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Do Monkeys Make Lousy Pets.com?

Well, it appears that after a nasty custody battle reminiscent of a certain American sock puppet, ITV's Monkey finally has a new home... or old home, depending on how you look at things. Story here.

Nearly a year after ITV Digital finally bit the dust its most famous personality is plotting a comeback as the face of Comic Relief.

The creators of the ITV Digital Monkey have agreed to hand over the rights to the knitted simian to the charity and are already planning appearances on Graham Norton's and Patrick Kielty's chat shows - and even a show of his own.

Ad agency Mother said it had finally ended the bitter custody battle over Britain's most famous woolly monkey by buying the rights from ITV Digital's administrators, Deloitte & Touche, and donating them to Comic Relief.

The administrators and the advertising agency have been locked in a protracted dispute as to who owned the copyright to the primate, who took on a life of his own after an advertising blitz for ITV Digital featuring comedian Johnny Vegas.

And to underline its ability to live a life beyond ITV Digital, the monkey has even taken a place in a current Walkers crisps campaign for Comic Relief.

In the immediate aftermath of the ITV Digital collapse, Mother reckoned the monkey could become a star in its own right with TV shows and maybe even a movie.

Now the dispute with the administrators has been settled, the ad agency is getting the monkey's new career under way in true showbiz fashion.

Today Mother, relieved the battle is over, blamed Monkey's long absence from the public eye on that most ubiquitous of celebrity complaints - exhaustion.

"Monkey has spent some time in a clinic in LA but he's fine now and we're ready to relaunch his career," said partner Andy Medd.

"He needs to be managed like proper talent - he's not going to become Pudsey the Bear. We've been talking to the BBC about programming and the perfect situation would be for him to have his own show. He's a great light entertainer and he could give Ant and Dec a run for their money."

Kevin Cahill, Comic Relief's chief executive, said he was "delighted" to take on Monkey.

"A celebrity of his stature will fit right in here and we hope he'll raise a lot of money for us," he said.

"We are very grateful to all those at Mother, the Jim Henson Company and Animal Magic for the tremendous effort they made to secure him for us, and we promise to look after him."

Deloitte & Touche insisted on treating the monkey as another asset - alongside set-top boxes and subscriber lists - as it sold off what remained of ITV Digital after the broadcaster went bust.

But although the puppet attracted interest from potential buyers, including Kwik Save and the US media giant Clear Channel, no deal was made.

This year's Comic Relief Day, on March 14, is expected to be the biggest fundraiser yet, topping the 2001 total of £61m raised.

Monkey will join 300 celebrities including Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton, Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders on the BBC1 show.

See ads "ITV monkey movies" and "ITV who wants to be a monkey millionaire?" here

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tlevitz's picture

That's a new twist on the old IP client vs. creator debate...

and I'm so jealous! back in the day, I used to dream of getting a monkey to man the reception desk and sign for UPS packages. Considering that whenever my idea was shot down on the premise that monkies are dirty and wear diapers, this little guy would've been ideal. Hey man, if the charity thing doesn't work out...

claymore's picture

Yeah - it does seem like a great idea at first. But from my perspective, the last thing I need is one more "person" from the front office flinging poo at my fellow creatives.

tlevitz's picture

If your receptionist's psycho ex ever threatened to show up at the office... well, you'd prefer the poo, right? Receptionists who quit before they even begin... receptionists who ask your opinion on their impending plastic surgery ("which breasts, do you think?")

I know I would welcome poo flinging.

Then again, I've become accustomed to answering my own phone and having to learn how to write memos...