In the twilight of his career, Michael Jackson was almost as well known for the projects he never completed as he was for the ones that came to fruition. From the mid-1990s on, fans were frequently tantalized with the promise of movies, theme parks, tours and song collaborations with the day's hottest music stars that came and went without ever being realized.
As the one-year anniversary of Jackson's death approaches, MTV News is taking a look at the many plans the King of Pop dreamed up before his premature end, some of which are finally becoming reality.
Despite more than a decade out of the pop-culture spotlight, Jackson also clearly never stopped having his finger on the pulse of what was going on in music. Lady Gaga recently revealed that Jackson had tapped her to open for his 50-show This Is It stand at the O2 arena in London. "I was actually asked to open for Michael on his tour," she said. "We were going to open for him at the O2. ... And we were working on making it happen. And I suppose there was some talk about the openers doing some duets with Michael onstage."
In fact, one of the choreographers of This Is It said in an interview that not only did Jackson want to have Gaga open for him, he was very interested in recording a song with her before his death. Travis Payne said that after giving Jackson a short list of possible collaborators for his next musical project (including Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Usher and Justin Timberlake), the pop icon suggested Payne check out the then budding superstar Gaga.
"He goes, 'Lady Gaga.' I go, 'Really?' He goes, 'Yeah.' He's the one who really got me to get into her," Payne recalled. "He literally told me, 'You gotta get into her. She's good.' So, I started listening to her music more and going on YouTube and looking at her performances, and I was like, 'He's right.' "
Jackson was also clearly looking to take his place among the musical icons he most admired and whose sales records he was determined to break during the course of his career. Just like the Beatles and Elvis Presley, Jackson will be immortalized by Cirque du Soleil with a permanent show in Las Vegas and a touring version in 2011, thanks to an agreement with Jackson's estate. This brings to fruition a long-held dream for Jackson, who was a big fan of the Canadian troupe's productions and had discussed mounting a show based on his music several years before his death.
Jackson always dreamed big, and toward the end of his life, he spent quite a bit of time in Vegas cooking up another abandoned pie-in-the-sky project. In October 2005, just a few months removed from his acquittal on child molestation charges, Jackson began work with fashion designer André Van Pier on costume and set designs for a Las Vegas residency. Their concepts included plans for a 50-foot tall MJ robot that would roam the Nevada desert as an ad for the singer's show and an enticement to visit a robot-themed hotel. Like so many of Jackson's fantasias, it was not to be.
That was also the case with a movie the pop star had planned to co-direct about an orphan shuttled between foster homes, titled "They Cage the Animals at Night." Even as he was gearing up for the This Is It run, Jackson was trying to get financing together for the indie film, based on the 1985 book about foster kid Jennings Michael Burch. Jackson told friend and filmmaker Bryan Michael Stoller that he related to the book because he often felt like an orphan as a child due to his hectic life as a young pop star, and he had actually been thinking about adapting the book since around 2003, when he invited Burch to his home to be interviewed on camera.
For years before his death, Jackson had been recording tracks for what was slated to be his comeback from 2001's disappointing Invincible album. He'd logged studio time with Akon and Will.I.Am and spoken to T-Pain, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Irv Gotti, Chris Brown, DJ Whoo Kid, Sean Garrett, Ne-Yo and 50 Cent about collaborations. Most of those tracks were never recorded or have not seen the light of day, but over the past year, a few songs and snippets have leaked online, including a 90-second taste of a duet with rocker Lenny Kravitz called "Another Day." The unfinished demo of the song with the grinding R&B beat and soaring strings — on which Kravitz later said he played all the instruments and sang — is similar to a tune Kravitz used on his 2004 album Baptism, but it's unknown if he recorded the song with Jackson first.
One of the more exciting posthumous items (it's unknown if Jackson was involved in its development at the time of his death) is a yet-untitled MJ video game from Ubisoft due by the end of the year. The game, based on Jackson's legendary music and performances, will allow players to groove along to mega-hits like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" while learning some of the singer's signature dance moves.
Among the other projects that have emerged in the past year: a movie about the singer's final days from biographer Ian Halperin, the "We Are the World" remake featuring Jackson's original vocals among those of a host of contemporary singers, a "This Is It" video directed by Spike Lee, his attempt to quash the beef between 50 Cent and Game and the super-secret video production known as the "Dome Project" that appeared to be connected with the massive stage set and 3-D films being made for the This Is It shows. And this month, plans were announced to build a Jackson Family Museum and arts center in his hometown of Gary, Indiana.
Celebrate Michael Jackson's legacy all week long as MTV News looks back at his life, his music and the death that shook the world one year ago.