Concert footage, concept videos and a career retrospective make up a video portrait of pop superstar Michael Jackson.
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 Jacksons Bad album. The film is named after the dance technique known as the moonwalk, which Jackson was known for performing in the 1980s. 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.
A movie that starts out with the "Man in the Mirror" music video, it then changes to a montage of video clips of Michael's career. Next comes a parody of his Bad video by children, and then Michael is chased by fans in a fantasy sequence. 2 more videos are shown, and then a movie in which Michael plays a hero with magical powers. In it he is chased by drug dealer Mr. Big and saves three children. Videos included in the movie are "Smooth Criminal" and "Come Together".
The release of Moonwalker was originally scheduled to coincide with Jacksons 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.
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.
The second segment is 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 in the following order:"Music and Me"
"I Want You Back"
"ABC" (designed by David Daniels)
"The Love You Save"
"Whos Lovin You"
"Blame It on the Boogie"
"Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)"
"Rock with You"
"Dont Stop til You Get Enough"
"Can You Feel It"
"State of Shock"
"We Are the World"
"The Way You Make Me Feel"
The third segment is a parody of the music video for Bads 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. (Michaels 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. Horribles 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.
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 Jacksons 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 and paparazzi (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/press 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 Michaels autograph (as opposed to "signature") on the ticket. Just as Michael is preparing to leave, the rabbits head materializes on a nearby rocky crag, which then nods to him and smiles.
The fifth segment of the film is the animated music video for the song "Leave Me Alone", focusing on media interest in Jacksons personal life, because he had felt that people wouldnt leave him alone. It compares Michael Jacksons life to an amusement park. It is meant to point out, in a mocking tone, the way the media unnecessarily sensationalized his life with claims that he had a shrine to Elizabeth Taylor and bought the Elephant Mans bones. In the video, Jacksons life is portrayed as a circus due to the presss manipulation and the everyday tug-of-war he endured as an artist. 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. The press are portrayed with dog heads to insinuate that they are like animals.
The sixth and the main 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 Michaels 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. Bigs henchmen. Michael is pursued through the city streets until he loses the henchmen. Meanwhile, the children scout out Club 30s, 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 Bigs 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. Bigs 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 Broughtons 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.
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 30s, where they find that the club has turned into the backstage area of a concert. Michaels stage crew return the childrens 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. Jacksons version of the song was not officially released until 1992 as a B-side on the single, "Remember the Time," and later in 1995 when it appeared on the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.
During the closing credits, two more segments are shown. The first has Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing "The Moon is Walking" in Club 30s amidst behind-the-scenes clips. The second is the four-minute version of the "Smooth Criminal" music video.Michael Jackson - Himself
Joe Pesci – Frankie "Mr. Big" LiDeo
Kellie Parker – Katie
Sean Lennon – Sean
Brandon Quintin Adams – Zeke "Baby Bad" Michael (Smooth Criminal)/Kid MJ (Badder)
Speed Demon Claymation by Will Vinton
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."
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.
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 Jacksons 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. This Blu-ray version contained a new remastered transfer and a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The release has been censored, with the scenes of Mr. Big hitting Katie and threatening to inject her with heroin cut. It is also cropped to 16:9 from the home releases 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.
A parody sequel of Moonwalker was released in 2011 by DeRam Films entitled Return of the Moonwalker. In it many of the songs from the original are parodied including Smooth Criminal.
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 Jacksons 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 Segas 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, 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, Michaels chimp, transformed him into a robot warrior, replacing Michaels "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. Bigs 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.
Michael Jacksons This Is It (2009). Moonwalker and Michael Jacksons Ghosts are part of the same movie series. Michael Jackson wrote the screenplay for Moonwalker and appears in The Wiz. Sean Lennon appears in Moonwalker and Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. Bad 25 (2012).
In 1989, Blackthorne Publishing adapted the film into a comic book, Moonwalker 3-D (# 75 in Blackthornes 3-D Series). 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. Blackthorne ceased its operations in 1990.