Planet of the Apes Wiki


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Return to the Planet of the Apes is an animated series, by DePatie–Freleng Enterprises in association with 20th Century Fox Television, based upon Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle. Boulle's novel had previously inspired five films and a TV series, beginning with the 1968 film Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston. Unlike the film, its sequels, and the 1974 live action TV series, which involved a primitive ape civilization, Return to the Planet of the Apes depicted a technologically advanced society, complete with automobiles, film, and television; as such it more closely resembled both Boulle's original novel and early concepts for the first Apes movie which were changed due to budgetary limitations in the late 1960s.

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Promo advertisement

Produced following the last of the big-screen features and a short-lived live-action television series, this series was among the last Planet of the Apes projects for several years following a number of comic books from Marvel Comics (August 1974 - February 1977) and a series of audio adventures from Power Records in 1974. Aside from a number of comic book series published by Malibu Comics in the early 1990s, the next project based upon Boulle's concepts would be Tim Burton's reimagining in 2001.

Along with the second film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, this is one of only two original Planet of the Apes productions in which Roddy McDowall was not involved.


Production Crew[]

  • Producers/Developed for TV by ... David H. DePatie & Friz Freleng
  • Supervising Director/Associate Producer ... Doug Wildey
  • Executive in Charge of Production ... Lee Gunther
  • Storyboard Directors ... Morris Gollub, Doug Wildey, Jan Green
  • Animation Director ... Cullen Blaine Houghtaling
  • Lead Animator ... Bob Richardson
  • Animation ... Reuben Timmins, Jim Brummett, Edwin (Ed) Aardal, Joe Roman Jr., Lee Halpern, Jack Foster, Bob Kirk, Janice Stocks
  • Backgrounds Supervisor ... Richard H. Thomas
  • Backgrounds Artists ... Mary O'Loughlin, Don Watson
  • Ink & Paint Supervision ... Gertrude Timmins
  • Graphic Design ... Moe Gollub, Hak Ficq, Leo Swenson, Norly Paat, Tony Sgroi, Earl Martin, George Wheeler, John Dorman, Zgyamond Jablecki, John Messina
  • Xerography ... Greg Marshall
  • Supervising Film Editor ... Robert T. (Bob) Gillis
  • Film Editors ... Allan R. Potter, Rick Steward
  • Camera Operators ... Ray Lee, Larry Hogan, John Burton Jr.
  • Series Original Music ... Dean Elliott
  • Conductor ... Eric Rogers
  • Music Editor ... Joe Siracusa
  • Music Mixer ... Eric Tomlinson
  • Production Sound Mixer ... Steve Orr
  • Anthropological Dialogue Researcher ... MacDonald Stearns, Ph.D. (UCLA Department of Germanic Languages)


Behind the Scenes[]

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Promo artwork for 'Return to the Planet of the Apes'

The premature end of the Planet of the Apes TV series in December 1974 - half-way through its run - was obviously a disappointment for those involved, but the simultaneous explosion in Apes merchandise merely spurred them on to find a more economic alternative. The Marvel Comics' series of black-and-white magazines provided the answer: exciting animated adventures produced for a fraction of the cost. The director and associate producer in overall control of the design of the cartoon series - entitled Return to the Planet of the Apes - was comic book artist Doug Wildey, the man primarily responsible for the ever-popular Jonny Quest series. The cartoon would be drawn by DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, best known for the Pink Panther cartoon, in association with 20th Century Fox, and began airing in September 1975 on NBC.

The involvement of a new production company taking over from APJAC Productions (producer of the five movies) and 20th Century Fox (producer of the TV series) gave the writers free rein to re-interpret the Planet of the Apes story outline. Aspects of all the various Apes incarnations were combined; characters from the films and the television series were united in the cartoon, despite never having been seen together in live-action before (i.e. Zaius, Zira, Cornelius, Nova & Urko). The apes in Return to the Planet of the Apes - as in Pierre Boulle's original Planet of the Apes novel - were a very advanced race, with just about every convenience modern man had at the time the cartoon was airing; cars, machine guns, a sprawling city, television, films, radar, artillery, trains and even a World War II fighter plane; and yet Cornelius and Zira needed the help of the astronauts to build a functioning hot air balloon. In the movie and subsequent live-action TV series, by contrast, the apes were depicted as primitive, without cars or television, only rifles and some other simple equipment.

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Promo artwork for 'Return to the Planet of the Apes'

The premise was simple and was exactly the same as the plot for the first film and the series; astronauts get stranded on a planet populated by intelligent apes, they're seen as a threat and are constantly chased. The three astronauts were Bill Hudson, Jeff Allen (mis-named 'Jeff Carter' in many sources) and Judy Franklin. Traveling aboard the NASA spacecraft 'Venturer' on August 6th, 1976 they are tossed through a time vortex to the year 3979 AD. They find a world that is ruled by intellectual apes; humans, treated as a lesser species, serve as pets, servants, and sport for hunters. While seeking shelter after their ship crash lands, Judy disappears during an earthquake. The two remaining astronauts find refuge in a humanoid colony. As they learn what fate has befallen the Earth, the colony is raided by an army of apes; Bill is captured and brought to ape scientists Cornelius and Zira for experimentation purposes. In his attempt to communicate with them, Bill speaks, shocking Cornelius and Zira, who held a misbelief that humans were incapable of speech. Realising that Bill will be killed by the ape leaders if they learn of his capability, Cornelius and Zira set him free. Bill and Jeff travel underground to find Judy and discover that she has been captured and brainwashed by the Underdwellers, advanced humanoids who had fled underground to escape the apes (similar to the mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes). Stories follow the astronauts' adventures as they struggle for survival and seek a way to return to the Earth of their time. They also have to find a way to safeguard the lives of the humans of this time, including Nova. Judy returned about halfway through the series and soon afterwards Col. Ronald Brent - an astronaut born in 2079, who had launched 150 or so years after Bill, Jeff and Judy, yet arrived some fifteen to twenty years earlier – finally showed up (Nova wore his dog-tags from a previous encounter). The Underdwellers would return later in the series. Even the characters evolved as time went by. General Urko, for example, became increasingly paranoid and obsessed with destroying the humans, especially 'Blue Eyes', as Bill was called, while Dr. Zaius became more and more antagonistic towards Urko.


Return to the Planet of the Apes had excellent episode-to-episode continuity; it was one big continuous storyline broken up into episodes – the lack of such a consistent story arc was one of the key elements missing from the failed live-action TV show. The writing for the series was definitely the strong point for the cartoon. Storylines were engaging and thoughtful. Doug Wildey reflected later: "When I first mapped out the show, I took the astronauts and kept them as separate as I could from the other humans for the first three or four episodes. And then I got them involved with other humans up to a point. So the original idea was that they were astronauts arriving on the planet of the apes, they're fugitives, and mainly they keep hiding to figure out what the hell they're going to do. I put the stories together from one to 13 in the sense that at the end of 13, the humans are almost as powerful as the apes. At the beginning, though, they're like mice running around hoping not to get trapped. That's the simplified philosophy behind it. My idea was that they would be animals at the beginning and slowly evolve into a crude civilized bunch of people from the standpoint that they might be more organized." "I basically brought it to the point where there was an uneasy truce between apes and humans, where they set up in the Forbidden Zone this truce thing where the two leaders meet and we wrap the show up. Maybe, just maybe, they could learn from each other." [1] What the series lacked, however, was quality animation and voicework, though Austin Stoker (who voiced Jeff) had appeared as MacDonald in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, providing a link with the original movies.


The series ended in November 1975 after thirteen episodes, but was not renewed for the planned second season.[2] The final episode thus brought together many storylines from previous episodes, including an ancient human book, a monstrous snake-bird, as well as General Urko's obsession with destroying the humans, but nothing was resolved and the episode ended like every other, with a cliffhanger. The humans seemed to have escaped destruction at the hands of Urko and his army while Cornelius and Bill were on their way to convince the Ape Council to spare humanity. Did they succeed? Did the Underdwellers ever fulfil their prophecy and return to the surface world? Did the mountain apes show the inhabitants of Ape City how to live in peace and harmony? And did Bill, Jeff, Judy and Brent ever make it back to their own time?

Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, who had been story editors on the live-action Apes TV show, went on to start their Ruby-Spears animation production company in 1977. Around 1979-1980 Ruby-Spears considered developing a new Apes animated series, with former Hanna-Barbera and Marvel veteran Jack Kirby doing some concept sketches. The few publicized Kirby sketches used the characters from the TV series, with possibly some influence from the animated series as well, but ultimately these remained unused.



External links[]


  1. Planet of the Apes on Television, by Joe Russo, Larry Landsman & Edward Gross - 'SFX Magazine' (2001)
  2. Planet of the Apes: 40 Year Evolution, by Lee Pfeiffer & Dave Worrall (June 2008)

Return to the Planet of the Apes
"Flames of Doom" "Escape from Ape City" "The Unearthly Prophecy" "Tunnel of Fear" "Lagoon of Peril" "Terror on Ice Mountain" "River of Flames"
"Screaming Wings" "Trail to the Unknown" "Attack from the Clouds" "Mission of Mercy" "Invasion of the Underdwellers" "Battle of the Titans" Return to the Planet of the Apes