Moonwalker, also known as Michael Jackson: Moonwalker, is a film released in 1988 by singer Michael Jackson. Rather than featuring one continuous narrative, the film is a collection of short films about the King of Pop, several of which are long-form music videos from Jackson's Bad album. The film is named after the physically complicated dance technique known as the moonwalk which is 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 originally released to coincide with Jackson's 1987 album, Bad. During the theatrical release of Moonwalker, Jackson was also embarking on a world tour. Moonwalker was not released until January 10, 1989 on Home Video in the United States and Canada, just as Michael Jackson's Bad World Tour finished. His tour was supposed to finish sooner, but postponed due to some vocal strain, so it went on until the last week of January 1989. The film was released theatrically in Europe and South America (However originally there were plans by Epic and Warner Brothers to give the feature a theatrical release in the US for Christmas 1988.) The video sold over 800,000 copies in the U.S alone by April 17, 1989.
The music video to Jackson's song "Man in the Mirror
" acts as the opening segment to the film. This short film features a montage of clips of children from Africa
, Mohandas Gandhi
, Martin Luther King, Jr.
, and other historical figures.
A short biographical
film about Jackson, covering the years from his birth until the Bad tour
. Short parts of the following songs are played:
A parody of the music video for Bad's title song
, featuring children filling the roles of various people from the original clip.
Of note, this video features a young Nikki Cox, who would eventually star on Unhappily Ever After and Las Vegas. The singing group The Boys appear as background dancers. The video also features Jermaine Jackson, Jr., and Brandon Quintin Adams of Mighty Ducks fame.
The "Badder" clip transitions into a second short film, referred to as Speed Demon
, directed by Claymation
innovator Will Vinton
. This acts as the music video to the song Speed Demon
. In the film, Michael, in an attempt to avoid overzealous fans, disguises himself as a rabbit (named Spike), but ends up taunting the fans into chasing him. During the chase, he morphs into other celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone
, Tina Turner
, and Pee-Wee Herman
. After finally losing the fans, he removes the costume, which comes to life and challenges him to a dance-off. In the end, a policeman tells him he is in a "No Moonwalking Zone", then sarcastically asks for his autograph (as opposed to "signature") on the ticket. Just as Michael is preparing to leave, the rocky crag in front of him morphs into Spike's head who then nods to him, leaving Michael one-upped by his own alter-ego. (But he seems happy enough as he leaves.)
Leave Me Alone
The fifth segment of the film is the short film for the song "Leave Me Alone
", and features an animated
music video focusing on media interest in Jackson's personal life
, because he had felt that the tabloid, media, press, paparazzi, etc. wouldn't leave him alone. He feels that no matter what he does to prove his innocence, they will not leave him alone. The video for the song won a Grammy
in 1989 for Breakthrough, animated video, the only Grammy Award received for the album, Bad.
Jackson plays a benevolent gangster
who uses his powers as a crime figure to protect the children of an unnamed big city. The film opens with a framing sequence depicting a scene linked to events occurring near the end of the film, in which a group of children (including Sean Lennon
) watch as Jackson exits a club and is attacked by mobsters with machine guns. The film then backtracks to Jackson playing in a field with the children and their dog. The dog runs away, and in their search for it, Jackson and the children uncover the lair of Mr. Big, Frankie Lideo (Joe Pesci
), a drug dealing mobster with an army of henchmen who wants to get the entire populace of planet earth addicted to drugs, starting with the children. Mr. Big discovers Jackson and the children, but they escape; Jackson tells the children to meet him at Club 30's, which turns out to be a haunted nightclub abandoned since the 1930s. The story goes back to the mobsters attack on Jackson, and here it is revealed that Jackson is actually a magical gangster, who draws his power from shooting stars. As one passes by the club, Jackson transforms into a sportscar and mows down several of Mr. Big's henchmen. The story picks up on the children at Club 30's, and at first the children are afraid, but when Jackson appears the scary atmosphere of the club transforms and the children find themselves back in the 1930s. The club is now filled with zoot suiters
and swing dancers. Jackson participates in a dance-off with the other club members, which serves as the music video for "Smooth Criminal
". The version of the song used in this segment is different from the album version — there are several new lyrics and the song is much longer overall, including symphonic material by Bruce Broughton
. The extra lyrics are to make the story of the song clearer. The more commonly seen music video form is a four-minute collage of various clips from the movie.
At the climax of the song, Mr. Big lays siege to the club and kidnaps one of the children, Katie. Jackson follows them back to Big's lair and ends up surrounded by his henchmen. Mr. Big appears and mentally tortures Jackson by threatening to inject Katie with highly addictive narcotics. While Katie manages to wriggle free from being injected, Mr. Big decides he's had enough and orders his men to kill Katie before finishing off Jackson, but not before a shooting star flies by. Jackson transforms into a giant robot and kills all of Mr. Big's soldiers. After Jackson turns into a giant 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 and saving the children from destruction.
The sports car featured in this segment (as a morphed Michael Jackson) is the 1970 prototype Lancia Stratos 0. The automobile now resides in the private show room of the Bertone stile center at Caprie (in Susa Valley).
The film closes with Jackson performing a cover of the Beatles
' song "Come Together
". One of the child actors in this movie is Sean Lennon
, son of the late Beatles member John Lennon
. Released as the B-Side to Remember the Time
in January 1992 and a slightly different version appeared on the 1995 release of the HIStory
album., on disc 2, track 8. This song was originally supposed to be on the "Days of Thunder" soundtrack.
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.
Throughout the 1990s, VH1
often featured Moonwalker
in their Michael Jackson marathons, but have ceased since the last marathon in 2001.
The movie is available on VHS from Sony. In April 2005, Moonwalker was released on DVD by Warner Home Video (Europe only). The DVD was also released in 2006 in South Korea. It has also been released on DVD in Australia and an NTSC transfer is available on the Warner Brothers Japanese R2 DVD. The film has also been released on VCD and Laserdisc.
Although bootleg transfers can be found on eBay, there are no plans for an official region 1 release.
Moonwalker was developed into an arcade video game by Sega with the help of Jackson, which was released on the Sega System 18 hardware. Home versions of the game were released for Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive and Master System home video game systems, though the gameplay was completely different on the Commodore 64, which was a more puzzle based video game, with the view looking down on Michael. The console versions of the game were actually based on an evolved version of the side-scrolling Sega Mega Drive (with gameplay somewhat similar to the Shinobi series), while the arcade version was a three-quarters view shooter/fighter type game. The games involved the player controlling the pop star in a quest to save children (called "Katies", since they were all young blonde females) that had been kidnapped by an evil gangster, though in the arcade version Katie was one of several children who could be rescued. 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 one or two player (taking turns) 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" until they could be destroyed.
- Cory Tyler (of A Different World fame) is a dancer in "Badder" sequence.
- R&B boy band, The Boys, are also dancers in the "Badder" sequence of this movie. The oldest brother in the group, Khiry, portrayed Wesley Snipes' character from the "Bad" video.
- Two crew members from the Superman films worked on the "Smooth Criminal" segment: David Newman wrote the segment, while Academy Award-winning special effects supervisor Colin Chilvers directed it.
- Jackson allowed pop parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic to use the set for "Badder" for his video for the "Bad" parody song Fat.
- The car Michael Jackson morphes into is a 1970 Bertone Stratos Zero.
- Joe Pesci's character, Mr. Big, is also known as Frankie Lideo. This is a pun on Frank DiLeo, Michael Jackson's manager at the time. Interestingly, DiLeo also played a character nicknamed Mr. Big, a high-powered record company executive, in the two Wayne's World movies.
- A glimpse of the Domino's Pizza mascot The Noid can be seen chasing Michael Jackson early on in the film.