Taika Waititi to Co-Direct Michael Jackson Movie 'Bubbles'

Austin Hargrave
Taika Waititi

He will co-helm the stop-animation feature with Mark Gustafson, aiming to utilize similar technology to Charlie Kauffman's 'Anomalisa.'

Taika Waititi has signed on to co-direct Bubbles, a Black List script detailing the life of the late Michael Jackson from the perspective of his beloved pet monkey. Given the centrality of Jackson to Waititi's 2010 award-winning film Boy (the young lead character was obsessed with the pop icon), it seems like a strong match.

Isaac Adamson penned the script, an untraditional and fantastical biopic, which was one of the top titles on the 2015 Black List. The film is expected to resemble Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa (2015), utilizing stop-animation technology, specifically the form of replacement animation, which combines 3D printing and puppetry. Anomalisa was the first animated film to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. It also was nominated for best animated picture at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

CAA will handle U.S. rights and Rocket Science will handle international rights. In response to the hiring of Waititi, Thorsten Schumacher, the head of the newly formed Rocket Science, said the addition of Waititi's "warmth, empathy and humor" to the project has allowed "all the pieces fit perfectly" together. Waititi just finished filming Thor: Ragnarok in New Zealand with Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Cate Blanchett.

Said Waititi of Bubbles' focus: "It's an idea that fascinates me and one I want to develop further. Most people know I'm a huge Michael Jackson fan, so the main thing for me is to make sure it's respectful of him and his legacy. I'm not interested in making a biopic; I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world. 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. I think animation is the only way to approach a story like this."

While Waititi brings a certain vision to the project, Gustafson's previous work as animation director on Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox suggests he will provide a technical expertise. Up next, he will be producing Guillermo del Toro's stop-motion animation Pinocchio. In regards to the unique angle of Bubbles, Gustafson said, "Bubbles, the chimp, had a front-row seat and a truly unique perspective on the pop culture phenomenon of Michael Jackson. I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with this great team to bring his story to life. Plus it's a monkey. Who doesn't love a monkey?"

Bubbles will be produced by Andrew and Walter Kortschak of End Cue and Dan Harmon's Starburns Industries. Isaac Adamson and Lee Stobby will serve as executive producers.

Waititi is repped by CAA, Morris Yorn and Dan Halsted of Manage-ment. Gustafson is repped by his manager Peter McHugh of The Gotham Group. Adamson is repped by CAA, manager Lee Stobby and lawyer Michael Schenkman. Starburns is repped by CAA.

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