Monkey And The Jewel

A feature animation about an albino monkey, a little orphan girl and a stray dog who go on an epic journey of discovery and adventure from the beaches of Thailand to the furthest reaches of China and finally to India.

Synopsis:

Manna the little orphan girl and Hanu the albino monkey live contentedly on a beach in Southern Thailand, they fill their days fishing, collecting fruit, swimming, climbing on rocks and playing volleyball. They are best friends; they look after each other as they have no family to do so. They are both outsiders, Hanu the albino monkey looks different to all the rest, Manna though Asian looks slightly different to the other locals living near the beach and she can’t speak to them – though she can speak with the animals.

One day Manna and Hanu come across Taj, the mystical peacock. Taj tells them of lands far away where they may discover the secrets of their history and maybe even their homelands. Manna and Hanu depart on an epic journey from the sanctuary of their beach home in Thailand to the mountains of Eastern China, once there they find clues that lead them to Western China; through jungles, snowy landscapes, across seas, rivers, desserts and treacherous cities… they travel on foot, on boats, camels, trains, hot air balloons and more. They take in iconic locations such as the Great Wall of China, Yellow Mountains, Bangkok, Kashgar, Beijing, as well as cultural happenings such as Songkram (water festival) and the Harbin Ice City. Along the way they meet a host of animals that call this wild continent home, adding colour and fascinations as well as danger and fun in equal measures. One such fun animal is Boo the dog, another lonely soul who joins them on their journey and does his best to stay out of trouble.

Though the reason for the journey is initially to find Hanu’s origins we soon discover that another member of the traveling party is far more important, and is in fact a divine treasure that must be returned to her palace and her lost family in the Western regions.

Themes:

A comic adventure story, with themes focusing on friendship, bravery, accepting people for their differences and an inspirational message of wildlife conservation.

Inspiration:

‘Monkey and the Jewel’ is based loosely on the Chinese epic novel ‘Journey To The West’, the story of the legendary pilgrimage of a Buddhist monk who traveled across China to the “Western Regions”, that is, India, to obtain sacred texts and then returned after many trials and much suffering.

In the case of ‘Monkey and the Jewel’ the jewel is actually a person – a little orphan girl – who is in fact a princess separated from her palace and homeland as a baby, now the unbeknownst and sole air to the throne. The monkey – different to all the others in his village – is on a search for where he belongs, he will unwittingly help return the ‘jewel’ to her palace whilst discovering the true meaning of home. Two pilgrims searching for enlightenment, joined by a third – a stray dog – who’s also searching for a family to call his own.

The intention is to borrow elements from the novel but twist them to suit a modern day retelling. In the case of ‘Monkey and the Jewel’ we focus on the three pilgrim’s journey towards enlightenment which each of them can only achieve with the help of the others.

This retelling will be less about the demons and supernatural beings featured in the classic novel, and more about natural wonders, wildlife, the environment and obstacles such as the evil of man and dangers of the modern and natural world.

Key Characters:

Hanu – the albino monkey – Hanu lives with a community of brown monkeys on a beach in South Thailand; life consists of eating fruit, playing volleyball and generally getting up to mischief at a run down and deserted former beach resort. He’s daring, mischievous and fun loving, but underneath his bravado he feels very much alone, he looks different to the others – because of this he’s picked on and made to feel like an outsider. He has no family, but for his best friend Manna whom he cares for like a sister.

Manna – the little orphan girl – Manna is about 6 years old, she has no memory of her family or of where she’s from. At a younger age she found herself alone on a beach in Thailand, this was where she met Hanu, who befriended her. Manna has no possessions but for her treasured fishing rod. She’s a conservationist; she cares for her beautiful beach home and collects plastic bottles in exchange for money, she sleeps rough under trees and derelict beach huts. Manna is plucky, thoughtful and doesn’t suffer fools, underneath it all she longs for the family she never knew. Hanu is her best friend, she supports him wholeheartedly and will never let him down.

Boo – the stray dog – Manna and Hanu find Boo tied up and being abused by some mean kids in the city of Bangkok. He’s mistreated and uncared for by his owner, despite this he maintains his good manors and positive attitude. Boo thinks he’s a human, this and his general curious nature means he’s often getting himself and those around him into trouble, most of the time he’s blissfully unaware. Boo is alone in the world, he too longs to be part of someone’s family.

Taj – the mystical peacock – Taj is a deeply spiritual and wise peacock, he is also very nervous and retreats into meditation/sleep at the slightest hint of tension. Taj has lived in many of the finest palaces in Asia, he is very knowledgeable and holds the key to many secrets. At the beginning of our story Taj finds himself living in a plush hotel’s grounds in Southern Thailand, this is where he meets Manna and Hanu. Taj mysteriously appears throughout the story at different stages and locations along the journey. We eventually discover that Taj is not in fact a peacock, but a Fenghuang or Chinese Pheonix – an immortal bird whose rare appearance is said to be an omen foretelling harmony at the ascent to the throne of a new emperor.

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