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Bringing the apocalyptic landscape of 'Planet of the Apes' to life

How James Chinlund built the ape uprising with art and design

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Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Rise of the Planet of the Apes was that it made you care for a character who you knew was responsible for the downfall of humanity. While much of that came down to the brilliant acting of Andy Serkis, it was also due in large part to the advanced animation and motion capture techniques that turned Caesar from a man in a gray bodysuit to a stunningly realized intelligent ape. That process and more are explored in depth in the new book Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, which is available today.

For the upcoming sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, things get significantly more intense. The film takes place years after the original, when large swaths of the human population have been wiped out by the Simian Flu, and Caesar and the rest of the intelligent apes have slowly expanded their control of the planet. So not only are there a lot more CG apes performed by more motion-capture suit-wearing actors, but the world has changed as well.

"Certainly the greatest and most enjoyable challenge on Dawn was putting myself in the mind of the ape and trying to understand how they would take the next steps on their evolutionary journey," production designer James Chinlund tells The Verge.

Since different types of simians live in different types of habitats — orangutans are more solitary, for instance, while chimpanzees live in larger groups — Chinlund and his team had to figure out what a society would look like that incorporated all of these creatures. "Using this information we tried to imagine what their first steps would be architecturally and began to design structures that would follow this logic," he explains.

Prior to working on Dawn, Chinlund's credits include smaller titles like Requiem for a Dream, but it wasn't until 2012's The Avengers that he first got a taste for working on a large-scale blockbuster. With Dawn, he not only had a bigger budget to work with, but was also able to combine his talents with the likes of lauded special effects house WETA and director Matt Reeves, who is perhaps best known for the monster movie Cloverfield. "The increased scale has certainly allowed me to dream bigger," Chinlund says. "Having said that, the work remains the same, in that my responsibilities are to deliver a cohesive world, that hopefully brings the audience into the picture and allows them to believe entirely in the world we have created."

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters on Friday.

'Planet of the Apes' art and production photos


James Franco and Andy Serkis share a tender in moment in Rise. In the film's original ending, Franco's character Will Rodman dies while taking a bullet for Caesar, but it was ultimately changed because it was too much of a downer.