Written and Composed by Michael Jackson
Produced by Quincy Jones for Quincy Jones Productions
Co-Produced by Michael Jackson for MJJ Productions, Inc.
From the album Bad, released August 31, 1987
Released as a single February 1989
THE SHORT FILM
Directors: Jim Blashfield & Paul Diener
Primary Production Location: Los Angeles, California
Michael Jackson’s short film for “Leave Me Alone” was the seventh of nine short films produced for recordings from Bad, one of the best selling albums of all time. While “Leave Me Alone,” exclusive to the CD edition of Bad, was not released as a single in the United States, it reached the Top 10 in eight countries throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Norway and Ireland (where it reached No. 1).
“Leave Me Alone” was the first of Michael’s songs to directly comment on the media frenzy that often surrounded him. “The price of fame can be a heavy one,” he wrote in his 1988 memoir Moonwalk. “Consider that you really have no privacy. You can’t really do anything unless special arrangements are made. The media prints whatever you say. They report whatever you do…I think my image gets distorted in the public’s mind. They don’t get a clear or full picture of what I’m like.”
The “Leave Me Alone” short film features images of Michael singing from the fronts of various tabloids and newspapers, before Michael travels by rocket ship through a surreal amusement park built around a giant Michael tied down like Gulliver in the classic book Gulliver’s Travels. We follow Michael as he guides the rocket through various send-ups of press reports from his life and career, including a shrine to actress Elizabeth Taylor and even the bones of Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man,” who Michael dances with toward the end of the short film.
Along the way, he picks up his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, and his boa constrictor, Muscles, and is “hounded” by members of the press, represented as dogs superimposed onto human bodies. At the end of the short film, a giant Michael emerges from the center of the amusement park, breaking free of the roller coaster tracks and other diversions that were built upon him.
The making of the “Leave Me Alone” short film was an unusually long process due to its unique visual style. While all of the footage of Michael was shot in only three days, an additional nine months were spent not only on special effects but cutting out portions of the 35-millimeter film footage with X-Acto knives, then layering and animating the scenes together for a fittingly unusual look. Co-director Jim Blashfield noted in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone that properly animating the splashes of water throughout the film took weeks.
The “Leave Me Alone” short film was well received by critics and fans and earned several awards and honors for Michael. The short film was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1989, winning for Viewer’s Choice and Best Special Effects. A year later, “Leave Me Alone” won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video – Short Form. A Rolling Stone critic’s poll in 2008 ranked “Leave Me Alone” at No. 8 on the 100 Top Music Videos (one of five of Michael’s short films on the list, alongside “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller” and “Black or White,” and his highest-ranking video on the list), and in 2014 the magazine ranked it at No. 8 on a list of Michael Jackson’s Greatest Videos.