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Were Michael Jackson & Mickey Mouse actually supposed to team up for a music video back in the 1980s? Profiles in History has the proof

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Were Michael Jackson & Mickey Mouse actually supposed to team up for a music video back in the 1980s? Profiles in History has the proof

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Just a quick heads-up to all you animation & theme park history buffs out there: Profiles in History is holding an animation art auction on Wednesday, July 31st that you really don't want to miss.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

Joseph Maddalena and his PIH team always manage to chase down some truly amazing items for their auctions. Rarer-than-rare pieces like this early concept painting of Snow White from back when Walt was considering making "The Fairest in the Land" a blonde.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

Or this "Brer Rabbit's Splash Mountain" booklet that the Imagineers put together in the mid-1980s, back when Walt Disney Parks & Resorts was still trying to persuade McDonalds to come be the sponsor of this still-yet-to-be-built flume ride.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

That's what's usually so great about the animation art auctions that the Profiles in History people put together. The entertaining & eclectic mix of items that Maddalena & Co. always manage to put together. Weird period promotion items like the cell below, which shows Donald Duck dressed as the Coachman from Disney's "Pinocchio " ...


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

... or how about the ultimate pool toy? Which would be a couple of full-sized deep sea diver figures that used to be part of the show at Disneyland's Submarine Voyage ride.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

But if I had to pick the one item from Wednesday's animation art auction that is the true gem, that one thing which Disney enthusiasts & pop culture fans are going to completely lose their minds over, I'd have to say that it was Item No. 374. Which is this set of 12 storyboards for a never-shot music video which was to have started Michael Jackson & Mickey Mouse.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

Yep, back in the late 1980s, the King of Pop wanted to do what his idol -- screen legend Gene Kelly -- had never been able to pull off. And that was dance with the world's most famous cartoon mouse.

For those who haven't heard this story before: Back in 1944 when Kelly was still pulling together the dance routines that he wanted to perform in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's then-upcoming musical, "Anchors Aweigh ," he reportedly reached out directly to Walt Disney and asked for his permission to use Mickey Mouse in a musical number that would combine live-action footage & animation in a way that had never been done before.


The Gene Kelly Audio Animatronic figure from the "Singin' in the Rain" sequence in
the Great Movie Ride at WDW's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

As the story goes, Walt allegedly initially gave Gene permission to use Mickey in this soon-to-begin-shooting screen musical. But then Roy O. Disney reportedly nixed the idea, arguing that since the Studio still owed millions to the Bank of America for earlier production loans, it just wouldn't be wise for Disney to lend out the Studio's biggest star to the competition for free.

So since Gene now couldn't dance with Mickey in "Anchors Aweigh," Kelly was then forced to go with the second most famous cartoon mouse in the world. Which is Jerry the Mouse of "Tom & Jerry" fame. And while the finished version of  this musical number still wound up being a wow ... To hear Michael tell this story, whenever these two legendary entertainers got together to talk about Hollywood history, Gene would always eventually wind up moaning about how Roy O. Disney had ruined his chance to work with Mickey Mouse. Which is why he had to settle for the second best cartoon mouse instead.


Copyright Warner Home Video. All rights reserved

Now jump ahead to September of 1986. Which is when "Captain EO" had just opened at Disneyland Park. Which -- to Michael Jackson's way of thinking, anyway -- meant that The Walt Disney Company now owed him.

And given that Michael was already been developing "Moonwalker " at this point (i.e., a "Fantasia " -like concert film that Jackson dreamed of building around some of the songs featured on his soon-to-be-released album, 1987's "Bad ") ... Well, he wasn't going to settle for second best. Michael now wanted to do what Gene Kelly hadn't been able to do 40+ years earlier. Which is why Jackson reportedly reached out to Michael Eisner and personally pitched Disney's then-CEO about Michael & Mickey possibly teaming up to do a dance routine together for this yet-to-be-shot motion picture.

Now as I understand it, it was Jackson himself who hired a former Disney artist to put together the storyboards that were used for this pitch. Which starts out with the King of Pop telling the kids he's babysitting that it is now time to go to bed.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

And as Jackson is herding this boy & girl into their bedroom, Michael notices that these kids have left some of their toys behind on the floor.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

But as Michael bends over and picks up that Mickey Mouse doll, the King of Pop's magical touch then somehow brings this plush toy to life.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

At first, Michael & Mickey just dance & interact inside of that kids playroom.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

But then with a wave of that magical paintbrush which so often appears in Disney productions ...


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

... Mickey & Michael find themselves dancing through a surreal animated landscape that borrows a number of ideas & key creative concepts from the Benny Goodman sequence in Disney's 1946, "Make Mine Music ."


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

The borrowing from other earlier Disney animated films continues as Mickey -- just as he did in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence in "Fantasia" -- lose control of the magic that powers this fantasy world. And as giant dinosaur-like musical notes threaten to eat the world's most famous mouse, it's up to the King of Pop to rescue this rodent.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

Before things get totally out of control, Mickey & Michael finally manage to make their way back to the relative safety of that kids playroom which they started out  in ...


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

... where Mickey now decides that he's had more than enough music & magic for one night. And as the Mouse climbs up onto the dresser ...


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

... and as Michael clicks off the lights in the playroom ...


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

... the camera swings back to the dresser, revealing that Mickey is now once again just a plush plaything.


Copyright 2013 Profiles in History. All rights reserved

Isn't that a cute -- if somewhat slight -- concept to build a late 1980s-era music video around? Michael Jackson certainly thought so. And even though he and Disney's lawyers reportedly repeatedly tried to find a way to make this live action / animated musical extravaganza actually happen, in the end, they just couldn't get the financials to line up.

Long story short: Given that Michael had made "Captain EO" for the Disney Parks, Jackson -- being the shrewd businessman that he was -- felt that Eisner should now give him a sweetheart deal. Make him only pay pennies on the dollar for the rights to use Mickey Mouse in this proposed music video.


Mickey Mouse bows down before the King of Pop during a
1980s-era visit to WDW's Magic Kingdom. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Whereas Michael Eisner ... While he recognized what a huge deal it would be from a promotional point of view for both the Company & its most famous character to have Mickey Mouse & Michael Jackson appear together in a music video, he still wasn't willing to sell Disney's corporate symbol short. And when Jackson wasn't able to get Eisner to budge on the proposed budget for the project ... Well, that's when Michael suddenly found himself in Gene Kelly country. That if he still really wanted "Moonwalker" to have an animated sequence in it, Jackson was now going to have to creatively compromise. Which is why the proposed Mickey-and-Michael musical number got ditched in favor of a new Will Vinton-produced Claymatian sequence built around Jackson's "Speed Demon" song.


Copyright Warner Home Video. All rights reserved

So was Jackson angry with Eisner specifically and The Walt Disney Company in general for not allowing him to use Mickey Mouse in this proposed music video? Well, as you watch the "Speed Demon" sequence in "Moonwalker" today, it's hard not to look those two huge, obnoxious & grossly overweight Disney fans with their Mickey Mouse ears who are prominently featured in this portion of that motion picture ...


Copyright Warner Home Video. All rights reserved

... without thinking that these two Claymation characters have to be some sort of crude attempt at payback.

Anyway, this 22.5-by-30-inch board (which is covered with 12 drawings that are each 5.5 by 6.5 inches) are now all that remains of that proposed Mickey & Michael team-up. And given how many Mickey Mouse & Michael Jackson fans there are out there ... Well, I'd have to say that -- when this animation art auction is all over on Wednesday afternoon -- I will be very surprised if this piece of pop culture history doesn't wind up going for a multiple of the amount than the people at Profiles in History currently suggest that it will. Which is a relatively lowball bid of $600 - $800.

So what did you folks think of the artwork for this proposed Mickey & Michael music video? If this project had actually been completed, would you have been that much more likely to see "Moonwalker" when it was released to theaters back in 1989 and/or have purchased this Michael Jackson movie when it then became available on VHS?


Copyright Warner Home Video. All rights reserved

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  • Funny how this dance involves MIchael Jackson showing up to babysit some kids, and put a show on in their room before bedtime, as Jim writes:

    "Which started out with the King of Pop telling the kids that he was babysitting that it was now time for bed."

    In this century, no parent in their right mind would've asked the King of Pop to babysit their kids.  Glad Eisner didn't say yes as there would always be a creepy YouTube video of Michael Jackson herded kids into a bedroom and dancing with Mickey Mouse in front of them.

  • I'm sure you're right! What a great story! Thanks

  • Amazing how there is always an idiot to bring false allegations against Michael Jackson. Not guilty means nothing to these people. The video would be very nice.

  • Moonwalker was originally intended to be a theatrical release, but that release was cancelled even after posters and trailers were released. Moonwalker made it's pan-n-scan release on VHS and just recently in a widescreen, region-free Blu-ray that Warner Bros. released in Europe (but you can easily purchase in the states).

  • THIS IS AWESOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOME..IT WOULD'VE BEEN REALY REALY GR8 IF IT HAPPENED..BT WHY THEY DIDN'T MADE UP..I THINK STILL NW "MJ'S ESTATE CAN MAKE IT..IT WILL CREATE ANOTHER HISTORY

  • WHERE EVER "MJ" GO, WATEVER HE TOUCHE IT TURNS TO BLOOSOM.. JST LIKE WHEN "MJ" TOUCH TH DOLL (MICKEY) IT GT LIFE. LUV U "MJ"..

  • THERE'S NOTHING CREEPY..EVRYBODY WAS XCITED EVEN GLAD EISNER..I THINK IT DIDN'T HAPPEND BCOZ OF FINANCIAL CAUSE..

  • Great story, thank so much for sharing! i wish it happened...

  • This is a really interesting story.  I can definitely see where a dance sequence with Mickey Mouse--a frustrated desire of his friend Gene Kelly--would inspire Michael Jackson to try to achieve that dream for both of them.  And it would have been fitting.  It's hard to imagine topping the Claymation segment of Moonwalker, though.  Anything that Jackson really bought into creatively and put his heart into had a tendency to turn into pure magic.

  • What a great story. Gene and Michael were both innovators and visionaries whose work set new standards for filmmaking, dancing, special effects and just great fun! Thanks for sharing this. Would you let us know how the auction went today?

  • I didn't like that Speed Demon song or the video.  I also don't like it in the Michael Jackson Wii game.  These stupid facebook, twitter, envelope, M buttons on the left side of the screen are annoying.  They cover up parts of the article.  Whose dumb idea was that to put those there?

  • GregR - I'm sorry you don't care for sharing icons on the left side of the JHM site. They can be hidden by placing your cursor under the + icon until the arrow appears. Click on the arrow to hide the rest of the icons.

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