TV Review: Planet of the Apes Animated Series

Also known as “Return to the Planet of the Apes”, the short-lived animated series ran in the fall of 1975.

The series was created by the animation studio who created The Pink Panther cartoons, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and eventually in the late 1970’s Fantastic Four and Spider-Woman.

Yes, this is the same studio who created Herbie the Robot for the 70’s Fantastic Four series. The studio’s supervising producer was the great Friz Freleng.

The series produced 13 episodes and had a very different vision than any other part of the Apes franchise.

This series features three astronauts (Bill, Judy, Jeff) who are flung forward in time and crash back to Earth. They encounter humans who are just learning language again, vicious mutants and the technologically savvy Apes. That’s right these Apes have cars, buses, trains, skyscrapers and even movie theatres. In Pierre Boule’s original novel and Rod Serling’s original script for Planet of the Apes, the Apes did have this kind of civilization but because of budget concerns we ended up with a much different look and feel.

Besides the change of the Ape world to more technology, this series seems to take place within the middle of “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” and then not. There are references to James Franciscus’s Brent and we meet Linda Harrison’s Nova who teams up with one of the astronauts after he is separated from his crew. But there is also the fact that Cornelius and Zira don’t know men can talk and well the whole Ape civilized world.

In the series, the apes feel threatened when their enslaved humans begin to talk. And with more astronauts arriving to help the human population, the astronauts become hunted.

The animation is really stiff and the color palette reminds me very much of the Star Trek Animated Series. Freleng’s studio would develop more adventure shows with Fantastic Four and their last show Spider-Woman so with this series you can see the evolution beginning.

Two of my biggest peeves with the series is the really stylized 70s music track. It is really painful in places. My other peeve was that Cornelius and the show’s main villain General Urko are voiced by the same guy who voiced Fred Flintstone, Henry Corden. It’s really hard to get over when Roddy McDowell’s career defining role sounds like he should be say, “Hey Barney!” or “Wilma!”.

I have to say that this series is only for huge APE fans. The show has only ever been released on home video once as a whole with the complete series in 2006.

The transfers of the show have not been cleaned or color-corrected. You can see cracks, smudges, dirt and crap all over the print. You can also watch the complete series on Youtube. We have provided the first episode at the bottom of this article.

1.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

Episode list

Episode #1: Flames of Doom
Episode #2: Escape from Ape City
Episode #3: The Unearthly Prophecy
Episode #4: Tunnel of Fear
Episode #5: Lagoon of Peril
Episode #6: Terror on Ice Mountain
Episode #7: River of Flames
Episode #8: Screaming Wings
Episode #9: Trail to the Unknown
Episode #10. Attack from the Clouds
Episode #11: Mission of Mercy
Episode #12: Invasion of the Underdwellers
Episode #13: Battle of the Titans

* Note: This episode list is in viewing order. For a breakdown of each episode please go HERE.

2 thoughts on “TV Review: Planet of the Apes Animated Series

  1. Looks like all the effort went into the concept art, like the still drawings from the intro sequence and the backgrounds. Then someone said” We just need to move a few parts, and voilà, animation”. Silly humanoid animals. And yes, that goofy Seventies music. Argh.

    All that, and it’s snowing over my reply as I watch my comments coming up on the screen with all the breakneck speed I remember from a 300-baud modem on BBSes back in the day. 🙂

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