“Y: The Last Man” and the Importance of Monkeys in Movies and Television
The brand new FX/Hulu show “Y: The Last Man” is premiering this month. Based on the popular comic book series, the post-apocalyptic science fiction program stars a Capuchin monkey by the name of Ampersand. He is said to be just one of two male mammals to have survived a deadly plague. However, Ampersand is just one of many monkeys to be part of popular television shows or films over the years. Let’s take a look back and explore the contribution monkeys have played in pop culture:
Another Capuchin monkey on popular television was Marcel, who was the pet of the character of Ross on the modern classic TV show, “Friends.” Marcel was part of 8 episodes and was a stand-out in any scene “he” was in. Turns out, Marcel was actually played by a female monkey by the name of Katie.
Not to be outdone, another Capuchin monkey that went by the name Jack the Monkey was part of multiple movies in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. Jack took part in many of the movie’s battles, doing everything from being shrunk (and locked inside a bottle) to becoming “undead” when he was ultimately cursed.
Monkeys also played a significant role in the “Indiana Jones” franchise. For example, in the 1981 film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” there was even a character known as The Monkey Man, a one-eyed assassin who used his Capuchin monkey to track Indiana Jones and locate the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra. The monkey inadvertently ended up eating a bowl of poisoned dates meant for Indiana Jones, which were poisoned by the Monkey Man. The monkey’s actions ended up saving Indy’s life at the cost of its own.
The 1994 film “Monkey Trouble” starred yet another Capuchin monkey named Fingers. In the movie, Fingers is taught to steal by his owner Azro and begins to burglarize from homes in the neighborhood. This continues until Fingers runs away from Azro and meets a young girl named Eva. Not knowing the monkey’s name, she decides to call him Dodger. Once Eva discovers Dodger’s talent for taking items that don’t belong to him, she teaches the monkey not to steal anymore. Ultimately, Dodger (aka Fingers) helps expose the burglaries to the police, and Azro (along with Mafia members connected to the crimes) are all arrested.
Going back to 1967, a cartoon chimpanzee by the name of Chim-Chim played a comedic role in the children’s show “Speed Racer.” Chim-Chim was the pet monkey of Speed Racer’s little brother, Spritle. The duo was on an ever-constant quest to find candy. In 2008, Speed Racer (and Chim-Chim) were brought to the big screen when the show was adapted to film.
Cartoon Network’s “Dexter’s Laboratory” also features a primate who simply goes by the name Monkey. Monkey is Dexter’s lab animal who has secret superpowers. Not even Dexter is aware his pet monkey turns into a superhero who fights crime and evil. Monkey has his own segment of the show titled, “Dial M for Monkey.”
Another childhood favorite for many was Curious George. Curious George was the star of numerous books before he was later adapted into various television and movie projects. This “monkey” lacks a tail, so it is often thought George is either a chimpanzee or a fictional version of a monkey.
“Planet of the Apes” has had a long history of films, books, television series, comics, and other media. The story revolves around the battles between humans and intelligent apes for control. The original Planet of the Apes is based on a 1963 novel.
Disney has brought multiple monkeys to both television and film. Those characters include Rafiki in “The Lion King”, Abu in “Aladdin”, and King Louie in “The Jungle Book.” However, the biggest king of them all is certainly the iconic gorilla King Kong.
To date, King Kong has been the star of 12 movies, with the original film going all the way back to 1933. Kong has also been the subject of 3 television series, numerous media, and popular rides and attractions in Universal Studios in Florida and California. Kong is certainly the largest of the group as well as he has been portrayed as large as 337 feet tall, such as in the 2021 film “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
“Y: The Last Man” premieres on September 13th, streaming exclusively on FX on Hulu.