One of the principal reasons Rae Dawn Chong was cast as Ika was because she was completely comfortable with being nude. She remained nude on the set most of the time between scenes (while in full body makeup) to stay in character.
The language used by the cavemen, which comprises all of the spoken dialogue, was created by Anthony Burgess. Burgess is best known as the author of the novel and film A Clockwork Orange (1971), and creator of the language, Nadsat, used in it.
Ron Perlman expected the film to be no better than campier prehistoric movies like 'One Million Years BC.' In his memoir, he confessed that this caused him to be unnecessarily rude to Jean-Jacques Annaud during their first meeting. Rather than take offense, Annaud was fascinated by Perlman's candor, and (after initially hating each other early in filming) the two would become close friends.
The special features and commentary state that there are only two species of hominids in the movie, Homo-sapiens and Neanderthal. Naoh and Ika are Homo-sapiens; however, the director commentary states that Ika's people are "more evolved". The other species, the Ape-like creatures, are representing Neanderthal man. If using the shooting locations as a reference; Naoh is from Scotland, Ika is from Kenya, and of course the Neanderthals are from Germany.
The language of the Ivaka tribe heard in the film was derived from the native Inuit / Cree peoples of Northern Canada. However, apparently, their dialogue actually is unintelligible in terms of this film's storyline.
This movie was theatrically released without subtitles but DVD technology and the common use of subtitling of movies on DVD now has this movie available with subtitles (which wasn't the case with its release on home videocassette). The subtitles on the DVD are somewhat simplified titles of the prehistorical dialogue.
The title of this movie in French is "La Guerre du feu" and that is translated to "The War of fire", the German title is "Am anfang war das feuer" which means "At the beginning was the fire" and of course the English title is "Quest for fire". A trivial side note to this trivia, the fact that man living in such close proximity as Africa and on to England, France, and Germany yet all speak different languages reinforces the story line of the movie giving examples that early man was tribal and formed closed groups that depended on each other for survival.
La guerre du feu, the novel by J.-H. Rosny Aîné, is credited in the edition by Presses de la Cité, instead of the original literary source. That editor promoted a new edition in 1982, in the wake of the film's success.
This prehistoric drama was released in 1981, the same year as the comedy Caveman (1981) and Mel Brooks's History of the World: Part I (1981), the latter of which had a caveman comedy section. These three movies were all first-released in 1981.