As a girl in Japan, Ema Ryan Yamazaki fell in love with The Monkey. She read his books. And she grew up with him in her life. She always assumed The Monkey was a Japanese creation, and that was his name. At least until she came to the United States.
“There were very few things I shared from my childhood with my new American friends,” Yamakazi says. “He was one of those things. As I got to know people from other countries, we were all kind of claiming him as our own. There’s something about him that somehow is universal.”
The Monkey was Curious George. And like kids all over the world for the past 75 years, Yamakazi connected with the playful and inquisitive character and his tales. As she navigated film school at NYU and started working on her own projects — like the documentaries Monk By Blood and Neither Here Nor There — George never left her mind. It was only when she learned the story of Curious George’s creators, Margret and Hans Rey, that Ema’s nostalgia for the character turned into a fascination.
The German-born Reys met — and married — in 1935 and later moved to Paris. When the Nazis invaded France, husband and wife made a plan to flee to the South of France in 1940. They went into a bike store to secure transportation, but the only bike remaining was a tandem. Margret tried to get the hang of riding the two-person bike and couldn’t. Due to her (admittedly) impatient nature, she gave up.