Taika Waititi and Netflix Abandon Animated Movie About Michael Jackson's Pet Chimp

Bubbles, the truly strange projet that would have brought Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi together with Netflix, is apparently not moving forward. What made the project so weird is the subject matter: Bubbles was to be an animated feature film centered around Michael Jackson's pet chimpanzee of the same name. While allegations of sexual impropriety with children at his Neverland compound have led to several Jackson-themed projects to stall, his music sales to slip, and some radio and TV stations to avoid his material, the official word on Bubbles is that Waititi simply left the stop-motion animated project because it conflicted with his work on Akira.

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Without Waititi, though, apparently Netflix was not interested in the project at all (his involvement, particularly coming off the huge success of Thor: Ragnarok, was a big part of the project's appeal to the streaming giant). The news first broke at Cartoon Brew, but Collider confirmed it today, and brought some new details to the table. Depending on who you asked, Bubbles was either a Curious George-style tale that happened to feature the most famous chimp in the world, or a biopic of Jackson as told through the eyes of his longtime companion. “This film is not about Michael Jackson because that’s not a story for me to tell — or a story I’d be comfortable telling,” Waititi is quoted as saying in the Cartoon Brew piece. “It’s about a chimpanzee’s fascinating journey through the complex jungle of human life.”

According to the Collider report, pre-production was already underway at Starburns Industries, and about two dozen employees were already working on the movie and had to be laid off. Netflix first acquired the project for around $20 million in 2017, based on a script by Isaac Adamson that appeared on the 2015 Black List (the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood), but between the time it was announced and now, HBO's Leaving Neverland documentary shed new light on old allegations that Jackson had numerous inappropriate sexual relationships with young men during his life. Netflix has other stop-motion animation projects in the works, including Guillermo del Toro‘s Pinocchio and Henry Selick‘s Wendell and Wild. Last year, Waititi's co-director on Bubbles, Mark Gustafson, left to work on Pinocchio.