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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
    Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Finnish
  • 11 Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director Henry Selick
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • 7 Behind the scenes footage
  • 3 TV spot
  • DVD-ROM features


20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 89 mins . M15+ . PAL


Have you ever wondered what you may get if you locked Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton in a room together with catering provided by Hunter S. Thompson? Well, Monkeybone could very well be the result.

A bizarre and rather twisted tale combining live action, traditional animation, animatronics, puppets, CG effects and stop motion, Monkeybone plunges us into a peculiar and outlandish world known as Downtown - a place where those between life and death hang out in bars with all manner of fantastic creatures getting off on nightmares fed to their screens from 'up there', and somewhere that makes the Jim Rose Circus look decidedly mainstream in comparison. So just how did we end up here?

Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser - and yes, the pun is obvious) is a cartoonist who is more attuned to his artistic side than the world of merchandising, marketing and hype. With his creation, "America's most disturbed comic strip" - an expression of his 'dark side' in the impish simian character named Monkeybone who has a fetish for arm flab - about to go supernova in a television cartoon series, Stu's manager Herb (Dave Foley) has a battle on his hands getting his charge to deal with the many, many opportunities for milking the monkey for financial gain. Stu wants away from these marauding "media creeps", and tries to make good an escape with his girlfriend Karen (Bridget Fonda), who he is about to propose to, however after quite the mishap with an inflatable toy prototype and one quickly mangled Karrmann Ghia later, he ends up in hospital well and truly comatose.

It is here that we descend via a wild rollercoaster ride to Downtown, the previously mentioned nightmare world that could simply not be further removed from Petula Clark's fab '60s hit of the same name in tone. Here the Monkeybone part of his psyche comes to life (voiced by John Turturro), in all his ribald and smart-arsed animated glory. Desperate for an 'exit pass', which will allow him to re-enter the land of the living, Stu gains access to Death (Whoopi Goldberg playing Whoopi Goldberg, basically) with the help of a feline friend named Kitty (Rose McGowan), however Monkeybone and the overseer of Downtown, Hypnos (Giancarlo Esposito), have other plans for the pass. The result is that the Monkeybone character, who is tired of being a mere figment, returns to consciousness in Stu's body in exchange for arranging more nightmares for the denizens of Downtown - and just before his sister pulled the life-support plug, too.

It so happens that Karen is also a doctor specialising in sleep disorders, and has a little concoction she calls 'nightmare juice', which as you may imagine comes in quite handy for Monkeybone Stu as he wreaks havoc in his newly acquired, and anatomically complete, body. Going nuts for the concept of marketing (ooh, a farting Monkeybone doll!) and just not quite 'right', Karen first thinks this massive change in her beau is due to the coma, but as things progress, and after a visit from a rather floppy, organ-shedding reanimated gymnast, she realises that there's more going on with her "two guys in the one brain" boyfriend than she had at first bargained upon.

"Show me the monkey!"

Based on a posh comic book - sorry, "graphic novel" - by Kaja Blackley, and directed by no stranger to unusual fantasy worlds, the man responsible for The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, Henry Selick, Monkeybone is a curiously mish-mashy affair that takes a while to get going, and even then runs around chasing its tail a bit seemingly trying to decide where to end up. It jumps from ghoulish to smutty to sheer goofball humour - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - with some genuinely disturbing scenes giving way at times to just plain silliness.

The use of effects is generally exemplary, although some of the people from Downtown with big foam rubber heads look, well, just like people with big foam rubber heads. The always-adorable and remarkably capable Brendan Fraser even tends to flounder a bit at times, with his cuteness and sheer affability not always enough to carry off the dual role as good Stu and Monkeybone Stu. Saturday Night Live's Chris Kattan basically steals the film with his reanimated, body-borrowing Stu, while other cast members don’t really have a lot to sink their teeth into - although Rose McGowan does a purrfectly fabulous job as the sadly under-used Kitty.


Assaulting our screens in its original cinematic ratio of 1.85:1, and anamorphically enhanced, there really isn't much to worry about in the transfer department. The film's mixture of colour, black and white, traditional animation and more all scrubs up remarkably well, with a just-right colour saturation and incredible detail generally without heading into anything but minor detours to Aliasing City.

If you need some pickiness, the transfer could be described as a smidgeon dark throughout (which could also be defended as being rather aptly in keeping with the story's tone), however all but the fussiest of fusspots should be more then happy with what is on offer here.


For a film with such potential for mind blowing and enveloping effects, the 5.1 mix on offer here is surprisingly tame. The good news, however, is the presence of a DTS mix which genuinely improves upon things, rather than just delivering that usual 'feature' we so often get where it is simply somewhat louder.

The DTS mix sees surround usage arced up quite a bit at times over the rather more subtle and limited DD 5.1 version, with the subwoofwoof called into play almost constantly in the Downtown sections - and then there's a particularly foundation-jarring moment towards the film's conclusion. There are no problems with dialogue levels and synching in either mix, just go for the DTS version if you can as the Dolby mix is mostly all a little bit, well, deflated.

Anne Dudley of Art of Noise infamy provides the film's score. Now who wants to be Danny Elfman then? Much of the music here could easily have been concocted by Mr Oingo Boingo, with Anne doing a masterful job mimicking his slightly offbeat, fantastical and often creepy style. It's a great score, to be sure, just remarkably derivative. Added to this is a cocktail of songs that is almost as weird as the script, with everybody from The Kinks' Ray Davies, Jimi Hendrix and John Hiatt to Squirrel Nut Zippers, Minnie Ripperton and Marvin Gaye popping up at various times.


A stomach-turning rollercoaster ride leads us to the main menu, which comes accompanied by some of that remarkably Elfman-esque score. The animation doesn’t stop there, with painless (read brief) progressions to any of the menu options chosen. A peek into the special features (or "bone-us features"?) department reveals...

Audio commentary – director Henry Selick: Hmm, who’s a bitter boy then? Actually, Henry does a reasonable job of keeping his claws in check in this laidback, yet often interesting, commentary. He covers all the usual stuff you’d expect in such a beastie – casting, effects, inspirations behind certain scenes, unrealised ideas and original intentions, plus delves reasonably deeply at times into the animation processes employed. As alluded to, the studio manages to evade receiving too many swipes considering the massive interference that was apparently heaped upon the film.

Extended scenes: Eleven scenes (including an alternate ending), ten with director’s commentary, and all adding up to around 21 minutes. Mind you, much of what made the final cut is included in this non-enhanced 1.85 (or thereabouts) footage, with additional bits tacked on – most of which were cut at the behest of Fox or the producers.

Monkeybone Secrets Revealed: Around 16 minutes in all containing seven excerpts from the film before completion, ably demonstrating just some of what is involved when working with frame by frame animation and using blue screen processes. Three come with commentary from Selick, for the rest we just sit back and watch. In all this is fascinating for anybody with a even a passing interest in this form of animation.

Gallery: Well, they certainly haven’t skimped here. 300, yes 300, pictures are included, running the gamut from basic sketches (almost doodles in some instances) through to gorgeously rendered artwork, with some actual photographs thrown in for good measure. Character development, props, effects, even Monkeybone merchandising ideas are covered, and added to it all is a collection of eight short, soundless features elaborating on certain pictures – just press ‘enter’ when the red monkey pops up his ugly head.

Trailer: Billed as a theatrical trailer, this is in fact a teaser trailer in full frame with Dolby Stereo sound. It’s pretty standard stuff, but does include a few bits and pieces that were excised from the final cut of the film.

TV Spots: Three 32-second spots, all naturally in full frame and all fairly similar.

DVD ROM features: Now, if only that hole in my computer contained a DVD ROM drive...

Easter egg: A very brief (23 seconds) look at a certain gutsy effect - check out our googie section for more information.

It should be noted that while we get all the extras our overseas friends do, the two sections featuring excerpted scenes have somehow lost their ‘play all’ function, which is a tad annoying. There’s also no given option for selecting the commentaries on these, however a quick press of the ‘audio’ button on your remote fixes that. Sure it’s fairly painless, however it is a little sloppy.


So, how to summarise Monkeybone? Well, if you're into Tim Burton-type fantasy or Terry Gilliam-styled pessimism you may find much to like, and really any fans of animation should at least be fascinated by the mostly seamless use of many varieties of the art, not to mention the quite impressive selection of bonus goodies on this DVD which delve into the methods of achieving them in reasonable detail.

Despite the advertising, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a kiddie flick - as it's anything but - with its rather dark and gross tone most certainly aimed at an older age group. If your sense of humour veers towards the slightly askew, and you can deal with the scattershot narrative and curious sense of disorientation it all induces as it hiccups along, you just may find yourself whiling away a strangely entertaining, rather "what was all that about?"-inspiring hour and a half of sometimes incredibly creative, often rather crass inanity.

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      And I quote...
    "If your sense of humour veers towards the slightly askew, or you're a fan of animation technique, then you should find that this little shiny disc is right on the monkey..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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