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Updated: May 10, 2022

In 1975, after the failure of the live-action series, NBC and 20th Century Fox agreed to adapt Planet of the Apes for an animated series. The network contracted DePatie-Freleng Enterprises to produce a half-hour Saturday-morning cartoon titled Return to the Planet of the Apes. Doug Wildey, co-creator of Jonny Quest, took on most creative control as associate producer, storyboard director and supervising director. Wildey had only watched the original film and Beneath and thus based his interpretation on them. As such, the show relied less on the themes and plot developments from Escape, Conquest and Battle and instead returned to the Vietnam War and Cold War themes prominent in the first two films.

The plot concerns three American astronauts, Bill Hudson (Tom Williams), Jeff Allen (Austin Stoker, who played MacDonald in Battle) and Judy Franklin (Claudette Nevins), who inadvertently journey to Earth's far future. They find the world populated by three groups: mute humans who inhabit desert caves, subterranean human "Underdwellers" fashioned after the mutants of Beneath and civilized apes who subjugate the humans. Through the show, the astronauts become increasingly involved in the planet's affairs and in defending the humans against an ape invasion. The cast featured characters based on those from the previous films and TV series, including Nova (Nevins again), General Urko (Henry Cordin), Zira (Philippa Harris), Cornelius (Edwin Mills) and Dr. Zaius (Richard Blackburn). NBC broadcast 13 episodes between September 6 and November 29, 1975. The show did not achieve particularly strong ratings. The network considered producing a second three-episode season to complete the story, but this never materialized.

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