Hi – the attached slides might interest you, and I attached a note. I am thinking about a KickStarter campaign to complete my series of artworks.

-          Bill Ritchie

Hunt for the spaceship from Planet of the Apes

A Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the search and resolution

In 1968 I saw the movie, Planet of the Apes—the original one with Charlton Heston. For the next two years I was visited by the lingering memory of the 13-second opening of the film where the spaceship tumbles from the sky and lands in the water—actually Lake Powell.

Lake Powell is on the border between Arizona and Utah, and is the body formed behind the Glen Canyon Dam. All these things were material for a series of artworks I made after the film was broadcast on TV in the early 1970s. I had been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts to use video in my art. This was to lead me on a long, cerebral journey that ended putting into computer graphics.

The night the film was broadcast I recorded the film on videotape and spent the next months—which became years—studying, frame by frame, that 13-second scene of the spaceship crash.

I concluded that what fascinated me about the footage finally resolved to the belief that the helicopter flew in a cardioid—that is, heart-shaped—path. It was the same design that had been my obsession in my prints for several years—the target-heart series.

It was a long and detailed study, more like forensics than art I admit, but it brought numerous encounters of a kind that would not have occurred. I found out, too, that when I showed my work and gave my accounts of the source, other people remembered that scene and it made, as it did with me, a lasting impression.

One of the people who heard my story and saw my “Spaceship Crash” series was Walter Cotten, a photographer, and he happened to notice the mockup for the spaceship had been turned into a motel sign in Flagstaff—the town near Lake Powell.

He snapped two photos and sent the slides to me. Later I heard that a windstorm had toppled the sign and, as far as anyone knew, it was not restored. Walter, by the way, died in February of 2008, and is memorialized in a beautiful essay by his daughter, Siobahn Arnold.

Christopher Shields to Bill Ritchie  - 6/7/15


So was this the actual final incarnation of the Icarus ... or is this your "artist's interpretation"?  I had heard that the Icarus met the fate of being used as a hotel sign and that it was later destroyed.  If you find it and restore it, please document your crusade and I'll be glad to put it on my website with full credit to you.

Thanks for the attachments.

Let me know or keep me posted, Bill!

Bill Ritchie 6/7/15

Thanks for your reply, Christopher Shields, and thanks for your website – it was a great find. As to its being the actual incarnation, I am assuming that it was, because it looks like it, and I can’t imagine anyone going to all the work to build a replica – but maybe someone would if they wanted to capitalize on the long-running series of the movies.
I will keep working on the quest, though, and at some point give 20th Century Fox a call – they should know – they own the franchise and everything about it – including my derivative work. It gets exciting, and if I do a KickStarter, I guess I’ll have to get an opinion from a lawyer. I don’t mind. It’s all part of the game.
Speaking of games, if you have any friends who are game designers, tell them about my quest – there might be a game in it. I saw your reproduction of a collectible card game – that was a long time ago but CTCGs are great fun. I live in Seattle, and it’s one of the game industry biggies.
I will let you know what happens if anything. Thanks again. Also, I’ll copy this to “My man in Flagstaff.”
- Bill


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