Return to the Planet of the Apes is a short-lived animated series, by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises in association with 20th Century Fox Television, based upon Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle. Boulle's novel had previously been adapted in a series of movies, beginning with the 1968 Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston. Unlike the film, its sequels, and the 1974 live-action television series, which involved a primitive ape civilization, Return to the Planet of the Apes depicted a technologically advanced society, complete with automobiles, film, and television; as such it more closely resembled both Boulle's original novel and early concepts for the first Apes movie which were changed due to budgetary limitations in the late 1960s.
Produced following the last of the big-screen features and a short-lived live action TV series, this series was among the last Planet of the Apes projects for several years, aside from a number of comic books from Marvel Comics and Adventure Comics, and a series of audio adventures from Power Records. The next project based upon Boulle's concepts would be Tim Burton's reimagining a quarter century later.
Airing on NBC, the series premiered on September 6, 1975 and was broadcast until September 4, 1976, although only thirteen episodes were produced. The series aired Saturday mornings at 11:00am Eastern/10:00am Central.
- Bill Hudson .......Tom Williams/Richard Blackburn
- Judy Franklin .....Claudette Nevins
- Jeff Carter ........Austin Stoker
- Cornelius .........Henry Corden/Edwin Mills
- Dr. Zira ..........Tress MacNeille
- General Urko ......Henry Corden
- Dr. Zaius
- Ronald Brent
- The Underdwellers
- Written by: Larry Spiegel, J.C. Strong, Jack Kaplan, John Barrett, Bruce Shelly (credit varies by episodes)
- Developed for Television by David H. DePatie-Friz Freleng
- Based on the Characters Created by Pierre Boulle
- Animation Director: Cullen Houghtaling
- Storyboard Directors: Morris Gollub, Doug Wildey, Jan Green
- Graphic Design: Moe Gollub, Hak Ficq, Leo Swenson, Norley Paat, Tony Sgroi, Earl Martin, George Wheeler, John Dorman, Zgyamond Jablecki, John Messina
- Animation: Reuben Timmins, Jim Brummett, Ed Aardal, Joe Roman Jr., Lee Halpern, Jack Foster, Bob Kirk, Janice Stocks
- Backgrounds Supervised by Richard H. Thomas
- Backgrounds: Mary O'Loughlin, Don Watson
- Ink & Paint Supervision: Gertrude Timmins
- Xerography: Greg Marshall
- Film Editing Supervised by Bob Gillis
- Film Editors: Allan Potter, Rick Steward
- Music Editor: Joe Siracusa
- Voices: Austin Stoker, Phillippa Harris, Henry Corden, Richard Blackburn, Edwin Mills, Claudette Nevins, Tom Williams
- Anthropological Dialogue Researched by MacDonald Stearns, Ph.D., UCLA Department of Germanic Languages
- Music by Dean Elliott
- Conducted by Eric Rogers
- In Charge of Production: Lee Gunther
- Camera: Ray Lee, Larry Hogan, John Burton Jr.
- Production Mixer: Steve Orr
- Music Mixer: Eric Tomlinson
- Sound by Producers' Sound Service, Inc.
- Supervising Director & Associate Producer: Doug Wildey
- Produced by David H. DePatie-Friz Freleng
- In Association With Twentieth Century-Fox Television
As with the film and the live-action series, Return to the Planet of the Apes involved a handful of astronauts from Earth who were hurtled into the future and found themselves stuck in a world populated by advanced apes and primitive humans. Over the course of the thirteen episodes the astronauts attempted to keep one step ahead of the apes while at the same time trying to make some sense of what had happened. Additionally, they did their best to safeguard the human population from the apes.
Each episode was self-contained to an extent. The story threads did weave in and out, with characters and plots from earlier episodes popping up in later ones. In order for the series to make any sense, the episodes need to be viewed in order.
The animated series does chronologically fit with the rest of the Apes universe. It borrows characters and elements from the movies, the TV series, and the original novels. General Urko is borrowed from the TV series. Along with Zaius, Zira, and Cornelius, Brent (renamed here as Ron Brent) and Nova are from the movie series. Krador and the Underdwellers in the animated series are loosely based on the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
As with the live action television series, whereas the animated series was concluded before the resolution of the storyline, and we do not learn if the astronauts are able to return to their own time period, the series otherwise does offer a conclusion. Doctor Zaius, in recognising the threat of a military overthrow from General Urko, assures that he is relieved of command. Further, Cornelius and Zira, in recognising that Simian Society was established long after human society had deteriorated, believed that the time was right for humans to be offered equal rights to that of apes, and intend to present their proposition to the Senate.
Characters in the animated series frequently mentioned prominent Apes noticeably named after human historical figures by appropriately inserting the word "ape" into their name. A notable example included "William Apespeare", an Ape analog of William Shakespeare. Another scene showed a couple of Ape soldiers chatting about a new movie called The Apefather, an apparent analog of The Godfather.