Michael Jackson Estate Forces Removal of Plant-Eating Zombie

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Michael Jackson Estate Forces Removal of Plant-Eating Zombie

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The family of the late King of Pop has taken offense to a Thriller-parodying brain-eater in PopCap's popular Plants vs. Zombies.

Plants vs. Zombies is great for many, many reasons - and one of those reasons is the game's sense of humor. It's delightfully tongue-in-cheek with its various horticulture-based weaponry and flesh-eating undead, including one particular "dancing zombie," who was clearly meant as an homage to the iconic dance break in Michael Jackson's classic "Thriller" music video.

The latest update to PopCap's relentlessly addictive original, however, replaces the dancing zombie's distinctive red jacket (with matching pants) and curled hair for something more disco-themed. MTV Multiplayer reached out to the casual developer and found that the change had been made at the request of Michael Jackson's estate.

The Estate of Michael Jackson objected to our use of the 'dancing zombie' in PLANTS vs. ZOMBIES based on its view that the zombie too closely resembled Michael Jackson. After receiving this objection, PopCap made a business decision to retire the original 'dancing zombie' and replace it with a different 'dancing zombie' character for future builds of PLANTS vs. ZOMBIES on all platforms. The phase-out and replacement process is underway.

I, for one, am kind of bummed. Sure, I guess a disco-themed zombie is all right, but Michael Jackson's appearance in "Thriller" is the image of a dancing zombie. Considering that "Thriller" remains one of the most popular music videos (and albums) of all time years after its release (and after all of those weird lawsuits aimed at Jackson, too), why would you want to remove what was clearly a fond parody-slash-homage to it?

I'm not saying that the Jackson Estate might not have had legal grounds to stand on, and PopCap is doing the right thing in respecting the family's wishes ... but it just seems counterproductive to me.

(MTV Multiplayer)

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Okay, now PopCap had no idea that Michael Jackson was going to die. When he did, it was a rather unfortunate moment.
And the game's been out for over a year! What actual relevance does it have?

But, hell, if they thought it was relevant they would have removed it before now, surely.

This is both hella and lame. I am disappoint, Jackson Estate. VERY DISAPPOINT.

Really? I mean I know that by the time he'd died I'm betting most things that were made in regards to him were made with malicious intent.

But I don't see this as more than a simple homage, It's like the article says.
'Think dancing zombie and you instantly imagine Michael Jackson in Thriller.'

If I were part of the Jackson estate I'd be thrilled that someone was inspired enough by his works to implement what is a fairly clever homage to them man in his prime.

Am I completely misunderstanding something, or doesn't this fall under parody clauses, allowing them to use it anyways? I mean, I understand respecting the famalies wishes by removing it, but I think they could keep it if they wanted too.

John Funk:

I'm not saying that the Jackson Estate might not have had legal grounds to stand on, but it just seems counterproductive to me.

I totally agree. You'd think the family would see this as an homage, and allow it to continue. I guess I just don't understand.

Yeah, I'm disappointed that Jackson estate is going to be such fun-killers.

I see why they were doing it, they might've thought it was disrespectful to the guy and since he's dead well you get the idea.

But take it from our perspective: Michael Jackson made Thriller, the best thing with zombies in it commited to film that doesn't have the name George Romero on it, and you don't expect we're not going to reference it?

Susan Arendt:
This is both hella and lame. I am disappoint, Jackson Estate. VERY DISAPPOINT.

As am I. I am greatly disappoint with them. Actually, I am disappointment.

tomtom94:
Okay, now PopCap had no idea that Michael Jackson was going to die.

Or did they? Mwahahahahahahahahaha!

No your right they didn't. Stupid lawyers trying to get money over pointless things! Who'd have thought?

I guess it would make since and be a bit disrespectful if they had added it after he died, but the game was released a month before this happened and was obviously meant as an homage, not making fun of the fact that he died.

Would they like a little cheese with their "Whine"?

I can see why they wanted it to happen.

The resemblance was uncanny.

This is ridiculous, I can't stand how easily offended people are. Its NOT MICHAEL JACKSON, it's a god damned parody a regular zombie from the game drawn with a red jacket and black hair. I guess they'll have to take Bill Muray out of Zombie land when he dies huh? Don't want to offend someone after their dead right?

You're right. This is a perfect time to use Zombie Michael Jackson and they took it away. :(

Susan Arendt:
This is both hella and lame. I am disappoint, Jackson Estate. VERY DISAPPOINT.

I am in complete agreement with regards to this clearly pointless move. Killjoys.

lol!
When I saw this for the first time in the game, I knew that something like this is going to happen :D.

They need to get over Micheal's death

Does this mean they're going to mess with the Dancing Zombie's music? They'd better not!

Sigh...

Well nothing we can do about it so I wont moan.

For those who don't know. Representing the dead using the law to gain more money off of the deceased celebrity is an industry that actually produces a lot of money. Because it normally would take the actual celebrity to decide to press charges that legal representation has moved to the lawyer who represents the family and normally if you have a family member then you want to ensure as much profit as possible even if the celebrity is dead.

So it isn't so much as a pop cultural issue as it is a potential legal issue to profit from because we are now a society that is more concerned about owning ideas. Where any and all creations are no longer public domain but under strict IP copyright laws preventing such things as parody, homage, or satire because we now know there is money from thought.

Also I really don't think the lawyer cares about homage, satire, or parody or would get it even if it was in front of his face.

I remember when PvZ first came out and I saw the character ; I thought to myself " Wow ... an MJ parody that isn't making fun of him". If there was "little children" zombies following him or doing his bidding , etc I could see the removal ... but this is what it is ... a homage to MJ ... does no harm ... they should leave it be :/

What a shame. I loved those zombies. If I have the version without the change at least it will stay that way.

I move that we remove Vincent Price's voice from the Thriller video in respect!

this should be covered in the parody freedom of speech thing right? besides the thriller zombies are some of the most veiwed zombies ever an i would think they deserve a place. but oh well

Well I'm glad I managed to pick up PvZ over the weekend and finish it before they took this zombie out. I thought it was a great way for remembering his glory days as a singer. (if slight creepy homage considering he did die after this game was released) I really hope the family reconsiders it, but I fully respect their position on it considering I doubt I'd really want to see a zombie resembling a loved one be bludgeoned by cabbage and corn lobbing plants.

Quick question: Did Michael actually ever say he didn't like himself being parodied in PvZ?

Did he ever try to get it removed, or ever contact Popcap to have it removed?

If not, then I don't really see why its such a big problem to leave it in.
Hell, from what I've heard about him, he loved parody's of him. I remember Weird Al Yankovich saying how enthusiastic Michael was about what Al did. Even going so far as to letting him use the same stage of "I'm bad" for Al's "I'm fat".

So from this we can deduce Michael liked parody, and most likely didn't mind his parody in PvZ. In which case the Estate should respect Jackson's thoughts on the matter and let it be.

That sucks so much...why did the estate have to get so...prissy about it ><

Clearly the Jackson Estate has no sense of humour.

Digikid:
Would they like a little cheese with their "Whine"?

HAHAH! i have not heard anyone say that for many, many years. kudos to you.

What's the problem? Oh yeah, if there were to be an undead MJ there'd have to be undead children too. ;) I can see how the estate got offended.

Chimaera:

Susan Arendt:
This is both hella and lame. I am disappoint, Jackson Estate. VERY DISAPPOINT.

I am in complete agreement with regards to this clearly pointless move. Killjoys.

What did they want to do? Keep Michael Jackson's dignity after he died? I don't know if they were listening to the news in the last five years, but I think that is gone. Although after he died it does seem like people just focus on the pre-1995 Michael.

Irridium:
Quick question: Did Michael actually ever say he didn't like himself being parodied in PvZ?

Did he ever try to get it removed, or ever contact Popcap to have it removed?

Gods are too busy to deal with mortal flash games.

Irridium:

If not, then I don't really see why its such a big problem to leave it in.
Hell, from what I've heard about him, he loved parody's of him. I remember Weird Al Yankovich saying how enthusiastic Michael was about what Al did. Even going so far as to letting him use the same stage of "I'm bad" for Al's "I'm fat".

So from this we can deduce Michael liked parody, and most likely didn't mind his parody in PvZ. In which case the Estate should respect Jackson's thoughts on the matter and let it be.

Only once has Michael requested for a parody to not be done. "Black or White"s message was too important he says. That didn't stop Al from doing in in live shows. But yes, Jackson did love Weird Al and his parodies.

Popcap would likely win in court, but not before a lot of time and money was spent.

Dan Shive:
Popcap would likely win in court, but not before a lot of time and money was spent.

And PopCap is, despite appearances, a very, very small company. My guess is the Estate wanted some money to use MJ's likeness, and PopCap couldn't afford to pay up (or simply didn't want to, for which I don't blame them a bit).

Stupid society protecting everything with threatening small companies who are doing nothing wrong except making us ordinary peoples lives a little bit more enjoyable.

*Resists the urge to write big red swear words all over this post*

Maybe after getting contacted PopCap decided it was better to just respect the family's wishes and remove it, without any talk of lawsuits and settlements. Remember when that used to happen, when you did something because you thought it was right rather than because you'd be sued to oblivion if you didn't?

Not that the MJ estate doesn't carry a threat of lawsuit every time they sneeze, but that might not have been relevant.

Americans, I tell ye.

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