On This Day In History: Moonwalker Video Is Released January 10, 1989

MJ-moonwalkerimages (23)Movie Trailer

Moonwalker, also known as Michael Jackson: Moonwalker, is an American anthology film released on October 29,1988 by singer Michael Jackson.

The release of Moonwalker was originally scheduled to coincide with Jackson’s 1987 album “Bad.” During the theatrical release of Moonwalker, Jackson was also embarking on the Bad world tour, his first tour as a solo performer. The film was released theatrically in Europe and South America, but Warner Brothers canceled plans for a Christmas 1988 theatrical release in the United States. Moonwalker was instead released on home video in the United States and Canada on January 10, 1989, just as the Bad tour finished. it was rumored that Michael’s manager (and along with MJ the film’s executive producer) Frank DiLeo wanted such a high percentage of the box office returns that it was cancelled.

The Bad tour was supposed to finish sooner, but had been postponed due to some strain on Michael’s vocals. The tour went on until the last week of January 1989. The video had sold more than 800,000 copies in the U.S. by April 17, 1989 

Rather than featuring one continuous narrative, the film is a collection of short films about Jackson, several of which are long-form music videos from Jackson’s Bad album. The film is named after the dance technique known as the moonwalk, which was one of his trademark moves. The name of the dance move was dubbed by the media, not by Jackson himself; however, he did choose the title of the film himself. Moonwalker was a success at the box office, making a total of $67,000,000 worldwide. It even had a game based on it called Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, which was developed by Sega for their home consoles and the Arcade.

gfs_29190_2_12 Making Of Moonwalker


Michael Jackson

Joe Pesci – Frankie “Mr. Big” LiDeo

Kellie Parker – Katie

Sean Lennon – Sean

Brandon Quintin Adams – Zeke “Baby Bad” Michael (Smooth Criminal)/Kid MJ (Badder)


The movie received generally mixed reviews. Critics praised the music though complained that there was no plot, and that it seemed like a series of music videos tied together. Variety reported that Moonwalker “seems unsure of what it was supposed to be. At the center of the pic is the “Smooth Criminal” segment, a musical/dramatic piece full of dancing, schmaltzy kids, sci-fi effects and blazing machine guns [directed by Colin Chilvers, based on a story by Jackson].

Around it are really just numerous Jackson music videos with little or no linkage. Although quite enjoyable the whole affair does not make for a structured or professional movie.”

The “Leave Me Alone” video aired as a separate entity and won a Grammy in 1989 for Breakthrough Animated Video, which is the only Grammy Award Michael received for the album Bad.


“Man in the Mirror”

The first segment of Moonwalker is a live performance of “Man in the Mirror” during his Bad tour in Europe clips from Wembley Stadium among others can be seen. It also features a montage of clips of children in Africa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon, and other historical figures.



A short biographical film about Jackson, covering the early years from the Jackson 5 until the Bad world tour. Excerpts of the following songs are played:

 “Music and Me”

“I Want You Back”

“ABC” (designed by David Daniels)

“The Love You Save”


“Who’s Lovin’ You”


“Dancing Machine”

“Blame It on the Boogie”

“Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”

“Rock with You”

“Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough”

“Can You Feel It”

“Human Nature”

“Beat It”


“Billie Jean”

“State of Shock”

“We Are the World”

“The Way You Make Me Feel”

“Dirty Diana”

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A parody of the music video for Bad’s title song, featuring children filling the roles of various people from the original clip.

The video stars Brandon Quintin Adams as the young Michael Jackson, who would later star in The Mighty Ducks. It also featured Jermaine La Jaune Jackson, Jr. (Michael’s nephew) and a young Nikki Cox, who later starred in Unhappily Ever After and Las Vegas. The singing group The Boys appeared as background dancers. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog co-writer Maurissa Tancharoen, as well as future R&B star Bilal Oliver, are also featured in this segment.

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“Speed Demon”

The fourth segment begins with the “Badder” short film transitioning into the second short film, “Speed Demon”, directed by Claymation innovator Will Vinton. A portion of the clip is set to Jackson’s song “Speed Demon.”

After filming “Badder”, Little Michael and his bodyguards (also young kids) are leaving the set and walk through a cloud of smoke and come out as their regular age. A boy and his grandmother spot Michael and prompts the other tourists to get off the bus and chase him for an autograph. In an attempt to avoid the overzealous fans (even The Noid) and some gunslingers (after stumbling upon the filming of a Western directed by Steven Spielberg), Jackson soon disguises himself as a rabbit named Spike, but ends up taunting the fans into chasing him once they realize it is him. During the chase, he morphs into other celebrities, namely Sylvester Stallone, Tina Turner and Pee-Wee Herman. After a long chase, the fans are finally pulled over by a cop and are arrested. After finally losing the fans, he pulls over in a canyon and removes the costume, which comes to life and challenges him to a dance-off.

In the end, a traffic cop tells him he is in a “No Dancing Zone”, and when Michael turns to point to the rabbit, he sees that the rabbit has disappeared. The cop then sarcastically asks for Michael’s autograph (as opposed to “signature”) on the ticket. Just as Michael is preparing to leave, the rabbit’s head materializes in a nearby rocky crag, who then nods to him and smiles.

“Leave Me Alone”

The fifth segment of the film is the animated music short film for the song “Leave Me Alone”, focusing on media interest in Jackson’s personal life, because he had felt that people wouldn’t leave him alone. It compares Michael Jackson’s life to an amusement park. His beloved then-pet chimp Bubbles makes a cameo appearance as Jackson is seen picking him up and riding with him in his roller coaster car. His pet snake, Muscles, is also present.

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“Smooth Criminal”

The sixth segment of the film begins with three homeless children sneaking through a big city to see their friend Michael walk out of his apartment. As Michael stands in front of the door, he gazes at the night sky before he is attacked by mobsters with machine guns. The film then backtracks to show Michael and the children playing in a meadow in happier times. Their dog Skipper runs away, and as Michael and Katie look for him, they uncover the cottage of Frankie Lideo AKA “Mr. Big”. Mr. Big is a drug-dealing warlord with a disciplined private army of soldiers at his command; he wants to get the entire population of Earth addicted to drugs, starting with children. He likes to eat peanuts and leaves nutshells wherever he goes, and is obsessed with spiders (as displayed by their abundance at the entrance to his lair), and calls his operation “bugs and drugs”. He also has them engulfing a model globe when making a speech about his burgeoning drug empire. The spiders signify the spread of his proposed control of the world via drug dealing. Further, all his henchmen sport a spider crest on their uniforms. Katie screams when she sees a spider on her hand, and Mr. Big discovers them spying on his operation.

The story returns to the shooting in front of Michael’s store. Unknown to the gangsters, Michael has a “lucky star”, and using it, he escaped the gunfire. Upon realizing that Michael has escaped again, Mr. Big orders his henchmen to track him down with dogs. He is eventually cornered in an alley, where he uses his lucky star again to turn into a sportscar (the 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero prototype) that mows down several of Mr. Big’s henchmen. Michael is pursued through the city streets until he loses the henchmen. Meanwhile, the children scout out Club 30’s, where Michael had told them to meet him, and find only an abandoned and haunted nightclub. As Michael arrives, Katie sees a silhouette of him turning back from a car into himself. The door of the club opens with a gust of wind, and Michael walks in to find it filled with zoot suiters and swing dancers. The children gather outside a window of the club and watch Michael dance to “Smooth Criminal.” The famous dance sequence was choreographed by Vincent Paterson and Michael Jackson.

The song used in the film is much longer than the album release, with several lyrics that clarify the story. There is also an interlude wherein Jackson joins the other dancers in a modern interpretive dance. At the climax of the song, Mr. Big lays siege to the club and kidnaps Katie. Michael follows them back to Big’s lair and ends up surrounded by his henchmen. Mr. Big appears and taunts Michael by threatening to inject Katie with highly addictive narcotics. Katie breaks free for a moment, but Mr. Big grabs her again and starts kicking Michael.

As Mr. Big stands over Michael and orders his henchmen to kill him and Katie, Michael looks up and sees his lucky star. He transforms into a giant robot and kills all of Mr. Big’s soldiers, then turns into a spaceship. Mr. Big gets into a large hillside-mounted energy cannon, firing on the spaceship into a nearby ravine. The children are his next target, but the spaceship returns from the ravine just in time to fire a beam in the cannon with Mr. Big inside, killing him. The children watch the ship fly into the night sky with shower of light.

Note: A 4:36 suite of Bruce Broughton’s score for this segment (Broughton also wrote the underscore for “Speed Demon”) was recorded by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops for the album Fantastic Journey, representing the only (officially) released music from this film by an artist other than Michael Jackson, although bootlegs are available of the score.

“Come Together”

In the conclusion to “Smooth Criminal”, Sean, Katie and Zeke return to the city, believing that Michael is gone forever. As the boys talk about Michael, Katie walks away crying and clutching a paper star. As she sits in a corner wishing for him to come back, the paper star flies out of her hand and Michael walks out of the night fog. He takes them to Club 30’s, where they find that the club has turned into the backstage area of a concert. Michael’s stage crew return the children’s missing dog and then escort Michael onto the stage where he performs a cover of The Beatles song “Come Together” with the children watching and cheering him on from backstage. Jackson’s version of the song wasn’t officially released until 1995 when it appeared on the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.

Skip to 4:15

Closing credits

During the closing credits, two more segments are shown. The first has Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing “The Moon is Walking” in Club 30’s amidst behind-the-scenes clips. The second is the four-minute version of the “Smooth Criminal” music video.


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