Say the two words "Monkey Magic" to a man in his late 30s and he'll turn into a child, putting on a funny voice and then moving his lips in exaggerated fashion.
A Japanese television series based on a 16th Century Chinese novel, badly dubbed in English, does not sound like a sure-fire children's hit. But Monkey - or Monkey Magic as it became known in the UK - was an unlikely success.
Fed a late-70s television diet of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, The Six Million Dollar Man and the Red Hand Gang, youngsters watching Monkey on BBC Two one evening a week saw something completely different. And in the coming months, the characters that gripped a generation could find a new legion of fans.
An opera based on the famous Chinese novel that inspired the series, Journey to the West, opens in London a year after its Manchester premiere. Monkey: Journey to the West is another collaboration between Gorillaz creators Damon Albarn, who pens the music, and graphic artist Jamie Hewlett.
Hewlett has also designed the characters fronting the BBC's coverage of the Olympics in Beijing. "This is going to be the summer of Monkey," he declared last week.
For die-hard fans, the fascination has never dimmed. Although people aged under 33 could be discovering the characters for the first time, the popularity of the story has endured and the BBC series still enjoys cult status. There are several websites dedicated to it and a fan club on Facebook has 65,000 members.
But the collective memory of grown-up Monkey-watchers is a bit vague. They pick out certain motifs - Monkey riding a cloud, big sideburns, a headband, egg struck by lightning - but are a bit hazy on what was actually going on.
'Kung fu for kids'
Monkey was king of a monkey tribe and, as the memorable opening sequence explains, was hatched from an egg in a storm on a mountain top. He is later imprisoned under a mountain for disobeying the gods.
He is released by the young Buddhist monk Tripitaka, on the condition that he escorts him on a long journey to retrieve sacred scripts from India. They are joined by two other miscreant monsters in human form, Sandy and Pigsy.
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