31 years ago, in 1983, Michael Jackson’s Thriller debuted at the Metro Crest Theater in Los Angeles. It was written by Rod Temperton and produced by Quincy Jones. It was technically a short film (running 14 minutes) but we all know it as the most popular music video of all time. In fact, it even made it on Making Music’s Top 10 Halloween Songs of All Time, but we won’t tell you what number.
In a 1999 interview with MTV, Jackson talked about making the video:
My idea was to make this short film with conversation in the beginning—I like having a beginning and a middle and an ending, which would follow a story. I’m very much involved in complete making and creating of the piece. It has to be, you know, my soul. Usually it’s an interpretation of the music.
It was a delicate thing to work on because I remember my original approach was, ‘How do you make zombies and monsters dance without it being comical?’ So I said, ‘We have to do just the right kind of movement so it doesn’t become something that you laugh at.’ But it just has to take it to another level. So I got in a room with [choreographer] Michael Peters, and he and I together kind of imagined how these zombies move by making faces in the mirror. I used to come to rehearsal sometimes with monster makeup on, and I loved doing that. So he and I collaborated and we both choreographed the piece and I thought it should start like that kind of thing and go into this jazzy kind of step, you know. Kind of gruesome things like that.”