Director Dan Reed said that he hoped viewers of the documentary would "gain an understanding of the psychology of child sexual abuse, because this awful bond that forms between the predator and the victim lasts for years and years and years, and that's why abuse is not revealed until decades later".
This marks the first time that Jimmy Safechuck has talked openly to anyone about the abuse he alleges that he suffered at the hands of Michael Jackson.
Both Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck were in tears for practically the entire 4 hour running time at the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
When this premiered in the UK in March 2019, it broke all Channel 4's streaming records and became the most downloaded programme they'd ever aired or produced.
Originated by the UK's Channel 4 TV station. When they had sufficient, believable material, they approached HBO about co-financing.
Dan Reed from the beginning took an attitude of neutrality on his part, letting the two men tell their stories, unencumbered by prejudice.
Art house cinema CINEMA AKIL in Dubai (UAE), had 3 screenings of the film accompanied by a panel discussion. Michael Jackson fans tried to block its release by contacting the press and censorship authorities citing it as a film that encourages pedophilia.
Several radio stations around the world dropped Michael Jackson songs from their playlists because of the disturbing nature of the allegations in the documentary. There were also discussions on series such as Good Morning Britain (2014) and This Morning (1988) about whether Jackson's music should now be banned or boycotted. Louis Theroux, who famously interviewed Britain's most notorious celebrity sex offender Sir Jimmy Savile, who was also never convicted of any crimes during his lifetime, said that there had been "a pattern of unhealthy interest in children" and he believed the allegations against Jackson, but he added "it's a slippery slope the whole idea that we need a spotless moral character for any artist because no one's going to pass that test... it's muddied with Michael Jackson because part of his persona was a quasi-messianic figure who would be surrounded by children and I think that will all feel very wrong now - but as naive as it may sound I think a lot of the work will stand". Nina Myskow argued that although she found the documentary harrowing, Jackson should not be boycotted and he was not comparable to disgraced glam rock star Gary Glitter because Glitter's contribution to music was "minimal" compared to Jackson's.
As the interviews were being edited together, it became apparent to Dan Reed that he was going to need at least four hours to tell the story correctly.
In response to the documentary, Oprah Winfrey made Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland (2019), a special in which she interviewed the people involved in it.
In the Middle East and North Africa, "Leaving Neverland" was rejected by all major VOD platforms but made it only onto iTunes and Google Play.
Following the release of the film, Brandi Jackson, niece of Michael Jackson and former girlfriend to Wade Robson for over seven years, accused Robson of being a liar as their relationship was not featured in this film since it would ruin his time-line. Brandi claims she was introduced to Robson by Michael himself and their relationship ended after she found out he was an opportunist who cheated on her with multiple women hoping to get his career advanced, one of them being a "huge pop music scandal".
Although it's an HBO and Channel4 co-production, the film was sold independently to over 130 countries premiering on different TV stations worldwide.