The Michael Jackson estate, unsurprisingly, does not approve of either Michael Jackson film currently in the pipeline; there’s the Lifetime network’s film based on the last few years of Jackson’s life, titled “Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland,” a story that will be told through the eyes of his bodyguards which is scheduled to premiere on Memorial Day; and there’s the Netflix stop-motion Michael Jackson story which is told through the eyes of his famous pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, and is in development after the streaming platform picked it up at the Cannes Film Market last week.
The estate has released the following full statement:
To clear up any confusion or misperceptions about unsanctioned Michael Jackson projects currently in the news — including a Lifetime television movie and an animated film script recently purchased by Netflix — the Estate of Michael Jackson does not license or permit the use of any rights it owns, including to Michael’s music, images, video and films, for use in unauthorized works seeking to exploit Michael’s legacy. The Estate itself has numerous projects in development, all of which respect, honor and celebrate Michael’s life and legacy along with his extraordinary artistry that touched fans throughout the world. When the executors are ready to announce them, they will. As Michael said countless times about his own work, the quality goes in before the name goes on.
This certainly won’t be the first time that unauthorized films on the lives of public figures have been produced – some even without incident. But most have faced some kind of pushback from the actual subject (if they are still alive), or from the subject’s family, friends, estates, fans, etc. Some have even resulted in legal battles.
There have been a few Michael Jackson films made with the approval of his estate, including the concert movie “This Is It” which Sony Pictures released in 2009, just 4 months after his death; and a documentary his family was directly involved in titled “Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon,” which was released in 2011; Spike Lee also directed 2 Michael Jackson documentaries: the first in 2012, in collaboration with Jackson’s estate and Sony Music, titled “Bad 25,” and another in 2015 titled “Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to ‘Off the Wall’.”
In terms of the approved “numerous projects in development” that the estate mentions in the above statement, unfortunately they don’t provide any specifics, instead stating that announcements are coming. One of them just may have already been announced. In late 2011, we reported that Jackson’s estate had approached director Ivan Reitman and the Montecito Picture Company about producing and financing a Michael Jackson biopic. At the time, it was said that the project would not be a birth-to-death bio, but instead it would cover just a few periods of his life. Both sides were in talks when this was made public, and a deal wasn’t in place. Nothing has been reported on the potential project since then.
So now we wait for announcements from “executors” who are developing “numerous projects” on Jackson’s life, per his estate.