Karen: The Planet of the Apes films not only produced a short-lived TV series and an equally short-lived cartoon show, but a huge amount of merchandise as well. POTA is right up there with the original Star Trek TV show in my mind for overall depth of merchandise in the 70s.
Karen: Let's take a look at the various items available to the dedicated Apes fan back in the day:
Karen: Every single movie was novelized, and of course, there was the original novel by Pierre Boulle (which got updated with a movie cover). I had all of these books when they came out but sadly somewhere along the way got rid of them. There were also novelizations of some of the TV episodes.
Doug: I read the Boulle novel, with the very cover you see to the right! I recall checking it out at our local library in Milwaukee. My intent was to devour it, but I cannot express my disappointment when I got into it a bit and the apes were driving cars! I was pretty Apes-crazy at the time, and was not up for anything disparaging (in my mind) what I'd come to know from the films. As a child, I really had no idea that this novel was the source material; I assumed that it was somehow an extension of the films, and the author was taking sacrilegious liberties with my Apes! I suppose I should give it a re-read all these years later. I'd probably appreciate it more.
Karen: Of course, well known in these parts was the comic magazine published by Marvel from 1974-1977, titled "Planet of the Apes." This black and white magazine featured comic book adaptations of all five films, as well as original stories by Marvel staff. On top of all this there were articles and photographs from the movies and TV series. It was an Ape fan's dream.
Doug: One of the regrets of my comics-buying life is that I didn't own more of the B&W magazines. Yet, at the time they seemed so grown-up and even risque' that I don't think my mom would have shelled out the buck or two. And, as a parent now, that was most likely the right choice for a 7-8-year old kid. But to see those books today... And the Apes mags in particular were just beautiful.
Karen: I remember building a lot of plastic model kits in the 70s. Although I guess the heyday of the hobby was probably in the 60s, with all the great Aurora model kits, it was still pretty popular in the 70s. The Apes had a spot here too, with a line of kits from a company called Addar. As far as I know, there were six kits, which featured Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, Caesar, General Aldo, and General Ursus. These were pretty cool kits, which included not only figures but some scenery; the Zaius kit, for example, include the bomb launching 'altar' from "Beneath the Planet of the Apes." I had that kit, as well as the two generals and Cornelius. They looked great next to my AMT Mr. Spock and Aurora Hulk and Spider-Man!
Doug: I know I had the Spidey model, and I'm pretty sure I had another. I don't believe I had an Apes model. And hey -- you know what always bummed me out about models? I could never paint them like the photos on the box! So it was generally a less-than-satisfying experience.
Karen: Is there anyone who is unaware of the Mego Apes figures? I think these were the single most popular Apes merchandise. I was only aware of the figures based on the movies, which included Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, the Gorilla Soldier, and 'the Astronaut'. It was only recently that I discovered that Mego had also made figures based on characters from the TV show. There were also accessories and playsets. All I had though was three figures: Cornelius, Zira, and the Gorilla.
Doug: Ah, here is where I had mucho Apes! Back in the days of blow-apart Megos (held together with elastic, rather than the later use of heavy rubber bands), I had the astronaut in his blue jumpsuit. Along the way I also had Cornelius (or was it Galen? -- same figure, if I recall), Generals Urko and Ursus, and maybe a soldier gorilla. I believe I also had Dr. Zaius, and once the TV show came out I had Verdon and Burke. I also had the treehouse playset. These figures were exceptional, and provided fodder for many cross-universe adventures once I brought in my superhero Megos for some scrapping!
Karen: There were so many other types of Apes toys out there that we can't name them all in a blog post. But I will throw out a few that I had and loved. One was the Color Forms POTA set. Yes, bright primary colors for the apes, and an Ape City background. This was what we did before we had video games -we made little scenes and told stories.
Doug: Man, time clouds the memory. If I didn't have the Colorforms set, I must have had a friend who did. I remember playing with them somewhere...
Karen: There was also the POTA board game, which I think my brother played with me grudgingly once. It was reminiscent of the old "Mousetrap" game, as you had to build a cage out of the cardboard pieces included and capture your opponents but I have no idea how the gameplay worked. Again, it was colorful and had apes on it. That was good enough for me.
Karen: I was able to live out all my most oppressive fantasies as a gorilla soldier thanks to Mattel's ape rifle and mask set. That mask was like a typical Halloween costume mask, with only a front and an elastic string to hold it on your head. The rifle made a nice loud crack when you pulled the trigger. Don Post studios put out some very nice over the head Apes masks but I never had any of them.
Karen: To start my day I had a plastic bowl and mug set, which I recall had the glaring face of General Ursus -or was it Urko? - on it. It was the perfect companion to watching the Apes cartoon on Saturday mornings.
Karen: There are many many more items, but these are some of the ones we recall fondly. We'd love to hear from any other Ape-maniacs. Next time, we'll discuss some of the modern toys and items available.
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