A Monkey's Tale

France/UK/Germany 1999

Reviewed by Amanda Lipman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

In the wake of a great forest flood, a monkey community is divided between the Woonkos, who live a carefree life in the treetops, and the Laankos, who build a 'civilisation' in the roots of the trees. Kom, a young Wonkoo monkey, falls down a ravine.

Injured, he is found by the Laanko king who decides to bring him back to his castle. There, he soon becomes a favourite of the king and falls in love with a servant girl, Gina, whose mistress, Princess Ida, is being slowly poisoned by the power-hungry grand chancellor Sebastian and his sidekick Gerard.

Kom tries to help the king achieve his dream of finding his people a new home on an apparently unreachable island across the lake. The lake freezes and they set out to cross it on foot. The king is drowned and Kom returns to discover Sebastian's plot to seize the throne. Together with Gina, he foils Sebastian and Gerard and ensures that a newly cured Princess Ida becomes queen, before returning with Gina to his treetop home.


From the world of anthropomorphic animation comes a new tale of trouble and strife. The two monkey tribes depicted here are divided by fear and contempt: the tree-dwelling Woonkos' fear of the unknown demons lurking below, and the ground-level Laankos' contempt (masking fear, perhaps) of the uncivilised, ear-showing, unclothed savages above (although the Woonkos are demure enough to sport loincloths). As it turns out, the two tribes speak the same language and the teenage Woonko, Kom, is able to show the uptight Laankos a thing or two about the direct approach to life that his tribe take. In doing so, he punctures some of the Laankos' pretensions, laying bare their superstitions.

They may be able to make mechanical machines, read libraries full of books and entertain their (non-tree-climbing) children in playgrounds, but they still believe that the water that surrounds them is inhabited by an evil monster, which stops them from going anywhere. Through Kom, the film lays gently into some of the stranger aspects of civilisation. Having learned the game of finding his way through a maze, Kom retorts ironically: "I'm becoming civilised - I've done something useless!"

It's probably no coincidence that in accent and behaviour the freewheeling, flat-topped Woonkos have more than a tinge of American to them, while the suspicious Laankos come across as distinctly British - Michael York voices the wearily regal king; John Hurt's Sebastian is a haughty parody of hand-rubbing wickedness; and Rik Mayall's Gerard is his ridiculously enthusiastic evil sidekick. But this European co-production (directed by French animator Jean-François Laguionie) is no paean to the star-spangled banner: the Woonko elder Korkonak, for instance, is as full of prejudice and bombast as some of the Laankos. Instead, it is an enjoyable, if predictable, conflation of two hugely popular movie genres: the effervescent American teen pic and the doughty British costume drama, complete with a mishmash of wimples and bodices and skull caps.

As a jovial plea for tolerance, A Monkey's Tale's celebration of the potential of free-spirited young folk to build bridges should please the film's youthful audience, to say nothing of their parents. And the polarities of love and loathing dealt with by the film find an echo in the artwork. In front of the translucent washes of colour that make up the jungle scenery, the animals seem to pass at first through loops of light and shade, their features sharp and clear one moment and then cast into darkness the next. By the end, the shade has gone, along with the prejudices. Bathed in the warm glow of mutual understanding, all is bright again - even the tiger prowling in the jungle, a real cause of fear, has disappeared.


Jean-François Laguionie
Steve Walsh
Patrick Moine
Gerd Hecker
Norman Hudis
Jean-François Laguionie
Jean-Paul Rossard
Soizic Veillon
Ludovic Cassou
Yves Françon
Anke Schmidt
Alexandre Desplat
©English version
1999. Steve Walsh Productions/Les Films du Triangle/Cologne Cartoon/Entertainment Rights plc/France 3 Cinéma
Production Companies
Miracle Communications and Steve Walsh Productions present a Steve Walsh Productions/Les Films du Triangle/Cologne Cartoon production in association with La Fabrique and in co-production with Entertainment Rights PLC/Kecskemétfilm/
France 3 Cinéma
Produced with the assistance of British Screen through its European Co-production Fund/Centre National de la Cinématographie/
Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen/Languedoc-Roussillon Région/
Hungarian Motion Picture Fund
In association with British Sky Broadcasting/
This film was made with the support of the Eurimages Fund of the Council of Europe
Developed with the support of CARTOON
Executive Producer
Entertainment Rights PLC:
Craig Hemmings
Ferenc Mikulás
Line Producers
Corine Marcel
Ciara Breslin
Production Managers
Philippe Alessandri
Veronika Vécsy
Wendy Wolfcarius
Andrea Wortham
Post-production Manager
Katia Besimensky
Production Consultant
Mike Robinson
Assistant Director
Henri Heidsieck
Steve Walsh
Jamie Brown
Rostrum Camera
Zoltán Bacsó
János Cseh
Mihály Kovács
Special Effects Design
Paul van Geyt
Anthony White
Animation Directors
Ginger Gibbons
Henri Heidsieck
Computer-Generated Sequences
Jean-Paul Musso
Character Design
Jean-François Laguionie
Hubert Chevillard
Pénélope Paicheler
Character Model Sheets
Franck Vibert
Character Artists
Bérénice Belpaire
Jean-Louis Garcia
Chris Glynn
Ionel Lucas
Céline Papazian
Colour Design
Nicole Dufour
Marie-Christine Campana
Rolf J. Kirsch
Key Animators
Kamal Aitmihoub
Herdis Albrecht
Alan Andrews
László Balajthy
Tibor Beck
Rita Bende
Paul de Blieck
Anna Brocket
Kata Bross
Christina Brossé
Ronaldo Canfora
Stella Dorin
László Farkas
Mark Francis
Ivo Gantchev
Roberto Jorge Garcia
Nicolette Van Gendt
Les Gibbard
Renata Golaszewska
Ulf Grenzer
Tamás Gyapai
Marianna Kertészné Hajdu
Mark Robert Harris
Holger Havlicek
Edit Hernádi
Lili Ilinova
Carl van Isacker
Nóra Javornicky
József József
Nevelina Kantsheva
László Király
Bea Kis-Kéry
Zlati Krumov
Nikolai Kutsukov
John Lee
Broniszlav Likomanov
Katja Mankova
Ann Marriott
Roger McIntosh
Patrick Michel
Arpad Miklós
Nikolai Neikov
Ulrich Nitzsche
Les Orton
Iliana Panaiotova
Panajot Panajotov
John Allan Perkins
Albena Petrova
Gabor Pichler
Juan Ramón Pina
Robert Popov
Anthony Power
Jordan Radanov
Virgilijus Sepetys
José Solis
Dimiter Stoilov
János Szabó
Edit Szalay
Ildikó Táborita
József Tari
László Ujváry
Franck Vibert
Zoltán Vitális
John Wilson
Effects Animation
Robert Byrne
Layout Supervisor
Hoël Caouissin
Layout Artists
László Balajthy
Bérénice Belpaire
Sue Butterworth
Gilles Coutier
László Király
Hervé Leblan
Zsuzsanna Nyúl
Nick Roberts
Jean-Michel Senasson
Roland Toth
Background Design
Richard Mithouard
Background Artists
Corinne Duqueyroix
Bénédicte Fages
Valéry Huyghe
Fabienne Lechevestrier
Jean Palenstijn
Anne-Cécile de Rumine
Tilman Seelenmeyer
Dorothea Tust
Jean-Paul Musso
Optical Soundtrack
Loy Ehrlich
Didier Malherbe
Dalibor Strunc
Alexandre Desplat
Bernard Gérard
Executive Music Producers
Greg Rogers
Ray Williams
"Assimilate" by Paul Holmes, Robert Henry, Sally-Anne Marsh; "Where Do I Belong?" by Paul Holmes; "To Be King" by John Hurt; "We Are One" by Westlife
Sound Design
Nigel Holland
Sound Engineer
John Timperley
Jean-Paul Loublier
Gaël Nicolas
Re-recording Mixers
Adrian Rhodes
Henry Dobson
Supervising Sound Editor
Nigel Holland
Sound Editor
Marvin Black
Original Dialogue Recording/ADR
Ian Grant
Andrew Ebel
Julie Ankerson
John Fewell
Trevor Swanscott
Voice Cast
English Language Version
Matt Hill
John Hurt
Chancellor Sebastian
Michael York
the king
Sally-Anne Marsh
Rik Mayall
Michael Gambon
Master Martin
Shirley Anne Field
French Tickner
Diana Quick
Princess Ida
William Vanderpuye
Paul Dobson
Janyse Jaud
Kom's mother
Alix Bates
Chris Connor
Michael Dobson
Anthony T. Jackson
Alexander John
Chantal Keast
Miles Laddie
Chris Lang
George Potts
Wendy Wolfcarius
additional voices
Peter Elliott
monkey cries
Voice Cast
French Language Version
Tara Römer
Nadia Farès
Pierre Arditi
the king
Michel Lonsdale
Maître Flavius
Jean Piat
Chancellor Sérignole
Patrick Préjean
Lionel Melet
Ivanah Coppola
Princess Ida
Miracle Communications
7,067 feet
78 minutes 31 seconds
In Colour
French theatrical title
Le Château des singes
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011