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Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Selick
Written 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
93 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 Brendan Fraser, Bridget Fonda, Chris Kattan, Giancarlo Esposito, Rose McGowan, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Turturro as the voice of the titular character. It tells the story of a cartoonist who ends up in a coma where he ends up in the location of Down Town where he runs into the titular character as he works to get back to the living while contending with an evil plot to supply Down Town with nightmares.

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


Stuart "Stu" Miley is a disillusioned cartoonist whose comic character, a rascal monkey named Monkeybone, is getting an animated series and merchandise, at the constant pestering of his agent and friend, Herb. 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.

One night, Stu falls into a coma following a car crash. 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. Stu and Monkeybone are constantly at each other's throats during his time in Down Town until discovering people can leave Down Town once they are given Exit Passes.

Stu is then invited to a pajama party being hosted by Hypnos: the God of Sleep and ruler of Down Town. According to Hypnos, Stu has to steal an Exit Pass from his sister, Death, in order to wake up from his coma in time before the plug is pulled due to Stu and his sister Kimmy making a pact as children after their father's death. Stu and Monkeybone journey to the Land of Death disguised as one of her employees and successfully manage to steal an Exit Pass, while narrowly escaping a nightmare Julie inflicts upon Stu in an attempt to wake him by using "Oneirix", a chemical solution created by Julie that causes nightmare inducement.

Back in Down Town, Monkeybone steals the Exit Pass for himself, where it is revealed that the theft was part of a plan orchestrated by Hypnos. Monkeybone enters Stu's body while Stu is imprisoned with other disillusioned or criminal figures throughout history. Hypnos reveals to Stu that he and the denizens of Down Town thrive on nightmares and made a deal with Monkeybone to spread the Oneirix amongst the living in exchange for getting Monkeybone his body all to himself, since he's fed up with being a figment.

Monkeybone is ordered by Hypnos via a nightmare to stay his course, causing Monkeybone to steal the Oneirix from the sleep institute successfully, leaving a decoy in its place. While Monkeybone puts the chemical in farting Monkeybone toys to be given out to the public at a charity banquet, Julie is growing wary due to "Stu's" new behavior. Monkeybone tests it on Stu's dog, much to Hypnos' dismay. Stu manages to escape with the help of Miss Kitty, a catgirl waitress he befriends, and confronts Death to convince her to send him back to the living world to stop Monkeybone. Death complies, giving him an hour to do so as she puts him in the body of an organ donor with a broken neck.

Stu makes it to the banquet while Monkeybone is about to propose to Julie, while Herb is exposed to the Oneirix in the Monkeybone doll and sees his clothes coming to life in a mirror, causing him to strip naked and flee in a panic, believing his clothes are rebelling. Stu finally confesses his love and regrets to Julie for never getting a chance to propose to her. Stu manages to use Monkeybone's origin characteristics to cause him to panic which culminates in the two of them battling one another on a giant Monkeybone balloon, which is soon shot down by a police officer, causing the duo to fall to their doom and be sent back to Down Town.

There, the citizens below cheer on Stu and Monkeybone's fight as they descend from the sky before being caught by a giant robot controlled by Death. Monkeybone is then placed back in Stu's mind by Death, claiming it is where he belongs before she sends Stu back to his proper body. Once there, he and Julie reunite and share a kiss, as the still-infected Herb then emerges from a nearby fountain telling everyone to remove their clothes. The film then cuts to a traditionally animated sequence where the banquet's attendants are revealed to be monkeys in disguise.


  • 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, a sleep therapist and Stu's love interest.
  • Chris Kattan as an organ donor that Stu briefly possesses.
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Hypnos, the malicious satyr-like God of Sleep who runs Down Town.
  • Rose McGowan as Miss Kitty, a catgirl waitress at Down Town's local bar whom Stu befriends.
  • Whoopi Goldberg as Death, the ruler of the Land of Death and Hypnos' sister.
  • 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 who sings at Hypnos' pajama party. An extended scene shows that the snakes that make up her hair are her back-up singers.
  • Sandra Thigpen as Alice, Julie's friend and co-worker.
  • Lou Romano as the police officer who shoots down the Monkeybone balloon
  • Harper Roisman as Earl Biegler, an old man in Down Town who receives an exit pass from one of the Reapers.
  • Scott Workman as Arnold the Super Reaper, a partially-armored Reaper who is one of Death's minions.
  • Mary Stein as Lulu, a Down Town inhabitant who is claimed by the Land of Death. A deleted scene showed that she was taken from Hypnos' pajama party.
  • Christopher Franciosa as a Reaper who takes Lulu
  • Fred Pierce as a Reaper in Death's office
  • Jon Bruno as Stephen King, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town who was previously tricked into infiltrating the Land of Death to steal an exit pass, which was stolen by his figment of Cujo. He is only credited as "Man in the Dungeon".
  • Owen Masterson as Jack the Ripper, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town.
  • Shawnee Free Jones as Lizzie Borden, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town.
  • Jen Sung Outerbridge as Atilla the Hun, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town.
  • Ilia Volok as Grigori Rasputin, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town.
  • Claudette Mink as Typhoid Mary, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town.
  • Edgar Allan Poe IV as Edgar Allan Poe, one of Hypnos' prisoners in Down Town.
  • Bob Odenkirk as a head surgeon
  • Leon Laderach as a surgeon in a nightmare
  • Veena Bidasha as a Statue Woman, a statue of a female on a mobile round stand who is an inhabitant of Down Town.
  • Michael Anthony Jackson as Bug Man, an inhabitant of Down Town with the head of a male human and the body of an insect.
  • Doug Jones as Yeti, an inhabitant of Down Town who operates its nightmare-showing movie theater.
  • Arturo Gil as the rat-like guard of Down Town's prison that works for Hypnos.
  • Jody St. Michael as the Centaur, an inhabitant of Down Town that wears cowboy attire. An original scene upon Stu's arrival has him offering people "pony rides".
  • Frit Fuller and Frat Fuller as the Three-Headed Devil, an inhabitant of Down Town depicted with three heads and three legs. An original scene had him asking for Stu's autograph in blood upon his arrival in Down Town.
  • Brian Steele as Jumbo, a Ganesha-like being who works as 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 humanoid camel inhabitant of Down Town.
  • Joseph S. Griffo as the BBQ Pig, an anthropomorphic pig who is a pork vendor in Down Town.
  • Kim Timbers-Patteri as the Wasp Woman, an insectoid wasp and inhabitant of Down Town that is often seen with Hypnos.
  • Lisa Ebeyer as Betty the Bovine, an anthropomorphic cow who is a prize vendor in Down Town.
  • Wayne Doba as the Scorpion, a creature in Down Town with scorpion legs and a scorpion tail surrounding his face.
  • Mark Vinello as Ass Backwards
  • Nathan Stein as the Sea Monster, an inhabitant of Down Town that resembles a piscine humanoid emerging from the back of its giant seahorse-like mount.
  • Ed Holmes as the Buffalo Kachina, a bison-type Kachina that lives in Down Town. An original scene upon Stu's arrival had him asking for a cigarette instead of the Community Service Cigarette Sweeper.
  • Erica Gudis, Melinda Miamor, and Caroline A. Rice as the Party Chicks, three bird-beaked women in Down Town that are first seen at Hypnos' pajama party.
  • Mike Starr as Bull, a Texas Longhorn-type Minotaur with a Picasso art-like face who is the bartender of Down Town's local bar. (uncredited in the closing credits[a])
  • Thomas Haden Church as Death's assistant who reads her the names of new arrivals that have passed away in Down Town (uncredited in the closing credits[b])

Henry Selick's arm is seen during the opening sequence drawing Monkeybone.


  • John Turturro as Monkeybone, a monkey who is 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, a two-sided messenger on a wheeled goose living in Down Town who gives Stu an invitation to Hypnos' pajama party.
  • Jym Dingler as the Community Service Cigarette Sweeper
  • Leslie Hedger as Ass Backwards
  • Toby Gleason as the Buffalo Kachina
  • Allan Trautman as the BBQ Pig
  • Mike Mitchell as Miss Hudlapp, Stanley's teacher seen in the Monkeybone pilot.
  • Lou Romano as a 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 Monkeybone was to be played by Ben Stiller. Stiller dropped out to be in Mystery Men and was replaced by Turturro.[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 $2,210,366 worldwide.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 20% based on 114 reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10. 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]

Roger Ebert gave the film 1.5 stars out of 4, saying, "The movie labors hard, the special effects are admirable, no expense has been spared, and yet the movie never takes off; it's a bright idea the filmmakers were unable to breathe life into."[14]

In a 2022 interview, Henry Selick said of the film's critical and commercial failure:

It certainly would have done better if they advertised it a little... I would still like to do a Director's Cut because there's a lot of cool stuff that was removed... my main lesson learned is, I don't really do well in the live-action universe... I love my world of stop-motion... I went down a slippery slope to make Monkeybone, but the film that came out it's not my vision of what the film could've been, and I just don't thrive in that.[15]


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. ^ Mike Starr's portrayal of Bull is directly credited by Selick in the director's commentary.
  2. ^ Thomas Haden Church is directly credited by Selick in his commentary, claiming that "[Thomas] is a really good improviser".


  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". www.awn.com. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. ^ Petrikin, Chris (January 18, 1999). "Fraser up to 'Monkey' biz". Variety. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  7. ^ "Mark Ryden". BFI. Archived from the original on January 24, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  8. ^ "Metroactive Movies 'Monkeybone'". www.metroactive.com. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Vice, Jeff (February 23, 2001). "Film review: Monkeybone". DeseretNews.com. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  10. ^ "The Gospel According to Philo". www.quiveringbrain.com. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  11. ^ Monkeybone at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Monkeybone at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  13. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  14. ^ "Monkeybone movie review and film summary". RogerEbert.com.
  15. ^ "Coraline Director Reflects on Brendan Fraser's Monkeybone Bombing". Screen Rant. November 7, 2022.

External links[edit]