Apes Evolution

Planet of the Callbacks

Exploring 50 Years of Easter Eggs in Planet of the Apes

After 50 years of films, the dynamic universe of Planet of the Apes provides no shortage of inspiration for modern-day filmmakers. The modern Apes trilogy went back to its classic roots for everything from plot points, to locations, to (and especially) the characters.

Take a look through the five decades of inspiration that led to the fan-favorite characters of today’s films below!


This gentle giant became the close friend and trusted advisor of Caesar throughout the modern trilogy, but he owes his name to a much less approachable orangutan. Dr. Zaius, the original antagonist of Planet of the Apes (1968), was played by British-American theater icon Maurice Evans, who lent his first name to the only orangutan character of the modern films.


We can’t talk about famous callbacks without looking at the King of the Apes himself. Caesar, Andy Serkis’ inspiring and beloved protagonist, wasn’t just named after the historical leader. In 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Dr. Zira and Dr. Cornelius’ son, Milo, adopts the name Caesar and becomes the leader of an ape rebellion very similar to the one modern Caesar leads in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).


Rescued from Gen-Sys by Caesar’s uprising in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cornelia becomes Caesar’s wife and queen of the ape community they later create. Her name was inspired by Roddy McDowall’s character in the classic films, Dr. Cornelius.


While we’re on the subject of royal namesakes, Cornelia and Caesar also name their second son Cornelius–the same way classic Caesar and his wife Lisa name their son Cornelius in 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Got all those princes sorted out?

Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes was the first Gen-Sys laboratory chimp to be exposed to the ALZ-112 virus, and passed on the effects of the virus to her son, Caesar. The writers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes chose the name for her character because it’s the same nickname Dr. Zira gave Taylor while he was in captivity, before she found out he could speak.

Blue Eyes

Yet another ape prince! In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we meet Caesar and Cornelia’s oldest son, Blue Eyes. We first learned with Bright Eyes that the ALZ-112 and 113 viruses cause the infected apes’ eyes to turn green. In addition to carrying his grandmother’s namesake, Blue Eyes is also evidence of the apes evolving in the modern films.

Dodge + Landon

Tom Felton’s character in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was inspired by George Taylor’s ill-fated companions in the 1968 original film. Dodge was killed by gorilla soldiers, stuffed, and placed in a museum exhibit. Landon was lobotomized by the ape Academy of Science and left in a vegetative state with the other captive human subjects. Is that a grisly namesake or what?


War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) introduced us to Nova, a young girl infected with an evolved form of the Simian Flu that leaves its human victims mute and cognitively stunted. Fast forward several thousand years, 1968’s Nova comes from a primitive society of humans who don’t speak. Could this be the progression of the Simian Flu playing out over all that time?

Will Rodman

Gen-Sys researcher and adoptive father of Caesar, Will Rodman unwittingly created the Simian Flu virus that wiped out most of humanity. If his positive intentions turning out catastrophically sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone, the comparison would be very appropriate. Will Rodman got his last name from Twilight Zone creator Rodman “Rod” Serling, who was also the master screenwriter behind the original script for Planet of the Apes (1968).