VFX Voice

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June 06
2024

ISSUE

Summer 2024

Final Frame: VFX Evolution Swings Into Action on Planet of the Apes

Image of John Chambers and Maurice Evans during production of Planet of the Apes courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Image of John Chambers and Maurice Evans during production of Planet of the Apes courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

The current issue of VFX Voice takes a deep dive into the new Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Wes Ball, where the VFX progression of the ape characters takes an astonishing leap. The recent film does, however, conjure up memories of the original 1968 Planet of the Apes featuring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, adapted from the 1963 science fiction novel by French author Pierre Boulle. While that movie may look somewhat primitive through 2024 eyes, it was groundbreaking in its day. The apes in the early film were all made-up actors with prosthetic makeup, thanks to the work of another of cinema’s major unsung heroes, John Chambers. The makeup work was so dramatic at the time that Chambers received an Honorary Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1969. This was before there was a category for makeup. Born and raised in Chicago, Chambers was first a commercial artist earning a living crafting carpets and jewelry. During World War II, he became a dental technician and found himself making prosthetic limbs for wounded soldiers at a veteran’s hospital.

He also helped reconstruct facial scarring where he became a master of the human face. Later, he found himself at NBC-TV as a makeup man. That led to filmmaking and a truly unsung role in makeup and prosthetics. He created the iconic ‘ears’ of Vulcan Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the original Star Trek TV series. Chambers’ other work included The Munsters, Outer Limits, Cat Ballou and A Man Called Horse. He is also credited with the development of the Cornelius and Dr. Zaius characters in Planet of the Apes. Chambers was awarded the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit for his involvement in the Canadian Caper, in which six American hostages escaped during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The incident was the basis of the film Argo, which won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Picture, and in which Chambers was played by John Goodman.



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