What was Monkey Magic all about?

karym6

DW Member ++
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
6,926
Reaction score
65
Location
Edinburgh, UK
The 1970s cult TV series is now an opera and its characters front the BBC Olympics coverage. But it's a mystery to those who never watched it. What on earth was Monkey about?

Say the two words "Monkey Magic" to a man in his late 30s and he'll turn into a child, putting on a funny voice and then moving his lips in exaggerated fashion.

A Japanese television series based on a 16th Century Chinese novel, badly dubbed in English, does not sound like a sure-fire children's hit. But Monkey - or Monkey Magic as it became known in the UK - was an unlikely success.

Fed a late-70s television diet of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, The Million Dollar Man and the Red Hand Gang, youngsters watching Monkey on BBC Two one evening a week saw something completely different. And in the coming months, the characters that gripped a generation could find a new legion of fans.
The characters are reincarnated for the BBC's Olympics broadcasts

An opera based on the famous Chinese novel that inspired the series, Journey to the West, opens in London a year after its Manchester premiere. Monkey: Journey to the West is another collaboration between Gorillaz creators Damon Albarn, who pens the music, and graphic artist Jamie Hewlett.

Hewlett has also designed the characters fronting the BBC's coverage of the Olympics in Beijing. "This is going to be the summer of Monkey," he declared last week.

For die-hard fans, the fascination has never dimmed. Although people aged under 33 could be discovering the characters for the first time, the popularity of the story has endured and the BBC series still enjoys cult status. There are several websites dedicated to it and a fan club on Facebook has 65,000 members.

But the collective memory of grown-up Monkey-watchers is a bit vague. They pick out certain motifs - Monkey riding a cloud, big sideburns, a headband, egg struck by lightning - but are a bit hazy on what was actually going on.

'Kung fu for kids'

Monkey was king of a monkey tribe and, as the memorable opening sequence explains, was hatched from an egg in a storm on a mountain top. He is later imprisoned under a mountain for disobeying the gods.

He is released by the young Buddhist monk Tripitaka, on the condition that he escorts him on a long journey to retrieve sacred scripts from India. They are joined by two other miscreant monsters in human form, Sandy and Pigsy. It's joyous, partly because of its predictability but also because it was so fantastically realised

TV critic Ali Catterall

So begins a series of encounters with demons and baddies, including some spectacular fight scenes, usually with Monkey using his magic staff that can grow in size. He can also fly on a cloud.

Tripitaka represents the moral force of the story, although he is probably best remembered for being played by a woman, in the finest panto tradition. He puts a headband on Monkey which he can tighten through prayer when Monkey steps out of line.

Guardian television critic Ali Catterall recalls rushing back from Cubs every week to watch it.

"It was kung fu for kids. Your older brother watched Bruce Lee and you would be into Monkey. It had dazzling storylines and it looked amazing. The day after at school, one of you would be Monkey and one would be Pigsy."
The fight scenes were legendary

The one-dimensional characters play on children's recognition of archetypes from a young age, he says, and unlike the Water Margin, which was another Japanese adaptation of a Chinese novel, viewers could dip in and out of Monkey.

The stories in Monkey followed a formula, usually with the hero resolving in-fighting at the palace.

"Pigsy fails to get off with pretty princess, Monkey plays up and Tripitaka admonishes him with ever-narrowing headband. It's joyous, partly because of its predictability but also because it was so fantastically realised."

For children's television, this was ground-breaking, says Lee Atkinson, 36, who runs a fans' website.

"No-one had done this at the time. We hadn't seen this on British television. As a kid it was easy to impersonate. The sound effects were easy to do with your mouth and we all like to swing broomsticks around and pretend we're kung-fu masters." JOURNEY TO THE WEST
One of the four Great Classical novels of Chinese literature
Published anonymously in the 1590s
Author believed to be Wu Chengen
It comprises a series of stories about a real-life journey of a 7th Century monk

The appeal as a child was the larger-than-life characters, he says.

"Pigsy was over-lustful, Sandy was over-philosophical and Monkey over-arrogant: Exact opposites of what Buddhism strives for and Tripitaka guides them on the way to enlightenment."

The television series never gets to the end of the story, but the novel reaches a resolution when Monkey learns to use his ego selflessly.

Playwright Colin Teevan, who adapted the story of Monkey for the Old Vic in 2001, says the journey becomes the sacred scripture the travellers are seeking.
Tripitaka is Monkey's moral guide

"It's the story of the genius and the self-destructivity of mankind. Monkey is ingenious and witty and violent and impatient.

"He wants enlightenment and he wants it now but he does not know that one must journey and suffer to attain it. It's about what it is to be human - and it's about a monkey!"

How much the Buddhist themes resonated with the fan base in the UK is debatable.

And with a new generation used to sophisticated special effects, the magic of the original Monkey series may never be rekindled.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7520243.stm
 

daveleebond

DW Regular +
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Messages
3,462
Reaction score
314
Location
Manchester
piiiiiiiigggggggggsssssssy

did he pluck his sideburns and a flying cloud appeared, writers must of been taking a serious amount of magic shrooms.

I used to watch as a kid, loved it, now when i watch makes no sense to me!
 

Munkey

DW Regular
Joined
Jan 27, 2006
Messages
5,849
Reaction score
179
got the theme tune stuck in my head now :grrrr:

A few tunes attached for you. Save them as your ringtone and the middle aged girls will be all over you.

--

Gotta run, watching the deciding stage on The Tour...
 

hamba

Elite Member
Joined
May 24, 2005
Messages
8,704
Reaction score
1,344
Location
Down Here
LoL, thought it was just me that was confused whilst watching it.

Also...

The Water Margin & their "Tales from the Liang Shan Po".

TV at it's finest :)


Loved The Water Margin - and Monkey.
 

daveleebond

DW Regular +
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Messages
3,462
Reaction score
314
Location
Manchester
Gandhara

A long time ago when men were all babes
There was a land of the free
Fantasy and dreams
Were its untouched wealth
And goodness and love were real

Each man desires to reach Gandhara
His very own utopia
In the striving, in the seeking soul
Man can see Gandhara

In Gandhara, Gandhara
They say it was in India
Gandhara, Gandhara
The place of light Gandhara

Though long ago and far
Beyond the winding road
Always beyond every bend
A beautiful land still waits for the few
Who make it to the very end

Each man desires to reach Gandhara
His very own utopia
In the striving, in the seeking soul
Man can see Gandhara

(*) In Gandhara, Gandhara
They say it was in India
Gandhara, Gandhara
The place of light Gandhara

* repeat



---------------------------------------


what hell? why is India in it? I think the translations are screwed up big time.

but if you are wasted good prog to watch!

http://www.monkeyheaven.com/

did monkey ever get that gold thing off his head?

was tripitaka meant to be a boy or girl (seen pics of her and she is quite hot)

you gotta check out link above, then the links at the bottom of his homepage, you can hire a monkey costume, how friggin cool!
 
Last edited:

witchy

Banned for good!
Joined
Jul 20, 2005
Messages
18,282
Reaction score
332
Used to love it, never missed an episode on a friday night after getting home from School. I tried watching the re-runs on Bravo and thought it was utter pish. :)

Growing old sucks. :(
 

hamba

Elite Member
Joined
May 24, 2005
Messages
8,704
Reaction score
1,344
Location
Down Here
Used to love it, never missed an episode on a friday night after getting home from School. I tried watching the re-runs on Bravo and thought it was utter pish. :)

Growing old sucks. :(

No! You are just not old enough yet. Wait a while: you will enjoy it again. :)
 

Munkey

DW Regular
Joined
Jan 27, 2006
Messages
5,849
Reaction score
179
Thats strange that you guys are not enjoying watching the series now. I have the whole series on DVD and there are one or two poor episodes like any TV series but in general I think they are fantastic. My 6 year old loves watching Monkey Magic. Monkey Magic teaches morality (albeit with the odd cliché) but it is still very educational. I really do recommend it for your kids.

Leaving the morality aside it is one of the funniest programs you are likely to see. The terrible dubbing gets so out of hand at times it is a pleasure and comical to watch. Some of my favourite lines include

Are you a monster? (My favourite line)
Pigsy you rotten swine!
I'm Monkey the Great Sage equal of heaven.

The story is based on Wu Cheng En’s Journey to the West.

Taken from the website:

Dismayed that the land of the South knows only greed, hedonism, promiscuity, and sins, Buddha instructs the Bodhisattva GUAN YIN to search Táng China for someone to take the Buddhist sutras of transcendence and persuasion for good will aka the great vehicle scriptures back to the East for translation. The Bodhisattva finds four willing disciples for the monk along the way, who agree to help Xuánzàng in order to atone for the sins of their past lives :

Sūn Wùkōng or MONKEY, previously Great Sage Equal of Heaven, and God of God knows what, trapped by BUDDHA for rebelling against Heaven.

Zhū Bājiè, sometimes translated as PIGSY, or Pig, was previously Marshal Tīan Péng, commander of the Heavenly Naval forces, banished to the mortal realm for flirting with the Princess of the Moon, Chang'e.

Shā Wùjìng - The river monster, also translated as Friar Sand or SANDY, was previously Great General who Folds the Curtain, banished to the mortal realm for dropping and shattering a crystal goblet of the Heavenly Queen Mother.

Yùlóng Sāntàizi - or YU LUNG, The third prince of the Dragon-King, was sentenced to death for setting fire to his father's great pearl. He was saved from execution by Guānyīn, to stay and wait for his call of duty. He was later turned into a horse for Xuánzàng.
Throughout the journey, these four brave travellers have to fend off attacks on their master and teacher from various monsters and calamities.

The pilgrimage takes an arduous fourteen years to complete, after which, each traveller is promoted to a higher post in the bureaucracy of the heavens.


LOL daveleebond that outfit is a must have, where's my credit card...
Tripitaka is a boy priest in case you'd forgotten (he used to talk like a girl though)
 

daveleebond

DW Regular +
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Messages
3,462
Reaction score
314
Location
Manchester
but he/she was a girl and a rather nice one, go to that link and click on her photo.

have you seen the photos of the guys with the costumes, the pigsy one is the best! and they all seem to be milwall fans.

the only ep that sticks in my mind as a kid was the one with vampires in it, scared the shit out of me
 
Last edited:

Munkey

DW Regular
Joined
Jan 27, 2006
Messages
5,849
Reaction score
179
but he/she was a girl and a rather nice one, go to that link and click on her photo.

have you seen the photos of the guys with the costumes, the pigsy one is the best! and they all seem to be milwall fans.

the only ep that sticks in my mind as a kid was the one with vampires in it, scared the shit out of me

LOL mate you're right, what I meant was that Tripitaka is meant to be played as a boy.

That site is quality. Heres a link to my favourite MM site

www.greatsage.net
 

karym6

DW Member ++
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
6,926
Reaction score
65
Location
Edinburgh, UK
I got given an illustrated version of the story when I was a kid (I used to watch it when is was very young). Its very good, I would recommend it to anyone who has kids as they will find it hilarious.
 

Munkey

DW Regular
Joined
Jan 27, 2006
Messages
5,849
Reaction score
179
I got given an illustrated version of the story when I was a kid (I used to watch it when is was very young). Its very good, I would recommend it to anyone who has kids as they will find it hilarious.

Was it an illustration of Monkey or Journey to the West? You still don't have it I suppose?
 

karym6

DW Member ++
Joined
Jul 10, 2007
Messages
6,926
Reaction score
65
Location
Edinburgh, UK
Was it an illustration of Monkey or Journey to the West? You still don't have it I suppose?
I cant quite remember, it must be about 7 years since I saw it last.

The story described how monkey got his powers, and how he was punished under a mountain etc. The next parts detailed how he got the chance to redeem himself by helping Tripitaka on his quest etc.

I think the book was titled Magic Monkey, the next time I am home I will have a look for it and see if I can find it.

It also had a history of the story, which I naturally found quite boring as a child.
 

Munkey

DW Regular
Joined
Jan 27, 2006
Messages
5,849
Reaction score
179
I cant quite remember, it must be about 7 years since I saw it last.

The story described how monkey got his powers, and how he was punished under a mountain etc. The next parts detailed how he got the chance to redeem himself by helping Tripitaka on his quest etc.

I think the book was titled Magic Monkey, the next time I am home I will have a look for it and see if I can find it.

It also had a history of the story, which I naturally found quite boring as a child.

Awesome!

If you do manage to find the illustration please do share. Thanks
 
TEST
Top