'Bubbles', Taika Waititi's Netflix Movie About Michael Jackson's Pet Chimp, Is No Longer Happening

We all knew this was coming. Bubbles, Taika Waititi's long-gestating stop-motion movie about Michael Jackson's chimpanzee, is officially dead. Isaac Adamson wrote the script, which is a kind of biopic of the late King of Pop told from the point of view of his pet chimp. Waititi was set to co-direct with Mark Gustafson, with Netflix distributing.

However, Waititi has officially departed, and his departure has inspired Netflix to cancel the project entirely. Waititi's leaving is being chalked up to scheduling difficulties with the live-action Akira he's directing, but it's also highly likely the project is dead in the water due to Leaving Neverland, the disturbing HBO documentary that rekindled talk of Jackson's alleged sexual misconduct with children.

Cartoon Brew has learned that Netflix's Bubbles is no more. Per their report:

Cartoon Brew has learned that A-list director Waititi left the film due to his heavy schedule, including work on the live-action adaptation of Akira. Netflix, which made a deal to acquire the film in 2017 for a reported $20 million, subsequently backed out. We've been told that one of the key reasons Netflix wanted to be involved with the production was because of Waititi's participation, and without him the project no longer made sense for the streamer.

While I'm sure Akiria is playing a big part in the decision, I'm also sure that the buzz around Leaving Neverland was what ultimately killed the project entirely. The four-hour documentary, which premiered at Sundance this year before heading to HBO, painted a stark, disturbing portrait of Jackson as a master manipulator and unrelenting predator by highlighting his alleged sexual misconduct with his young fans.

Even before Leaving Neverland caused a stir, Waititi attempted to distance the project from Jackson's image. "I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world," he said in 2017. "This film is not about Michael Jackson because that's not a story for me to tell – or a story I'd be comfortable telling — it's about a chimpanzee's fascinating journey through the complex jungle of human life."

By all accounts, Adamson's script – which was on the Black List – is wonderful, and would've made for a great movie, especially with Waititi's involvement. But Jackson's legacy has become radioactive in light of the Leaving NeverlandEven if Bubbles isn't really about the mega-star musician, his presence would likely still cast a long shadow over the proceedings.

That said, as recently as this month, Waititi was still speaking of the film as if it still might happen. "That script has been around for a long time, and it's a little bit stuck in the early stages of trying to figure out what it could be and what it would look like," he told Deadline. "It's a fucking brilliant script, though. It's so cool to look at the idea of telling a story like this through the eyes of a chimpanzee."

There's always a chance someone else might try to revive Bubbles a few years from now. But as of today, Bubbles is dead.