Probably more “monster” than “bird,” but I’ve remembered it as a bird for 37 years and that’s what I’m sticking with.

§ February 23rd, 2012 § Filed under cartoons, pal plugging § 11 Comments

So just on a whim (and still riding that ape high after rewatching the excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes), I decided to rent from the Netflix the first disc of the Return to the Planet of the Apes animated series from the mid-1970s:

Now, because I’m old, I was around to watch this when it originally aired…and I haven’t seen it since. According to this Wikipedia page it had been rerun a number of times since, even relatively recently. But I never saw it again after my initial viewings, and for decades all I retained of what I watched was a brief scene of a giant bird swooping down and grabbing something. …Yeah, I know, but I’m pretty sure Beneath the Planet of the Apes would’ve been improved by a giant bird.

I popped the disc in and watched the first episode…the theme music is evocative of the original movie, and the opening sequence is interesting:

…be sure to stay for the dramatic reading of the name of the series at the very end.

I’ve only seen the first episode so far, and while it seems like things pick up a bit in the later episodes, judging by the plot descriptions on the Wiki page, the initial installment is very casually paced. I think we spend about, oh, ten minutes watching our human cast wander through the desert:

And there’s a lot of “panning over still images” as animation, and reused shots, and other cost-cutting devices common to this sort of thing. However, it’s sort of nice to watch a cartoon that is, as I said, casually paced: holding a shot for more than a second, and not constantly screaming at you. It also seems like it’s relatively intelligently written, giant birds aside, and I look forward to delving a little deeper into this series.

I can’t say I’m exactly reliving childhood memories with this, since, aside from the one barely-remembered scene, I don’t recall any of it. And before you ask…I’m planning on checking out the DVDs for the live-action TV series, too.

I’m also throwing one of these thingies here, since it’s been a while and I can stand to have a little more Amazon action:

It’s shameless, I know.

To offset my selfish grab for pennies, let me recommend a couple of Planet of the Apes-related books by Rich Handley of Roots of the Swamp Thing fame: Timeline of the Planet of the Apes: The Definitive Chronology and Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia, and you can learn about both of ’em (and download free excerpts) right here.

11 Responses to “Probably more “monster” than “bird,” but I’ve remembered it as a bird for 37 years and that’s what I’m sticking with.”

  • Gordon says:

    The live action TV series was, well, pretty OK – think ‘The Fugitive’ done with two guys and actors in ape makeup.

    (My personal line – someone is asked if they know what brainwashing is, and the response is something like, “Yes, it’s when you wash the brain in warm, soapy water”

  • Lawrence Fechtenberger says:

    I too watched this when it was originally broadcast, and then rented it from Netflix recently. It actually is pretty good, with a serialized storyline that is logically and consistently developed–it is definitely a show that benefits from being watched in order. It also does a better job than the original movies did of suggesting a whole civilization of apes (favorite moment thus: an ape farmer driving along in a pickup truck, while a country song called “I’m Going Humanoid Over You” plays on his radio; I also like the two gorilla soldiers who while away their boring guard duty by discussing the latest movies, such as THE APEFATHER).

  • Geoff says:

    I don’t remember any of this from my young’un years. Which is odd, because I remember the live-action TV show with McDowell, having some POTA action-figures, and even reading the paperback novelizations of the movies. I’m guessing that these must have been broadcast against some OTHER Sat. morning cartoon that I chose to watch over this POTA cartoon (remember, this was wayyy before VCR’s, whatever your viewing choice was, you were stuck with it).

  • Alex says:

    I wish I’d had a class or two in college that used those Handley textbooks.

  • Rich Handley says:

    Mike, thanks for the plug! It’s much appreciated. :)

    The cartoon series had a lot of potential, as it had scope and an ongoing plot.

    Unfortunately, it also had bad voice acting, an excruciatingly slow pace, an astounding number of recycled scenes and some very silly aspects–such as a giant ice ape worshipped by Tibetan orangutans.

    The live-action TV series is a lot of fun, though predictable. I’m actually a great fan of it. Gordon’s description of it as “‘The Fugitive’ done with two guys and actors in ape makeup” is dead-on accurate. But Roddy McDowell is clearly having fun, and that makes it endurable.

  • When I bought a giant Cornelius head stuffed with all the DVDs of the tv show, movies & remake, I was disappointed to learn that the Animated series was not included. (I guess I need to learn to read Japanese better.)

  • Bully says:

    Wow, those apes in the opening sequence get really really made when they lose at Tetris.

  • philip says:

    Is that Ted Knight doing the dramatic reading of the show title?

    This looks like it might be on a par with the Star Trek animated series. By which I mean, AMAZING! All apologies to my very patient spouse, but I might have to move this to the top of the Netflix queue.

  • Rich Handley says:

    The show’s biggest problem: Fred Flintstone as Urko.

  • I too, remember watching some of these as a lad.
    The APES franchise is one of my all-time faves (yet, oddly enough, I’m not really a fan of primates (apes, monkeys, man).

    But, even if it were horrible (which it isn’t) these are worth watching JUST for the Ted Knight voice-over.

    He was always an awesome treat added to many a 1970’s cartoon!


  • Earl Allison says:

    Loved, loved, loved this cartoon! I was so happy to get it on DVD finally, and while it wasn’t as adept at arc-building as something like Disney’s “Gargoyles,” it did more in the way of an ongoing story than anything else I can remember from the time.

    I really liked the prop plane the Apes had, with little human marks instead of enemy planes to tally what they had gunned down — it was a nice touch.

    Rich Handley — he (Urko/Fred Flinstone) did lots of voices for various animated series in the 70’s and 80’s. I am pretty sure he was an enemy barbarian on “Thundarr,” too. And recycled scenes were the name of the game with them, too :)

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, I think I’ll pop these in when I get home from work and watch an episode or two.

    Take it and run,