THE ORIGINAL: A screengrab from the original Monkey from the late 70s in all its raw glory.
THE ORIGINAL: A screengrab from the original Monkey from the late 70s in all its raw glory. Supplied

There was art in the 'rawness' of Monkey Magic

With the news of the remake of Monkey (Magic) spreading far and wide, much like Monkey's journeys themselves, I am filled with childlike delight as well as adult dread.

The original series was a 1978-79 Japanese television drama, filmed in China, based on the Chinese novel, Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en. They ran 52 episodes and 39 were dubbed into English in 1979.

The remake, The Legend of Monkey, has been announced as a joint Australian and New Zealand television production through Netflix, The ABC and TVNZ.

My brothers and I would sit on the floor in front of our television and consume the original. We would tape it onto VHS and watch it repeatedly. It made us laugh and fantasise. It was completely out of our rural Queensland world and we loved it.

With the new production underway in New Zealand, the show will tell the story of a teen girl and a trio of fallen gods - Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy - as they fight the evil overtaking the world. The cast is a mix of Australian and Kiwi actors.

What made the original series so good was actually how terribly raw it was. The English dubbing and humour hilarious, the fight scenes brilliant, film direction odd, simply strange acting and, of course, the sound effects, which were even more brilliant than all of it.

The opening sequence and song are legendary. There was art in all of that rawness.

Despite it all, the story was believable. As a child, I saw through everything else and got lost in that story.

It was like the original Batman comics, full of unashamed flamboyance, but 70's Japanese/Chinese television. How could you not enjoy that?

My bet is the producers of The Legend of Monkey will try to create something that will fit into today's viewers' tastes. That is understandable, but in my opinion, doing so will do injustice to everything that made Monkey great: that rawness.

With my favourite artists, their early work is representative of a pure idea, but lacks a certain degree of skill. As time goes on, the skill overtakes the idea and that idea fades behind the skill. Eclipsed by it.

I fear the idea of Monkey will be eclipsed by the modern version, which will undoubtedly have a contemporary spit and polish to it - something Monkey certainly did not have.

The new production sounds promising but whether or not the substance, the rawness, is there, we won't know until it airs next year.

I will be watching and I might even gather my brothers for the occasion.

Continue the conversation on twitter @roposchindler

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