Monkeybone is a 2001 film that combines live-action with stop-motion animation. It was based on Kaja Blackley's graphic novel Dark Town. The movie stars Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas Haden Church, Rose McGowan, Dave Foley, Giancarlo Esposito & Chris Kattan, and was directed by Henry Selick.


Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) is a cartoonist whose comic strip features a rascal monkey named Monkeybone. Stu is in love with a sleep institute worker named Dr. Julie McElroy (Bridget Fonda), who helped him deal with his terrible nightmares by changing the hand that he drew with. On the night when he is going to propose to her, Stu gets into a car accident and falls into a coma.

His spirit ends up in Downtown: a purgatory limbo-like carnival landscape populated by human beings, mythical creatures and figments of people's imaginations where nightmares are entertainment. In Downtown, Monkeybone (voiced by John Turturro) is real. When Stu learns that his sister Kimmy (Megan Mullally) is about to pull the plug on him, he asks Hypnos: The God of Sleep (Giancarlo Esposito) what to do. Hypnos tells Stu that to get back to the living, he has to steal an Exit Pass from Death (Whoopi Goldberg). Stu successfully steals an Exit Pass, but Monkeybone steals it from him in turn and enters the Land of the Living in Stu's body through the Revive-O.

Hypnos plans to use Stu's body to get a substance that Dr. Julie McElroy developed that gives people and animals nightmares. Monkeybone (in Stu's body) obtains the substance and puts it inside stuffed monkey toys of himself (Monkeybone) so that those who touch them will be infected and given nightmares. Meanwhile Stu reveals Hypnos' plan to Death and convinces her to send him back for only an hour, only to find himself in the body of a dead athlete organ donor (Chris Kattan). As he flees the morgue attendants, Stu finds out about Monkeybone's and Hypnos' planned party and heads there with the extractors still in pursuit. At the party, Stu's agent Herb (Dave Foley) exposes himself to the Nightmare Juice in the Monkeybone doll and ends up seeing in the mirror that his clothes are coming to life. This causes Herb to run through the party naked telling everyone that the clothes have come to life and turned evil. After that, Monkeybone in Stu's body tells everyone to forget about it as he brings down the Monkeybone pinata containing the Monkeybone Dolls. Stu uses Monkeybone's main characteristics from the comics to cause him to panic and escape. A chase ensues, culminating with Stu and Monkeybone battling each other while clinging to a giant Monkeybone balloon. The balloon eventually bursts and both Stu and Monkeybone fall to their deaths.

Back in Downtown, Stu and Monkeybone are falling toward Downtown where the residents cheer on their fight. Just then, all the rides stop and a giant robot emerges near the Revive-O causing everyone to flee the area. When Stu and Monkeybone are caught by it, the operator of the robot is revealed to be Death who seems quite cheerful despite the circumstances. Monkeybone tries to have Death let him go to the bathroom, but Death places Monkeybone back in Stu's head who is back where he belongs. Death then tells Stu that she'll send him back because she likes his comic strips and doesn't want them to stop just now and because she needs to make room for the guys from South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. She then uses her robot to send Stu back to the living as he wakes up in his own body. Stu then proposes to Julie and they get married.

Graphic novel

The graphic novel Dark Town, on which Monkeybone is loosely based, was written by Kaja Blackley, illustrated by Vanessa Chong and published by Mad Monkey Press.

The journey from comic to film was initiated by a fan of the novel and member of the San Francisco animation community who, without Blackley’s knowledge, passed a copy of Dark Town onto one of Selick’s producers, Denise Rotina. Henry fell in love with the book and vigorously pursued the rights. In a letter to Kaja he wrote, “I’ve never felt any project was closer to my sensibilities than this one.”

The initial intention was to stay true to the source material which can be seen in early designs from Selick’s company, Twitching Image. However, as the project developed, the end product eventually evolved into Monkeybone.


  • The painting supposedly drawn by Stu before undergoing therapy is very similar to The Birth, by Mark Ryden. Much of the film's art bears a strong resemblance to that of Ryden—for example, the bust of Abraham Lincoln as "The Great Emancipator"; however Ryden is not credited.
  • The opening sequence in which Stu first encounters Monkeybone is very similar to the work of Swedish cartoonist Magnus Carlsson. Carlsson animated the video clip Paranoid Android by Radiohead which starred his character Robin. The animation style and the themes from this sequence are strikingly similar to that of Carlsson.
  • The movie contains a large number of references to a Parody religion called The Church of the SubGenius, and, in particular, the fictional fast-food chain "Burger God" was originally a SubGenius creation. Additionally, the repeated references to Yetis, and the scene in which one of the characters is struck in the head with a golf club, also echo recurring themes in the Church of the SubGenius.


The film received very poor reviews from critics and is considered one of the biggest box office flops in history. The film grossed $5 million domestically and had a world wide take of $7 million, meaning Monkeybone made only one tenth of its budget.


NOTE: In the Monkeybone webisodes on, Wally Wingert provides the voice of Monkeybone.

See also

External links

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