Planet of the Apes (Classic): Doctor Zaius by NECA

I’m beginning to resent the fact that I have to toss the “classic” moniker on so many things from my childhood that I talk about these days. Sure, it’s nice that so many properties are being reimagined and garnering new fans, but it makes me feel horribly old. But I’m going to let that go, because it’s Monday… it’s a new week… and I finally got Wave One of NECA’s damn dirty apes. I’ve been waiting for these things to come in over at BBTS forever and we’re almost at the point where NECA seems ready to ship Wave Two. Maybe they have already… I don’t know. What I do know is that NECA’s got some great plans for this line including a Gorilla Soldier 2-pack. (YES, PLEASE!) and this is one of the few brand new action figure lines out there that I’m totally losing my shit over. Sometimes I get asked why I often call my posts “features” rather than “reviews” and it’s because sometimes you get so much nostalgic blathering mixed in that it goes beyond being just a figure review. Some people seem to like it, some people hate it. Either way, today is going to be one of those times…

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There’s the packaging. It’s a window box very much in line with what we’ve seen from some other 7-inch scale figures on the market these days. Hasbro’s Star Wars Black and Funko’s Legacy Game of Thrones both come instantly to mind. Each box is color coded to the character, so Zaius is a sort of light brown and is printed with a leather like texture. The window shows off the figure splendidly and there’s an illustration of Zaius at the lower left hand corner of the front. The back of the package has some great artwork including the Statue of Liberty on the beach… OMG… SPOILERS, DUDES! All in all, this is a nice clean presentation and it’s collector friendly… I dig it.

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So, why am I so damn excited over these figures? Because Planet of the Apes was a huge thing to me when I was growing up. They seemed to show the movies every other Sunday afternoon and I always watched. But more importantly, Mego’s old Planet of the Apes figures were handed down to me from my uncle and they were among my very first action figures. I have a strong bond with this license and when I heard NECA was doing it, I was quick to jump on board. The first wave includes Dr. Zaius, Cornelius, and a Gorilla Solider. Today I’m starting with Dr. Zaius…

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And there he is out of the package and looking damn sharp for a close-minded chimp bureaucrat. Jesus Christ, I hated this guy in the original film and I still do. That’s really a testament to not only the way the character was written, but by the smug way Maurice Evans portrayed him. When I was a kid I loved these movies because they had apes riding on horses and shooting people and it was scary as all shit. As an adult I can appreciate the wonderful analogy to that age old battle between fundamentalist dogma and science. Zaius pissed me off because he was so damn closed minded he just would not listen and even when he couldn’t help but see the truth he was willing to ignore it for the sake of the status quo. Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that the subsequent Apes sequels jumped the shark, but the original 1968 classic is just damn brilliant and I still find it frightening because every time I watch it I still can’t help but put myself in the place of George Taylor. What’s that? Oh yeah, I’ve got a figure to review…

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For starters, the sculpt here is outrageously good. I usually hold NECA to a pretty high standard, but I think they’ve outdone themselves here. Granted, the outfit isn’t the most exciting thing around, but as the equivalent of an Ape business suit, I like what they did here. The sculpted wrinkles look convincing and there’s some little bits of stitching here and there as well.

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Ah, but as good as all that is, just look at that amazing portrait! The head sculpt is sharp and stunning. The makeup in the movie was pretty impressive for its time, but this sculpt goes beyond it and feels more like a sculpt of the character and not the actor in makeup. It was an interesting way to go and I approve because it looks absolutely fantastic while capturing the regal and smug nature of this particular Ape. All the little creases in his face are present and I really dig the way the hair on his head is sculpted separately to hang down over the forehead. I dare say that Dr. Zaius has never looked this good.

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Sitting in meetings and defending the status quo doesn’t really require a lot of articulation, but NECA still provided a good amount of poseability here. Possibly even more than I had expected. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. The legs are ball jointed, as are the wrists. I’m not sure what’s under his clothes, but there’s some useful jointing in the torso as well and a generous ball joint in the neck.

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Zaius comes with two accessories. You get his cane and one of the sacred scrolls rolled up in its tube. Both are very simple accessories, but that doesn’t make them any less welcome. The cane can be held in either hand and the scroll container has some nice paintwork to make it look like it has a wooden finish.

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It’s hard for me to remember the last time I waited this long to get some current release figures into my hands. I don’t have a local source for them (although I hear tell they may be turning up at Barnes & Noble, so I may go hunting for more Gorilla Soldiers this week!) and so I was at the mercy of my e-tailer, which took a while to get them in. It was, however, totally worth the wait. It’s fun for me to think back to the Mego Zaius figure that I had some 30+ years ago and now to have this beauty in hand. It’s a work of art to me and this is one figure that I’m going to keep on display and cherish. What could be better then that? Knowing that I have two more to open. Next week, we’ll check out Cornelius!

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6 comments on “Planet of the Apes (Classic): Doctor Zaius by NECA

  1. Yeah is firing on all cylinders right now. I picked up the other 2 offerings in this series 1 as I thought Dr. Zaius coming again in series 2 was the only way to get his cane but you got the cane and scrolls with this series 1 release. Do you know whats different about series 2? Either way I’m off to B&N. The new movie apes by NECA have been pretty dang sweet too. As a kid freaked out by this movie these “classic” offerings hold a lot of nostalgia for me too.

  2. Here’s what NECA listed on their website for the good doctor:
    Series 2 includes…an all-new version of Dr. Zaius….from the original film, the zealous Dr. Zaius is dressed in a long coat and comes with cane and scroll accessories.
    The picture of series 1 Dr. Zaius just shows him standing with his hands in his pockets and what looks like black trim on his coat instead of the brown you got. ‘Splain it to us FigureFanZero.

    • It’s clearly some kind of ape logic. I think the 2nd Series Zaius may only come with his cane and not the scroll? He definitely has a longer coat that hangs down over his sensible ape-slacks.

  3. Series 1 Leisure Dr. Zaius. Series 2 Business Suit Dr. Zaius. He played it straight in the movies but with a nod & wink he was really a laugh riot. And I can’t hear the words “Dr Zaius” and not think about the Simpsons tribute to him riffed to the song “Amadeus”.

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