Chimpanzee, the new documentary from Disneynature (also responsible for Earth, Oceans, and African Cats), hits theaters this Friday. The film follows three-year old Oscar, who finds himself alone in the jungles of the Ivory Coast before another chimp "adopts" him (presumably such procedures are simpler for lower primates than human beings).
The movie took almost four years to shoot, all of it during the course of the country's civil war. If Dinseynature's past efforts are any indication, it should be something to see.
My own impressions of chimpanzees were formed by old issues of National Geographic, specifically one particularly terrifying account of a chimp clan that warred with rival factions, murdering and occasionally eating their enemies. There were also pictures. I blame Jane Goodall.
But I'm willing to let bygones be bygones for the same of the apes. If you go see Chimpanzee the first week, a portion of the film's proceeds will be donated to the Jane Goodall Institute. To get you in the mood, here are my personal favorite chimps from pop culture history.
Cheeta Alleged to be one of the original chimps from the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films of the '30s and '40s, there's a little confusion as to whether Cheeta was ever in the movies at all, or perhaps just a resident of one of the actor's old Florida tourist attractions. His later art career overshadowed any acting he may have done, however. More importantly, who names an animal after another animal? That's like...naming a human being "Dog" or something.
Dr. Cornelius That was a noble thing this young archaeologist did: helping human astronaut Taylor escape from Ape City and search out the Forbidden Zone, even knowing he and his fiance Zira would be charged with heresy. They do end up making it through the trial unscathed (Dr. Zaius having pled for clemency), though maybe death would've been preferable to appearing in the subsequent sequels.
"Bear" As in B.J. and the... Again, what's the deal with chimpanzees taking the names of other animals? Are they ashamed of their apeness? Rise up, primate brethren, and proudly waggle your opposable thumbs and heavily grooved cerebral cortices...if that's even possible.
Never mind. No sentient creature can experience dignity wearing a hat like that.
Tião A resident of the Rio de Janeiro zoo (most sources I read described him both as "ill-tempered" and even more prone to feces flinging than the average chimp), he was put forward by the fictional Brazilian Banana Party (Partido Bananista Brasileiro, in actuality a creation of the comedy group "Casseta & Planeta") as a candidate in the 1988 mayoral election. His slogan: "Vote monkey - get monkey." Unofficial tallies put the number of votes he received at 400,000, enough to place him third. This video totally confirms what I'm saying. You'd understand that, if only you spoke Hovitos.
Ham the Astrochimp The first chimp in space. There's not much more to say. Plus, he later made a movie with Evel Knievel. Talk about a full life.
And I'm pretty sure Troy McClure is narrating this clip.
George W. Bush "Is 'Bush or Chimp' still around?" I asked myself. It is? Jesus Jones, that's a joke that never gets old. Oh wait, it actually got old before the 2002 midterms. My bad.
Lancelot Link I wish I remembered the '70s better, then I might be able to understand how such wondrous programs like Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp made it on the air. I suspect heroic amounts of cocaine.
But consider this: what are the odds an ape-starring show with a character named "Darwin" could air today?
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J. Fred Muggs Yes, Matt Lauer's job is so hard a chimpanzee did it for four years. You can bet your ass Muggs never would've taken any shit from Tom Cruise, either.
Günter I know Professor Farnsworth's prize experiment is not a chimpanzee, I just can't skip any chance to hear Dean Vernon bellowing "ROBOT HOUSE!"