The Curse of Monkey Island (movie)
The Monkey Island movie was a project at Industrial Light and Magic at some time, wherein the Monkey Island series would form the basis for an animated film. Not much is known about the project, but since it was cancelled, several interesting facts have come out.
For a couple of years, it was not even known that the Monkey Island movie project existed, until Dominic Armato, voice actor for Guybrush Threepwood, wrote the following on LucasForums, on August 27, 2003:
"Best I heard is that there WAS a script in development, but no longer. There was a department somewhere in the greater Lucas empire that was tasked with developing screenplays for some of the more animated film friendly LEC properties, but the department was scrapped in the big reorganization about... what... a year ago? Of course, this is old info and the project could very well have been resurrected by now, but the rumors that there was an MI movie in development aren't entirely untrue."
– Dominic Armato
On January 9, 2005, The Monkey Island SCUMM Bar reported on an interesting discovery: the portfolio of Tony Stacchi, who had supposedly worked on the movie as an artist. From this portfolio, it was also derived that the title of the movie would have been The Curse of Monkey Island, after the game by the same name. Shortly thereafter, Tony Stacchi confirmed his involvement in the project:
"The drawing was mine but the great painting job was done by Steve Purcell. He helped develop the project for awhile [sic] and his experience working on the games really helped."
– Tony Stacchi
On March 29, 2006, an interview with Steve Purcell is published at The World of Monkey Island, in which he more or less confirms his involvement in the movie project:
"As far as a Monkey Island movie, I'm probably not allowed to confirm or deny in print for numerous, obscure contractual reasons. Although I'd love to share some completely random unrelated pirate images I have lying around."
– Steve Purcell
Over a year later, Steve fulfils his promise, and the image that he sent gets published at The World of Monkey Island.
Through an unlucky coincidence, these pictures were misinterpreted by many to be concept art for a new Monkey Island game. This mainly had to do with The World of Monkey Island having reported on a rumour—which originated at Rumor Reporter—about a Monkey Island 5 being in production, a few days before posting the images.
The rumour was soon laid to rest, but only after big sites like Slashdot, Guardian Unlimited's Gamesblog, and Kotaku had jumped to the conclusion that Monkey Island 5 must be in production.
Days later, The World of Monkey Island was contacted by a very reliable source, who wished to remain anonymous. This person had some very interesting things to say, especially about the similarities between the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the Monkey Island games—something that has been noticed and commented on by several people, including the creator of the Monkey Island series, Ron Gilbert.
Apart from confirming that the much talked-about drawings were indeed from Steve Purcell and were concept art for the movie, the anonymous source gives an explanation for the similarities of Pirates of the Caribbean with the Monkey Island series. A synopsis of what the source said can be found in a news post on The World of Monkey Island:
The really interesting thing is that the movie was going to be produced by Steven Spielberg (who is a big Monkey Island fan himself). He asked Ted Elliott, a script writer who has worked on several Disney movies (including 'Treasure Planet') and on 'Steven Spielberg’s Director's Chair' game, to help with the story for the MI movie.The Monkey Island movie never got the green light and years later Ted Elliott wrote 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl', which took several ideas from Monkey Island. So basically the first two PotC movies are the Monkey Island movie.
– The World of Monkey Island
In a comment on an article from September 2011 in the online version of The Oxford Student about films based on video games, Terry Rossio denied any influence Monkey Island might have had on Pirates of the Caribbean:
Ted Elliott was never hired to write a story or screenplay to the computer game Monkey Island, not in the year 2000 or any other year. Ironically, the creators of Monkey Island have acknowledged their inspiration and debt to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
– Terry Rossio
In 2011, with the release of the Monkey Island Special Edition Collection, a disc featuring the Special Editions of both The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2, LucasArts for the first time confirmed the existence of a Monkey Island movie. Included on the disc is a gallery featuring concept art from the cancelled film (some of which hasn't been seen before), as well as a storyboard, introducing several new characters, locations and concept to the Monkey Island universe.
What follows is a summary of the story as laid out in the film's storyboard
The film starts out with a pirate stealing a glowing jewel, the "Eye of the Monkey", from the head of a stone monkey idol. The pirate falls, and the jewel is taken from him by LeChuck, who appears in human form. The jewel is the final ingredient he needs to execute his evil plan. Suddenly infuriated monkeys appear, chasing away LeChuck and his crew. LeChuck then throws the jewel to Murray, who is his second-in-command and still in possession of most (if not all) of his body parts below the head, commanding him to guard the jewel with his life.
When the pirates reach the safety of their ship, they are attacked by a fleet of ironclad ships, commanded by Elaine Marley, Captain of the Navy's Anti-Pirate Armada. LeChuck manages to escape from the scene of the battle by firing a smart cannonball. LeChuck's ship's pirate flag then sinks in the ocean, eventually arriving at Mêlée Island, where it is picked up by Guybrush Threepwood, who is then a twenty-year-old chum-bait fisherman, dressed in a polyester pirate costume. He lives on a houseboat that's done up like a miniature pirate ship, together with Sam, his pet monkey.
Guybrush returns to the bait company HQ, where he threatens to quit his job, like he does every day. His boss, Sean Cannery, does not take him seriously however. Depressed, he starts talking to a statue on the docks, which actually speaks back to him, telling him to follow his dream.
Meanwhile, back at sea, Elaine is on LeChuck's tail. Murray devises a plan to get rid of her: create a decoy and then escape to Voodoo Island. The pirates like this plan, which LeChuck presents as his own, and break out in singing. Guybrush hears this and looks up to see LeChuck's magnificent ship pass in front of him. This inspires him so that he decides to follow the ship, sailing after it with his own boat.
In the Scumm Bar, LeChuck tries to recruit new crew members, but he doesn't succeed - the bar patrons are all afraid of him. Guybrush walks by the Scumm Bar and hears LeChuck's speech, and he is interested in joining LeChuck in his master plan of uniting all pirates under one black flag. Guybrush is tasked with finding the Treasure of Monkey Island, and he is given LeChuck's ship. Six barflies from the Scumm Bar sign up with Guybrush' crew, after receiving bribe money and death threats. LeChuck hands Guybrush his Monkey Island map, and he promises to find the treasure or die trying.
LeChuck and his crew are now on Guybrush' (much too small) houseboat, and the decoy seems to be working: Elaine is now pursuing Guybrush, who is captaining LeChuck's former ship. Guybrush' crew turn out to be a bit of an unruly lot, and while they argue amongst themselves, Elaine has come aboard to imprison Guybrush and his crew on their own ship. Through a cunning plan involving a cannon, he manages to escape, however. The cannonball used in this escape attempt sets off a chain reaction, eventually sinking all the ships in Elaine's fleet. Now the tables are turned: Elaine is Guybrush' prisoner.
On Voodoo Island, LeChuck meets with a man-hungry Sea Hag to execute his secret plan of using the Eye of the Monkey to revive all dead pirates, so he can unite all pirates living and dead. When the moment comes to add the final ingredient, the Eye of the Monkey, Murray pulls it out of his pocket. Or rather, it turns out to be one of Sam's walnuts. This so angers the Spirits of the Dead that they turn LeChuck and his crew into zombie skeletons. LeChuck realizes Guybrush and Sam must have stolen the jewel and replaced it with a walnut, so he sets off after them, together with the Sea Hag.
When Guybrush reveals to his crew that their destination is Monkey Island, they are terrified, because the waters surrounding it are known for their sea monsters. He tries to convince them there's nothing to fear, but he doesn't succeed, as a baby sea monster just came on deck. Guybrush faces off against the creature, showing off in front of Elaine, but then the baby's mother appears, and she's angry. The crew flee, leaving only Guybrush and Elaine to fight off the sea monster. They now have to unite against a common enemy. They shoot the baby sea monster away with a cannon (which he apparently rather enjoys), forcing the mother to leave the battle to go after her child.
Guybrush and his crew, together with Elaine and Sam arrive on Monkey Island, where they find the monkey idol. Guybrush approaches it, thinking he has found the treasure, but is stopped by an angry horde of monkeys. Sam then saves the day when he returns the Eye of the Monkey, and he is hailed by the monkeys of Monkey Island as a hero. Guybrush still keeps looking for the treasure, but his crew abandons him. Elaine tries to convince him to give up working for LeChuck and just enjoy himself, but deep inside, Guybrush is still a bait-boy, following orders.
Back on his ship, Guybrush encounters zombie LeChuck, who tells him that if he can bring him back the Eye of the Monkey, he can still be a member of his crew. He is hesitant at first, but LeChuck manages to convince him to go back to the island and attempt getting back the jewel. He removes the Eye from its socket again. With all the monkeys and Elaine against him, Guybrush still insists on following his dreams of becoming a pirate. He takes the jewel to LeChuck and his zombie crew. When the ceremony is again performed (using some of Guybrush' blood against his will), it succeeds. Pirate ships rise up from the ocean everywhere, crewed by skeleton pirates. Some of the ships even fly.
Elaine, together Guybrush' crew, attacks LeChuck, but they are no match for the innumerable Dead Sea Pirates. Guybrush then comes to his senses, knowing it's up to him to do something. He asks Sam to throw him a sword, but all he can find is a fishing rod. While the monkeys battle it out with the pirates, Guybrush manages to snag the jewel from LeChuck using his fishing rod. Brandishing it, he orders the Dead Sea Pirates to stand down for a captain's duel. Guybrush is on the losing hand when Elaine fires a cannon at LeChuck, which contained not a cannonball, but the baby sea monster who had sneaked in for another flight. The baby's monster then devours LeChuck.
Guybrush orders the Dead Sea Pirates to return to their watery graves, which they do (but not before taking some treasure with them). Guybrush returns the Eye of the Monkey to its former place once and for all, and says goodbye to Sam, who has decided to stay with his fellow monkeys on Monkey Island. Guybrush and Elaine embrace aboard the houseboat, and they set off into the sunset, heading for Mêlée Island, cheered on by their crew.
- Grumpy Gamer
- Article at Tom's Hardware
- Article at The Scumm Bar
- The Curse of Monkey Island film storyboard, Monkey Island Special Edition Collection, LucasArts, 2011.
- Tony Stacchi's portfolio
- Forum post in which Dominic Armato confirms the existence of a Monkey Island movie
- News post at The Monkey Island SCUMM Bar of Stacchi's folio
- News post at The International House of Mojo about the portfolio
- Interview with Steve Purcell, in which he briefly talks about the movie
- WMI news post containing the concept art
- WMI news post debunking the Monkey Island 5 rumour
- WMI news post containing the anonymous source's comments on the movie project