Sunday, June 26, 2016
Return To The Planet Of The Apes!
Of the two television adaptations of the Planet of the Apes the animated series Return To The Planet of the Apes by DePatie-Freleng was the more satisfying. The fact it was animated gave it a greater opportunity in those halcyon pre-digital days of showing a more complete picture of the new and weird Ape world. I don't even want to try and fit this series into the broader PotA continuity, it would be useless. This series seems to me a reboot of the concept, a fresh take on the singular premise.
As with all the PotA features, this one begins when astronauts crash onto what they imagine to be a distant planet but which will be revealed to be their own Earth in the distant future when humans have been reduced to status of animals and Apes are the ascendant species with a full-blown civilization. What is notable about this animated rendition is that the world of the Apes is a relatively modern one, with technology which seems to peak about the 1950's. These Apes have cars and trucks, live in a rather handsome city with amenities like plumbing (I assume), electricity, television, and other modern details of daily life.
Into this world come three astronauts (Bill, Jeff, and Judy) who crash land in a lake and walk overland in a forbidding landscape to ultimately discover that they are stranded in a topsy-turvy world. They get split up in the debut and end up in different places. Jeff discovers an above average intelligent girl named Nova who wears a dogtag with the name "Brent", Judy disappears in a crack in the ground and will reappear a prisoner of weird humans named "Underdwellers", and Bill (dubbed "Blue Eyes") ends up in the in the hands of Zira and Cornelius who recognize his intelligence and immediately work with him to help. The three are eventually reunited after much effort and many adventures and work in tandem to help the lot of the humans (called "humanoids" in this series) who are the victims of oppression and persistent attacks from the Ape City dwellers.
The stories have memory and while the episodes are not necessarily continued, they do have a continuity which runs through them. Events matter and watching them in sequence is necessary. Alas the story stops short of a final resolution, though the trio do succeed in finding a new home for the humans somewhat shielded from the Apes.
The visuals on this series do a remarkable job of maximizing what was then called animation. Costs didn't allow for full animation and the producer here, the great Doug Wildey does a fantastic job blending the action (such as it is) with well-crafted montages and beautiful backgrounds to create a wonderfully rich environment. While the pacing of certain sequences is a bit slow, the atmosphere is pitch perfect many times and the images are often quite striking.