Netflix and Taika Waititi have reportedly pulled out of animated film Bubbles.
The stop-motion film about Michael Jackson’s pet chimp was one of the buzziest titles snapped up at Cannes in 2017, with Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi and Fantastic Mr. Fox’s Mark Gustafson jointly at the helm. Based on a spec screenplay by Isaac Adamson, the movie chronicles the life of the iconic singer, but from the perspective of his infamous pet chimp.
A lot can happen in two years, though, with Gustafson departing last year to become co-director on Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix adaptation of Pinocchio. Now, Waititi has walked away too, due to scheduling difficulties, as he works on a live-action adaptation of Akira.
Cartoon Brew broke the news, with sources telling the animation publication that Netflix has subsequently backed out as well. That’s reportedly because Waititi’s involvement was a key element of the project for the streamer, although the prospect of a movie about Jackson is much less appealing since the release of Leaving Neverland, the documentary about two people allegedly abused by the singer.
All of this means that Bubbles has been halted at LA-based Starburns, which made Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa. The film was in pre-production, with around two dozen people reportedly working on puppets and animation tests, with crew members now out of work.
“Some of laid-off crew members are unhappy that Waititi backed out of the project because they had turned down work on other hotly-anticipated stop motion projects for Netflix (Henry Selick’s Wendell and Wild, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio) to work with him on Bubbles,” reported Cartoon Brew.
Starburns has not yet commented on the project, and neither has Netflix, although a spokesperson reportedly did not dispute Cartoon Brew’s account of events.
Bubbles: Netflix nabs Taika Waititi film about Michael Jackson’s chimp
19th May 2017
Cannes has only been going for a couple of days and Netflix is already making its presence felt with a deal to nab the rights to Bubbles.
The stop-motion film about Michael Jackson’s pet chimp is one of the buzziest titles to hit the Croisette this week – not as a fully-fledged premiere, but in the marketplace where Netflix and other streaming services have become forced to be reckoned with.
Co-directed by Taika Waititi and Fantastic Mr. Fox’s Mark Gustafson, the animation chronicles the life of the iconic singer, but from the perspective of his infamous pet chimp. The project stems from a spec screenplay by Isaac Adamson, which topped the Black List of introduced scripts in 2015. With the Thor Ragnarok director now attached, the offbeat project has only become even more appealing.
Deadline pegs the deal at around $20 million, after a heavy round of bidding for the rights, with Andrew Kortschak and Walter Kortshak of End Cue and Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries on producing duties, with Adamson and Lee Stobby as exec producers.
The deal was brokered by CAA and marks the first major sale of the fortnight. It follows a Sundance where Netflix and Amazon dominated trade activity, snapping up the rights to such titles as Mudbound, Icarus and The Incredible Jessica James. With Netflix premiering its first ever competition entries at Cannes this weekend – Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories – it looks like the streaming service is only just getting started.