Disney+ Launches Without The Simpsons Episode That Starred Michael Jackson
The highly-anticipated Disney+ streaming service launched today, providing fans with decades worth of content underneath the company's umbrella. Among those properties includes The Simpsons, the long-running animated series that Disney acquired after purchasing Fox. While much of The Simpsons' storied run can now be found on Disney+, it looks like one pivotal episode is not among them -- the show's Season 3 opener, "Stark Raving Dad". The episode, which initially debuted in 1991, has become a topic of conversation in the years since, due to the fact that it features a prominent cameo from controversial pop star Michael Jackson. If you log on to The Simpsons' page on Disney+'s interface, it prompts fans to start with the second episode of Season 3, "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington".
"Stark Raving Dad" sees Homer Simpson mistakenly committed to a mental institution, where he befriends a man named Leon Kompowsky, who claims to really be Michael Jackson. When Homer is released from the institution, he offers to let "Michael" stay at the Simpsons' household, and the citizens of Springfield quickly accuse Leon of being an imposter. All of this chaos occurs around Lisa's birthday, which she grows angry at Bart for forgetting. Leon later helps Bart Simpson find a way to make things up to Lisa, and they write and perform a song called "Happy Birthday Lisa". Leon then leaves the Simpsons' household, revealing that he really isn't Michael Jackson, but began talking in the musician's voice in a way to make other people happy.
"Stark Raving Dad" had quite a lot of lore around it when it initially debuted, as Jackson provided the speaking voice of Leon, but went uncredited in the episode due to his contract. (A soundalike named Kipp Lennon provided Leon's singing voice.) The episode initially received positive reviews, and was even rebroadcast following Jackson's 2009 death, but has been seen in a significantly different light since the debut of the documentary Leaving Neverland earlier this year. The four-hour documentary chronicles two allegations of Jackson committing child sexual abuse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, right around the time that "Stark Raving Dad" initially aired. This led to The Simpsons pulling the episode from syndication, as well as from the FX app, which was the series' streaming home prior to Disney+.
"Yes. It wasn't something that makes me happy. It's something I agree with completely," executive producer Al Jean said in an interview with The Daily Beast earlier this year. "What saddens me is, if you watch that documentary—which I did, and several of us here did—and you watch that episode, honestly, it looks like the episode was used by Michael Jackson for something other than what we'd intended it. It wasn't just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that. That, to me, is my belief, and it's why I think removing it is appropriate. I lose a little bit of money financially, it's not something that's great personally to lose one of the most successful things I ever did, but I totally think it's the right move. I don't believe in going through and making judgments on every guest star and saying "this one was bad, that one was bad," but the episode itself has a false purpose, and that's what I object to about it now."
"I think it was part of what he used to groom boys," Jean continued. "I really don't know, and I should be very careful because this is not something I know personally, but as far as what I think, that's what I think. And that makes me very, very sad."
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