Monkey Magic! – Neil Gaiman & Guillermo del Toro Working on Journey To The West Film Series?

Bleeding Cool News are reporting that Sandman and American Gods writer Neil Gaiman has just signed a deal with Zhang Jizhong (one of China’s biggest TV producers) to work on a big screen adaptation of the Chinese classic novel “Journey To The West”. The book tells the tale of the Monkey King’s quest to protect the boy-priest Tripitaka (the character’s name varies depending on the version of the story) as he attempts to retrieve the sacred Buddhist scrolls from India. It also formed the basis for one of the greatest cult tv series of all time, “Monkey!”

Monkey ran for several years in the late 70s and is simply wonderful

Gaiman will replace the previous (currently unnamed) screenwriter and will produce English scripts for a series of three films. Speaking in China last year, Jizhong boasted that the adaptation of the three thousand page epic would cost in excess of $300 million to make. That’s about the same as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, but given how cheap it is to make films in China it could work out to being a lot more in like for like terms. The films are currently being funded by Chinese backers but it’s understood that overseas investments may be sought as well, making this a truly international effort. The Chinese government has become extremely keen on exporting Chinese culture in recent years which explains the rather unusual level of openness to outside involvement. Concerns have already emerged about how much influence the government will try to exert over the production after a representative from the state Censors appeared at the press conference alongside Jizhong, but Gaiman seems undeterred:

“Monkey is irrepressible. The moment that you try to censor Monkey, he’s not Monkey anymore.”

If that’s not exciting enough for you then you may like to hear that the name at the top of the list for potential directors is none other than Hellboy & Pan’s Labyrinth director, Guillermo del Toro! Nothing is confirmed as of late but we know that del Toro and Gaiman are personal friends and there are reports that the legendary director is being strongly courted by the film’s producers. You probably don’t need me to tell you just how incredible a team up like this could be. Sure it means that we may have to wait quite a while for a third Hellboy film but given what’s on the table here, that’s a hit I’ll happily take.

Monkey as drawn by Jamie Hewlett for the stage version of Monkey: Journey To The West

It has also been reported that Gaiman has contacted James Cameron about helping to apply 3D to the movie. I’m very much from the “couldn’t give a crap about 3D if it was strapped to a bus and dropped on my head” camp. I think it reduces the clarity of the image and I resent paying extra for what is effectively a gimmick. But it will help the movie to sell and if they’re going to do it then they might as well have the guy who invented half the tech helping out. So long as there’s a 2D version released as well then I’ll be happy.

Speaking to Hollywood Reporter this week, Gaiman laid out his stall in terms of how serious he is about the project:

“We have to do what Peter Jackson did with Lord of The Rings. We have to make it filmic, non-episodic. This story is in the DNA of 1.5 billion people. “

From where I’m sitting, this has the potential to be one of the most exciting film projects for a decade. It’s still a long way off, but trust me, we’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

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3 thoughts on “Monkey Magic! – Neil Gaiman & Guillermo del Toro Working on Journey To The West Film Series?

  1. All very interesting. Of course, I think the real deciders in all this will be the Chinese side of the equation. From our (generally pretty limited) perspective, ‘Monkey’ is a cool, somewhat surreal import programme, repeated from the late 70’s onward, that enticed many a kid looking for some unusual entertainment amidst often turgid TV scheduling. Then, recently, it became a big, funky cult production with music and artwork provided by the (not inappropriately named) team behind ‘Gorrilaz’ that did something to make opera exciting for the masses again. I don’t wish to imply that in any of this the original source material wasn’t respected – but it should be recalled that the original ‘Journey to the West’ (on which all things ‘Monkey’ are based) is actually a pretty significant cultural artifact in the history of Chinese civilization and, indeed, in the history of Buddhist populism, and adapting it for the big screen would, from the Chinese perspective, surely be a very big deal.

    Yes, in recent years, under Communism, China repudiated much of this ancient history; yes, within the global marketplace, China is prepared, as much as any nation, to recycle vaunted myths for the sake of making money; and yes, Buddhism hasn’t been that big a deal in The Middle Kingdom since about the time ‘Journey to the West’ was written, in fact. But still, the point would seem to be, from the Chinese perspective, that this project would have less in common with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ than with Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’. It is, after all, a parable about the attainment of Buddhist selflessness and loss of ego, disguised as a story about rescuing princesses and sentient pigs. So, intriguing that they seem to feel Mssrs. Gaiman and Del Toro are the men to realise it.

  2. Neil Gaiman is underwriting Scientology. The Scientologist’s list Neil Gaiman in the Cornerstone Newsletter along with Mary Gaiman, as contributing $35,000.00 in 2009. Being listed in the Cornerstone Newsletter means you are in good-standing with the cult.

    In 2010, Mary Gaiman was awarded the “Gold Humanitarian Award” for her contribution of $500,000.00 to Scientology. This is significant because Mary Gaiman continues to be Neil Gaiman’s business partner in The Blank Corporation, which is now Neil Gaiman’s Scientology front and how he pays the cult.

    Gaiman is also the “Vitamin Heir” of Scientology. The Gaiman family owns G&G Vitamins which reaps 6 million a year from selling The Purification Rundown Vitamins.

    Gaiman’s two sisters, Claire Edwards and Lizzie Calciole are not just high-ranking Scientologists, they are the head of RECRUITING and the head of Wealden House, the Scientology stronghold in East Grinstead. These two cannot associate with Neil unless he is in good standing.

    Amanda Palmer would not be allowed anywhere near this royal family of Scientology unless she was also a Scientologist.

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