A few years ago, Netflix shelled out $20M for the rights to Taika Waititi's Bubbles, a stop-motion animated comedy about Michael Jackson's pet chimp. Waititi was onboard to direct, Dan Harmon's Starburns Industries (who also handled animation duties on Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa) were handling the animation, and the whole thing was tied together by a riotously funny, Black List-approved screenplay by Isaac Adamson. Given the talent involved, $20M was a steal.
But that was back in 2017. Here in 2019, where all things are good, Taika Waititi is a much busier man - so busy, in fact, that he's apparently decided to step away from the project, taking Netflix with him in the process.
Says Cartoon Brew, who broke the story:
"Taika Waititi will no longer direct the stop-motion feature Bubbles, a Michael Jackson biopic told from the point of view of his chimp friend, Bubbles. As a result of Waititi’s departure, Netflix has pulled out of the project, too, which led to a halt on pre-production at Starburns Industries."
Waititi, who's currently in post-production on this year's Jojo Rabbit, also has a live-action adaptation of Akira lined up with Warner Bros. Understandably, both of these projects are expected to take up quite a bit of Waititi's time...and yet, one cannot help but wonder if the recent Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, played a bigger role here. Of course the allegations against Jackson weren't unknown at the time Bubbles sold to Netflix and Waititi came aboard, but general sentiments regarding Jackson have changed (or solidified!) somewhat dramatically in the wake of Dan Reed's documentary, and it's very easy to imagine everyone involved having a change of heart about the project. Or, y'know, maybe he really is too busy.
At any rate, assuming Cartoon Brew's report is accurate, Bubbles is now officially in limbo until someone else steps aboard to direct and distribute. Stay tuned for further updates as they roll in.
(Note: Header photo by Gage Skidmore, used with permission via Wikimedia Commons)