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The Simpsons creators remove Michael Jackson episode from circulation
The fallout over HBO's Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland continues, this time claiming some of the singer's animated work.
Jackson, credited as John Jay Smith, did some voice work in The Simpsons' Season 3 premiere episode, "Stark Raving Dad." He played Leon Kompowsky, a man confined to a mental institution for believing he was Michael Jackson.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the episode will be pulled from the Simpsons World streaming platform, will no longer be available to purchase online, and will not appear in syndication. Any future physical media, like box sets, won't include it either.
It was a decision that was made collectively by creators Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Al Jean after the three of them had each watched Leaving Neverland. The documentary focuses on the allegations of two now-grown men who claim to have been abused during the time they spent with the late pop superstar as children.
"It feels clearly the only choice to make," said Brooks in an interview with WSJ. "The guys I work with — where we spend our lives arguing over jokes — were of one mind on this."
Brooks also stressed that it wasn't a decision they took lightly. "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."
It's unclear when the episode will actually be removed from circulation. As of this writing, the episode is still available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon, and for streaming on the Simpsons World platform.
Several radio stations across the globe have elected to stop playing Jackson's music in the wake of Leaving Neverland. The documentary was just released on HBO last weekend after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January.