Michael Jackson’s shocking passing June 25 robbed fans of the chance to see the iconic entertainer perform at his planned 50-concert stand in London this summer. But at least another project Jackson was working on at the time of his death will come to fruition: a mammoth, groundbreaking coffee-table book on his life.
The “Official Michael Jackson Opus,” produced by the London-based luxury publishing company Kraken Opus, will debut in all its 13-by-18-inch, 380-page glory this December. Kraken Opus CEO Karl Fowler told Al Roker live on TODAY Wednesday that the book is a comprehensive look into Jackson’s life as the late “King of Pop” himself saw it. And, in keeping with Jackson’s innovative, moonwalking spirit, the book also will incorporate a publishing first: live action on the printed page.
“It’s more than a book; it’s the ultimate testament to everything about Michael Jackson, his life as an entertainer, a performer, a singer,” Fowler said.
Eclipsing PrinceKraken Opus, which has produced coffee-table books on topics ranging from the English football team Arsenal to designer Vivienne Westwood, originally pitched the idea of a Michael Jackson opus to the singer last April. It probably didn’t hurt that Kraken Opus had already produced one of its signature big books on Prince’s 21-concert run at O2 Arena in London; Jackson often looked at Prince as competition and was eager to eclipse him with his own groundbreaking run at O2.
Thus, what was supposed to be a 20-minute meeting with Jackson turned into a two-hour-plus gabfest with the publishers.
Fowler said Jackson wanted his story told in a way that differed from the dozens of Jackson books — many of them scandalous — already crowding shelves at booksellers. “Obviously, a huge amount had been written about Michael Jackson, both visual and editorial, and I think one of the things that fascinated Michael Jackson when we sat down with him, from a creative point of view, was to tell the story maybe in a way it’s never been told before,” Kraken explained. “That’s the challenge we set.”
The last meetingKraken Opus reps met with Jackson regularly as the book progressed, including a meeting just days before his death. “He looked happy, fine,” Fowler said of the company’s last meeting with the King of Pop. “In those days before, we were talking about how we were going to create the content, and he was immersed in it. There were no signs at all. He was very happy and enthused about it.”
While many projects Jackson was working on at the time of his death fell by the wayside, the Jackson estate gave a thumbs-up for Kraken Opus to continue its work on the leather-bound, oversize bio. Fowler told Roker the company currently has some 20 staffers working on photography and research as the publishing date nears.
While the book will indeed contain words chronicling Jackson’s life, it’s the pictures that Fowler said he suspects will lure Jackson fans in. The “Official Michael Jackson Opus” will contain dozens of never-seen-before photographs, and the book’s large format also allows use of photographs in their full glory that may have previously been cropped to fit tighter page space.Cutting-edge techBut the real hook for the Jackson bio is its interactive element. Roker was awed as Fowler showed off a mock-up of a membership card to be included in the book that, when placed in front of a personal computer, jumps to life to display Jackson concert footage, complete with sound, with the videos being changed daily.
It’s a new trick that delighted Jackson in the book’s formative process — and one that Fowler believes will make potential buyers all the more eager to pony up the $165 for the book.
“This links traditional media — paper, a book — with 21st-century technology,” Fowler told Roker. “It’s nothing that’s ever been done before. It’s unprecedented, and it’s something Michael really bought into.”
Kraken Opus began accepting advance orders for the Jackson book today through the Web site michaeljacksonopus.com. In addition, orders can be placed through ticketmaster.com.
Along with the big book, Jacko fans will also get a chance to see what might have been had Jackson’s London concerts gone forward when Columbia Pictures releases a concert film culled from some 80 hours of rehearsals. The film, “This Is It,” is slated for release Oct. 30.