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Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Selick
Screenplay bySam Hamm
Based onDark Town
by Kaja Blackley
Produced by
CinematographyAndrew Dunn
Edited by
Music byAnne Dudley
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • February 23, 2001 (2001-02-23)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$75 million[2]
Box office$7.6 million[2]

Monkeybone is a 2001 American black comedy fantasy film directed by Henry Selick, written by Sam Hamm, produced by Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliffe, and executive produced by Chris Columbus, Selick, and Hamm. The film combines live-action with stop-motion animation.

Loosely based on Kaja Blackley's graphic novel Dark Town, the film stars an ensemble cast led by Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, and Whoopi Goldberg with Rose McGowan, Dave Foley, Giancarlo Esposito, Megan Mullally, Lisa Zane, Chris Kattan, John Turturro, and an uncredited Thomas Haden Church.

Theatrically released on February 23, 2001 by 20th Century Fox, the film was a box office bomb and received generally negative critical reviews.[3]


Stuart "Stu" Miley is a disillusioned cartoonist whose comic character, a rascal monkey named Monkeybone, is getting an animated series. He plans on proposing to his girlfriend, Julie McElroy, a sleep institute worker who helped him deal with his nightmares by changing his drawing hand, but one night, Stu falls into a coma following a car crash before he can do so. His spirit is taken to Down Town, a surreal and carnival-themed limbo-like landscape populated by mythical beings and figments of its visitors' imaginations, even Monkeybone. According to Hypnos, the God of Sleep, Stu has to steal an Exit Pass from his sister, Death, in order to return to the living world. These passes are given out to Down Town's visitors by Reapers, granting them permission to leave and awaken from their comas. Stu successfully steals a pass, but Monkeybone takes it from him and enters Stu's body. Stu is later imprisoned with Attila the Hun, Jack the Ripper, and Stephen King, the latter of whom recalls that his nightmare of Cujo had done a similar trick Monkeybone pulled on Stu.

By demand of Hypnos, Monkeybone steals the "Oneirix", a chemical substance developed by Julie that can give living creatures nightmares, which serve as entertainment in Down Town and give Hypnos more power. Monkeybone puts the Oneirix inside dolls of himself, preparing to use them for a piñata at a party. After being freed from his imprisonment by Miss Kitty, Stu reveals Hypnos' plan to Death when she captures him and convinces her to send him back to the living world, she complies and sends Stu into the body of an organ donor for only an hour. As he flees the morgue attendants, Stu finds out about Monkeybone's planned party and heads there with the extractors still in pursuit.

At the party, Monkeybone brings down the piñata, but Stu arrives and 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 that is soon shot down by a police officer and the duo return to Down Town, where they are safely caught by a giant robot operated by Death. After placing Monkeybone into Stu's mind where he belongs, Death then sends Stu back to his proper body, where he reunites and proposes to Julie.


  • Brendan Fraser as Stuart "Stu" Miley, a cartoonist and the creator of the Monkeybone franchise. Fraser also plays Monkeybone when he is in Stu's body.
  • Bridget Fonda as Dr. Julie McElroy, Stu's love interest.
  • Whoopi Goldberg as Death, Hypnos' sister.
  • Rose McGowan as Miss Kitty, a catgirl living in Down Town whom Stu befriends.
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Hypnos, the God of Sleep and Death's malicious brother.
  • Chris Kattan as an organ donor that Stu briefly possesses.
  • Dave Foley as Herb, Stu's agent and friend.
  • Megan Mullally as Kimmy Miley, Stu's sister.
  • Lisa Zane as Medusa, an inhabitant of Down Town.
  • Thomas Haden Church (uncredited) as Death's assistant who reads her the names of new arrivals in Down Town.
  • Sandra Thigpen as Alice.
  • Lou Romano as the police officer who shoots down the Monkeybone balloon.
  • Thomas Molloy as Arnold the Super Reaper, one of Death's minions.
  • Jon Bruno as Stephen King, one of Hypnos' prisoners who was tricked into infiltrating Death's domain before Stu.
  • Owen Masterson as Jack the Ripper, one of Hypnos' prisoners.
  • Shawnee Free Jones as Lizzie Borden, one of Hypnos' prisoners.
  • Jen Sung Outerbridge as Atilla the Hun, one of Hypnos' prisoners.
  • Ilia Volok as Grigori Rasputin, one of Hypnos' prisoners.
  • Claudette Mink as Typhoid Mary, one of Hypnos' prisoners.
  • Bob Odenkirk as the head surgeon.
  • Robert Wuhl (uncredited) as David Stone.
  • Michael Anthony Jackson as the Bug Man, an inhabitant of Down Town with the head of a male human and the body of a insect.
  • Doug Jones as the Yeti, an inhabitant of Down Town who operates its nightmare-showing movie theater.
  • Jody St. Michael as the Centaur, an inhabitant of Down Town that wears cowboy attire.
  • Arturo Gil as the rat-like warden of Down Town's prison that works for Hypnos.
  • Frit Fuller and Frat Fuller as the Three-Headed Devil, an inhabitant of Down Town depicted with three heads and three legs.
  • Brian Steele as Jumbo, a Ganesha-like being and the piano player at Down Town's local bar.
  • Leif Tilden as the Cyclops, an inhabitant of Down Town with a large head and arms and a smaller torso and legs.
  • Tom Fisher as the Community Service Cigarette Sweeper, a camel-like inhabitant of Down Town.
  • Joseph S. Griffo as the BBQ Pig, a humanoid pig who is a vendor in Down Town.
  • Kim Timbers-Patteri as the Wasp Woman, a female insectoid being that is often seen with Hypnos.
  • Lisa Ebeyer as Betty the Bovine, a minotaur-like creature who is a vendor in Down Town.
  • Wayne Doba as the Scorpion.
  • Mark Vinello as Assbackwards.
  • Nathan Stein as the Sea Monster, an inhabitant of Down Town that has a seahorse-like head.
  • Ed Holmes as Buffalo Kachina.


  • John Turturro as Monkeybone, Stu's raunchy rascal creation.
  • Brendan Fraser as Stanley (uncredited), a character in the Monkeybone cartoon that recaps his creation of the titular character.
  • Ted Rooney as voice of the Grim Reaper.
  • Roger L. Jackson as Arnold the Super Reaper.
  • Joe Ranft as the Streetsquashed Rabbit, a roadkill rabbit that lives in Down Town.
  • Bruce Lanoil as the Streetsquashed Raccoon, a roadkill raccoon that lives in Down Town.
  • Debi Durst as the Streetsquashed Snake, a roadkill snake that lives in Down Town.
  • Phil Brotherton as Super Mansa.
  • Jym Dingler as the Community Service Cigarette Sweeper.
  • Leslie Hedger as Assbackwards.
  • Toby Gleason as Buffalo Kachina.
  • Allan Trautman as the BBQ Pig.
  • Mike Mitchell as Miss Hudlapp, Stanley's teacher seen in the Monkeybone pilot.
  • Lou Romano as the therapist that Stanley sees in the Monkeybone pilot.


The comic book Dark Town, on which Monkeybone is based, was written by Kaja Blackley, illustrated by Vanessa Chong, and published by Mad Monkey Press.[4] The journey from comic to film was initiated by a fan of the comic and member of the San Francisco animation community (Tom "Bags" Sacchi/ChasingDragons Productions NYC) who, without Blackley's knowledge, passed a copy of Dark Town on to one of Selick's producers, Denise Rotina. Selick 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, it eventually evolved into Monkeybone.[5]


Initially the role of Stuart "Stu" Miley was to be played by Ben Stiller but Stiller dropped out to be in Mystery Men and was replaced by Fraser.[6]


Much of the film's art bears a strong resemblance to that of Mark Ryden—for example, the bust of Abraham Lincoln as "The Great Emancipator". Stu's pre-therapy painting is very similar to Ryden's The Birth, and according to the credits, was painted by him for the film.[7] The animation style and the themes of the opening sequence in which Stu first encounters Monkeybone are very similar to the work of Swedish cartoonist Magnus Carlsson. The film's plot is influenced by the films Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Cool World and Beetlejuice. Many critics mark a similarity between Dark Town's design and Tim Burton's style.[8][9] The film contains a large number of references to a parody religion called The Church of the SubGenius. 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 Stu (whose body is possessed by Monkeybone) is struck in the head with a golf club by Hypnos in a dream sequence also echo recurring themes in the Church of the SubGenius.[10]


Box office[edit]

Monkeybone was a failure at the box office; based on a budget of $75 million, the film grossed $5,411,999 domestically and $7,622,365 worldwide.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 19% based on 114 reviews, with an average rating of 4.00/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though original and full of bizarre visuals, Monkeybone is too shapeless a movie, with unengaging characters and random situations that fail to build up laughs."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.[13]


Award Category Nominee Result
Taurus Award Best High Work and Best Work With a Vehicle Joey Preston and Jay Caputo Nominated
Stinker Award Worst Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg (also for Rat Race) Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Monkeybone (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. March 1, 2001. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Monkeybone at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Rebecca Ascher-Walsh. "Why "Monkeybone" flopped at the box office". Entertainment Weekly.
  4. ^ "TINTIN Works, But Some Graphic Novel Adaptations Go Wrong". Newsarama. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  5. ^ "June 1997 News". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. ^ Petrikin, Chris (January 18, 1999). "Fraser up to 'Monkey' biz". Variety. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  7. ^ "Mark Ryden". BFI. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  8. ^ "Metroactive Movies 'Monkeybone'". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Vice, Jeff (February 23, 2001). "Film review: Monkeybone". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  10. ^ "The Gospel According to Philo". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  11. ^ Monkeybone at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Monkeybone at Metacritic
  13. ^ "CinemaScore".

External links[edit]