On the subject: Planet of the Apes

Rather than miss the opportunity to join in the celebration
of the 40th anniversary of the original 1968 film, I thought
I would share a little history about how Dan Morgan and I
came to attempting the Cornelius makeup.

As complete novices, back in the late 70s after
becoming huge fans of the ‘Apes’ films and later
the TV series, Dan and I were obsessed with trying
to figure out how these makeups were created.
Believe it or not, we thought they were using
some sort of putty. It wasn’t long before we found some
fanzines at the local comic store that revealed mask-
making techniques using latex rubber. We thought,
that’s easy – we’ll sculpt an ape face, approximately
the right size to fit Dan’s face, cast it in plaster of paris
and make a latex rubber copy. Well, as turns out, I used
pottery clay and it hardened in the plaster. The mold
was useless.

So, we went to the 5 and dime store and bought
a rubber monkey mask, cut it up and applied the
pieces to Dan’s face with – get this – Silly Putty!
We were proud of our achievement, sort of. But it
really didn’t look like the Apes in the films.

Eventually, we found more literature in the fanzine
section at the comic book store and found out about
Foam Latex. What a breakthrough! By the early 80s
we were experimenting with foam latex appliances.
And behold – we created this! Costume made by my mom!
Cornelius 80s 01

We promptly attended the CreationCon – Comic Book &
Sci Fi convention in Oakland California back then and
entered the costume contest where 1 of the 3 judges was
Paula Crist (more about her later) and that same day we
met John Stanley, local “Creature Feature” TV Host.

Guess what? We won the first place prize for best makeup!
Soon our Cornelius creation was invited on the Creature
Feature TV show and an appearance at a local Movie theater
with Stanley himself.

Cornelius 80s 02

Cornelius 80s 03

Cornelius 80s 04

And it was this makeup that caught Paula Crist’s attention.
It just so happened that her career as a stunt woman in
hollywood had her connected with our favorite series of films,
you guessed it…Planet of the Apes!

She had worked in stunts on “Battle”, “Conquest” and the 1974
Planet of the Apes TV series. This lead her to connections in
the makeup department and partnering with Bill Blake. They
made scheduled appearances in full makeup for 20th Century
Fox as Zira & Cornelius along side Kim Hunter & Roddy
McDowall. Crist created the costumes for Bill and herself
from the very bolts of material used for McDowall’s & Hunter’s
film costumes.

The partnership between Bill Blake and Paula had since ended,
but then she was approached by the company Martin Marrieta
(now Lockheed Martin) for the Ape couple to appear at a company
retreat and week of parties in St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands.

Well, to Dan’s and my surprise, Paula offered the job to Dan to
resurrect his Cornelius/McDowall impression and join her on
this once in a lifetime experience. With permission from 20th
Century Fox, Paula Crist and Dan Morgan were whisked off to
the Virgin Islands in 1982. Here’s some shots of her and Dan
in the very costumes that she and Bill Blake wore in those
previous promotional appearances.

First a Polariod snapshot:


And here are some 35mm shots:




Now to be fair, this sculpt was done by a friend named “Chip”.
At the time, Chip was working at a makeup shop in SF
(Cal Theatrical) and was helpful in teaching us how to get
those membrane-thin “blender edges”. That was one area that
Dan and I hadn’t mastered until after the Virgin Islands trip.
The convention makeup that won the prize and Paula had judged
just months before was only flawed by that slight margin,
but it gave us, and mostly Dan, memories we wouldn’t soon forget.

Dan Morgan purchased the Bill Blake/Cornelius costume that
Paula made and will be wearing it at the WonderCon this Saturday.
Hope to see you there!

About Administrator

Tom has worked for over two decades in television, advertising, and feature film animation. Tom was Character Sculptor and Effects Animator on the Warner Bros/Lorimar Gumby Adventures‚ TV series (1987-1988) and Gumby Movie‚ the stop-motion feature film (1991). In 1991 at Colossal Pictures, Tom's Animation Direction debut Coca-Cola Watch‚ won a Clio Award. In 2000 he became Co-Partner at Way Out West Prods in San Francisco. Tom joined Maverix Studios in October of 2002 and was a dedicated principal member of the group until September 2011. Tom is now an artist for hire.
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