Michael Jackson Family Force PvZ Re-Design

No, I didn't finish it. Finished Defense Grid: The Awakening, though.

Remember those Michael Jackson-looking zombies from Plants Vs. Zombies? Not anymore, you don’t. The MTV Multiplayer blog has an announcement from PopCap which confirms that the Dancing Zombie is undergoing a redesign following complaints from the Michael Jackson estate, who wanna be startin’ something.

It’s totally understandable, of course, considering that when Plants Vs. Zombies came out Michael Jackson hadn’t passed away yet and since then the joke’s taken on an unintentionally morbid tone.

Here’s that statement from PopCap:

“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.”

The new Dancing Zombie will be disco-themed and has yet to be introduced to the Steam version of the game. If you want screenshots, take ’em now.


  1. Ian says:

    I hope it’s John Travolta.

  2. terry says:

    Michael Flatley?

  3. Rinox says:

    So, when are they going to retire the Thriller video?

  4. Bumholio the Wise says:

    The “zombie” in PvZ looks more like Michael Jackson than Michael Jackson.

  5. LewieP says:

    They should just make it appear more black.

  6. Elyas says:

    Change the hair, remove the black stripes and you can say it’s Eddie Murphy in Delirious.

  7. Baboonanza says:

    Seems reasonable.

    And PopCap can’t be complaining, it’s great free publicity.

  8. Craymen says:

    I think this has more to do with Michael Jackson being more valuable now he’s dead, than he was alive, and the Estate trying to protect their “brand”.

  9. Leelad says:

    The cartoon resembles him more when he was alive as opposed to him in thriller.

    Can only assume that the cash flow has slowed and needed a publicity shot in the arm.

  10. qx says:

    Black people.

  11. Tei says:

    Somewhat idiotic. This was a homage to the work of the artist in the video Thriller.

    And I don’t think this game is the thing damaging the reputation of the artist… * insert pedo joke here*

  12. negativedge says:

    This week–of all weeks–“PvZ” is Protoss versus Zerg, ok.

  13. Davian says:

    Rick Astley would make a great replacement.

  14. Harlander says:

    “Michael Jackson Family Force Protoss vs. Zerg Re-Design”?

    I don’t…

    Actually that’d be a rather fascinating headline.

    • S says:

      Jackson Estate: Zergling Runbys “Goddamn Impossible” to Defend Against

  15. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    I can understand why popcap didn’t make this a legal battle but surely under the 1st amendment this is protected parody?

    • Aninhumer says:

      In the linked article they said that’s probably true, but it still wasn’t worth the risk for one joke in a really successful game.

    • Chris says:

      1st amendment purely protects against the government censoring any particular person who criticises the government. Basically a right to bitch at what they are doing. It does -not- allow anyone to say whatever they want to whoever they want without potential repocussion.

    • Craig Stern says:

      The first amendment does apply only to the government, that much is true. But that only means that PopCap can’t use the first amendment as a basis for suing the Jackson family. The laws that the Jackson family would be using to sue PopCap, by contrast, are subject to the first amendment. Thus, PopCap could use the first amendment as a defense to any lawsuit over the dancing zombies.

  16. Muzman says:

    ‘Michael Jackson Family’? Isn’t that these guys?

  17. Jonathan says:

    They should just make his skin paler.

  18. Claire Blackshaw says:

    What ever happened to satire laws??

  19. thomasmmm says:

    but but but, it’s so LOVELY

  20. Cunzy1 1 says:

    I think Capcom should now get in touch with the Jackson estate to complain that the reanimation of MJ’s works is now resembling any one of their decomposing reanimated corpses in the Resident Evil or Dead Rising series of games.

  21. Cooper says:

    Post-morte, the MJ zombie became even more hillarious.

  22. Kazz says:

    What it actually means is ‘The Estate of Michael Jackson’ noticed it and demanded millions of dollars in licensing fees.


  23. Out Reach says:

    right click plants vs. zombies on steam.
    Do not automatically update this game.

    ahhh problem solved.

    • triple_a says:

      What he said. Will be doing this when I get home. I’ll also decline any updates on the iPod touch version.

    • Wulf says:

      Haaa, that’s exactly what i did. I’ve been running Steam in offline mode, so I knew I wouldn’t have been at risk from this update. So I told Steam not to update, and compressed a copy of my ‘plants vs zombies’ directory (./Steam/SteamApps/common/plants vs zombies), just in case.

      There are times when political correctness is over the top and silly. There’s nothing grossly unethical going on here, and I find being politically correct in a way that the person who’s the target of that correctness probably wouldn’t have wanted is absurd. Basically, I bet Jackson would’ve dug the parody if he’d known about it, and likewise, I’d bet that he wouldn’t at all have been pleased by the fuss the estate is kicking up over it now he’s passed on. I honour his memory by not letting the estate’s drama (and possible brand protection?) touch my HDD.

      And yes, I am a Jackson fan. :p

    • Vinraith says:


      I did that as well, but I’ve been thinking about this and have a question for someone better-versed in Steam than I: If I go to reinstall/install on a new system and want to get this version back, how do I do so? If I copy the archived directory into steamapps\common and then install the game in Steam presumably it’ll overwrite the old files with new ones, yes? Would installing through Steam, turning off automatic updates, deleting the downloaded directory and then replacing it with the archived directory work?

    • Wulf says:


      Should, in fact, you shouldn’t even really have to redownload the game if you backup all the right bits. I know someone who does that to save space, since 7z compresses better than what Steam uses. If you get the SteamApps folder and Steam.exe, running Steam.exe, Steam is smart enough to download Steam and leave the installed games as they are. So if you backup the right files, dropping them into an active Steam installation (run in offline mode) should be fine. Just be sure to get the gcf as well, if there is one, and any related files.

      Of course, this is only if you want to be able to drop it into an active installation without needing to redownload it. If you redownload it then you can just decompress your backup of the ‘plants vs zombies’ folder alone over the old one, and that’ll work too.

    • Gabe McGrath says:


      Tip: “Political Correctness” does not mean “any situation where X tells Y not to do something, and I disagree”.

      In this case, it’s about lawyers, and money.
      Nothing else.

  24. Freud says:

    The King of Popcap.

  25. Bobsy says:

    There are more Michael Jackson fans in the world than there are PvZ fans. Fighting this would make Popcap look like the bad guys.

  26. Diziet says:

    What sad bunch of . they are.

    @Out Reach

    Thanks, click click click done.

    Ta muchly.

  27. James G says:

    Despite being British I say Pee Vee Zee, I believe this to be entirerly right and proper. I also realise that it is largely irrelevant, but it only occured to me earlier today, and the appearence of this post is clearly a sign that I should share.

  28. gaijin says:

    surely Bez was the original dancing zombie anyway?

  29. Urael says:

    I think the world is now ready for a dancing zombie Jesus. What say you all?

    • AndrewC says:

      America cut Professor Farnsworth’s 2nd favourite phrase ‘Great Zombie Jesus!’ when Futurama aired over there. A sadness has filled me since.

    • Vinraith says:

      Fox did. Cartoon Network didn’t. I’m not sure what Comedy Central’s doing with it now that they have the rights to it.

    • Matt says:

      Actually Fox didn’t, but Cartoon Network did. (possibly because they’re owned by Turner)

  30. Clovis says:

    So, PopCap aren’t doing this for legal reason, right? I’m not sure if this really qualifies as a “parody”, but that doesn’t really matter since you can’t copyright a person. That doesn’t mean that the Estate could not sue anyway and make PopCap waste a lot of money on the defense. I’m guessing that PopCap are just deciding to honor their wishes for whatever reason.

  31. adonf says:

    “Dancing Zombie will be disco-themed”… Maurice Gibb ?

  32. Dreamhacker says:

    Look’s like Popcap is fighting for their lives inside a killer!

  33. jackflash says:

    Parody is a federal copyright concept for purposes of fair use. The estate would have a claim sounding in state law right of publicity / right of privacy law, and the argument is that PopCap is using MJ’s image for commercial purpose. Parody isn’t a legal defense to that.

  34. MrBRAD says:


  35. Coded One says:

    This is actually pretty understandable. There have been some weird legal shenanigans in the past with videogames, but Zombie MJ is actually a little ironically distasteful now. It’s great to see that Popcap isn’t going to try and fight it, considering that it’s a pretty reasonable request.

    • Risingson says:

      Completely distasteful, I say. Completely. I think that it is so harmful that every fan of MJ should burst in rage.

    • geldonyetich says:

      When Michael Jackson was alive it was pretty funny, since he was pretending to be a zombie raising other zombies to dance in Thriller. Now that he’s dead, it’s like, “hey, Michael Jackson’s estate here, please stop using your plants to kill my dead relative.” Hopefully they can come up with a good replacement that isn’t too far removed from the original.

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t know, I actually still think it’s pretty funny. Then again, I honour a memory rather than a corpse, whilst i find that most people actually do the reverse. I always found that a little bit weird.

      It’s like the world wants someone forgotten the moment they die, and that’s really a shame, it’s something I don’t understand at all. Frankly, when I’m dead, people can enjoy all the parodies and jokes at my expense that they want. And if I’m able, I’d have a good chuckle at them, too. :p

      It’s odd though, and it’s kind of ironic, the person is dead but the memory lives on. And yet the memory is treated like a zombie that everyone’s trying to kill. It’s just so bizarre. I’ll scratch my head and ponder on this, but I really have always failed to understand how remembrances are bad.

      I could understand if he was being portrayed as a Machiavellian Overlord that killed orphans or something, then I’d be a bit miffed. But he’s being portrayed as a dancing zombie, and he frankly has one of the funniest animations in the game, I got a few good chuckles out of the dancing zombie. That’s a positive thing.

      It’s interesting that I’m just that detached from humanity on some things. The mob covers its mouth, gasps, and goes “Oooh that’s in poor taste!”, and I’m there rubbing my chin, pondering on it, and trying to figure out why. My mind says that it’s poorer taste to react like this just because someone’s dead.

  36. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Wonder if Devo will sue over the road cone guy?

  37. Sonic Goo says:

    I always read ‘the estate of’ as ‘some people who weren’t involved at all but want to profit from the work of dead person’. It usually fits.

  38. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Michael Jackson looks like a zombie?
    That family of his shows no respect of his memory.

    • Wulf says:

      Actually, I have to completely agree with that. This reflects very poorly on the estate, in my eyes, with them going crazy over the exclusive rights to a dead bloke’s image, and not at all acting in good taste.

      To me, this is money-guarding, and nothing more. I get no ‘honouring the memory of a bloody dancing genius who’s passed on’ from this, not even slightly. And as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, I’m an MJ fan, so I can’t really see all the fans thinking of the parody as disgusting, but more the actions of the estate as being so. :/

  39. Shagittarius says:

    Richard Simmons please.

  40. Vinraith says:

    This sucks, but should be reasonably easy to avoid. Backup the game as it is now, if you’re playing it on Steam turn off automatic updates for the game, problem solved. It’s not like they’re still doing content or bugfix patches for it as far as I know, so you’re not missing out on anything by simply preventing them from removing this from your game.

    • Wulf says:

      Yep, that’s exactly what I did. I’d actually consider this an insult to allow it on my HDD, so… yeah, no. I’ve set Steam to not update and made a backup.

      I really hate it when things like this happen, because it’s clearly not in favour of the recently deceased. At least, not in my opinion. :/ It’s in favour of those who salivate over money, and those who’re far, far too… I don’t know what the correct word is, but I can’t help but think of that woman from the Simpsons. “Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

      You know what this reminds me of? After Princess Diana’s death, there was an episode of the Simpsons, it was the one with the Paparazzi, and Sky actually bleeped out the word Paparazzi, that didn’t strike me as particularly sensitive to Diana, because really, people should’ve been angry about what happened, but it was more just so they wouldn’t get sued.

      And I think the only reason that PopCap is making this change is so that they won’t get sued.

      It’s a shame, really. And kind of disappointing. This is the sort of thing that shakes my faith in humanity.

    • Vinraith says:

      This is also a prime example of why patching should be opt-in, not opt-out. This is a single player game, better than a year old. If most people were still manually patching their games most people would never get around to applying this one, especially if the only change involved is “replaced MJ zombie with something less funny.” With autopatching on by default, though, most people will miss their opportunity to save the original game without even knowing they’ve done so.

    • Wulf says:


      Actually, I completely agree with you on this. I’ve often thought that Steam needs an option where it asks you if it’s okay to download a patch, and gives you Yes/No buttons, and ‘Never ask this question again’. The thing is, I don’t think it’s anything particularly nefarious (I really don’t), I just think it’s a design oversight. Steam’s updated version did a lot to fix its design oversights, but there are still a couple of things that bug me.

      In fact, here’s my top 5:

      1. The inability to set the font size of the Interface.
      2. The lack of option to have Steam ask you when/if you want to install patches, rather than patches auto-installing being on by default, and simply being able to turn off auto-installing.
      3. Non-Steam game shortcuts breed like rabbits. Stop that shit, Steam, it’s annoying. I started up Steam a bit ago and found 10 Prototype links. x.X
      4. Inability to change download server location on the fly, it involves needing to delete ClientRegistry.blob.
      5. Inability to make Steam mesh with the Windows interface and appearance, other cross-platform apps do it (see GIMP), so why not Steam?

      5 and 1 kind of go together, because if Steam obeyed Windows’ font options, then all would be well. Also, there were some more serious issues with older versions of Steam, but those have been fixed, now. One thing that used to really bug me is that Steam used MSHTML for its embedded browser. No, bad Valve, bad! I always said it should use Gecko or WebKit. Lo and behold, the shiny new Steam uses WebKit instead of the exploitalicious MSHTML.

      I never said Steam was perfect, though, but more that I find Valve far less nefarious than other DRM/delivery options, and I prefer the Steam approach to installing/uninstalling games, because some installers can be really unwieldy. As much as I love GoG, for example (and I do), their installers need a LOT of work in the style and friendliness department, they feel really awkward as is. And they have a massive problem if your UI has scaled up fonts.

      I suppose every system has its pros and cons, yeah?

      Seriously though, Valve, my top 5… get on it!

    • Vinraith says:


      I don’t think it’s anything particularly nefarious

      Me neither. I’ve never been in the “Valve is evil” camp, and never really understood them.

      4. Inability to change download server location on the fly, it involves needing to delete ClientRegistry.blob.

      This would be VERY nice.

      I suppose every system has its pros and cons, yeah?

      Absolutely. I happen to prefer independent installers, non-client-locked games, and in general more control than Steam is willing to give me, but that’s purely a matter of taste. Most of my significant problems with the Steam client have been resolved by the new version (offline mode has yet to fail me in the last few months, which is a new record by a mile). These days my only real problem with Steam/Valve is that I’m uncomfortable with anyone having the kind of market dominance they have in the digital distribution arena. They’re a fine option, I own quite a few games on Steam myself, but I don’t want them to become the only option for mainstream PC gaming.

    • HawkesOfSavileRow says:

      Add to list:

      The desktop shortcut icons not having to be manually jump-started every few days. Yes It dosent really matter, but i am a shallow and fickle man, and I demand my little vanities: A tidy and aesthetically pleasing desktop.

      p.s. this is likely an issue unique to myself as i haven’t bothered to check the intraweb for fixes. Like I said, im a fickle monster.

  41. Wooooooood says:

    Replace it and the backing dancer zombies with zombified cast members of the musical “Cats”.
    They’ll never know what hit ’em.

    Or more obviously Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever, but swap the backing dancers out for zombified Bee Gees.

  42. Son_of_Montfort says:

    The football player also looks like George Gipp. And Jacques Cousteau’s family is outraged by the dolphin swimming zombie. ;-)

    Probably the right move though, it was funnier when he was alive and it was a Thriller reference.

  43. Risingson says:

    But really, I don’t understand the people that support that decision. What’s wrong with Michael Jackson being dead?

  44. Papageno says:

    If I buy this on Steam today, will I get the redesigned version?

    • Vinraith says:

      It doesn’t appear to have been updated as of me posting this.

  45. F1LT3R says:

    Oh eff off! Michael Jackson did not invent zombies *OR* red leisure suits. They should finish the job and round up all the Michael Jackson impersonators and sue them for doing the moonwalk, grabbing their crotch and shouting “OW!” It is only fair.

    • Wulf says:

      Pretty much.

      If this was about his memory then they would’ve kept their peace. This is about grabbing a dead guy’s potential monetary worth and holding onto that fiercely, nothing more. Well, they’re not getting my copy of PvZ. :p

  46. TeeJay says:

    Replace with “Lady Gaga” – aka ‘zombie dressed in a white pvc body suit with a wierd spikey spine & eyes covered – and all the zombies wearing a sleection of random items on their heads’. Launch a pre-emptive law suit against Lady Gaga for stealing the ‘wearing random items on head’ idea from PvZ. Sorted.

  47. Iain says:

    Seriously? How long will it be until some enterprising bedroom coder creates a mod that just overrides the update and swaps the design back? Not long, thinks I. Seems kind of futile, given that the game itself is as harmless as they come.

  48. Mistabashi says:

    So, now that Michael Jackson is dead it’s not ok to represent him as a characature zombie, despite the fact that his best known music video featured him impersonating a zombie…

  49. himynameszach says:

    patrick swayze would be a nice replacement