The film tells the story of a scary Maestro with supernatural powers, who is being forced out of a small town by its mayor all the way to New York, pictured as a comically arrogant, plump man. The movie includes a series of dance routines performed by Michael Jackson and his "family" of ghouls. Every song from the film was taken from Michael Jackson's albums HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.
The project initially began production in 1993 under the title Is it Scary? with director Mick Garris. It was originally intended to be released in conjunction with the theatrical release of Addams Family Values. Garris stated online of the film's genesis and change to Ghosts:
It was before we ever got to the intended songs, as we never shot those. It was originally planned as promotion for Addams Family Values. Stan Winston was in charge of the makeup and visual effects, and took over as director when I went off to make The Shining.
After contract disputes negated the connection with the Paramount Addams Family sequel, the project morphed into Ghosts with Stan Winston at the helm as production resumed in early 1996. Filming was completed in the summer of 1996 after six weeks of production.
The Maestro (Michael Jackson) lives alone in a creepy-looking mansion on top of a hill, overlooking the town of "Normal Valley", who occasionally entertains the local children with scary magic tricks. One of the children tells his mother, who alerts the Mayor (also Michael Jackson). He in turn organizes the townspeople to go to the Maestro's mansion and force him out of town. When they arrive at the mansion, it is guarded by a large gate and by the haunting look of the mansion, have second thoughts about entering. The children assure the parents that the Maestro has done nothing wrong, and ask that they leave him alone. But the mayor says that he's weird and cannot be in their town.
The front gate opens, frightening the townspeople, who make their way to the front door, which also opens by itself. They make their way into the house, and once they are all inside, the front door slams shut and locks itself. Two more large doors swing open revealing a large, darkened dance hall. Hesitantly, the townspeople make their way to the dance hall, where they are greeted by Maestro himself. The Mayor angrily confronts him, calling him "strange", "weird", and a "freak", and telling him that he's not welcome in their town. Maestro defends himself, and in response the Mayor threatens him to leave. Maestro replies by scaring the townspeople. The frightened townspeople run for the doors, which Maestro shuts with his magical powers and saying they are his guests.
Maestro then reminds the townspeople that he's not alone, and introduces his "family" of ghouls who, along with Maestro, perform extended dance routines which alternately impresses and scares the townspeople.
After Maestro's performance ends, he asks whether they still want him to go. While the townspeople respond no, the mayor says Yes. Maestro quietly agrees. He falls, and smashes his hands and face into the floor. His face and body start to crumble into dust on the floor, which is then blown away by the wind. The townspeople are saddened by this, and somewhat sorry to see him go. The mayor however thinks he has come out victorious and heads for the doors . When he opens them, he finds a monstrous-looking Maestro-demon head which terrifies him, and he runs away scared. The townspeople then turn back to the now open front doors to see the Maestro standing there, laughing. He asks if they all had a good time, and the townspeople realize they did. They figure he isn't so bad after all and make peace with him.
During the credits, backstage footage of Jackson's make-up sessions and shots are revealed."2 Bad" (film version)
Taken from HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I
"Is It Scary" (film version)*
Taken from Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix
Taken from Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix
"Ghosts" and "Is It Scary" were not featured in the first version of the film, because they were not completed in time. In the original version, the audio from these dance segments was a sampled beat from "2 Bad". An unfinished version of "Ghosts" was used in the credits for the original version of the film, featuring an alternate bridge, different bass and sound effects, and an alternate ending.
The film was screened out of competition at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. In 2002 the Guinness Book of World Records honored Ghosts as the longest music video in history. The original film version of Ghosts was also given multiple screenings at Hoyts Cinema in Sydney (together with a 75mm print of the HIStory teaser) the evening before the HIStory tour commenced its Australian leg (and the evening before Jackson's wedding to Debbie Rowe), and that print had the red background version of the SMPTE Universal Leader at the beginning.
In January 1997, while Michael Jackson's remix album Blood on the Dance Floor was being promoted, a Deluxe Collector Box Set of Ghosts was released in the UK (however, it was not released in the US). The box set included Jackson's Ghosts mini-movie on home video and his Blood on the Dance Floor album on CD, as well as a CD maxi single named the Limited Edition Minimax CD. "On the Line" was the first track on this single. Since "On the Line" was the leading track of this single, some fans simply call the Limited Edition Minimax CD "On the Line".
"On the Line" is a song co-written and produced by Babyface. Michael Jackson performs the track and is also credited in its writing (on the writing credits of The Ultimate Collection). It was originally recorded by Jackson for the Spike Lee movie Get on the Bus (1996), but it was not featured on the soundtrack.
The full-length version of the song was released on November 16, 2004 as an album track of his limited edition box set The Ultimate Collection.Written and composed by Babyface and Michael Jackson
Produced by Babyface
Solo and background vocals by Michael Jackson
Limited Edition Minimax CD (EPC 665268 2)
- "On the Line" (Short Version) – 4:37
- "Ghosts" (Mousse T's Radio Rock Singalong Remix) – 4:25
- "Is It Scary" (DJ Greek's Scary Mix) – 7:12