A little over a year ago when Michael Jackson passed away, I mused that PopCap Games may have to update its popular Plants vs Zombies title to remove or otherwise alter the Dancing Zombie character that bears a striking resemblance to the late King of Pop. Of course, when Zombies was originally released, Jackson was very much alive, making the "Thriller"-inspired enemy character a fun homage. One death later and it's suddenly retroactively inappropriate. It took a while, but Jackson's estate has finally heard about the Dancing Zombie character, leading its legal team to lash out at PopCap. Now the Dancing Zombie is no more. Russ Frushtick at MTV Multiplayer has the news.
I reached out to a PopCap Games representative about the change, who confirmed that it was brought on by lawyers representing the King of Pop:
"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."
Legally the Dancing Zombie would've probably fallen safely into the realm of parody, but I can understand why PopCap wouldn't want to risk any trouble for a small gag in tremendously successful game.
As someone who has recently started playing Plants vs Zombies, I'm sorry to see the Dancing Zombie replaced by the new Disco Zombie. Defending the front lawn just won't be the same without the character's trademark "Thriller" sound-alike entrance. Once again, lawyers have ruined our harmless, good-natured fun.