Taika Waititi’s busy schedule that includes the awards-season release of Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit means he is stepping away from plans to direct Bubbles, the stop-motion animated film that tracks the life of Michael Jackson through the eyes of the King of Pop’s pet chimpanzee. With Waititi off the project, we hear Netflix is pulling out of the project as well.
It is hard to imagine that the shocking abuse allegations made in the HBO docu Leaving Neverland by two men who as youths said they were molested by the singer during sleepovers, isn’t playing a part in the cratering of this intriguing project. After all, Netflix paid a whopping $20 million for the property in an auction held during 2017 Cannes. One might only imagine what Bubbles might have seen if there is truth in those accusations that have been vehemently denied by Jackson’s estate.
A source says the Bubbles producers are figuring out how to advance the project, which we understand was no longer a fit at Netflix without Waititi at the helm.
Film site Cartoon Brew first broke the news of the exits Thursday. Bubbles has been in pre-production at Starburns Industries, the animation-focused production company co-founded by Dan Harmon. Its credits include the stop-motion Anomalisa, which scored a Best Picture Oscar nom in 2016.
Bubbles, from Isaac Adamson’s spec screenplay that topped the 2015 Black List, was acquired by Netflix at Cannes in 2017 for a whopping $20 million. At the time, Waititi was set to co-direct with Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Gustafson since left and is now co-directing Pinocchio with Guillermo del Toro — also a stop-motion Netflix movie.
Waititi hinted he was oversubscribed earlier this month during a Deadline Disruptors interview, mentioning Bubbles as a script that “has been around for a long time.”
“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 said. “It’s a f*cking brilliant script, though. It’s so cool to look at the idea of telling a story like this through the eyes of a chimpanzee. But right now I’m finishing two other features — one which I’m looking to do this year — and finishing Jojo, and there are a couple of TV shows I’m developing. There’s about two or three that I mentioned to the press, and they’re way back on my back burner.”
He added: “I’ve actually had to start pulling out of other things, because I was just becoming too busy. And so even doing something like that delays everything else. Even with an animated movie, it turns out, you have to be pretty present.”
Waititi, whose TV adaptation of his and Jemaine Clement’s vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows bowed on FX in March, is prepping for the release of Jojo Rabbit, the satire movie that Fox Searchlight releases October 18. He directed, adapted Christine Leunens’ novel, and stars as Adolf Hitler.
In addition, the Thor: Ragnarok filmmaker in March boarded to co-write and direct the pilot for Time Bandits, the TV series adaptation of the beloved Terry Gilliam-directed movie, which is in development at Apple.