Monkeybone is a 2001 American dark 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.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Selick
Produced by
Screenplay bySam Hamm
Based onDark Town
by Kaja Blackley
Music byAnne Dudley
CinematographyAndrew Dunn
Edited by
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]

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 a cartoon show. Stu plans to propose to Dr. Julie McElroy, a sleep institute worker who helped him deal with his terrible nightmares by changing his drawing hand.

One night, Stu crashes his car after accidentally activating an inflatable Monkeybone raft, causing him to fall into a coma. His spirit ends up in Down Town, a surreal, limbo-like carnival landscape populated by human beings, strange figures, mythical creatures and figments of people's imaginations where nightmares are entertainment.

In Down Town, Monkeybone is real. During that time, Stu befriends a catgirl named Miss Kitty. When Stu learns that his sister Kimmy is about to pull the plug on him, he asks Hypnos, God of Sleep, for advice. Hypnos tells Stu that to get back to the living, he has to infiltrate the Land of Death to steal an Exit Pass from Death which are given out to coma victims by Reapers giving them permission to leave Down Town and awaken from their coma. 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 as Hypnos states that they have plans for Stu's body.

Stu later finds himself locked up in a jail cell with Attila the Hun, Jack the Ripper, and Stephen King, who reveals his nightmare of Cujo pulled the same trick Monkeybone pulled on Stu. Hypnos arrives and explains to Stu that he plans to use Stu's body to get a chemical substance called the "Oneirix" that Julie developed that gives people and animals nightmares, which gives him more power. Upon being sent to the institute by Hypnos upon reminding him of his mission, Monkeybone (in Stu's body) ends up successfully stealing the Oneirix, switching it with another juice. Monkeybone obtains the Oneirix and puts it inside stuffed monkey toys of himself so that those who come in contact with them will be infected and given nightmares.

With help from Miss Kitty, Stu escapes from his imprisonment. Monkeybone in Stu's body prepares a pinata for the dolls at the party. Meanwhile, Stu reveals Hypnos' plan to Death upon capture and convinces her to send him back for only an hour, only to find himself in the body of a dead athlete organ donor. 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, Stu's agent, Herb, exposes himself to the Oneirix 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. Monkeybone shrugs it off as he brings down the Stu piñata 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 is eventually shot down by an incompetent police officer and both Stu and Monkeybone plummet into comas.

Stu and Monkeybone fall toward Down Town where the residents cheer on their fight. Soon, 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 where he belongs. Death then uses her robot to send Stu back to the living.

Stu wakes up in his own body, reunites and proposes to Julie. There, an erratic Herb breaks the fourth wall urging the audience to take off their clothes as the film cuts to an animated sequence where cartoon characters strip their human disguises revealing monkeys underneath.


  • Brendan Fraser as Stuart "Stu" Miley, a cartoonist. Fraser also plays Monkeybone.
  • Bridget Fonda as Dr. Julie McElroy, Stu's love interest.
  • Whoopi Goldberg as Death, the ruler of the Land of Death and Hypnos' sister.
  • Rose McGowan as Miss Kitty, a cat girl from Down Town that Stu befriends.
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Hypnos, the God of Sleep and Death's malicious brother that lives in Down Town.
  • Chris Kattan as Organ Donor Stu, a dead body that Stu briefly possesses.
  • Dave Foley as Herb, Stu's boss and friend.
  • Megan Mullally as Kimmy Miley, Stu's sister.
  • Lisa Zane as Medusa, an inhabitant in Down Town
  • Thomas Haden Church (uncredited) as the assistant of Death who reads to her the new arrivals in the Land of Death.
  • Sandra Thigpen as Alice
  • Thomas Molloy as Arnold the Super Reaper, one of Death's minions.
  • Jon Bruno as Stephen King, one of Hypnos' prisoners that was tricked into going to the Land of Death before Stu Miley.
  • 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 Morgue Surgeon
  • Michael Anthony Jackson as Bug Man, an inhabitant of Down Town who has the head of a human and the antennae and body of a bug.
  • Doug Jones as Yeti, an inhabitant of Down Town that operates its movie theater that shows nightmares.
  • Jody St. Michael as Centaur, a centaur in cowboy attire that lives in Down Town.
  • Arturo Gil as the rat guard of the Down Town prison that works for Hypnos.
  • Frit Fuller and Frat Fuller as Three-Headed Devil, a devil in Down Town that has three heads and three legs.
  • Brian Steele as Jumbo the Elephant God, a Ganesha-like piano player at Down Town's Coma Bar.
  • Leif Tilden as Cyclops, a one-eyed creature with a large head and arms and a smaller torso and legs.
  • Tom Fisher as Community Service Cigarette Sweeper, a camel-like inhabitant of Down Town.
  • Joseph S. Griffo as BBQ Pig, a humanoid pig that is a vendor in Down Town.
  • Kim Timbers-Patteri as Wasp Woman, an insectoid wasp that is often seen with Hypnos.
  • Lisa Ebeyer as Betty the Bovine, a female Minotaur that is a vendor in Down Town.
  • Wayne Doba as Scorpion
  • Mark Vinello as Assbackwards
  • Nathan Stein as Sea Monster, a creature that has a seahorse-like head.
  • Ed Holmes as Buffalo Kachina


  • John Turturro as Monkeybone, Stu's raunchy rascal creation.
  • Ted Rooney as voice of Grim Reaper
  • Roger L. Jackson as Arnold the Super Reaper
  • Joe Ranft as Streetsquashed Rabbit, a roadkill rabbit that lives in Down Town.
  • Bruce Lanoil as Streetsquashed Raccoon, a roadkill raccoon that lives in Down Town.
  • Debi Durst as Streetsquashed Snake, a roadkill snake that lives in Down Town.
  • Phil Brotherton as Subramansa
  • Jym Dingler as Community Service Cigarette Sweeper
  • Leslie Hedger as Assbackwards
  • Toby Gleason as Buffalo Kachina
  • Allan Trautman as BBQ Pig
  • Mike Mitchell as Miss Hudiapp


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 onto 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]


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.[6] 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. Lots of critics mark a similarity between Dark Town's design and Tim Burton's style.[7][8] 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.[9]


Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 19% based on 113 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."[10] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[11] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.[12]

Box officeEdit

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


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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Mark Ryden". BFI. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  7. ^ "Metroactive Movies 'Monkeybone'". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  8. ^ Vice, Jeff (February 23, 2001). "Film review: Monkeybone". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  9. ^ "The Gospel According to Philo". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  10. ^ Monkeybone at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ Monkeybone at Metacritic
  12. ^ "CinemaScore".

External linksEdit