Moonwalker

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For a related video game, see Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. For other uses, see Moonwalk (disambiguation).
Moonwalker
Smoothcriminal7.jpg
Movie poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Jerry Kramer
Will Vinton (stop-motion sequences, segment "Speed Demon")
Jim Blashfield (segment "Leave Me Alone")
Colin Chilvers (segment "Smooth Criminal")
Produced by Dennis E. Jones
Jerry Kramer
Will Vinton (segment "Speed Demon")
Paul Diener (segment "Leave Me Alone")
Executive:
Michael Jackson
Frank DiLeo
Line producer:
John Romeyn
Written by Michael Jackson (story) (segment "Smooth Criminal")
David Newman (screenplay) (segment "Smooth Criminal")
Starring Michael Jackson
Joe Pesci
Kellie Parker
Sean Lennon
Brandon Quintin Adams
Music by Michael Jackson
Bruce Broughton
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Edited by Dale Beldin
David E. Blewitt
Mitchell Sinoway
Production
  company
Lorimar Motion Pictures
MJJ Productions
Ultimate Productions
Will Vinton Productions ("Speed Demon" segment)
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • October 29, 1988 (1988-10-29)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22 million (estimated)
Box office $67,000,000

Moonwalker, also known as Michael Jackson: Moonwalker, is an American anthology film released in 1988 by singer Michael Jackson.

Rather than featuring one continuous narrative, the film is a collection of short films about Jackson, several of which are long-form music videos from Jackson's Bad album. The film is named after the dance technique known as the moonwalk, which was one of his trademark moves. The name of the dance move was dubbed by the media, not by Jackson himself; however, he did choose the title of the film himself. Moonwalker was a success at the box office, making a total of $67,000,000 worldwide.

Release[edit]

The release of Moonwalker was originally scheduled to coincide with Jackson's 1987 album, Bad. During the theatrical release of Moonwalker, Jackson was also embarking on the Bad world tour, his first tour as a solo performer. The film was released theatrically in Europe and South America, but Warner Bros. canceled plans for a Christmas 1988 theatrical release in the United States. Moonwalker was instead released on home video in the United States and Canada on January 10, 1989, just as the Bad tour finished. (His tour was supposed to finish sooner, but had been postponed due to some vocal strain, so it went on until the last week of January 1989.) The video had sold more than 800,000 copies in the U.S. by April 17, 1989.[1]

Plot segments[edit]

"Man in the Mirror"[edit]

The first segment of Moonwalker is a live performance of "Man in the Mirror" during his Bad Tour in Europe clips from Wembley Stadium among others can be seen. It also features a montage of clips of children in Africa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon, and other historical figures.

"Retrospective"[edit]

A short biographical film about Jackson, covering the early years from the Jackson 5 until the Bad world tour. Excerpts of the following songs are played:

"Badder"[edit]

A parody of the music video for Bad's title song, featuring children filling the roles of various people from the original clip. The video stars Brandon Quintin Adams as the young Michael Jackson, who would later star in The People Under the Stairs, The Mighty Ducks and The Sandlot. It also featured Jermaine La Jaune Jackson, Jr. (Michael's nephew) and a young Nikki Cox, who later starred in Unhappily Ever After and Las Vegas. The singing group The Boys appeared as background dancers. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog co-writer and co-creator/co-executive producer of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Maurissa Tancharoen, dancers of Kidsongs - What I Want to Be! (1986) and seasons 5-6 (1988-1990) of Kids Incorporated Amaris "Ingrid" Dupree (1977)/Kimberly Duncan (born 1977)/Cory Tyler, 1989-1990 Kidsongs kid Terrance Williams (born 1979), The Boys (American band) (who appeared in Kidsongs - A Day with the Animals (1986)/The Wonderul World of Sports (1987)), former dancer Angella Kaye (born March 1975) who cameo appeared in movies, videos, and shows, as well as future R&B star Bilal Oliver, are also featured in this segment.

"Speed Demon"[edit]

The fourth segment begins with the "Badder" short film transitioning into the second short film, "Speed Demon", directed by Claymation innovator Will Vinton. A portion of the clip is set to Jackson's song "Speed Demon".

After filming "Badder", Little Michael and his bodyguards (also young kids) are leaving the set and walk through a cloud of smoke and come out as their regular age. A boy and his grandmother spot Michael and prompts the other tourist fans to get off the bus and chase him for an autograph. In an attempt to avoid the overzealous fans (even The Noid) and some gunslingers (after stumbling upon the filming of a Western directed by Steven Spielberg), Jackson soon disguises himself as a rabbit named Spike, using a costume from one of the film sets (imbued with animatronic properties using claymation, giving a similar combined-media effect as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but with more obvious bluescreening) but ends up taunting the fans into chasing him once they realize it is him. Michael steals a motorcycle in order to flee, with the fans (now also appearing in Claymation form) giving chase in various other, more cartoonish vehicles. During the chase, he morphs into other celebrities, namely Sylvester Stallone, Tina Turner and Pee-Wee Herman, with the bike also briefly morphing (into a jackhammer, stop sign, waterski and jet pack) in repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to throw the fans off. After a long chase, the fans are finally thwarted by crashing into a giant (claymation) cop and are arrested. Freed of their attention, Michael rides on into the desert, and as the sun rises he pulls over in a canyon to remove the "Spike" costume. The costume then comes to life and challenges him to an extended dance-off. In the end, a passing traffic cop interrupts Michael to point out he is in a "No Dancing Zone", and when Michael turns to show him that he was competing with the rabbit, he sees that the rabbit has disappeared. The cop then sarcastically asks for Michael's autograph (as opposed to "signature") on the ticket. Just as Michael is preparing to leave, the rabbit's head materializes on a nearby rocky crag, which then nods to him and smiles.

"Leave Me Alone"[edit]

The fifth segment of the film is the animated music video for the song "Leave Me Alone", focusing on media interest in Jackson's personal life, because he had felt that people wouldn't leave him alone. It compares Michael Jackson's life to an amusement park. His beloved then-pet chimp Bubbles makes a cameo appearance as Jackson is seen picking him up and riding with him in his roller coaster car. His pet snake, Muscles, is also present.

"Smooth Criminal"[edit]

The sixth segment of the film begins with three homeless children sneaking through the rooftops of a big city to see their friend Michael walk out of his apartment. As Michael stands in front of the door, he gazes at the night sky before he is attacked by mobsters with machine guns. The film then backtracks to show Michael and the children playing in a meadow in happier times. Their dog Skipper runs away, and as Michael and Katie look for him, they uncover the cottage of Frankie Lideo AKA "Mr. Big". Mr. Big is a drug-dealing warlord with a disciplined private army of soldiers at his command; he wants to get the entire population of Earth addicted to drugs, starting with children. He likes to eat peanuts and leaves nutshells wherever he goes, and is obsessed with spiders (as displayed by their abundance at the entrance to his lair), and calls his operation "bugs and drugs". He also has them engulfing a model globe when making a speech about his burgeoning drug empire. The spiders signify the spread of his proposed control of the world via drug dealing. Further, all his henchmen sport a spider crest on their uniforms. Katie screams when she sees a spider on her hand, and Mr. Big discovers them spying on his operation. The story returns to the shooting in front of Michael's store. Unknown to the gangsters, Michael has a "lucky star", and using it, he escaped the gunfire. Upon realizing that Michael has escaped again, Mr. Big orders his henchmen to track him down with dogs. He is eventually cornered in an alley, where he uses his lucky star again to turn into a sportscar (the 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero prototype) that mows down several of Mr. Big's henchmen. Michael is pursued through the city streets until he loses the henchmen. Meanwhile, the children scout out Club 30's, where Michael had told them to meet him, and find only an abandoned and haunted nightclub. As Michael arrives, Katie sees a silhouette of him turning back from a car into himself. The door of the club opens with a gust of wind, and Michael walks in to find it filled with zoot suiters and swing dancers. The children gather outside a window of the club and watch Michael dance to "Smooth Criminal". The song used in the film is much longer than the album release, with several lyrics that clarify the story. There is also an interlude wherein Jackson joins the other dancers in a modern interpretive dance. At the climax of the song, Mr. Big lays siege to the club and kidnaps Katie. Michael follows them back to Big's lair and ends up surrounded by his henchmen. Mr. Big appears and taunts Michael by threatening to inject Katie with highly addictive narcotics. Katie breaks free for a moment, but Mr. Big grabs her again and starts kicking Michael. As Mr. Big stands over Michael and orders his henchmen to kill him and Katie, Michael looks up and sees his lucky star. He transforms into a giant robot and kills all of Mr. Big's soldiers, then turns into a spaceship. Mr. Big gets into a large hillside-mounted energy cannon, firing on the spaceship into a nearby ravine. The children are his next target, but the spaceship returns from the ravine just in time to fire a beam in the cannon with Mr. Big inside, killing him. The children watch the ship fly into the night sky with shower of light.

Note: A 4:36 suite of Bruce Broughton's score for this segment (Broughton also wrote the underscore for "Speed Demon") was recorded by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops for the album Fantastic Journey, representing the only (officially) released music from this film by an artist other than Michael Jackson, although bootlegs are available of the score.

"Come Together"[edit]

In the conclusion to "Smooth Criminal", Sean, Katie and Zeke return to the city, believing that Michael is gone forever. As the boys talk about Michael, Katie walks away crying and clutching a paper star. As she sits in a corner wishing for him to come back, the paper star flies out of her hand and Michael walks out of the night fog. He takes them to Club 30's, where they find that the club has turned into the backstage area of a concert. Michael's stage crew return the children's missing dog and then escort Michael onto the stage where he performs a cover of The Beatles song "Come Together" with the children watching and cheering him on from backstage. Jackson's version of the song wasn't officially released until 1995 when it appeared on the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.

"Closing credits"[edit]

During the closing credits, two more segments are shown. The first has Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing "The Moon is Walking" in Club 30's amidst behind-the-scenes clips. The second is the four-minute version of the "Smooth Criminal" music video.

Select cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The movie received mixed reviews. Critics praised the music though complained that there was no plot, and that it seemed like a series of music videos tied together. Variety reported that Moonwalker "seems unsure of what it was supposed to be. At the center of the pic is the "Smooth Criminal" segment, a musical/dramatic piece full of dancing, schmaltzy kids, sci-fi effects and blazing machine guns [directed by Colin Chilvers, based on a story by Jackson]. Around it are really just numerous Jackson music videos with little or no linkage. Although quite enjoyable the whole affair does not make for a structured or professional movie."[2]

The "Leave Me Alone" video aired as a separate entity and won a Grammy in 1989 for Breakthrough Animated Video, which is the only Grammy Award Michael received for the album Bad.

Home media[edit]

The film was released in the United States on VHS and LaserDisc. The vignettes featured in the movie also appear in a DVD box set of Michael Jackson music videos titled Michael Jackson's Vision. The set only features the song and dance sequences from "Smooth Criminal", (the title song, and the ending "Come Together") as opposed to the entire short film.

Moonwalker was released on a region-free Blu-ray in the UK in June 2010 by Warner Bros.[3] This Blu-ray version contained a new remastered transfer and a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.[4] The release has been censored, with the scenes of Mr. Big hitting Katie and threatening to inject her with heroin cut.[5] It is also cropped to 16:9 from the home release's 4:3 aspect ratio, although the European theatrical release was originally in widescreen, which may possibly mean that the cropped version is how the film was intended to be seen.

Because of specific music and film licensing, Moonwalker has never been officially released by Warner Bros, or any other studio, in North America on DVD or Blu-ray. However imported region-free DVD copies of the film from Japan or China have surfaced throughout the web.

Certification[edit]

Country Certification Sales
Canada 4× Platinum[6] 50,000
USA 8× Platinum[1] 800,000

Other media[edit]

Video game[edit]

Screenshot of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker arcade game

Moonwalker was first adapted in game form to home various computers by British developer U.S. Gold. This top-down action game followed the segments of the film, and bore little resemblance to the later, more popular games developed by Sega with Michael Jackson's cooperation.

Moonwalker was developed into an arcade video game by Sega with the help of Jackson, which was released on the Sega System 18 hardware. A distinct adaptation was also developed for Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive and Master System home video game systems. The console versions of the game were actually based on an evolved version of the side-scrolling Sega Mega Drive Shinobi series engine,[citation needed] while the arcade version was a three-quarters beat 'em up.

Both the console and arcade versions are based on the "Smooth Criminal" segment of the film, following Michael in suit and fedora through stages based on his different music videos as he rescues children from the drug dealer Mr. Big. In the three player simultaneous arcade game, contact with Bubbles, Michael's chimp, transformed him into a robot warrior, replacing Michael's "star magic" and melee dance attacks with missiles and laser beams. In the console versions on certain levels, rescuing a certain child first would trigger a comet to fall from the sky that could be grabbed transforming Michael into the robot (which could fly with a rocket pack as well as use lasers and a missile special attack). Michael automatically changes into a robot for the final showdown with Mr. Big's henchmen and finally into a space ship for the last battle, in a sort of flight-sim shooter in the Genesis/Mega Drive version. All incarnations of the game featured the ability of Michael to use some form of "Dance Magic" which would force his enemies to dance to the music of various tunes from "Bad" or "Thriller" and be destroyed as a result.

Comic[edit]

In 1989, Blackthorne Publishing adapted the film into a comic book, Moonwalker 3-D (# 75 in Blackthorne's 3-D Series).[7] This title was a major contributing factor in the demise of Blackthorne, since the publisher had to pay a large licensing fee for the property, and when the Moonwalker comic flopped, they experienced a large financial loss.[8] Blackthorne ceased its operations in 1990.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b RIAA Gold & Platinum Certification information
  2. ^ By (1988-01-01). "Moonwalker Review — Read Variety's Analysis Of The Movie Moonwalker". Variety.com. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  3. ^ http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Moonwalker-Blu-ray/10513/
  4. ^ http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0030A0ZD4/
  5. ^ http://movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=224122
  6. ^ ^ "Canadian certifications". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved August 2, 2009. (To search the database for Moonwalker, type "Michael Jackson" in the artist name field and "Moonwalker" into the title field. Choose "Video Longform" from the Format field, and complete the search.
  7. ^ Moonwalker 3-D at atomicavenue.com Retrieved 15.August 2013
  8. ^ The 5 Greatest Michael Jackson Moments in Comics: 2. His 3-D "Moonwalker" Comic Helped Bankrupt Blackthorne Publishing at comicsalliance.com, 30.June 2009, by Laura Husdon Retrieved 15.August 2013

External links[edit]