Famous Primates


Renaissance Chimp

Dr. Cornelius is a chimpanzee archaeologist and historian, appearing in the original novel of 'Planet of the Apes', and also the first three installments of the classic movie franchise of the same name from the 1960s and 1970s. He was primarily portrayed by actor Roddy McDowall, but also by David Watson in the second Apes instalment.

Introduced as the fiancé of Dr. Zira, an animal psychologist and veterinarian (who specializes in working with humans), Cornelius questions the infallibility of the Sacred Scrolls, which give the traditional history of ape society, and questions the validity of evolution (specifically, from human to ape) due to scientific gaps in the scrolls.

The wise Cornelius, a thoughtful ape.

The Films

In 2001, 'Planet of the Apes' was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Ironically, this was the same year the critically savaged 're-imagining' starring Mark Wahlberg was released.

The films were ground-breaking for their make-up techniques by artist John Chambers who began his career designing prosthetics for amputees and patients requiring reconstructive surgery. Of interest, Chambers was awarded special recognition from the C.I.A. for his contributions to secret missions.

They will dissect you! And they will kill you! In that order!


The Dystopia

Based on the novel of the same name published by Pierre Boulle in 1963, 'Planet of the Apes' (1968) is an example of social commentary through dystopia. A groundbreaking science fiction movie starring Charlton Heston the film was well received by critics, launching a film franchise, including four sequels, as well as a short lived television show, animated series, comic books and eventually a remake in 2001.

The Descent

Released to capitalize on the success of the the original film, 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes' (1970) was the first of four sequels to the original film. Critics often cite the absence of Roddy McDowall as Cornelius and Charlton Heston's relegation to a supporting role as a significant failings of the sequel, an argument it's hard to fault.


  1. Those Damned Dirty Apes!
  2. Dan Schneider on Planet Of The Apes
  3. Planet of the Apes, Original Script

The Famous Primates web site is a Web Standardistas production.

XHTML + CSS released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

Photography Copyright iStockphoto