Planet of the Apes Wiki

'Planet of the Apes' Concept Art - 1963 - 1966

Film producer Arthur P. Jacobs secured the rights to La Planète des singes after reading Pierre Boulle's novel. He immediately set about turning the idea into a viable and stunning movie adaptation. He commissioned artists to produce a series of drawings and sketches inspired by the novel, to be used as a visual basis for the movie: "I had sketches made, and went through six sets of artists to get the concept, but none of them were right. Finally, I hit on a seventh one, and said that's how it should look."[1] Concept Designer Mentor Huebner is understood to have produced the earliest sketches that have been made public, dating from late 1963.[2] Huebner's widow maintained that "Mentor was the original artist working with Jacobs" ... "as far as I know there were no drawings pre-Mentor", but she suggested that other artists might have used his concepts as a starting point for further development.[3] Former Disney artist Don Peters worked on the Apes project in conjunction with director Blake Edwards around May to November 1964, producing a whole series of original publicity paintings, though only photographs of the paintings survive.[2] Peters first introduced the ruined Statue of Liberty scenes to the Apes project via his concept art.[4] Associate producer Mort Abrahams remembered Jacobs assembling a huge 'merchandising book' with 130 pages of ideas to pitch the movie to film studios during 1965 and 1966.[5]

'Planet of the Apes' Screen Test - 8 March 1966

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In February 1964 Rod Serling was asked to write a script (he had already prepared a treatment for 'King Brothers Productions' who briefly owned the movie rights to Boulle's novel). Within a year, he had written thirty script drafts and Jacobs began to approach Hollywood's studio companies. However, he found little interest in a movie where the majority of it's actors would need to be heavily made-up for the duration of the film and would be portraying talking animals. A breakthrough came in June 1965 when Jacobs secured the involvement of leading actor Charlton Heston. In early 1966 Richard D. Zanuck, the then-youthful head of production at 20th Century Fox, received a request from Jacobs for an appointment. Jacobs explained he had been trying to produce the picture at Warner Bros., but the studio had put it in 'turnaround'. Even with a Serling script based on the Pierre Boulle novel, and with Blake Edwards slated to be the director, Warner Bros. had balked at the budget estimate - a huge investment in the 1960's.

Zanuck read the script and told Jacobs: "I think there is something incredibly fascinating with this material. But I don't know how we're going to pull it off. The audience might just laugh at it; after the first 30 seconds we could be dead in the water. I want to make a test. I want to see if we can do the makeup properly or if it is going to look ridiculous and laughable." Associate producer Mort Abrahams recalled, "The test cost $5,000, which was all they could give us."[5] Heston had suggested director Franklin J. Schaffner to replace Blake Edwards, and Edward G. Robinson was persuaded to put on the costume of Dr Zaius for the test, with rehearsals on 7 March and filming on 8 March, 1966.[6] It also featured young Fox contract actors James Brolin and Linda Harrison - Zanuck's then-girlfriend. Initial plans to film a scene in an ape surgical laboratory were replaced with a climactic confrontation between Heston and Robinson. The dialogue came from Serling’s final draft from a year earlier and utilized Don Peters' concept paintings with narration (by either William Conrad or Paul Frees, depending on which source you believe) to depict the major events leading up to the scene. Morton Haack designed the costumes, the ape makeup was devised by Fox's Ben Nye, and music composed by John Williams was borrowed from Irwin Allen's Lost in Space series.[2] Schaffner recalled: "Jacobs finally persuaded 20th Century Fox to make a test - a make-up test - for the very dramatic scene in which a bunch of orangutans hang over a human being and discuss what kind of lobotomy they'll perform on him. It was very clear to me that the picture wouldn't work if audiences didn't accept apes talking English. So we changed the design of the scene to a dialogue piece between Heston and, I guess it was Eddie Robinson who was wearing an ape make-up, and that did work. Well, that test was probably made six or eight months before anybody decided to go ahead with the project and I was the most surprised person in the world when I got a call from Jacobs saying we were going to go ahead."[7]

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While the test convinced Dick Zanuck that the makeup could be accepted on a realistic level, it was still believed that a $5 million science-fiction film was too risky a gamble. Then, Fox released the special effects-laden Fantastic Voyage, which opened to fantastic box-office grosses. Some months after the initial screening, Dick Zanuck agreed to show the screen-test to Fox executives including Darryl Zanuck.[2] Mort Abrahams, who had joined Jacobs' APJAC Productions several years earlier and would serve as associate producer of the first two Apes pictures, explained that he, Jacobs and Dick Zanuck held a meeting discussing the possibility of Planet of the Apes and the success of Fantastic Voyage as proof that science fiction could be a viable force at the box office: "Dick Zanuck said, 'OK, I'll tell you what. If you can bring the picture in for $5 million, I'll try to get it through the board.' Dick went to New York and stuck his neck out, and convinced them. He came back and said, 'OK, go.'"[8] Jacobs later recalled of the footage being shown to senior Fox executives in New York: "There were nine men in that screening room, watching the test. If any one of them had laughed we would have been dead". No one laughed.[9] Planet of the Apes was given its thumbs-up in September 1966, and scheduled to begin filming in Spring 1967.

John Chambers, already a highly-respected makeup artist at the time, was drafted in to design the ape appliances to be used in the movie: "At Fox, they had done a little test with the first person who tried out, and that was Edward G. Robinson. He was fabulous as Zaius (Maurice Evans was marvelous in the final casting), and I loved the way he did it. The makeup was crude, but they had a semblance of what they wanted. That's how the one concept was started... I was in Madrid... when Ben Nye called from Fox asking me to go to London to check out a system of making ape appliances which would allow facial manipulation. This was six months before the start of shooting. We then had to determine what the makeup concept would be."[1]

'Planet of the Apes' Production Art - 1966 - 1967

Rod Serling's screenplays for the Apes movie had all involved the type of modern city backdrop found in the source novel. The idea was put forward that a primitive city would be less costly to build and would therefore save money better used in the make-up department, although using a real city for location shooting, as they would later do on both Escape and Conquest, would presumably have been inexpensive. A more plausible explanation is that a contemporary-looking Earth city could provide a strong clue about the twist ending. Mentor Huebner returned to the film project to construct an unfamiliar urban landscape. While an asymmetrical architectural design was quickly established, his sketches reflect the changing concepts of the apes themselves, with motor vehicles, street lamps and modern clothes eventually giving way to a medieval level of technology. Closer to filming, a series of paintings by an unknown artist depicted the initial trek by the astronauts through the Forbidden Zone.[2] A 'Preliminary Production Information Guide' for the movie, dated 7 June 1967, maintained that staff had been producing designs for the city for over a year.[10]

"When Rod Serling came up with the ending it was generally agreed that we had to do everything we could to make it as unearthly as possible. We didn't want to give away the ending. So, the challenge was to make up a style of life that these people might have developed because they would be strong, good with their hands. We kind of invented an architecture that was as far from anything Earth-like as we could go. We were inspired by Gaudi, and the Goreme Valley in Turkey. I had an artist, Meutner Hubner [sic], still a very famous and fine motion picture illustrator, putting all those pieces of research together to get a look, having no idea how we would ultimately build it." - William Creber[11]

"We wanted to find an architectural style for the apes culture which would look quite unlike anything people had ever known in America and yet didn't seem futuristic or phony or anything. I came up with a suggestion. There's a Spanish architect named Antonio Gaudi, who is considered a great man in Spain and has some marvellous architecture there. His architecture suggests a kind of arboreal past; some of the columns of his buildings seem like giant trunks of trees. I took this to the art director and he agreed that this was inspirational. So the city of the apes in the picture was built in that fashion. Which suggested that these people were - well, trees were nostalgic to them for having lived in them at one time." - Michael Wilson[12]

Morton Haack's 'Planet of the Apes' Costume Design - 1966 - 1967

'Planet of the Apes' Makeup and Props Design - 1966 - 1967

'Planet of the Apes' Costume Tests - April 1967

The aging Robinson found it difficult to breathe in the make-up, and according to the film's make-up designer, John Chambers, the star refused to shave off his beard, making his ape transformation impossible. Jacobs had already been scheming to dump Robinson and replace him with someone cheaper and the row was just the excuse he needed. Robinson was paid off, the Welsh Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans was hired and Jacobs saved money. It was in no one's interest that the truth came out and it remained a secret for over thirty years.[4] The rest of the cast included Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. The formerly blacklisted Michael Wilson was credited as co-writer with Serling. New ape makeup was devised by John Chambers, who had developed his talents from his time creating prosthetic limbs for amputees during World War II and found success after the war in Hollywood designing the make up on TV shows. The set was designed by William Creber. To cut down costs the concept was altered so that the Ape society was not advanced and futuristic but rather primitive, with the apes living in mud huts. But a total of 200 actors were needed to play the Apes.

"We began by making a moulange - a plaster likeness of the actor's face. We poured a gelatin-like substance over their faces, and this solidifies in a few minutes. Then we removed this and we could thus have a negative face mold. Into this we'd pour artificial stone, a plaster that withstands heat and is five times as hard as plaster of paris. So now we have an actual three-dimensional bust of the respective actor. Onto this head, we then began to create in clay the ape features. Molds are made for each of these features, and we drill small holes in them and inject the foam rubber with a sort of grease gun. This then cures for six or seven hours at 200*F in an oven. We must make sure there are no bubbles in the mold - or we've lost six hours time. So you see, we make an individual mold of each component of each actor's face. From this mold we can make as many cheeks, noses, or chins as we need. We do not use the same chin or other makeup twice. This is because the liquid latex rubber bonds to the foam rubber, and usually tears when we remove the makeup. Our main concern is not the safety of the makeup, but the safety of the actor's skin. So we use gentle chemicals to remove the makeup, throw it away, and use a fresh supply the next day. The appliances tear easily, especially at the edges." "We had three wig makers working fulltime on Planet of the Apes. The big problem is to stop the actors tearing off the wigs and ruining them. The wigs are made of human hair - we wanted Chinese but the authorities refused us an OK to import Communist hair, so we developed a source in Korea. The hair is twice as strong as Caucasian hair. It is all handhooked into the lace, hair by hair, thousands in each wig. Human hair is close to ape hair. We found European hair is too fine for the apes - but the Oriental hair suffices."[1] - Creative Makeup Designer John Chambers.

See also: Pictures from the set of 'Planet of the Apes (1968)'


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cinefantastique 'Planet of the Apes' Issue (1972)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 The Making of Planet of the Apes, by J.W. Rinzler (2018)
  3. Louise Huebner email correspondence (2010)
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Legend of the Planet of the Apes, by Brian Pendreigh
  5. 5.0 5.1 Behind the Planet of the Apes
  6. Planet of the Apes Revisited, by Edward Gross, Larry Landsman & Joe Russo - reprinted in 'Sci-Fi Universe' (July 1994)
  7. The Early Franklin J. Schaffner, by Stanley Lloyd Kaufman jr. - 'Films In Review' (August 1969)
  8. Planet of the Apes Revisited, by Joe Russo and Larry Landsman
  9. The Legend of the Planet of the Apes, by Brian Pendreigh - reprinted in 'Night & Day' (2001)
  10. Preliminary Production Information Guide
  11. The Planet of the Apes Chronicles, by Paul A. Woods (Page 67)
  12. 'Marvel's Planet of the Apes', USA Issue 2 (October 1974)