Remake of ‘Monkey Magic’ Being Filmed in New Zealand

The cult classic 1980’s Japanese television series Monkey, from the classical Chinese book Journey to the West, is being remade in New Zealand as a 10-part series due for release in 2018.

The series is titled The Legend of Monkey, and is written by Australian screenwriter Jacquelin Perske, with Gerard Johnstone set as the lead director.

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.

80s Japanese TV show Monkey is being re-made. (Image via LornaChaney YouTube/Screenshot)

1980’s Japanese TV show ‘Monkey’ is being remade. (Image via LornaChaney YouTube/Screenshot)

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.

The Legend of Monkey, featuring cast (from left) Josh Thomson, Chai Hansen, Luciane Buchanan and Emilie Cocquerel.

‘The Legend of Monkey,’ featuring cast (from left) Josh Thomson, Chai Hansen, Luciane Buchanan, and Emilie Cocquerel. Twitter fan unhappy about casting choice. (Image via Twitter/Screenshot)

So far, four lead cast members have been revealed: Josh Thomson, Chai Hansen, Luciane Buchanan, and Emilie Cocquerel.

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.

Brave Monkey, innocent Tripitaka, thoughtful Sandy, and greedy Pigsy. (Screenshots/YouTube)

Japanese cast of original TV series ‘Monkey.’ From L-R: Brave Monkey, innocent Tripitaka, thoughtful Sandy, and greedy Pigsy. (Screenshots/YouTube)

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.

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