Among the many strange things about the late pop star Michael Jackson, perhaps the strangest of all was his relationship with his pet chimpanzee Bubbles. Stories about Jackson treating Bubbles almost as a child were tabloid fodder for years, and contributed mightily to the general impression that Jackson was a reclusive weirdo who had utterly lost touch with reality. On the other hand, who are we to judge a man if he decides he prefers the companionship of a chimp over that of humans?
However you perceive Jackson and his strange behavior (leaving aside the stuff that led to criminal charges, which is another issue altogether), you have to admit that his life story is rich with material for movies. A new movie from producer Dan Harmon is tackling the story of Jackson and Bubbles it sounds like a potentially fascinating project. One of the two men tabbed to direct the stop motion film promises a movie that respects Jackson and his legacy.
The movie Bubbles is being made from a Black List script by Isaac Adamson, and Deadline reports that Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi has jumped on-board to co-direct along with stop motion wiz Mark Gustafson. The film will be produced by Dan Harmon's Starburns Industries along with End Cue, with Lee Stobby and Adamson executive producing. Waititi explained what drew him to the strange project:
“It’s an idea that fascinates me and one I want to develop further. Most people know I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so the main thing for me is to make sure it’s respectful of him and his legacy. I’m not interested in making a biopic; I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world."
Waititi promises Bubbles will be in the vein of Anomalisa, the 2015 Oscar-nominated stop motion film made by Starburns Industries and written by Charlie Kaufman. Waititi said of teaming up with sometimes-combative Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon:
"I’m really excited to be working with Dan Harmon and Starburns as we share similar sensibilities and want to tell human stories in unique and artistic ways.”
Taika Waititi is no stranger to unique and artistic material, having directed the quirky romantic comedy Eagle vs. Shark, the acclaimed vampire comedy What We Do In the Shadows and the adventure film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, not to mention episodes of the cult comedy series Flight of the Conchords. Waititi previously worked his Michael Jackson fandom into his movie Boy. In 2017, Waititi will release Thor: Ragnarok, a film that promises to ignore the MCU while taking the Thor series down the road of buddy comedy, with Thor and Hulk as the new Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
If anyone can make a fascinating, funny, possibly touching movie about Michael Jackson's pet chimp, it's the creative team assembled for Bubbles. It's hard to think of two more unique and daring talents than Taika Waititi and Dan Harmon, and by all accounts Isaac Adamson has written a brilliant script. The material will however still be tricky, given the strong feelings people still have about Michael Jackson, both on the positive and negative side.
Doing the movie in stop motion a la Anomalisa sounds like an inspired choice. If Bubbles even approaches Anomalisa's unique blend of awkward humor, pathos and heartbreak, it will be a memorable film indeed. This will be one to keep an eye on.