This article is about the film. For other uses, see Monkey Bone (disambiguation).

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Selick
Produced by
Screenplay by Sam Hamm
Based on Dark Town
by Kaja Blackley
Music by Anne Dudley
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • February 23, 2001 (2001-02-23)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[2]
Box office $7.6 million[2]

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

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, David 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]


Stu Miley is a disillusioned cartoonist whose comic strip features a rascal monkey named Monkeybone. Stu is in love with a sleep institute worker named Dr. Julie McElroy, 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 limbo-like carnival landscape populated by human beings, 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.

When Stu is locked up, Hypnos later visits the jail cells, where Stu finds himself locked up 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 explains to Stu that he plans to use Stu's body to get a chemical substance named 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 (Monkeybone) so that those who touch 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 Monkeybone farting 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. After that, Monkeybone in Stu's body tells everyone to forget about it 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 a passing incompetent police officer and both Stu and Monkeybone fall barely enough to be non-fatal and fall unconscious.

Stu and Monkeybone are falling toward Down Town 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 which is where he belongs. Death then uses her robot to send Stu back to the living.

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




Monkeybone was released on February 23, 2001 by 20th Century Fox and on DVD and VHS on July 10, 2001 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.


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. 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. 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, it eventually evolved into Monkeybone.


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. 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. Carlsson animated the video clip for "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead, which starred his character Robin. The film's plot is influenced by the films Cool World and Beetlejuice. Lots of critics mark a similarity between Dark Town's design and Tim Burton's style. 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. There is a long-time suggestion that basic story elements were based on the Warsaw Poland Brothers song "Monkey Bone."


Critical reaction

The film received negative reviews from most critics and has a 20% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a consensus stating "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."[4] The film has a 40/100 rating on Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[5]

Box office

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


See also


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