Earlier this month, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson found himself at the center of a controversy and it stemmed from the unlikeliest of places — the new War for the Planet of the Apes film.
Mckesson took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction with the film because he thought one of the apes, specifically Bad Ape, was made in his image. The animal donned a blue vest — an item of clothing that has become synonymous with Mckesson's brand.
Some came to Mckesson's defense, others noted that Bad Ape was probably in a vest as a way of paying homage to the original Apes film, and many pointed out that the franchise has long been interpreted as a form of racial allegory that demonstrates "fear of the other," and the relationship between black and white people in the US.
Whoopi Goldberg also discussed the tweets on The View in a clip that went viral. Goldberg directed comments at Mckesson, saying, “This has nothing to do with you,” and told him to "get over yourself." Mckesson tweeted a response to Goldberg, writing, "If you have something to say, I'm here."
Mckesson later tweeted that he had been misinformed and that's why he deleted his earlier tweets.
On Friday at San Diego Comic-Con, BuzzFeed News talked to Ryan Stafford, who served as a visual effects co-producer on War for the Planet of the Apes. When asked about the debacle, he offered a practical explanation of Bad Ape's vest.
"When I was reading that I was so upset because the origin of that design was a full jacket, a full puffer jacket. The only reason — literally the only reason it became a vest — was because there’s this moment where Bad Ape sticks his hand up and shakes it with everybody," Stafford told BuzzFeed News of a scene in which Bad Ape is on a mission to help save the rest of the apes.
Bad Ape has to stick his body through a hole in the ground and motion to the other apes he's attempting to set free. Steve Zahn, who plays Bad Ape in the film, couldn't fit his arm through the hole in the ground with the puffer jacket on, so they had to think of a way to solve the problem.
Which is why they decided to make a vest for Bad Ape. "That takes away all the bulkiness of it. He can actually do that action, it makes sense," Stafford said. "That is the specific moment it became a vest."
Michael Blackmon is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.