MJ's estate hits out at unofficial projects

Just beat it, beat it - is the new command from the estate of pop superstar Michael Jackson who stormed the charts with Beat It in 1982.

His estate is not amused that there has been a mini-deluge of film-makers trying to capitalise on the life and times of the iconic singer who died in 2009 from drug intoxication at age 50.

On Monday, the estate issued a statement to distance itself from two unsanctioned Jackson projects.

One comes from Lifetime TV. The other hinges on a script that was snapped up recently by streaming service Netflix, reported Billboard magazine.

Last week, Lifetime TV rolled out a trailer for its film Michael Jackson: Searching For Neverland. It is inspired by a 2014 book that was penned by the singer's bodyguards Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard. Jackson impersonator Navi takes on the lead role in the film that is scheduled for release this month.

The estate is also taking issue with Netflix's tie-up with a Jackson project from director Taika Waititi who also helmed the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok that stars Chris Hemsworth. The stop-motion animated film is told from the perspective of Jackson's pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, which was adopted in the mid-1980s.

Trade publication Variety reported that the film was heavily bid on at the Cannes Film Festival and is nearing a US$20 million (S$28 million) deal for screening rights worldwide.

The movie could be ready by 2019 - just in time to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Jackson's death.

Over in Egypt, Jackson mania reigns too.

Work will begin on Sheikh Jackson, a movie set in 2009 about an Islamic cleric obsessed with the pop star when he is a teenager and has an identity crisis after the singer's death, Variety reported.

On Monday, Jackson's estate hit back at these projects in a statement: "To clear up any confusion or misperceptions about unsanctioned Michael Jackson projects currently in the news... the Estate of Michael Jackson does not license or permit the use of any rights it owns, including to Michael's music, images, video and films, for use in unauthorised works seeking to exploit Michael's legacy."

It noted that the estate itself has many projects in development which "respect, honour and celebrate Michael's life and legacy along with his extraordinary artistry that touched fans throughout the world".

It adds: "When the executors are ready to announce them, they will. As Michael said countless times about his own work, the quality goes in before the name goes on."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'MJ's estate hits out at unofficial projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe