Searching for Michael Jackson's Zoo is a new one-off documentary coming to ITV which will see former EastEnders star Ross Kemp travel to the US in a bid to find out what happened to the pop icon's animals after his legendary Neverland ranch shut its doors.
During the 1980s pop legend Michael Jackson was rarely seen without his ‘best friend’, pet chimpanzee Bubbles, and having befriended the wild animal the singer went on to create an exotic menagerie on his Neverland Ranch, boasting 124 animals including lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes and zebras.
After Jackson’s death in 2009 the zoo was dismantled, yet very little is known about where the animals went next. So now Ross Kemp sets off on a journey across America to find out what happened to the creatures kept solely for Jackson’s amusement.
With exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of Neverland, Ross is able to see how the animals were treated at the time and speak to those in the know and present at the time - he even catches up with former Neverland trainers.
Searching for Michael Jackson's Zoo air date
Searching for Michael Jackson's Zoo is a 75-minute stand-alone documentary that will air on Wednesday, April 27 at 9 pm on ITV.
The documentary will be available to stream on ITV Hub after it has aired.
There are currently no plans to air the documentary in the US, but we will update this guide if a US date is released.
What is Searching for Michael Jackson's Zoo about?
Ross Kemp takes us on a journey across America in search of these exotic species and finds out what happened to these much-loved animals who called Neverland home for years.
Ross also investigates what happened to Bubbles the chimpanzee, who toured with Jackson, starred in pop videos and movies and reportedly slept in a crib in his owner’s bedroom and shared his toilet. Soon a chat with primatologist Jane Goodall reveals exactly what happened to the famous pet.
Ross also speaks to former workers at the famous Californian ranch, including Mark Biancaniello, a former Neverland Zoo trainer, who describes Jackson as an exemplary owner of animals and who would never abandon his pets.
But this documentary uncovers a much darker truth, showing that the pop star was largely indifferent to his animals’ welfare — and tragically many of the creatures at his zoo were badly treated.
Ross Kemp also discovers that two of Jackson’s elephants were initially acquired from a man in South Africa who was convicted of animal cruelty. But through an interview with Jackson's former elephant trainer, Kemp finds one of the elephants now living a very different life and discovers the other is living in a Florida zoo.
What does Ross Kemp say about Searching for Michael Jackson's Zoo?
Speaking of the new documentary, Ross said: "A rich star's plaything and status symbol, Michael Jackson’s Zoo inspired a worldwide boom in the private ownership of exotic animals. This is a journey that will take me into the strange world of America’s private zoos and menageries and the often-cruel trade that supplies them.
"For obvious reasons, Michael Jackson’s legacy has been ruined for many people, but he remains an idol for millions. Part of that fascination comes from his Neverland home and one of its key features – bizarre for some, magical for others – was his extraordinary collection of animals.
"So little is known about the fate of many that became celebrities in their own right during Jackson’s career. Now I want to find out how Jackson’s pets were treated at the ranch, where they went after it closed and what Neverland’s animal legacy truly is."
Is there a trailer for Searching for Michael Jackson's Zoo?
Not yet, but we will update this page if one is released.
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Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia.
After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off.
She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz!
As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.