Tomorrow's Collectibles Today!
Did You Have Any Planet of the Apes Figures?
I fondly remember my Planet of the Apes Figures, although I only had Cornelius, Dr. Zaius, and the Astronaut, and the hours of fun I had with them.
I also remember spend hours outside my local cinema waiting to watch each of the five movies, determined not to miss any of them and they still remain in my list of most favourite movies ever (along with Mad Max, Terminator and the Crow to name a few others).
The first of the Planet of the Apes movies opened in 1968 and became a big hit both critically and financially and of the most successful science fiction franchises of all time.
It was no surprise therefore that by 1973 there were a total of 5 Ape movies. Although the last movie was released in 1973 that was by no means the end of it, in fact Ape mania was just beginning.
20th Century Fox, in a clever marketing ploy, challenged the country to Go Ape! and to celebrate they began by showing the first two Ape films on TV and all running all five Ape films in back to back in the movie theatres.
It was about this time that a young Kenny Abrams dragged his unwilling father, Mego President, to the movies.
This, inevitably led to Mego President Marty Abrams outbidding rival AHI and securing the rights to produce Planet of the Apes figures and playsets based on the Planet of the Apes property.
Marty has often commented since then on how he in the theatre not even knowing what Planet of the Apes was, but after seeing fathers and sons enjoying the films together and digging the whole ape/future concept he felt compelled to produce figures and playsets on them.
This was Mego's first bash at making toys based on a movie and it was to become their biggest ever success.
It wasn't until February of 1974 that they unveiled their first Planet of the Apes Figures at Toy Fair, and received a very positive response from retailers.
This first series of five figures were based on characters from the original film; Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, the Soldier Ape, and the Astronaut along with a Treehouse and Village Playset and a remote control horse, the Action Stallion.
These 8-inch figures were well articulated, and "costumed in exquisitely detailed outfits. When they finally hit the stores shelves, in the summer of '74, kids went "ape" for them
The years of 1974/5 the country went ape and it seemed there was an
Between 1974 and 1975 the market was saturated with Ape merchandise and the public couldn't get enough. As a result of its huge success 20th Century 20th decided to bring the Apes to TV with an hour long weekly series.
To coincide with this Mego developed a new line of Planet of the Apes figures featuring Galen, Alan Virdon, Peter Burke, General Urko, and General Ursus.
The following year, in 1975, Mego also released more playsets and accessories which included The Forbidden Zone Trap, The Fortress, The Catapult and Wagon, the Battering Ram, The Jail, Dr. Zaius's Throne, and a new line of six 5-inch Bend and Flex figures.
To keep up with the huge demand Mego also re-released the original 1974 line of Planet of the Ape figures. However, by the time this hit the store shelves the TV series had already been cancelled but there was still a lot of interest throughout 1975 and Mego heavily promoted the figures on TV and print advertising.
Other promotions and marketing strategies included actors making character appearances in stores, and even a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade but with the cancellation of the TV show Mego were reluctant to continue the line and after their 1975 offering no more new Ape toys were produced.
But while Ape Mania was slowly dying in America it was just beginning in other parts of the world. The first line of Mego Ape figures were released in the UK by Palitoy/Bradgate in 1975, and the second d series the following year, in 1976.
Bullmark, in Japan, acquired the license from Mego to re-released the first five figures in their own exclusive packaging.
Then Mexican toy company Cipsa released their own versions of the original Mego apes, Cornelius,Urko,Ursus, Zaius, and Bill (Virdon), as well as the Treehouse, Jail, Throne, Battering Ram, and an exclusive Horse, catapult, and Wagon in 1976.
In Canada, all the US offerings were made available by Parkdale Novelty, as well as an exclusive bilingual boxed treehouse and a Horse, catapult, and Wagon set.
The first series (minus Zira) was released by Baravelli in Italy, and in Australia the entire first wave by TolToys. In Spain, the Soldier Ape was released by Posh as part of their Monster series.
The Mego Planet of the Apes figure therefore eventually made their way around the globe and became their most successful line ever.
The Planet of the Apes series of movies have since become cult classics and the Mego figures have become highly collectible among both Mego Collectors and Planet of the Ape fans and like the movies and TV series remain popular popular to this day.
Since the Mego figures and the 2001 re-make several new lines of Planet of the Apes figures have been released targeting the collectors market particularly from Sideshow Collectibles and Hot Toys.
For a comprehensive listing and information on the Meco Planet of the Apes Figures see the Meco Museum where you'll find everything you need to know, including images of all the figures produced and variations.
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Colin Dorman 2008 mcfarlanes-figures.com