The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a 133-acre zoo founded in 1966 in Los Angeles, California. The first zoo, Griffith Park Zoo, opened in 1912 and was located about 3.2 km south of the current zoo site until it was closed in August 1966. Los Angeles Zoo houses one of the largest chimpanzee tribes of any North American zoo, and is also home to the Campo Gorilla Reserve - specially designed partly in response to a number of gorilla escapes (notably Evelyn and Jim) during the 1990s and 2000s.
Actress Kim Hunter spent a considerable time at the Los Angeles Zoo in preparation for her role as Zira in the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, particularly in order to realistically portray the few kissing scenes shared by Zira and Cornelius: "They kiss somewhat as we do, but not exactly. With apes, it's more a biting of the lips, and a caressing, rather than the solid contact humans prefer to make. Anyhow, it's really very dear."
Many years later, researching her role as Maurice in the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, actress Karin Konoval also spent time at the Los Angeles Zoo with two old male orangutans, and another named Towan at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Corinna Bechko, who wrote a number of successful Planet of the Apes comic series' for BOOM! Studios, holds a Zoology degree and spent many years working with wildlife and in zoos, including a research position at Los Angeles Zoo collecting behavioural data on chimpanzees and orangutans. Corinna believes that 'Bruno' the male orangutan at LA Zoo was used as a model for the character of Maurice. Konoval later confirmed that Maurice was based on "fiesty" Bruno, on Towan's "heart and soul" and on Clyde the walking orangutan.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
When the three mysterious "Ape-onauts" - Milo, Zira and Cornelius - first arrived in 1973 via time-travel, they were believed to be mute apes, and taken for research to the Los Angeles Zoo. After escaping from Earth's doomed future, the Zoo is where the three apes Zira, Cornelius and Milo are taken quickly after they land on the planet (in the distant past), and first spend their time settling down from their space journey. The three advanced chimpanzee are placed in hidden confinement out of the public's eyes in order to not get them excited or distressed, much to the ape's displeasure as it was next to a lonely primitive gorilla whose scent disgusts Zira becaue she hated the gorillas from her own time. There, they were studied by Dr. Lewis Dixon and Dr. 'Stevie' Branton. There, also, Milo was killed by a mentally unstable gorilla in an adjoining cage, (his death is so graphic it disturbs the entire zoo animal neighbourhood). Making fast friends with Lewis and Stevie, Cornelius and Zira reveal their true intellectual capabilities and are eventually brought out of the zoo, towards a Presidential Inquiry conference meeting, including Dr Otto Hasslein. After their public reveal, Zira and Cornelius spend their relaxation time inside the same modified cage until they are moved out and into a more homely apartment.
- Final Production Information Guide at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- Movie Apes Unmasked!, by Jim Nelson - 'National Enquirer' (28 July 2014)
- Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman interview in 'Simian Scrolls #17' at Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive
- Building a Better Ape - Maurice