Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes could be a new dawn for apes in entertainment

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was more than a fantastic movie. To those of us who love great apes and who are determined to end their use in entertainment, the movie went beyond raising deeply important issues of human prejudice and empathy. To us, Rise of the Planet of the Apes – and the next movie in the prequels to the iconic 1968 Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – may represent a turning point for ape welfare. Because, you see, these movies are proof that human actors, with the assistance of technology and creative genius, can tell the ape story. They can BE apes.
Incredible human actors play apes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Thousands of people have come to this blog by using the Google search phrase, “how real is Planet of the Apes?” They saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and they couldn’t believe they weren’t watching real chimpanzees, a real gorilla, a real orangutan. The human actors who played the apes were so true to life, true to the spirit and essence of their ape characters, that the audience believed them. And because they were able to connect with their audience, the actors did a better job than real apes could in telling the apes’ stories.

The method that brings these ape characters to life is called “performance capture.” In a recent interview, Staci Layne Wilson of Dread Central was talking to Andy Serkis (who plays chimpanzee Caesar) about the method, and asked if it was helpful “to have a lot of other actors also doing motion capture” in the movie.

Karin Konoval as orangutan Maurice
“It's a great ensemble cast, really talented actors,” Andy responded. “I don't actually see myself as the best of motion capture. I think I’m a relatively good actor, but there are amazing actors in this film… Karin [Konoval], who plays Maurice, is fantastic; she turns in a wonderful performance.”

Andy is right about Karin, of course. Maurice is the orangutan in the movie, and anyone who has ever looked into an orangutan’s eyes will recognize the honesty of Karin Konoval’s performance. 

So how does one do it? How does one BE an ape? 

If you haven’t seen video of performance capture in the raw, before the technological wizards do their magic, you should check it out. During filming, the ape actors wear grey body suits rigged with sensors that track every movement of their body, a helmet camera that tracks facial expressions in meticulous detail, and a sound microphone. Then, in post-production, the geniuses at Weta Digital apply the "digital make up," adding anatomical layers until the actors look like apes.

The result is magic for audiences around the world. The result may also lead to end of Hollywood's use of apes in movies. See the magic, and see a real dawn for apes in entertainment.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in U.S. theaters on July 11.


  1. thanks as ever for your continued fight for the apes.

  2. I'm sure you saw a safari park brought two live chimp babies to a packed movie theater to see this movie.
    One step forward two steps back..

    1. I saw it. Doc Antle, the guy behind the exploitation, is always looking for a way to make a buck.

  3. The science-fiction thriller Dawn of the Planet of the Apes creates a palpable atmosphere of existential dread.

  4. The movie is great and didn't expected to have another sequel.