The story follows Franciscus' character Brent, an astronaut who inadvertently follows Taylor into the future while searching for him. After encountering the apes from the first film, Brent finds Taylor imprisoned by a colony of subterranean human mutants who worship an ancient nuclear bomb. Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and Linda Harrison returned as Zira, Zaius, and Nova. David Watson replaced Roddy McDowall as Cornelius, as McDowall was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict. James Gregory played gorilla General Ursus and Paul Richards played mutant leader Méndez. The film opened on May 26, 1970. Unlike the first film, Beneath was poorly reviewed; critics typically regard it as the worst of the Apes sequels other than the fifth film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. However, it was a major box office hit, nearing the original's numbers. Despite a conclusion depicting the planet's nuclear destruction, Fox requested another sequel, creating a series.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Following the financial success of Beneath, Arthur P. Jacobs recruited Paul Dehn to write a new script with a brief telegram: "Apes exist, Sequel required." Dehn immediately started work on what became Escape from the Planet of the Apes. The producers hired a new director, Don Taylor. Fox gave the production a greatly diminished budget ($2.5 million), which required a tight production schedule.

To work around the budget, as well as Beneath's seemingly definitive ending, the film took the series in a new direction by transporting Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall, returning to the role after being absent from Beneath) back in time to the contemporary United States, reducing the need for expensive sets and ape make-up effects. In the film, Zira and Cornelius are initially accepted by American society, but fears that their child will bring about the domination of the human race by evolved apes leads to conflict. Jacob's wife Natalie Trundy, who appeared as a mutant in Beneath and later played the ape Lisa in the next two sequels, was cast as Dr. Stephanie Branton. Bradford Dillman played Dr. Lewis Dixon, Ricardo Montalbán played Armando, and Eric Braeden portrayed the villain, the President's Science Advisor Otto Hasslein.

Compared to its predecessors, Escape dwelt more heavily on themes of racial conflict, which became a primary focus through the rest of the series. The film opened on May 21, 1971, less than a year after Beneath. It was well received by critics. From this point critics began seeing the films less as independent units and more as installments in a greater work; Frederick S. Clarke wrote that the burgeoning series had "the promise of being the first epic of filmed science fiction." It also performed well at the box office, though not as strongly as its predecessors. Fox ordered a third sequel.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Based on the strong positive response to Escape, Fox ordered Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, though it provided a comparatively low budget of $1.7 million. Paul Dehn returned as the scriptwriter, and producer Jacobs hired J. Lee Thompson to direct. Thompson had worked with Jacobs on two earlier films as well as during the initial stages of Planet, but scheduling conflicts had made him unavailable during its long development process. For Conquest, Thompson and Dehn focused heavily on the racial conflict theme, an ancillary concern in the early films that became a major theme in Escape. In particular, Dehn associated the apes with African-Americans and modeled the plot after the 1966 Watts Riots and other episodes from the Civil Rights Movement. Roddy McDowall signed on to play Caesar, the son of his previous character Cornelius. Ricardo Montalban returned as Armando, while Don Murray played Governor Breck, Severn Darden played Kolp, and Hari Rhodes played MacDonald.

Following Escape, Conquest is set in a near future where humans have turned apes into slaves; Caesar rises from bondage to lead an ape rebellion. The film opened June 30, 1972. Reviews were mixed. However, the ending left the series open to another sequel, and Conquest was successful enough at the box office that Fox greenlit another film.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Fox approved Battle for the Planet of the Apes with a $1.2 million budget, the lowest of the series. The filmmakers went into the project knowing it would be the last of the series. J. Lee Thompson returned as director. Series writer Paul Dehn submitted a treatment, but illness forced him to leave the film before completing the script. The producers subsequently hired John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington to write the screenplay. Battle continued Conquest's focus on racial conflict and domination. However, likely based in part on the studio's wishes, the Corringtons discarded Dehn's pessimistic treatment in favor of a story with a more hopeful, though ambiguous, resolution.

Battle follows Caesar as he leads the apes and their human subjects after a devastating war that destroyed much of the planet. He contends with both an attack by radiation-scarred human mutants and a coup attempt as he attempts to build a better society for both apes and humans. McDowall returned as Caesar, and Severn Darden returned as Kolp. Paul Williams played the orangutan Virgil, Austin Stoker played MacDonald (the brother of Hari Rhodes' character), and Claude Akins played the evil gorilla general Aldo. John Huston played the orangutan Lawgiver in a frame narrative. The film opened May 2, 1973. It made a profit over production costs, but received poor reviews from critics, who regard it as the weakest of the five films.

Critics have offered various interpretations of the film's message and its significance for the series. Particular attention has been paid to the intentionally ambiguous imagery in the ending: set 700 years after the main events, the last scene depicts a statue of Caesar shedding a single tear as the Lawgiver recounts Caesar's story to an integrated audience of ape and human children. By one interpretation, the statue cries tears of joy because the species have broken the cycle of oppression, giving the series an optimistic finale. By another, the statue weeps because racial strife still exists, implying the dystopian future of Planet and Beneath is unavoidable.

Planet of the Apes TV series

In addition to their box office grosses, the films earned very high ratings when broadcast on television after their theatrical run. To capitalize on this success, Arthur P. Jacobs conceived of an hour-long live action television series to follow the films. He originally thought of the idea in 1971 during the production of Conquest, which he then anticipated would be the final film. However, he shelved the project once Fox ordered a fifth film. Jacobs died on June 27, 1973, bringing an end to the APJAC Productions era of the Planet of the Apes franchise. Former Fox executive Stan Hough took over as producer for the television project, titled Planet of the Apes. CBS picked up the series for its 1974 fall lineup.

Ron Harper and James Naughton played Alan Virdon and Peter Burke, two 20th-century American astronauts who pass through a time warp to a future where apes subjugate humans (unlike the original film, the humans can speak). Roddy McDowall returned to the franchise as Galen, a chimpanzee who joins the astronauts. Booth Coleman played orangutan Councillor Zaius and Mark Lenard played gorilla General Urko. The episodes portray Virdon, Burke, and Galen as they look for answers, aid downtrodden humans and apes, and avoid the authorities. The show premiered on September 13, 1974, filling CBS' 8–9 p.m. time slot on Fridays. It earned low ratings during its run, a fact the production team attributed to repetitive storytelling and too little screen time for the apes who made the series famous. Given the considerable production costs, CBS cancelled the show after 14 episodes, the last airing on December 20, 1974.

In 1981, Fox reedited ten of the episodes into five television films. Each film combined two episodes and (in some markets) added new introductory and concluding segments starring Roddy McDowall as an aged Galen. The films were given what scholar Eric Greene called "the most outlandish titles of the Apes corpus": Back to the Planet of the Apes; Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes; Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes; Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes; and Farewell to the Planet of the Apes.

Greene finds the show's timeline significant: set in 3085, it occurs about 900 years before Taylor's crash in the original film, and 400 years after the Lawgiver's sermon in Battle. By depicting a future where apes dominate humans, it implies the Lawgiver's message of equality between man and ape has failed, giving weight to the more pessimistic interpretation of Battle's ending. Greene writes that the show emphasized the theme of racial conflict less than the films had, though the episodes "The Trap" and "The Liberator" made it the central focus. However, the show is actually set in the original timeline, before Caesar came to exist.

Return to the Planet of the Apes

In 1975, after the failure of the live-action series, NBC decided to adapt Planet of the Apes for an animated series. The network contracted DePatie-Freleng Enterprises to produce a half-hour Saturday morning cartoon titled Return to the Planet of the Apes. Doug Wildey, co-creator of Jonny Quest, took on most creative control as associate producer, storyboard director, and supervising director. Wildey had only watched the original film and Beneath, and thus based his interpretation on them. As such, the show relied less on the themes and plot developments from Escape, Conquest, and Battle and instead returned to the Vietnam War and Cold War themes prominent in the first two films.

The plot concerns three American astronauts, Bill Hudson (Tom Williams), Jeff Allen (Austin Stoker, who played MacDonald in Battle), and Judy Franklin (Claudette Nevins), who inadvertently journey to Earth's far future. They find the world populated by three groups: mute humans who inhabit desert caves, subterranean human "Underdwellers" fashioned after the mutants of Beneath, and civilized apes who subjugate the humans. Through the show, the astronauts become increasingly involved in the planet's affairs and in defending the humans against an ape invasion. The cast featured characters based on those from the previous films and TV series, including Nova (Claudette Nevis), General Urko (Henry Cordin), Zira (Philippa Harris), Cornelius (Edwin Mills), and Dr. Zaius (Richard Blackburn). NBC broadcast thirteen episodes between September 6 and November 21, 1975. The show did not achieve particularly strong ratings. The network considered producing a second three-episode season to complete the story, but this never materialized.

Planned relaunch and "development hell"

Fox initiated plans to relaunch the Planet of the Apes series in the 1980s, but the project fell into "development hell" for over ten years, experiencing one of the most protracted development periods in film history. It began in 1988, when Fox announced Adam Rifkin, then a 21-year-old independent film director, would develop a new Apes film. At a Fox executive's invitation, Rifkin pitched a concept for Return to the Planet of the Apes, an alternative sequel to Planet that ignored the other four films. In Rifkin's initial concept, Taylor's descendant Duke launches a Spartacus-like uprising against Roman-inspired ape oppressors led by General Izan. The project nearly entered pre-production, but days before, Fox brought in new studio executives who sent the project back to development. They commissioned Rifkin to rewrite the script through several drafts, but found them unsatisfactory and ultimately scrapped the project.

After several years in limbo, Fox returned to the Apes concept, this time with Oliver Stone as a producer. Stone brought in Terry Hayes as screenwriter, and they developed a script titled Return of the Apes. In their script, humanity is threatened by an ailment encoded in their DNA, so two scientists go back in time thousands of years to stop it at its origin. They discover the disease was engineered by advanced apes to ensure humanity's eventual destruction. Arnold Schwarzenegger committed to star as scientist Will Robinson, while Philip Noyce agreed to direct. The draft impressed Fox president Peter Chernin, but other executives were ambivalent about the action script, believing it should be lighter. Notably, executive Dylan Sellers insisted the script include a comic scene involving apes playing baseball as his "stamp" on the film, and fired Hayes when he left it out. This move caused Noyce to quit as well, and subsequently almost everyone involved in the project left for one reason or another.

After the collapse of the Stone-Hayes project, Fox brought on Chris Columbus to develop a new Apes concept. Columbus hired Sam Hamm to write a new draft taking elements from Boulle's novel and various unused scripts. In Hamm's script, an ape astronaut from a distant planet unleashes a devastating virus on Earth. Scientists go to the astronaut's planet, where apes hunt humans; they locate a cure, but return to find Earth overrun by simians. Schwarzenegger remained attached, but Fox found the script underwhelming. Columbus left the project in 1995 after his mother's death, and James Cameron stepped in to produce. Cameron intended to go in a "very different direction" with the script, but following the critical and financial success of his film Titanic, he dropped out of the project. Fox approached a series of directors to take over, without success. By 1999 the studio decided once again to go in a new direction.

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes

In 1999, Fox hired William Broyles, Jr. to write a new script. Fox insisted on a July 2001 release date, but otherwise offered considerable creative control. This prospect attracted director Tim Burton, who hoped to do a "re-imagining" of Planet of the Apes. However, Burton found the production arduous, largely due to Fox's strict release schedule. The studio budgeted the film at $100 million, meaning Broyles' ambitious script had to be rewritten to reduce costs; Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal worked on rewrites even as the film entered production. The tight schedule meant all stages of production were rushed.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg as astronaut Leo Davidson, who accidentally travels through a wormhole to a distant planet where talking apes enslave humans. He leads a human revolt and upends ape civilization by discovering that the apes evolved from the normal earth primates who had accompanied his mission, and arrived years before. Helena Bonham Carter played chimpanzee Ari, while Tim Roth played the human-hating chimpanzee General Thade. The film received mixed reviews, with critics generally believing it failed to compare to the original. Much criticism focused on the confusing plot and twist ending, though many reviewers praised the special effects. The film succeeded in the box office, taking in a total of $362,211,740. Fox had initially hoped for a second film, but the difficult production made Burton disinclined to participate, and the film failed to generate enough interest for Fox to pursue a sequel.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

In 2005, screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver developed a concept for a new Planet of the Apes film, eventually titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Inspired by news articles on apes raised as humans and advances in genetics, Jaffa conceived an idea for a film about a genetically enhanced chimp raised in a human household. He and Silver pitched the concept to Fox as a way to reboot the Apes franchise by reinventing the story of the chimpanzee Caesar, the lead character of Conquest. Fox was impressed and bought the pitch, but development struggled for five years as the production cycled through scripts, writers, directors, and producers. In 2010, producers Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark of Chernin Entertainment stepped in to move the film forward, retaining Jaffa and Silver as writers.

In the final script, Caesar receives enhanced cognition from a viral drug created by Will Rodman, who raises him. After being imprisoned in a primate sanctuary, Caesar uses his ingenuity to launch an uprising. The screenplay contains numerous complex connections to other entries in the series, causing some confusion as to its exact relation to them. Oliver Lindler writes that while the film's premise might identify it as a remake of Conquest, official dispatches and professional reviewers typically avoided the term, instead calling the film a prequel or "origin story" to the original Planet of the Apes film, and/or a reboot of the series, although fans and bloggers were more apt to make the "remake" connection. The completed script attracted director Rupert Wyatt. To portray ape characters realistically, the production avoided practical effects and animal actors in favor of performance capture acting, partnering with New Zealand visual effects company Weta Digital. Wyatt cast James Franco as Will Rodman, while veteran performance capture actor Andy Serkis signed on to star as Caesar.

Rise debuted on August 5, 2011. Critics reviewed it positively, especially praising the visual effects and Serkis' performance. It was a major box office hit, taking in $481,801,049 over its $93 million budget. Weta's special effects earned the film two Visual Effects Society Awards and an Oscar nomination at the 84th Academy Awards, among other accolades. The strength of Serkis's performance also inspired Fox to promote him for Oscar consideration, though the Academy did not nominate him. Following this success, Fox immediately planned for a sequel.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Producers Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark started planning the film eventually titled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes just after Rise's release in 2011. Fox gave the film a budget of $170 million and a release date of July 11, 2014. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver returned to pen the script and produce, and the studio quickly signed Andy Serkis to reprise his role as Caesar. Director Rupert Wyatt withdrew from the project due to production and scheduling issues, and was replaced by Matt Reeves.

Set ten years after Rise, the film establishes that the "Simian Flu" that increased the intelligence of the apes has killed most humans. Caesar struggles to maintain peace as his ape community is drawn into a war with nearby human survivors. Weta Digital again provided special effects work, which combined practical sets, digitally manipulated backgrounds, and performance capture ape characters. The human cast included Jason Clarke as Malcolm, Keri Russell as Ellie, and Gary Oldman as Dreyfus. The film debuted on July 11, 2014. It was met with critical acclaim; reviewers found it a strong followup to Rise and lauded the combination of an engaging script with impressive special effects. It also performed very strongly at the box office, taking in $707,498,744 in worldwide grosses. Its special effects received several accolades, including three Visual Effects Society Awards and an Oscar nomination at the 87th Academy Awards.

War for the Planet of the Apes

The producers were confident enough in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that they started planning for the next installment before production had completed. They contracted Matt Reeves to return as director after seeing his cut of Dawn; he also wrote the script with Mark Bomback. Peter Chernin, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver serve as producers. The film's title is War for the Planet of the Apes, and it is scheduled for release on July 14, 2017. Woody Harrelson and Gabriel Chavarria have been cast as human characters, while Steve Zahn will play a new ape.


Pierre Boulle's novel La Planète des Singes was translated and reprinted several times after its original publication in 1963. In addition, all of the original sequels spawned novelizations by established science fiction writers of the day, each of which went through multiple reprintings of their own. Michael Avallone wrote the novelization for Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970. Jerry Pournelle, who later co-authored Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote in God's Eye, wrote the Escape from the Planet of the Apes novelization. John Jakes, former Science Fiction Writers of America president, wrote Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. David Gerrold, scriptwriter for the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", novelized Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Novelizations of the live action and animated television series were also produced. William T. Quick novelized the 2001 Planet of the Apes; he also wrote two prequel novels, and several other book tie-ins were published.


Planet of the Apes-based comics have been published regularly since 1968. Among the most notable is Marvel Comics' Planet of the Apes magazine, published from 1974 to 1977. The black-and-white series featured comics adaptations of each of the films, new Apes stories by Doug Moench, series news, essays, interviews and other material. It became one of Marvel's most successful titles, attracting 300 to 400 fan letters with every issue, so many that the studio had to suspend its practice of writing personal responses. Marvel also published the monthly title Adventures on the Planet of the Apes from 1975 to 1976, comprising color reprints of the Planet and Beneath adaptations.

In 1990, during a resurgence of interest in the series, Malibu Comics launched a new monthly black-and-white Planet of the Apes comic through its Adventure Comics studio. The debut issue sold 40,000, a record for black-and-white comics, leading to a successful run of 24 issues over two years. The series follows Caesar's grandson and heir Alexander as he struggles to govern ape civilization. The comic's success led Malibu to publish five four-issue spin-off miniseries: Ape City, Planet of the Apes: Urchak's Folly, Alien Nation crossover Ape Nation, Planet of the Apes: Blood of the Apes, and Planet of the Apes: The Forbidden Zone. Malibu also published two one-shots: A Day on the Planet of the Apes and Planet prequel Planet of the Apes: Sins of the Fathers; a trade paperback collecting the first four issues of the main series, titled Monkey Planet; and reissues of stories from Marvel's earlier Apes series.

Other companies producing Planet of the Apes comics include Gold Key Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Boom! Studios. In 2014, Boom! collaborated with IDW Publishing on the Star Trek crossover Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive.

Toys and merchandise

The series, and particularly the live-action Apes television show and the Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon, generated numerous toy and merchandising tie-ins. During the 1970s, Fox licensed around 60 companies to produce about 300 different Apes products, including action figures and playsets, model building kits, coloring books, book-and-record sets, trading cards, toy weapons, costumes, apparel, branded tableware, and lunch boxes. This level of merchandising was unusual for the time, and the success of Apes merchandise may have inspired the campaigns that later became commonplace for films and television series. The action figures, sold by Mego beginning in 1973, were the first such toys sold as film tie-ins; they proved popular and inspired the rise of action figure series based on popular culture franchises. Eric Greene writes that Apes toys were popular enough to lead some contemporary children to engage in apes-vs.-humans role-playing make believe games that simulated the series' conflicts in a manner similar to "Cowboys and Indians". With the release of the 21st-century films, Fox licensed several companies to manufacture new Apes toys, including detailed action figures of new and "Classic" characters sold as collectibles.

Video games

In 1983, 20th Century Fox Videogames developed a Planet of the Apes game for the Atari 2600, which was to be the first computer game based on the series. However, the game was still in the prototype phase when Fox shuttered its game division during the video game crash of 1983, and never saw release. It was assumed lost until 2002, when collectors identified a prototype, found earlier in a case labeled Alligator People, as the missing Apes game. Independent designers Retrodesign completed and released the game as Revenge of the Apes in 2003. In the game, the player controls Taylor as he fights apes across several levels inspired by the film to reach the Statue of Liberty.

A video game based on the series did not appear until 2001. Fox Interactive began developing the Planet of the Apes game in 1998 for PC and PlayStation as a tie-in to the long-gestating remake film. Fox and developer Visiware proceeded with the game when the film went into limbo, creating their own story based on Boulle's novel and the original films. The game is an action-adventure in which players control astronaut Ulysses as he explores an ape-ruled future Earth. Setbacks with the film project and Fox Interactive's decision to co-publish with another company (Ubisoft) delayed the game three years. Despite its long development, the game missed the debut of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes film by two months; it finally appeared on September 20, 2001, to mostly negative reviews. Additionally, Ubisoft produced a substantially different Planet of the Apes game for Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Color, a side-scroller following the first two films.

In 2014, Fox partnered with Ndemic Creations on a substantial Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-themed update to the mobile game Plague Inc. Players create and spread a "Simian Flu" virus to eradicate humans while helping apes survive.


Critics consider race to be the Planet of the Apes series' primary theme. Eric Greene, author of a book on the role of race in the franchise, writes that "when seen as one epic work, the Apes saga emerges as a liberal allegory of racial conflict." In Greene's interpretation, the franchise's plot arc is founded in the conflict between humans and apes, who alternately subjugate one another in a destructive cycle. Difference between human and ape manifests primarily in physical appearance, and dominance derives from social power rather than innate superiority. Each film shifts the power balance so that the audience identifies sometimes with the humans, and other times with the apes. According to Greene, this arc's central message is that unresolved racial discord inevitably leads to cataclysm. Other critics have followed Greene's interpretations. Producers Abrahams and Jacobs did not consciously intend the first film's racial undertones, and did not appreciate them until Sammy Davis Jr. pointed them out in 1968. Subsequently, the filmmakers incorporated the theme more overtly in later installments; as a result, race moves from being a secondary theme in the first two films, to becoming the major concern of the last three. Several critics have written that the reboot films downplay the theme of race, generally arguing that this is to their detriment. Others, however, write that the films incorporate racial themes in subtler ways.

The Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust are major themes introduced in Rod Serling's original Planet of the Apes script. The films are apocalyptic and dystopian, and portray the era's tensions leading to world destruction. The films critique both sides of the war, with the oppressive ape society and the mutant city featuring traits of both Western culture and the Soviet bloc. According to Greene, Cold War themes were central to the first two films and some spinoff media, but were less significant in the later sequels, which foregrounded racial conflict instead.

Questions of animal rights also figure heavily in the series; Greene considers this related to the racial themes. The first film portrays Taylor treated cruelly by apes who consider him an animal; in later films humans abuse apes for the same reason. The primate rights theme is much more dominant in the reboot films, which directly invoke the question of great ape personhood in portraying Caesar and his friends struggling for their rights in a society that does not consider them legal persons.

Cultural impact and legacy

Planet of the Apes received popular and critical attention well after production ended on the original films and television series. Fans' interest in the franchise continued through publications like Marvel Comics' Planet of the Apes magazine and science fiction conventions, where the series was sufficiently popular to inspire "apecons" – conventions devoted entirely to films involving apes – in the 1970s. The series' distinctive ape costumes were employed in live appearances, including by musician Paul Williams (Virgil from Battle) on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and by Mike Douglas on The Mike Douglas Show. In the 1970s fans Bill Blake and Paula Crist created Cornelius and Zira costumes; their routine was convincing enough that Fox licensed them to portray the characters at events. The films earned strong ratings when they aired on television after their releases, and various stations rebroadcast them together in marathons in later years. The live-action television series was re-formatted into five TV movies for further broadcast in 1981, and the Sci-Fi Channel ran both it and the cartoon in the 1990s.

Planet of the Apes had a wide impact on subsequent popular media. In terms of production, the series' success with sequelization, spinoffs, and merchandising established a new model of media franchising in Hollywood filmmaking, in which studios develop films specifically to generate multi-media franchises. In terms of content, the series influenced various films and television productions during the 1970s and '80s that used science fiction settings and characters to explore race relations, including Alien Nation, Enemy Mine, and V. More direct influence can be seen in DC Comics' 1972–1978 series Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth and the Japanese franchise Time of the Apes, which concern human protagonists in post-apocalyptic worlds ruled by talking animals. Mel Brooks' 1987 science fiction spoof Spaceballs lampooned the Statue of Liberty ending from the original Planet.

Interest in the series resurged in the 1990s, as plans for a new film and other media circulated. Greene attributes this renewed interest to a combination of "pop culture nostalgia and baby boomer economics", as well as a "political ferment" rising at the time that hearkened back to the period when the films were first released. Inspired particularly by the publication of the Malibu Comics series, during this period fans founded new clubs, websites, and fanzines active in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and other countries. Companies began producing new branded merchandise, including clothing, toys, and costumes.

Especially after the 1990s, artists in diverse media referenced, incorporated, or were otherwise influenced by the series. Planet of the Apes turned up in songs by various musicians, references in films, comedy bits by Dennis Miller and Paul Mooney, and an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Charlton Heston. The Simpsons parodied the series several times. Notably, the episode "A Fish Called Selma" features the washed-up actor Troy McClure starring in a Broadway musical adaptation called Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off! Artist Martha Rosler incorporated footage of Cornelius and Zira's interrogation from Escape in her installation "Global Taste: A Meal in Three Courses", while Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Coco Fusco employed video from Planet in a 1993 performance art piece at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The series' impact has also extended to the political sphere, and groups of various leanings have employed its themes and imagery in their discourse. The phrase "planet of the apes" has been used for an overturning of the political or racial status quo. Eric Greene writes that it is especially popular among racial nationalists and reactionaries of different stripes, who use it in reference to race conflict. According to Greene, white supremacists liken minority advancement to the films' world in which supposed "inferiors" seize control, while black nationalists subvert the reference to celebrate the "racial apocalypse"; in this spirit, gangsta rap group Da Lench Mob titled their 1994 album Planet of da Apes. Greene writes that these uses invert the anti-racist message of the films. Planet's final image of the ruined Statue of Liberty has become a common political reference; for example, Greenpeace used it in an advertising campaign against nuclear testing. The series' themes and imagery have been invoked in political discussions on topics as varied as Sixties culture, urban decay, contemporary wars, and gun violence.


The following table shows the cast members who played the primary characters in the film series.

  • Note: A grey cell indicates the character does not appear in that medium.
  • References

    Planet of the Apes Wikipedia