‘Michael Jackson’s Halloween’: Claiming Another Crown For The King Of Pop
King of Halloween: Michael Jackson’s Halloween, a new one-hour animated adventure with Jackson’s music as its soundtrack, airs tonight.
Every October, just as reliably as the autumn leaves start to change in colder climes, the songs of Michael Jackson creep back onto lists of the most-played—especially his Halloween-spooky “Thriller” and lesser-known “Somebody’s Watching Me,” a Rockwell track featuring his vocals.
Both songs figure prominently into Michael Jackson’s Halloween, an hourlong animated special set to air on CBS tonight. Directed by Mark Dippé and produced by Jackson estate co-executors John Branca and John McClain, the program will act as a family-oriented visual follow-up to recently-released album Scream, a compilation of Jackson’s eeriest work. It’s all part of an effort to cement his status as not just the King of Pop, but the King of Halloween.
“Michael loved Halloween, he loved animation; he was basically a big kid at heart,” says Branca. “We wanted to stay true to and be inspired by Michael and what his tastes and loves were.”
The special will follow two youngsters who meet by chance at This Place Hotel on 777 Jackson Street. Joined by a little white dog named Ichabod, they are confronted with a major choice, picking between what’s expected of them or following their dreams. They’re aided in their journey by Jackson himself—who takes the form of three characters: a dancing pumpkin, a spider security guard and a black cat scientist—in each case attempting to inspire the characters to find their true calling.
Aside from Jackson’s music, the special will have other familiar elements. The cast of voice actors includes CBS stars Lucy Liu and Jim Parsons; the animation takes stylistic cues from seasonal classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas.
“There’s a lot of pieces … that inspire myself and my team in terms of animation style and look,” says Dippé. “It’s a fantastic, magical world with these magical characters that are able to tell stories that, let’s say, a normal human might not necessarily tell.”
That’s been a theme in the lucrative postmortem world of Jackson, who pulled in a stunning $825 million last year—the highest annual total ever amassed by any entertainer, dead or alive—thanks largely to the sale of his half of the Sony/ATV music publishing catalog. His cumulative postmortem pretax earnings tally now sits north of $1.5 billion.
With the catalog’s steady payouts now out of the picture and the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour in the rearview mirror, the singer’s estate appears to be looking to establish other reliable income streams to couple with its remaining Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas and ongoing revenue from Jackson’s own work. Locking in his Halloween supremacy seems like a wise move, beginning with the CBS special.
“We hope that it’ll become evergreen,” says Branca. “We may actually do some updates from time to time after the first run. You know you see Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown Thanksgiving every year, so now we’re looking to have Michael Jackson’s Halloween every year.”
Don’t expect the program to push Jackson anywhere close to matching his once-in-an-afterlifetime 2016 payday. But will the King of Pop continue his reign as the top-earning star beyond the grave? Check back here on Monday to find out as we release our annual list of the highest-paid dead celebrities, just in time for Halloween.