One of the first movies to use motion-capture in an on-location setting. Previously, motion-capture was limited to special studio set-up with special motion-capture cameras in very clearly defined surroundings.
After deciding that Caesar's mother would die early in the film, Caesar originally had a "romance" with a female chimpanzee named Cornelia at the ape sanctuary, who was taken to the Gen-Sys lab, and freeing her was his reason to go there instead. Scenes with the two made it into some trailers before being finally cut. Cornelia returns in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).
This movie is the first installment to feature another great ape species besides chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans; Koba, the scarred lab ape and some apes at the Gen-Sys and sanctuary, are bonobos. This species was assumed until very recently to be a subspecies of chimp, explaining its absence in previous films.
Caesar uses a bundle of sticks to explain to Maurice (Karin Konoval) how an ape alone is weak, but apes together are strong. The bundle of sticks, or fasces, was a symbol of authority in ancient Rome, the origin of Caesar's name. Caesar's charisma is also reminiscent of Benito Mussolini, who adopted the fasces as the symbol of his Italian Fascist Party. The fasces, or bundle of sticks, concept is also used in several symbols in the architecture of the U.S. White House and Capitol, and is the subject of the Aesop fable "The Bundle of Sticks", about a father demonstrating to his sons how they should work together.
Andy Serkis based Caesar's behavior on a chimpanzee named Oliver, for the balance of behaving like a civilized chimp. His red shirt and black pants, his appearance and ability to sign well is based on another chimpanzee in science, Nim Chimpsky.
This is the second film in which Andy Serkis played an ape, having previously portrayed the title character in King Kong (2005). He was also the motion-capture actor for Gollum in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film franchises, where he bit another character's hand. His ape character Caesar bites the neighbor's finger in this role, too. Weta Workshop worked on all of these movies.
Will (James Franco) is desperately looking for a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Charlton Heston, star of Planet of the Apes (1968), tragically passed away in 2008 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
One of the most well known apes who uses sign language is the bonobo Kanzi. He was taught through a Lexigram board, which can be briefly seen in the ape sanctuary and at the room in Gen-Sys, where lab assistants are giving the bonobo Koba (Christopher Gordon) an eye test.
The first script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver originated in 2006 as a completely unrelated project, Genesis, centered around an evil genetically-engineered chimpanzee that was raised at a human home and was very smart, but spoke only in sign language.
According to Rick Jaffa, the codename of the first experimental virus in this movie was to be RT-112, as a reference to Planet of the Apes (1968) having an RT (running time) of 112 minutes. They later settled for ALZ-112.
Rodney is wearing the same colored clothing as Caesar (dark red shirt with blue jeans) when he asks Dodge about Caesar's clothing and whether it will cause problems with the other apes. Rodney is later beaten by the apes in the sanctuary before Caesar intervenes, much like Caesar was beaten by Rocket in the play yard after having his red shirt torn from his back by Rocket.
After Planet of the Apes (2001) was a financial success, there was a plan to make a sequel using that film's open-ended cliffhanger as a starting point. It was nixed due to bad critical reviews and creative differences with Director Tim Burton. In 2006, a proposal to reboot the franchise beginning with a plot similar to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) was proposed, and took another five years to reach the big screen.
When the chimps are being tested with a puzzle, it is referred to as the "Lucas Towers", which is one of the names for the puzzle more commonly known as the "Tower of Hanoi", invented in 1883 by French mathematician Edouard Lucas.
Charles Rodman (John Lithgow) regains his ability to play the piano after ALZ-112 treatment. This is a reference to The Simpsons (1989) season seven, episode nineteen, "A Fish Called Selma", where Troy McClure stars in a musical adaption of Planet of the Apes (1968). In the song "Dr. Zaius", McClure playing George Taylor asks "Can I play the piano anymore?" Dr. Zaius answers "Of course you can", to which Taylor replies "Well, I couldn't before."
The small labels on the Gen-Sys cages have the information for the chimps which include name, year of birth, test number, months acquired and sex; Bright Eyes' year of birth is 1997, Number 9, FM, 4 months and Koba's is 2000, Number 6, and ML.
The head of the research department Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) is named after Arthur P. Jacobs, Producer of the original "Planet of the Apes" franchise. His production company, APJAC, was often referred to as "ApeJAC".
This is Terry Notary's second "Planet of the Apes" film where he was a stunt double and movement coach (the first was Planet of the Apes (2001)), and the first where he was a Stunt Coordinator and an actor (playing Rocket and Bright Eyes).
Will's surname is a partial anagram of Armando, oddly enough, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and this movie bear similar plots, and both these humans raised their own Caesar from birth, and kept them on a leash in public. Another coincidence was that both Armando and Will would never see their adoptive ape sons take control of their ape empires.
Cesar's father Alpha was not explicitly shown on-screen. However, Jay Caputo was credited with the part, and an earlier version of the script gave the character a more prominent role which was edited out of the theatrical cut of the film. A deleted scene on the Blu-ray release of the film reveals Alpha's possible fate, where he begins to chase the truck to try and rescue his mate, but is shot by the hunters before he can get close. Bright Eyes screams and looks on tearfully as Alpha lies dead.
Buck was named in tribute to Buck Kartalian, who played gorillas in Planet of the Apes (1968) and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and who remains very active at Planet of the Apes fan conventions to this day.
Some of the laboratory scenes were shot "at the British Columbia Institute Of Technology's Aerospace Campus in Richmond; a three hundred thousand-square-foot facility whose smooth, gunmetal and dark-glass styling suits the story's present-day-to-very-close-future setting, doubling as it does for the Gen-Sys research facility."
Rocket appears to be mostly bald. Given his build and general athleticism, it is likely that he suffers from a relatively uncommon condition called Alopecia, which causes baldness in many species of primates regardless of age.
The original ending of this movie showed Will (James Franco) accidentally being shot by John Landon (Brian Cox) when the mourning man was actually meant to shoot Caesar (Andy Serkis) after the chimp accidentally killed Dodge (Tom Felton) earlier in the film. Will stepped in to protect Caesar only to be shot in the process, protecting his adoptive son. The apes were then meant to be seen to come swarming to their Alpha's (Jay Caputo's) rescue and killing Landon while they are shot at by police. Will then dies in Caesar's arms. When the ending was shown to audiences, they dubbed it too depressing and dark, so Director Rupert Wyatt, Andy Serkis, and James Franco went back and reshot the ending that ended up appearing in the final film.
Koba (Christopher Gordon) is partly responsible for the ALZ-113 pandemic because he exposed Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) who was not wearing a breathing mask while the 113's feed tube was loose. This makes Carver's (Kirk Acevedo's) statement in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) somewhat true about apes having already "killed off half the planet".
It is unknown how Will was able to hide the fact that he stole Caesar from Gen-Sys over the years, or it can be presumed that nobody asked how Will got Caesar. Most people probably thought he was Will's bought pet, or possibly Will managed to somehow forge illegal documents which stated Caesar was his pet.
An earlier version of the script has Buck (Richard Ridings) survive the battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, throwing Dodge (Tom Felton) off the bridge to his death after Dodge has killed Rocket (Terry Notary).
Koba may be based on two real life apes: Kanzi, a bonobo who mastered keyboard communication at Georgia State University (and whose name also starts with the letter "K"); and a wild, aggressive chimpanzee named Saddam, who was known to have murdered several children near the Kibale National Park in Uganda before he was hunted down by an angry mob.
Koba is the first and only known bonobo to appear in a "Planet of the Apes" film. His first appearance was in this movie. In spite of this, Koba looks little like a typical bonobo. Bonobos have longer legs, a less stocky body, and a darker face than chimps. Koba, however, appears only to have the darker face. His legs and body seem to be the same as that of the other chimpanzees who appear in the film. Though bonobos are normally peaceful and never resort to violence, Koba is extremely aggressive; he is arguably the most violent ape in Caesar's kingdom. This is probably due to his many years of experiment testing as torture.
In the original filmed climax to the movie, John Landon followed Will into the forest with a shotgun, and Will was shot by John in an attempt to protect Caesar. Landon was then killed by the apes, and Koba took Landon's gun. A test audience was shown this ending and reacted negatively, and so a different ending was shot on July 4 weekend, 2011, in Griffith Park, with a slightly more positive feel.
It is possible that Charles Rodman's name, and medical condition, may be an homage to Charlton Heston, from Planet of the Apes (1968), who was also diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease several years before his death.
The name of the chimpanzee "Wolfie", was revealed by Director Rupert Wyatt in the commentary track of the Blu-ray. He was named after Wolfie Smith, the urban guerilla hero of British comedy series Citizen Smith (1977), who was, in turn, named after Irish revolutionary Theobald Wolfe Tone (who used the pseudonym "Citizen Smith").
In an earlier version of the script, the San Bruno Primate Shelter was known simply as "The Ranch", and also had horses kept on the grounds. Dr. Molly Stewart (Caroline Aranha) worked at The Ranch on a voluntary basis.
Coincidentally, and ironically, Tom Felton was attacked by a baboon while reading over the script of this movie, considering that the character he played, Dodge, had a strong aversion to primates (mainly great apes).
"Dodge Landon" is a reference to the characters Dodge and Landon, Taylor's fellow astronaut crew members in Planet of the Apes (1968), played by Jeff Burton and Robert Gunner, respectively; in directly quoting Taylor's dialogue such as "It's a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!!" and "Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape", Dodge Landon is an amalgam of all three astronaut characters.
An earlier version of the script differed in the details of Franklin's fate. Instead of Franklin, it was a chimpanzee handler named Evans (perhaps in reference to Maurice Evans) who was infected with the ALZ-113 virus in the operating theatre and died as a result. Caesar and Rocket escaped from their facility and broke into the lab in search of Caesar's mother. In return for a bracelet, Rocket freed the sinister Koba, who then killed Franklin before returning to his cage, effectively framing Caesar for the murder. Later, Koba deliberately infected Steven Jacobs with the fatal virus, who in turn infected Hunsiker.
Despite his kind nature, Franklin's (Tyler Labine's) actions with Hunsiker (David Hewlett) ended up being a cause of humanity's fall, as it would later turn out that Hunsiker was an airplane pilot, and he would spread the disease across the globe.
An earlier version of the script gave Hunsiker's first name as Douglas. In the same script, Steven Jacobs was infected with the virus at the Gen-Sys Laboratories before taking a taxi home. Hunsiker then used the same taxi to take him to the airport, thereby infecting him also.
In a deleted scene on the Blu-ray release, Rodney (Jamie Harris) tends to Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Rocket (Terry Notary) after their confrontation, resulting in them being tranquillised. Rodney tells Caesar that he can't take the restraints off him, and offers the chimp a cookie instead. This kindness may explain why Caesar chose to only imprison him during the rebellion, rather than letting the apes kill him.
Bonobos are similar to chimpanzees, except they are darker, slightly smaller and tend to have longer limbs and longer hair on the tops of their heads. While Koba acts aggressively in the film, in reality this would be unlikely as bonobos are far less violent than chimpanzees.
Koba is the third villain in the entire film franchise, who appeared in three movies. First villain: Dr. Zaius: Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Second villain: Kolp: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Third villain: Koba: this movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).
Cesar's father name was Alpha, which refers to his rank as the dominant male of his troop of chimpanzees. Alpha's son, Caesar eventually became an alpha himself hence the connection to the titles of both father and son.
Will is similar in several ways to Dr. Susan McAlester from Deep Blue Sea (1999). Both are dedicated scientists who desperately work to achieve a miracle for Alzheimer's Disease, and are inspired and heavily driven because of afflicted family members; both use animals to achieve a means to an end in attempt to cure Alzheimer's, but cause the animals to become hyper-intelligent and cause them to revolt against their creators (in the case of Dr. McAlester, she used genetically modified Mako sharks, rather than an already existing miracle drug); both had fathers inflicted with advanced stages of Alzheimer's that eventually claimed their lives.
In the scene where Hunsiker shows up at the airport while infected with the virus, he has a bandage and metal splint around the finger that Caesar had injured. This is also visible when Hunsiker confronts Franklin.
In the San Bruno primate shelter each cage bore the name of its inmate. The name "Caesar" is seen printed on the chimp's cage within several minutes of his arrival, but already looks weathered and worn.
Karin Konoval: The actress who plays Maurice the orangutan, makes an on-screen appearance as the woman at the police station when Will tries to regain custody of Caesar. Ironically, that character believes that Caesar should have been put down, while Maurice is one of Caesar's closest allies.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the original ending (which was actually filmed), Will (James Franco) dies on screen. In the final cut of the film, Will attempts to get Caesar to go with him telling him to come home, Caesar responds "I am home", and Will lets him go. Because of the graphic shown before the end credits showing the rapid spread of the virus worldwide, it is assumed that Will (along with most of the human race) eventually dies. In the original ending, Caesar and Will are in the forest where Will is trying to convince him to come home. They are interrupted by soldiers and Caesar is about to get shot, but Will shields him from the bullets and is killed. One month before the movie was slated to be released, minds were changed, so Franco and Andy Serkis flew in over the 4th of July weekend to shoot the ending that stayed in the film.
References to the previous Apes films. The name of Tom Felton's character Dodge Landon is a reference to the characters Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Landon (Robert Gunner), Colonel Taylor's (Charlton Heston) fellow astronauts in Planet of the Apes (1968). The orangutan character befriended by Caesar in prison is named Maurice after Maurice Evans, who played the orangutan Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). The name given to Caesar's mother is "Bright Eyes" due to the coloration in her eyes caused by the ALZ-112 virus. "Bright Eyes" is the name given to Taylor (Charlton Heston) by Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter). A news headline reports that the "Icarus" is the first craft headed to Mars. This is the most popular fan-proposed name of Taylor's craft, and refers to the Greek myth which cautions against overreaching ambition. Dodge Landon speaks two of Charlton Heston's most famous Planet of the Apes (1968) lines: "It's a madhouse! A madhouse!" and "Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!" Clips from Charlton Heston in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and The Ten Commandments (1956) are shown. In one scene, Caesar is shown handling a 3-D puzzle of the Statue of Liberty, in reference to the the original ending. Buck is named after Buck Kartalian, who played Julius the gorilla and another gorilla, Frank, from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). One of the female chimps is "Cornelia", named for Dr. Cornelius of Planet of the Apes (1968). The gray, hairless chimpanzee Rocket, who is Caesar's right-hand man, is named after Norman Rockett, the Set Decorator on Planet of the Apes (1968). The lab worker who cares for the chimps is named Franklin, a nod to Director Franklin J. Schaffner. Jamie Harris played Rodney, the sympathetic keeper in the ape sanctuary, named for original ape actor Roddy McDowall. Late in the film, we are told that the spacecraft and astronauts have disappeared. We can assume that they gone into a time warp and will end up on the future "Planet of the Apes". The police riding their horses between the cars while striking apes mirrors a scene near the beginning of Planet of the Apes (1968) where apes on horses corral humans. The San Bruno Primate Sactuary is nod to the human zoo from Planet of the Apes (1968). The fight between Rocket (Terry Notary) and Caesar (Andy Serkis) was a nod to the fight between Taylor (Charlton Heston) and another captive human from Planet of the Apes (1968). Koba the bonobo is based on Aldo the gorilla, main villain of Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) with his hatred of humans. Dodge hoses Caesar just as Julius hosed Taylor. When Caesar releases the apes from their cages at the sanctuary, Rocket (Terry Notary) is in the same position and expression Leo Davidson had from Tim Burton's version of Planet of the Apes (2001). The first word spoken by an ape is "no". This was a pivotal line in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). When Caesar is on horseback and the S.W.A.T. officer is amazed, this is a nod to the hunt scene from Planet of the Apes (1968), where Taylor was stunned seeing a gorilla on horseback. Dodge Landon's (Tom Felton's) personality is based on Julius' from Planet of the Apes (1968), for being jailer of the animals, torturing them, and having a certain dislike to the main protagonist. A woman on Will's team is named Linda, this a nod to Linda Harrison, who played the mute Nova in the first two films, and Zira from the make-up test. Caroline says ''I love chimpanzees", which was a line Armando said in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). Dr. Steven Jacobs is an allusion to Arthur P. Jacobs, Producer of the first five films.
Koba (Christopher Gordon) did not know it at the time, but the manner in which he killed Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) was a reflection of his own future. This is further supported by the circumstances of their deaths as both were hanging from a ledge pleading for help from Caesar (Andy Serkis), who let them fall to a deserved end.