Updated: December 13, 2020
PLANET OF THE APES ART GALLERY #01
"Planet of the Apes" Concept Art - 1963 - 1966
Film producer Arthur P. Jacobs secured the rights to La Planete des singes after reading Pierre Boulle's novel. He immediately set about turning the idea into a viable and stunning movie adaptation. He commissioned artists to produce a series of drawings and sketches inspired by the novel, to be used as a visual basis for the movie: "I had sketches made, and went through six sets of artists to get the concept, but none of them were right. Finally, I hit on a seventh one, and said that's how it should look."
Concept Designer Mentor Huebner is believed to have produced the bulk of the art that has so far been made public. Former Disney artist Don Peters claimed that he first introduced the ruined Statue of Liberty scenes to the Apes project when he did the original publicity paintings for Jacobs. Associate producer Mort Abrahams remembered Jacobs assembling a huge 'merchandising book' with 130 pages of ideas to pitch the movie to film studios.
In February 1964 Rod Serling was asked to write a script (he had already prepared a treatment for 'King Brothers Productions' who briefly owned the movie rights to Boulle's novel). Within a year, he had written thirty script drafts and Jacobs began to approach Hollywood's studio companies. However, he found little interest in a movie where the majority of it's actors would need to be heavily made-up for the duration of the film and would be portraying talking animals. A breakthrough came in June 1965 when Jacobs secured the involvement of leading actor Charlton Heston. In early 1966 Richard D. Zanuck, the then-youthful head of production at 20th Century Fox, received a request from Jacobs for an appointment. Jacobs explained he had been trying to produce the picture at Warner Bros., but the studio had put it in 'turnaround'. Even with a Serling script based on the Pierre Boulle novel, and with Blake Edwards slated to be the director, Warner Bros. had balked at the budget estimate - a huge investment in the 1960's.
Zanuck read the script and told Jacobs: "I think there is something incredibly fascinating with this material. But I don't know how we're going to pull it off. The audience might just laugh at it; after the first 30 seconds we could be dead in the water. I want to make a test. I want to see if we can do the makeup properly or if it is going to look ridiculous and laughable." Associate producer Mort Abrahams recalled, "The test cost $5,000, which was all they could give us." Heston had suggested director Franklin J. Schaffner to replace Blake Edwards, and Edward G. Robinson was persuaded to put on the costume of Dr Zaius for the test, with rehearsals on 7 March and filming on 8 March, 1966. It also featured young Fox contract actors James Brolin and Linda Harrison - Zanuck's then-girlfriend. The screen-test used dialogue from Serling's final draft from a year earlier and utilized the concept paintings with narration (by either William Conrad or Paul Frees, depending on which source you believe) to depict major scenes which led up to a filmed confrontation between Heston and Robinson. The ape makeup was devised by Fox's Ben Nye, and music composed by John Williams was borrowed from Irwin Allen's Lost in Space series. Schaffner recalled: "Jacobs finally persuaded 20th Century Fox to make a test - a make-up test - for the very dramatic scene in which a bunch of orangutans hang over a human being and discuss what kind of lobotomy they'll perform on him. It was very clear to me that the picture wouldn't work if audiences didn't accept apes talking English. So we changed the design of the scene to a dialogue piece between Heston and, I guess it was Eddie Robinson who was wearing an ape make-up, and that did work. Well, that test was probably made six or eight months before anybody decided to go ahead with the project and I was the most surprised person in the world when I got a call from Jacobs saying we were going to go ahead."
While the test proved that the makeup could be accepted on a realistic level, it was still believed that a $5 million science-fiction film was too risky a gamble. Then, Fox released the special effects-laden Fantastic Voyage, which opened to fantastic box-office grosses. Mort Abrahams, who had joined Jacobs' APJAC Productions several years earlier and would serve as associate producer of the first two Apes pictures, explained that he, Jacobs and Zanuck were in a meeting discussing the possibility of Planet of the Apes, and the success of Fantastic Voyage as proof that science fiction could be a viable force at the box office: "Dick Zanuck said, 'OK, I'll tell you what. If you can bring the picture in for $5 million, I'll try to get it through the board.' Dick went to New York and stuck his neck out, and convinced them. He came back and said, 'OK, go.'" Jacobs later recalled of the footage being shown to senior Fox executives in New York: "There were nine men in that screening room, watching the test. If any one of them had laughed we would have been dead". No one laughed. Planet of the Apes was given its thumbs-up in September 1966, and scheduled to begin filming in Spring 1967.
John Chambers, already a highly-respected makeup artist at the time, was drafted in to design the ape appliances to be used in the movie: "At Fox, they had done a little test with the first person who tried out, and that was Edward G. Robinson. He was fabulous as Zaius (Maurice Evans was marvelous in the final casting), and I loved the way he did it. The makeup was crude, but they had a semblance of what they wanted. That's how the one concept was started... I was in Madrid... when Ben Nye called from Fox asking me to go to London to check out a system of making ape appliances which would allow facial manipulation. This was six months before the start of shooting. We then had to determine what the makeup concept would be."
'Planet of the Apes' Production Art - 1966 - 1967
Rod Serling's screenplays for the Apes movie had all involved the type of modern city backdrop found in the source novel. The idea was put forward that a primitive city would be less costly to build and would therefore save money better used in the make-up department (though it's worth pondering why the producers didn't simply use a real city for location shooting instead, as they would later do on both Escape and Conquest). A 'Preliminary Production Information Guide' for the movie, dated 7 June 1967, maintained that staff had been producing designs for the city for over a year.
"When Rod Serling came up with the ending it was generally agreed that we had to do everything we could to make it as unearthly as possible. We didn't want to give away the ending. So, the challenge was to make up a style of life that these people might have developed because they would be strong, good with their hands. We kind of invented an architecture that was as far from anything Earth-like as we could go. We were inspired by Gaudi, and the Goreme Valley in Turkey. I had an artist, Meutner Hubner [should read 'Mentor Huebner'], still a very famous and fine motion picture illustrator, putting all those pieces of research together to get a look, having no idea how we would ultimately build it." - William Creber
"We wanted to find an architectural style for the apes culture which would look quite unlike anything people had ever known in America and yet didn't seem futuristic or phony or anything. I came up with a suggestion. There's a Spanish architect named Antonio Gaudi, who is considered a great man in Spain and has some marvelous architecture there. His architecture suggests a kind of arborial past; some of the columns of his buildings seem like giant trunks of trees. I took this to the art director and he agreed that this was inspirational. So the city of the apes in the picture was built in that fashion. Which suggested that these people were - well, trees were nostalgic to them for having lived in them at one time."