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The Monkey's Uncle is a 1965 Walt Disney production starring Tommy Kirk as genius college student Merlin Jones and Annette Funicello (former Mouseketeer from The Mickey Mouse Club) as his girlfriend, Jennifer. The title plays on the idiom "monkey's uncle" and refers to a chimpanzee named Stanley, Merlin's legal "nephew" (a legal arrangement resulting from an experiment to raise Stanley as a human); Stanley otherwise has little relevance to the plot. Jones invents a man-powered airplane and a sleep-learning system.[3][4] The film is a sequel to the 1964 film The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.

The Monkey's Uncle
Poster of the movie The Monkey's Uncle.jpg
Directed byRobert Stevenson
Produced byRon Miller
Walt Disney
Written byAlfred Lewis Levitt
Helen Levitt
StarringTommy Kirk
Annette Funicello
Leon Ames
Music byBuddy Baker
CinematographyEdward Colman
Edited byCotton Warburton
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • August 18, 1965 (1965-08-18) (Los Angeles)[1]
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[2]



Midvale College is told that a wealthy man, Mr. Astorbilt (Arthur O'Connell), will give a large donation, but he has a strange request — he challenges the school to build a man-powered flying machine. If they succeed by a certain date, they get the donation, otherwise it will go to a rival school.

Merlin Jones (Kirk) designs a lightweight airplane, powered by a propeller driven by bicycle pedals. Recognizing that even his football-jock friends won't be strong enough for such a feat, he develops a strength elixir (based on adrenaline), which should give the power that a man would need to get off the ground.

To get the jocks' support, he creates "an honest way to cheat", adapting the recently discovered sleep-learning method to help them pass a particularly hard history course. Once the jocks are asleep, a timer starts a phonograph player, with the sound of Merlin's girlfriend, Jennifer (Annette Funicello), reading their lessons to them. This backfires in class, however — asked to give an oral report, the jocks speak, but Jennifer's voice comes out. It eventually works out in the students' favor.

Jones gets the jocks' help, and the great day comes. The pilot drinks the elixir, then pedals off into the sky, winning the contest. Unfortunately, the "wealthy donor" is last seen fleeing from men in white coats, who want to take him back to the local mental hospital.

Principal castEdit

Production notesEdit

The Misadventures of Merlin Jones had been a surprise hit, earning over $4 million in rentals for Disney and prompting a sequel.[5] It was announced in March 1964.[6]

This production marks both Tommy Kirk's and Annette Funicello's last film for the studio. Mark Goddard, who plays Haywood (and is best known as Major Don West on television's Lost in Space), made his feature film debut in this movie.

The screen credit for writing reads, "Screenplay by Tom and Helen August", which were the pseudonyms for Alfred Lewis Levitt and Helen Levitt, two writers who were blacklisted.[7] The home video release of this film restored the Levitts' credits.[8]


The title song, written by the Sherman Brothers, is performed by Funicello, with The Beach Boys doing backup. This song was covered in 2006 by Devo 2.0 on the music CD Disneymania, Volume 4.


Richard F. Shepard of The New York Times described The Monkey's Uncle as "an amusing film made with artless artfulness ... It all falls into bright, colorful and innocuous non sequitur and, in an hour and a half, you are through, mildly diverted and unburdened by message."[3] Variety noted that the film, "like its predecessor, depends on gimmicks and some nutty situations, which provide mild amusement."[9] Margaret Harford of the Los Angeles Times said the film "disappoints as a lineal descendant of Disney's Absent Minded Professor but it can hardly miss with the young set."[10] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the film was "perhaps slightly funnier for being less extravagant than its predecessor."[11]


  1. ^ "The Monkey's Uncle - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  2. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  3. ^ a b Shepard, Richard F. (August 19, 1965). "Monkey's Uncle". The New York Times. 35.
  4. ^ Turner Classic Movies
  5. ^ Disney Announces Diverse Schedule: Doris Day Winner (Again); Ill Wind a Boon to Actors Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 4 Jan 1965: B7.
  6. ^ Rex Harrison Will Do Film Dr. Dolittle: Stella Stevens in 'Stormfire'; How to Keep Oscar in Family Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 23 Mar 1964: C19.
  7. ^ Johnson, Ted (April 3, 1997). "WGA Corrects Blacklist Credits". Variety. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  8. ^ "The Monkey's Uncle". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Film Reviews: The Monkey's Uncle". Variety. May 26, 1965. 14.
  10. ^ Harford, Margaret (July 17, 1965). "'Monkey's Uncle': Teens Will Go Ape". Los Angeles Times. Part III, p. 8.
  11. ^ "The Monkey's Uncle". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 32 (379): 125. August 1965.

External linksEdit