Planet of the Apes Toys

Planet of the Apes started out as a simple science fiction book and ended up being one of the genres most long-lasting juggernauts. The initial film launched four hit sequels, a live-action television show, and an animated series. Naturally, the toy licensing opportunities these titles spawned were out of this world.

Released in 1974, Mego’s Planet of the Apes toys followed their very successful line of World’s Greatest Super Heroes figures. The Apes toys were a series of eight-inch plastic figures based on the characters from the feature films, and released in time to promote the upcoming television series. They created toys for the characters Cornelius, Zira and Dr. Zaius. Mego wasn’t able to secure the rights to the likeness of Charlton Heston, so they created a generic astronaut figure instead. Also available were generic soldier apes, each with a slightly different costume. You could purchase apes decked out in  Navy, Brown, Silver or “Lizard” (a scaly, shiny material). These soldiers also had bandoliers and rifles with arm straps.

The initial offering of Planet of the Apes figures did so well that Mego released a second line with characters based on the television show. These included two new humans, Burke and Verdon. Ironically, Verdon’s name in the TV show was ‘Virdon’ – the name on the toy box was actually a typo. These figures were well made, with well-sculpted facial features and detailed “slave outfits”, complete with frayed sleeves and moccasins. Another new figure was the ape Galen, who was played by Roddy McDowell in the series. Since McDowell also played Cornelius in the film, both figures looked almost identical. Other new characters were the apes Ursus and Urko. Ursus had a purple outfit with a yellow tunic and a helmet molding onto his head, along with a machine gun and a bandolier with a detachable knife. Urko looked a lot like Ursus, except with a uniform that looked like a Soldier Ape outfit, sans the helmet.

The Planet of the Apes playsets made for excellent ape/human combat action. The Treehouse set included two bats, three machine guns, and a capture net to throw over your human prey. Once you captured your human, you could put him in the Jail, or set him up on the Examination Table for closer inspection.   The Village set came with similar accessories, as well as a cardboard backdrop that pictured the famous ruin of the Statue of Liberty from the first Apes film (“You maniacs!!!”) The Forbidden Zone playset also had a cool half-demolished building with a jail that included a trap door.

In addition to the full playsets, you could get your hands on some nifty accessories to round out your apocalypse. You could get a Battering Ram on wheels that nicely broke down any pesky walls of your cardboard playsets. The Catapult & Wagon set could be used as both a weapon and as transporation. Finally, the Throne was a popular addition that included a cage that transformed it into a trap. Other accessories included the Rock Launcher and the Action Stallion.

This second line of toys, however, was the last of the Planet of the Apes figures from Mego. Hasbro released their own line of 12-inch Apes figures in 1998, and the original toys still fetch a pretty penny on the collector market. Hasbro’s line did, however, include an official Taylor figure. So now, after more than two decades, you could finally have your own Charlton Heston cry out, “Get your hands off me, you damn, dirty ape!”

If you grew up playing with these memorable action figures, maybe even owned a primate-based playset or two, we’d love to hear all of your recollections in our http://www.retroland.com/planet-of-the-apes-toys/ below.

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