The creators of “The Simpsons” have shelved one of the animated series’ classic episodes because it features Michael Jackson’s voice, the show’s executive producer told The Wall Street Journal Friday.
Simpsons producers made the unanimous decision after viewing the bombshell documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which revives pedophilia accusations against the late megastar in excruciating detail.
“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Simpsons executive producer James L. Brooks told the WSJ.
The move appears to be the first such artistic ban in the United States since the documentary aired on US network HBO earlier this week. Several radio stations in Canada, New Zealand and Australia have stripped Jackson songs from their playlists in light of the film.
The 1991 episode in question sees Homer Simpson meet a mental hospital patient who believes he is the pop star Michael Jackson and speaks in the star’s signature high pitch.
Entitled “Stark Raving Dad,” the segment that aired on Fox in the show’s third season triggered intense fan speculation because Jackson’s name was not in the credits.
But just last year, Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening confirmed Jackson had indeed done the voice work — but not the song bit.
“When it came time to sing the songs, he had a sound-alike singer,” Groening told Australian television.
“And he stood there and watched the guy who was so nervous, who had to sound like Michael Jackson.”
Brooks told the paper the episode had been one of his favourites — but that pulling it was necessary in light of the documentary.
“This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain,” Brooks said, citing “evidence of monstrous behaviour.”
Prior to his 2009 death, Jackson emphatically denied molesting children, and was acquitted of child abuse charges in 2005 after a dramatic trial.
The late superstar’s estate has smeared the documentary as a “posthumous character assassination,” and is suing HBO for $100 million.
Brooks told the paper the Simpsons episode would be removed from streaming services, TV stations and box sets, a process that “has started.”
“I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter,” Brooks said.