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Return To The Planet Of The Apes


 Before Star Wars Planet of the Apes was probably the most popular sci-fi franchise going. Of course, you had to wait years in between movies to get your Ape fix.Except for a couple of years when they broadcast a live action Planet of the Apes t.v. show, and the cartoon I want to talk about here, Return to the Planet of the Apes. The show premiered on NBC on September 6, 1975. It only lasted for 13 episodes. Strangely, it does not fit into the continuity of the five Planet of the Apes movies or the television show from the year before. It is instead a retelling of the Planet of the Apes story, using characters and elements from both the movies and the television show. But where the apes had a primitive society in those previous versions, in the cartoon they were more modern, having automobiles and artillery and putting it more in line with the book.

The opening sequence is pretty cool, consisting of a series of still shots. The story begins with three astronauts crash landing on a future earth (but they don't know it is earth yet). They are in the middle of a desert, and must hike out. They discover carvings of apes in the mountains. There is a weird moment when their supplies are burnt up by seemingly intelligent fire. Then there is an earthquake which swallows up the female astronaut. After finding their way out of the desert, the two men find a gathering of humans living in a cave. One of the women is wearing dog tags from an earth astronaut who was born years after the two left earth on their mission.

 The apes show up to capture the humans, an earlier scene having established that the ape military wants to eradicate the humans as a threat, and the scientific community wants to study the humans. One of the astronauts is captured by the apes. The political wranglings of the ape factions are shown. The astronauts seem to be rather ignorant considering their vocation. While wandering the desert the female astronaut is telling the other two to go on without her. She hands one of them a ring saying to give it to her sister. This is after they have already determined that they have traveled 2,000 in the future. The story is mostly very well written though, especially for a mid-seventies cartoon.

The animation is mixed. They often cut corners by showing a still shot. This is made even worse by the fact that at times there is dialog going on over the still shot, which points up the fact that no one's mouth is moving. The still shots do tend to be very meticulously drawn though, with a lot of detail. It makes me wonder why they didn't just draw with less detail and animate the whole episode. But overall it is not any worse than a lot of animation of the time, which was made as quickly and cheaply as possible.

 The story is paced a little slowly, especially as it was intended for an audience of children. It also seems strange that they chose to start over with the story, since they had the movies and the live action television show they could have built off of. This show was a last gasp for the Apes franchise until the terrible Tim Burton remake and the fantastic new prequels. The first episode is available on Youtube. It is pretty enjoyable despite its minor flaws. And it did its small part in contributing to geek culture as a whole.


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