On August 27th, 1998, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills California, hosted a 30th Anniversary screening and reunion for Planet of the Apes. Many people from the original production and cast attended, as well as some of our favorite furry friends. American Movie Classics and FOX Television hosted the event and promoted the new 2 hour "Behind the Planet of the Apes" television special that aired on AMC throughout the month of September, 1998.
Present at the event was a re-enactment troupe of simians known as APEMANIA, the passion and brainchild of Hollywood make-up artist Brian Penikas. Penikas, now in his late-30's, was so inspired by the Planet of the Apes saga when he was a boy, that he became a make-up artist because of the Ape's influence.
During their high school years, Brian and his friends used to dress up as the apes all the time for fun. Now, some 20 years later, they are back at it again, going by the name of "APEMANIA" ( a name parody of the old Broadway show "Beatlemania") making public, movie, and tv Ape-earances, recreating the characters from the films.
Since the summer of 1996, "Apemania" has done dozens of different events, ranging from private and industry parties, charity fund-raisers, promotions and trade shows, to television news programs, talk shows, pilots, film cameos, and even an impromptu invasion aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Holiday for some high-seas hysterics. Two of the more meaningful events were the surprise 75th birthday party for POTA Make-up creator John Chambers and the 30th Anniversary BASH at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
20th Century Fox's growing interest in using APEMANIA for more promotions may send the troupe to numerous points of the globe in the months to come, and in the past HAS sent a multitude of APEMANIA costumes and simian make-over kits to all points of the globe for Fox's international video release promotions. Some of you may have seen photos of the apes in London with their tunics on backwards! Oh well... (local talent is, local talent does, Sir).
Each coming week brings talk of more television, public, and stage Ape-pearances, depending on events and schedules.
Penikas says in regards to APEMANIA's public Ape-earances, "It's amazing how much people still love the Planet of the Apes characters. When we first started doing the bit again back in '96, I was concerned about frightening older people and young children. Monsters scared the poop out of me as a kid, but I guess times have really changed! Even the littlest kids are fascinated with the characters."
"I remember one time back in the first year, the troupe was celebrating a lady's birthday at the Hard Rock Cafe (in Universal City, California) and a little red-haired girl, no more than 3 or 4 years old came up to me (I was a gorilla soldier for the night) grabbed me by my index finger, proceeded to tow me all through the restaurant's lower level, then up the staircase (like a scene from a Shirley Temple movie with Mr. Bo Jangles) and across the upper level to the outside balcony, so we could look down at the rest of the group. It had to be the cutest thing to see, a big gorilla being led around the place by a cute little girl on a mission. It certainly was something I didn't expect from a little girl who wouldn't say word-one to me when the apes first arrived at the party that night."
"And as far as the seniors are concerned with regards to the apes frightening them into early graves, those folks were the ones buying tickets to see the film when it first came out, so they get a big kick out of us too!"
Penikas was awestruck at the crowds that gathered at the E3 Tradeshow's in Los Angeles, California (May 1999 and 2000), while the group worked the Fox Interactive area promoting the upcoming Apes CD-Rom game. "The feedback we have been getting from folks floors me," says Penikas. "Comments like, 'Oh you have the female one' and 'I thought I was talking to Dr. Zaius when the orangutan informed me that I was indeed addressing Dr. Maximus and that Dr. Zaius was just a few feet away! Boy! Who woulda thought, Zaius AND Maximus? These guys don't miss a beat!' "
"Our Julius (Zoo Keeper) was a big hit at E3 as well, and so much fun to play that 3 of our performers wrestled for dibs on the part. Silly. Grown men scrambling to wear an ape's new suit!"
Special attention is paid to all aspects of each APEMANIA character; make-ups, costumes, even hand props. The team goes that extra mile to recreate as much from the original film characters to make the APEMANIA versions as accurate as possible. "Everyone in the group is a fan to begin with," Penikas explains, "and at times we can get pretty anal about 'the details' (ask me about the whistles sometime). As fans and artists, we really appreciate accuracy in other people's recreations of any sort (not just apes) and can be overly critical about inaccuracies in anyone's recreations/impersonations, even our own. So if we can satisfy ourselves as fans, we can rest assured that other die-hard ape fanatics will have a good time with our results too! Or at least we hope so."
Penikas scratches his head in bewilderment, "Although it has snowballed into something a lot bigger than I could've ever imagined it would, we started out (and still ARE) doing this just for fun! To be silly and have a good time. Who would have thought that people would eat this up as much as they do? We never expected people to request our "act" for events way back at the beginning. I was unaware that Planet of the Apes was still so popular with so many people."
"It sure has been a great and fun filled few years. And to have participated with original cast members at certain events has really made me feel good that I have been able to give something back to the people and craftspersons responsible for influencing my life and career with what they did 30 years ago. To all the people who created Planet of the Apes, "APEMANIA" is my way of saying 'thank you'!"
(Okay, okay. And it's a good excuse to have some fun with my friends every now and then!)
What originally was intended to be a one-time whimsical idea to crash a cocktail party aboard a cruise ship back in 1996, has grown to an on-going, on-call, "have Ape will travel" entertainment service, with more and more requests for the APEMANIA cast's participation in assorted events coming in each week.
Penikas reflects, "Funny, after the first year and a half the troupe and I used to say during clean-up after each event, 'How are we going to top this one? This was THEEE BEST!!!' Each new event is a fresh and sometimes bigger challenge than the last, so we don't even bother to ask the question anymore. We just say, 'Rest-up, cuz tomorrow's a new day and that old ape-phone just may ring again!'"
And as long as there remains an interested audience, APEMANIA will eagerly answer the call to arms, hairy as they may be!
So keep your eyes "peeled", you may be seeing
a lot more of these simian pseudo-stars in the near future, and without
mankind having to blow the planet up first (like in the movie)!
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