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The Monkey's Uncle

For the Three Stooges short film, see I'm a Monkey's Uncle.
The Monkey's Uncle
File:Poster of the movie The Monkey's Uncle.jpg
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Produced by Ron Miller
Walt Disney
Written by Alfred Lewis Levitt
Helen Levitt
Starring Tommy Kirk
Annette Funicello
Leon Ames
Music by Buddy Baker
Cinematography Edward Colman
Edited by Cotton Warburton
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
August 18, 1965 (1965-08-18)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $4,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Monkey's Uncle is a 1965 Walt Disney production starring Tommy Kirk as genius college student Merlin Jones and Annette Funicello as his girlfriend, Jennifer. The title plays on the idiom "monkey's uncle" and refers to a chimpanzee named Stanley, Merlin's legal "nephew" (a legal arrangement resulting from an experiment to raise Stanley as a human); Stanley otherwise has little relevance to the plot. Jones invents a man-powered airplane and a sleep-learning system.[2][3] The film is a sequel to the 1964 film The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.


Midvale College is told that a wealthy man, Mr. Astorbilt (Arthur O'Connell), will give a large donation, but he has a strange request — he challenges the school to build a man-powered flying machine. If they succeed by a certain date, they get the donation, otherwise it will go to a rival school.

Merlin Jones (Kirk) designs a lightweight airplane, powered by a propeller driven by bicycle pedals. Recognizing that even his football-jock friends won't be strong enough for such a feat, he develops a strength elixir (based on adrenaline), which should give the power that a man would need to get off the ground.

To get the jocks' support, he creates "an honest way to cheat", adapting the recently discovered sleep-learning method to help them pass a particularly hard history course. Once the jocks are asleep, a timer starts a phonograph album, with the sound of Jennifer reading their lessons to them. This backfires in class, however — asked to give an oral report, the jocks speak, but Jennifer's voice comes out. Eventually it works out in the students' favor.

Jones gets their help, and the great day comes. The pilot drinks the elixir, then pedals off into the sky, winning the contest. Unfortunately, the "wealthy donor" is last seen fleeing from men in white coats, who want to take him back to the local mental hospital.

Production notes

The Misadventures of Merlin Jones had been a surprise hit, earning over $4 million in rentals for Disney and prompting a sequel.[4] This production marks both Tommy Kirk's and Annette Funicello's last film for the studio. Actor Mark Goddard, who plays Haywood (and is perhaps best known as Major Don West on television's Lost in Space), made his feature film debut in this movie.

The screen credit for writing reads, "Screenplay by Tom and Helen August", which were the pseudonyms for Alfred Lewis Levitt and Helen Levitt, two writers who were blacklisted.[5]


The title song, written by the Sherman Brothers, is performed by Funicello, with The Beach Boys doing backup. This song was covered in 2006 by Devo 2.0 on the music CD Disneymania, Volume 4.


The New York Times reported, "It all falls into bright, colorful and innocuous non sequitur and, in an hour and a half, you are through, mildly diverted and unburdened by message." [6] The Los Angeles Times said the film "disappoints as a lineal descendant of Disney's Absent Minded Professor but it can hardly miss with the young set."[7]


  1. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  2. ^ The New York Times, August 19, 1965
  3. ^ Turner Classic Movies
  4. ^ Disney Announces Diverse Schedule: Doris Day Winner (Again); Ill Wind a Boon to Actors Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 Jan 1965: B7.
  5. ^ Johnson, Ted (April 3, 1997). "WGA Corrects Blacklist Credits". Variety. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  6. ^ The New York Times, Movie Review by Richard Shephard, August 19, 1965
  7. ^ 'Monkey's Uncle': Teens Will Go Ape Harford, Margaret. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 17 July 1965: B8.

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