When The Planet of the Apes hit theaters in 1968, the reveal that Taylor landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth shocked the audience. Even before the final twist, they fell in love with the expressive performances from the various apes, especially Cornelius and Zira. Eclipsing all their performances, Charleston Heston stole the show with several memorable quotes. So, the film easily turned a profit as it entertained the masses.
With the success of the original film, Fox quickly produced four sequels, creating a franchise. In 1973, the film series concluded with The Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which concluded the story for Zira’s child, Caesar. Despite the successful cinematic run, none of these movies spawned any merchandise like toys. Moreover, the dwindling box office sales for the sequels seemed to indicate that interest in the franchise had died out.
However, Fox also made a gamble to secure interest in the final movie. As they began airing the first two films on television, they challenged viewers to “Go Ape” and watch an entire marathon in the theaters. Thanks to these marathons, Kenny Abrams dragged his father, Mego President Marty Abrams, to watch all five movies with him. As they watched the marathon, Marty realized that the series would create a spectacular toy line. On the following day, he contacted 20th Century Fox to secure the rights. Thus, in 1974, Mego created their first movie-based series of toys, The Planet of the Apes.
Presenting the top ten Planet of the Apes toys from Mego
10. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Soldier Ape (1974)
Every good toy line requires a good troop builder, prompting collectors to snatch up multiple figures to create an army. While the figure itself is the most generic of the action figures, an army formed from this generic figure helps set the scene. When these troops populate playsets, they help increase the tension of the scene.
Thus, Mego provided multiple variants of the simple Soldier Ape. As an all-purpose gorilla warrior, these soldiers were ready to subdue any humans that entered ape society. Mego took care to sculpt the face so that it resembled the detailed makeup from the film. Still, these apes resembled no specific actor since these troops were akin to background actors. Despite his generic purpose, Mego gave this Soldier an eye-catching outfit along with a detailed rifle.
Most of the Soldier Apes wore basically the same outfit, with brown pants and black boots. However, a few received various vinyl tunics that stood out. For the original release, most Soldier Apes wore a blue vinyl tunic over the brown cloth. However, a few soldiers wore brown vinyl instead. There was another, a rarer variant that wore a blue scaled tunic instead.
9. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Battering Ram (1974)
In addition to creating action figures for the various apes and humans from the film, Mego crafted detailed weapons that ape society would use. Following the cues from the original film, Mego designed weapons that both felt advanced and medieval at the same time. Thus, they produced the Battle Ram weapon.
On its own, the Battle Ram was a simple rolling cart with a large brown ram in the center. While the ram had a rock-like texture at the end, Mego used light brown plastic to create the entire ram. Thus, the stone and wood were the same color as the ropes. Likewise, they used dark brown plastic to create the entire cart for the ram, with wood and rope sharing the same color. Appearance-wise, this weapon only offered a detailed mold, despite the simplicity of the design.
When one of the action figures stood next to this weapon, they towered over it. The Battering Ram only reached up to the chests of the action figures. Thus, as shown in the box art, apes had to crouch down to use the weapon.
As a stand-alone toy, the Battering Ram left a lot to be desired. However, it proved its place in the toy line as it interacted with Apes and playsets. It allowed players to create tension-filled moments as the apes rammed through playsets like the Treehouse.
8. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Alan Verdon (1974)
After the first wave of action figures, Mego began producing toys for the 1974 television series. Unlike the final films, the television series brought viewers back to the post-apocalyptic future. While three astronauts began a journey to Alpha Centauri in 1980, they crash-landed back on Earth in 3085. With only two survivors, the series followed the humans as they struggled to survive in Ape society.
Ran Harper portrayed Colonel Alan Virdon, one of the two surviving astronauts from the crash. As he sought a way back home, he carried a picture of his wife and son. Hoping to reason with the Apes, he shared twentieth-century technology with them. He also shared this technology with the humans living in the future.
As Mego released his action figure, they made a grievous error on the card. Instead of properly spelling his name, they called the character Alan Verdon. Thanks to this typo, this action figure became infamous within the toy line.
Alan Verdon wore a light brown felt pair of pants and jacket. Meanwhile, the action figure also wore a dark brown cloth vest and shoes. Aside from his articulation, Alan provided no additional options for play. Since he came with no accessories, Alan had to either fight with his fists or make use of The Planet of the Apes playsets.
7. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Galen (1974)
Also originating from the 1974 television series, Galen was a young Chimpanzee who diligently worked with City Councilor Zaius. To become Dr. Zaius’s assistant, Galen reminded the older chimpanzee that he owed his father a favor. Also helping his position, Galen’s parents were close friends with Dr. Zaius. Unfortunately, his position fell into disarray after the arrival of the two humans from the 1980s. As he interacted with the pair, he began to realize that lies built the foundation for his understanding of ape culture.
Bringing an end to his position, gorillas caught Galen with the rifle that shot one of their fellow guards. When Virdon and Burke escaped imprisonment, they helped Galen escape as well. Since he had become a fugitive, he decided to accompany the two humans into the western territories.
With Galen’s importance in the series, Mego made certain to include him in their toy line. Since Roddy McDowall played both Cornelius and Galen, they used the same head sculpt for both figures. Overall, there are little to few differences between the Cornelius and Galen action figures.
The Galen action figure wore green pants and a green shirt. He also wore brown shoes along with brown vinyl armoring. Like his human companions, Galen came with no accessories. So, he had to rely on the various tools found in playsets to fend off attackers.
6. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Peter Burke (1974)
Also appearing on the new television series, Peter Burke survived the crash alongside Alan Virdon. Unfortunately, the third member of their team, Jones, perished in the crash. Unlike his fellow survivor, Burke allowed his temper to get the better of him. While Virdon attempted to negotiate with the apes, Burke preferred to speak with his fists. Furthermore, he deeply distrusted the apes. Despite all his faults, Burke remained faithful to Virdon and followed his orders.
Unlike his fellow survivor, Mego properly spelled Peter Burke’s name on all the packaging. Without the typo, this action figure gained popularity solely due to its semblance to James Naughton, who portrayed Burke in the series. Mego took care to sculpt the head so that it would properly resemble the actor.
The action figure wore a pair of light brown terrycloth pants and brown moccasins. He also wore a brown shirt and burlap vest. However, he came with no accessories. So, like Verdon, Burke could only fend off the apes with his fists. Otherwise, players could take full use of the various playsets for Burke to receive a fighting chance.
5. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Action Stallion (1974)
Even as Ape culture too over the Earth, they used many of the same tools and work animals as humans once did. For instance, they learned how to ride horses and use them to ride travel long distances. Like humans, apes used bridles and saddles when they rode these creatures. Thus, Taylor easily understood how to ride the horse that Cornelius and Zira gifted to him.
As both ape and human characters could ride a horse, Mego happily created the Action Stallion. Furthermore, they had previously created a horse for one of their prior toy lines, Action Jackson. So, they easily repurposed the mold to give it a Planet of the Apes flair. This dark brown horse came with light brown vinyl accessories, including a saddle and a bridle with reigns.
Beyond serving as a mount for the action figures, this horse had a remote-control gimmick. After installing two D batteries into the remote, players could make the horse walk either forward or backward. While the legs had no moveable ankles or knees, the mechanisms inside the body allowed the horse to walk. Moreover, the horse gained enough momentum that it could pull other playsets, like the catapult and wagon.
4. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Dr. Zaius (1974)
As George Taylor navigated his way through Ape City, he became a large thorn in the side of Dr. Zaius. As the Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith, most citizens revered and respected Dr. Zaius. While he controlled the city’s scientific pursuits, he passionately believed that Apes should strictly adhere to their religious faith. So, he refused to listen to the open-minded suggestions from Cornelius and Zira.
While he openly promoted the tenants of ape superiority, he was one of the few who knew the true origins of their society. He knew and understood that apes had once been subservient to humans. He also knew that humans had destroyed their own paradise. Thus, he deeply feared what humans could do if they rose to power once more. With this in mind, he attempted to terminate Taylor’s life. He also arrested Cornelius and Zira for heresy. In the end, his worst fears came true as Taylor activated the doomsday bomb, destroying the world.
As the main antagonist of the first two movies, Mego saw fit to include Dr. Zaius in their first wave of Planet of the Apes action figures. So, they molded this orangutan action figure to resemble Maurice Evans’s semblance from the first two movies. This action figure wore beige pants along with black plastic boots. Some versions of these boots even included a unique mold on the sides. He also wore a beige coat with chestnut brown stripes along the side. Finishing off his appearance, he wore a dark brown shirt under the coat. Unfortunately, he came with no accessories.
3. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Cornelius (1974)
Before George Taylor crashed into the future, Cornelius happily lived with his wife, Zira, as an archeologist. While his wife pursued controversial theories, Cornelius preferred a simple, quiet life. Still, he supported her no matter how much outrage and ire her studies garnered. He also earned his share of outrage by digging in the Forbidden Zone, since Dr. Zaius knew his discoveries could undermine ape society.
When George Taylor entered their lives, Cornelius helped the human mostly for the sake of his wife. Even as he helped the man escape, he was skeptical about Taylor’s stories of human civilization. Despite his doubts concerning humans, Zira convinced Cornelius to repair Taylor’s ship in the Forbidden Zone. After he repaired the ship with his wife and Dr. Milo, they accidentally sent themselves back to the past, landing in 1973. As he struggled to survive in a human-dominated world, he helped his wife hide her baby before humans shot the pair down.
With Cornelius playing a significant role in the first three movies, Mego carefully replicated Roddy McDowall’s appearance. Mego later reused this head sculpt for the Galen action figure. Mego robed Cornelius in green clothing, with both green pants and a shirt. Meanwhile, he wore dark brown shoes and dark brown vinyl armoring. Otherwise, Cornelius came with no accessories or other action features.
2. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Zira (1974)
As she tended to Taylor’s injuries, she learned that the man was as intelligent as she was. Believing he was an anomaly, she set him up with another human, Nova, to breed more intelligent humans. However, her beliefs shattered once Taylor wrote his name in one of her notebooks. As she spent more time with Taylor, she began to doubt the origins of ape society that she had learned.
Eventually, her curiosity led to her joining Dr. Milo as he repaired Taylor’s crashed ship. When they launched, they accidentally traveled back to the human-dominated world of 1973. As the pair began to suffer as human captives, Zira became pregnant and gave birth to her son, Milo. After hiding her son in a circus, Zira faced her fate, where humans gunned her down.
Appearing in the first wave of The Planet of the Apes toys, Mego created a faithful reproduction of Kim Hunter as Zira. Like her husband, Zira wore a green outfit: a skirt and a long coat. Her outfit also included dark brown vinyl details, especially around her neck. Completing the look, she wore a pair of light tan boots. Zira unfortunately came with no accessories.
1. Mego’s Planet of the Apes Village (1974)
As George Taylor found himself in a hostile, post-apocalyptic world, he had to navigate his way through Ape City. With Apes controlling every aspect of society, he struggled to find a safe way to escape. Thus, even after he slipped away from Cornelius and Zira, he soon found himself in a net within the city. At that moment, he spoke out, telling the apes to get their damn hands off him.
Understanding the dangers of Ape Villages, Mego happily created a stage for the conflict between apes and man. To save money, they rescued the same layout for a Batcave from a prior toy line. While the layout remained the same, they changed out the cardboard graphics to resemble ape society as seen in the films and television series.
Memorably, this set included a laboratory table, where apes would perform procedures like lobotomies on humans. It also came with a weapons bench, capture net, carry pole, detention pen, rifles, and control sticks. So, this set provided ample opportunities for the antagonistic apes to torment their human captives.
Thanks to its size, being three feet long, this playset easily served as the headquarters for all Ape action figures. Mego scaled every aspect of this set for the eight-inch-tall action figures from the toy line.
What was your favorite Planet of the Apes toys?
Today we have presented our picks for the top ten Planet of the Apes toys from Mego. We picked each of these toys based on their overall importance to the films in general. Each of these was a prime example of the loving care that Mego placed into this toy line.
Still, we would love to hear from you. What was your favorite Planet of the Apes toys? Let us know in the comments below.
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Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!