Dana Gould Chats Planet of the Apes: Visionaries, Available 8/28
Stand-up comedian, writer, and former producer for The Simpsons and Stan Against Evil, Dana Gould brought his talents to help bring Planet of the Apes: Visionaries to life. Gould took us through his experiences working with the Apes franchise, and some of the unique challenges of adapting Rod Serling’s original script into a graphic novel.
And, of course, with no shortage of interesting Ape Planet encounters of his own!
See the full interview below and get ready to take off with Planet of the Apes: Visionaries, available 8/28!
Planet of the Apes: Visionaries is based on Rod Serling’s first script for Planet of the Apes (1968), which was never produced. What has your experience working with the original script been like? Has anything surprised you?
I was never aware of how different the first draft [of Planet of the Apes (1968)] was from the final version. It wasn't just that the apes lived in a city, which I knew about, but that it was a completely different movie tonally. It's a political thriller. It has a very Seven Days In May flavor (also written by Serling).
The character of Thomas is a very different character than Taylor, and it's interesting to see how changing even subtle aspects of the main character's personality reverberates through every part of the story.
What made you want to take on this project in the first place? A unique challenge? Did a particular aspect of it appeal to you?
It's hard for me to understate what an impact Planet Of The Apes had on me as a child. It was HUGE. It had as big an impact on me as baseball has on most "normal" kids. When the offer came along to be involved in this project, I leapt at it. I was never not going to do it. It was very much:
"Let's talk money."
"Okay, how much should I pay you?"
What about using the graphic novel format do you think allowed you to tell this story the way you did?
Rod Serling liked to write dialogue. Tons of razor-sharp dialogue and big meaty speeches. Unfortunately, the format of a graphic novel only allows for very boiled down action and very very boiled down dialogue. It's got to fit in these itty-bitty balloons. My job was to preserve what Mr. Serling was trying to say as succinctly as possible. The beauty of the format was that it allowed us to show this vast metropolitan city without any budgetary concerns. It allowed to create this entire world.
The original Serling script suggests an entirely different direction for the Ape Planet than what fans recognize today. What about the Serling script do you think adds the most to the Apes universe? In other words, what are Apes fans gaining by experiencing this story the way you and the artists have told it?
This is the key difference between the Serling draft and the Michael Wilson draft (that became the movie). Serling's draft, like Boulle's novel, is much more of a straight-on satire. It is much closer to Gulliver's Travels than 2001. So, like us, the apes wear suits, drive cars, live in high-rises. The changes that occurred in the Wilson draft, the draft that became the movie, were driven by budgetary restrictions, but ended up making the movie something altogether different. It became much more of an action adventure piece, more far-out. A psychedelic, Tarzan fever dream. That cannot be underestimated when discussing the film's immense success.
If you were Thomas, having found yourself stranded in a world where humanoid apes wear fedoras and go to movie theaters, what would have been your reaction?
It would probably have been very close to my reaction the morning after the most recent presidential election.
Lastly, any fun stories you can share of an Apes fan encounter? We know they love you and Dr. Zaius!
Years ago, I was a guest on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, and Charlton Heston was also on the guest panel. We disagreed on pretty much everything, but he was incredibly charming. After the show I told him how much Apes meant to me, and he offered to send me a photo from the film. I gave him my address expecting that that would be the end of it, but four days later a signed photo of him as Taylor showed up in my mailbox. He was an old-school gentleman. I couldn't believe it.
Dana Gould will be at USC 8/22 for the Planet of the Apes: Visionaries release Q&A and graphic novel signing! RSVP for the event HERE!