It is a New Zealand-Australia co-production under Oscar Award-winning production company See-Saw Films (company behind The King’s Speech) and Jump Film. The series will be released on NZTV, ABC Australia, and Netflix.
Monkey, also known as Monkey Magic, was based on the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. The novel recounts the 16-year pilgrimage of the monk Hsüan-tsang (596-664).
The original TV series follows Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy on a quest to help monk Tripitaka journey from India to return sacred Buddhist scriptures to China.
This reboot for the modern audience follows a teenage girl and a trio of fallen gods on a perilous journey to end a demonic reign of chaos and restore balance to their world.
There has been quite a stir on the Internet, with many fans upset not to see more Asian characters in the lead roles considering the story’s Chinese origin.
Thomson and Buchanan, who will play Pigsy and Tripitaka, are Tongan. And Chai Hansen, who plays monkey, is Thai-Australian. The casting for the old series had the Chinese characters played by Japanese actors, and the male monk was cast as a lady who played a man due to the purity of her character.
One of the positive things about the Japanese television series was it had a generation of Australian and New Zealand kids growing up with lovable Asian protagonists on screen. The Japanese series was filmed in Northwest China and Inner Mongolia.
Filming for The Legend of Monkey is set to take place in Auckland, New Zealand, and marketed as a “fantasy world,” so it’s not strictly set in China and we are yet to see some of the casting choices for other characters.
Underneath it all — it’s such a wonderful story filled with ancient wisdom, so I look forward to watching how the remake turns out.