How Space Jam Is Still A Pop Culture Sensation Today

More than two decades after Space Jam was released, a sequel is finally coming. Three-time NBA Champion LeBron James has officially signed on to star in the long-awaited follow up to Joe Pytka’s classic.

But, it’s not hard to believe that a sequel is in the works. The movie is still being watched by people who grew up with the Looney Tunes gang, as well as a whole new generation of kids too.

Before the sequel heads into production, there were a ton of things going on behind the scenes to start production.

In The Early Stages Of Space Jam 2, A Different Athlete Was Considered

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David Cannon/Getty Images
David Cannon/Getty Images

In an interview with Mr. Wavvy, Space Jam director Joe Pytka said he went to a script conference meeting with Warner Bros. He didn’t specify the year it happened, but the pitch involved the sequel to the basketball classic, but with a cameo from Michael Jordan. The other athlete the movie would have focused around was Tiger Woods.

According to Pytka, the Woods/Jordan pitch didn’t go anywhere, and he told the writers he didn’t like the idea. “Everyone was trying to take advantage of the situation,” Pytka said. “The original thing is the original thing. They should leave it alone.”

A Skateboard Legend Nearly Made A Movie With Looney Tunes

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@tonyhawk/Twitter
@tonyhawk/Twitter

Pro-skateboarding legend Tony Hawk admitted that the original Space Jam could have been the first in a possible series of athlete-meets-Looney Tunes movies.

In 2003, he took a meeting with Warner Bros. to discuss Skate Jam. While Space Jam was a mix of animation and live-action, it looks as though Hawk would have been animated. But, it was canceled following the poor reception of Looney Tunes Back In Action. With Lebron James now set to star in Space Jame 2, it’s safe to say Skate Jam will never happen.

An NBA Star Was Rumored To Star

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

According to Deadline, a sequel to Space Jam went into the planning stages in 2014. This time around, it would star 15-time All-Star, LeBron James. Beyond the three-time NBA Champion, there are a bunch of names attached to the project already.

Broadcasting veteran Dick Ebersol’s sons, Charlie and Willie, have come on board. Additionally, Jon Berg came on as the production executive. With LeBron attached to the project, it marked as the first domino to fall for what was to come.

Despite the rumors, read ahead to see why LeBron went through with it.

The Ebersol’s Have A Good History With Sports

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Ronald Martinez/AAF/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/AAF/Getty Images

Dick Ebersol previously served as the chairman of NBC Sports. Meanwhile, his son Charlie already has a good relationship with the NFL through his NFL Characters Unite series on USA Network. He’s also the co-founder of the Alliance of American Football.

But, he was brought on to produce the picture through his production company, The Company. As for Willie, he was brought on to write a script, who won an Emmy for the London Olympics. This will be his first screenplay.

Space Jam 2 Would Mark Charlie Ebersol’s First Major Film Deal

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Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

He’s best known for unscripted TV shows such as The Moment. In 2006, Ebersol’s first film was the documentary Ithuteng: Never Stop Learning, which earned widespread acclaim along with numerous humanitarian awards. One of those awards was the inaugural OneXOne Award at the Toronto Film Festival.

Oprah Winfrey was so moved by his film that she went ahead and donated $1.14 million to the Ithuteng Trust School, an organization dedicated to the positive development and education of at-risk children in South Africa.

LeBron Finally Joins The Lineup

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MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images
MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

In July 2015, the three-time NBA Finals MVP joined the lineup for Warner Bros. After the announcement was made, James used his influence to bring Black Panther director Ryan Coogler on board to produce the Space Jam 2.

SpringHill, which James created with business partner Maverick Carter, already has a portfolio of entertainment projects, including the Disney inspirational series Becoming. LeBron isn’t the only hoops player to dip his toes in front of the camera. Shaquille O’Neal played a boombox-dwelling genie in the unfavorable movie Kazaam.

Almost four years after talks began, the sequel finally had a breakthrough.

A Fast And Furious Director Came Aboard To Help Develop A Script

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Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

In 2016, Justin Lin signed on to develop a script for the sequel after the project was first reported in 2014. The project isn’t aiming to be a direct sequel to the Michael Jordan classic. Instead, it will try and reboot the universe to create a new franchise.

The first draft of the script was being worked on by Chalie Ebersol’s brother when Lin was brought on. The new producer brought Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello along with him to help co-write the script of the sequel.

FootLocker Did An Ad For Space Jam’s 20th Anniversary

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@Jumpman23/Twitter
@Jumpman23/Twitter

A teaser trailer produced by Nike was unleashed on the world in November 2016 via Twitter with the hashtag #MonstarsBack. FootLocker filmed a 90-second ad to commemorate the film’s 20th anniversary.

The spot featured Bugs Bunny and the Monstars, as well as All-Stars Blake Griffin and Jimmy Butler. Griffin had previously teamed up with Marvin the Martian for another commercial. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the sequel, too. From the looks of the commercials, it seemed to set up something bigger.

After Years Of Rumors And Discussion

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@springhillent/Instagram
@springhillent/Instagram

Almost four years after talks began, Space Jam 2 is officially a go with LeBron starring. Plus, Terence Nance, creator of HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness, will direct, and Black Panther’s Ray Coogler is set to produce.

Back in 2016, it was announced that Lin, as well as Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello, would write the script. Production on the Warner Bros. film is slated to start during the NBA off-season in 2019. This will be James’s first starring role after having a supporting role in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck.

Read ahead to see the release date the studio set for the sequel to hit the court!

It’s Set To Film In California

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Xinhua/ via Getty Images
Xinhua/ via Getty Images

The state landed the long-anticipated Warner Bros. sequel. It’s one of the latest films that’s on a growing list of big-budget movies that are choosing to film there.

Space Jam 2 is one of the 15 film projects that have been selected to take part in the state’s incentive program, Program 2.0. Other films include Andy Samberg’s Palm Springs, Universal’s Marry Me and 24/7, and Lionsgate’s Margaritaville. By taking advantage of the revamped program, Space Jam 2 will be able to film outside of Los Angeles’ 30-mile zone.

Michael Jordan Wants One NBA Star Involved

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Leon Halip/Getty Images
Leon Halip/Getty Images

If the star of the original movie had his way, he would want Blake Griffin to have a role in the sequel. Asked by a camper at his basketball camp who he’d pick to play the starring role in a potential sequel or reboot, Jordan went with the 2009 first overall pick.

Griffin even starred alongside Marvin the Martian in a commercial, too. However, the appeal and shoes the All-Star wear in that commercial help explain MJ’s stance, as Griffin is a Jordan Brand endorser.

Warner Bros. Set A Release Date For The Sequel

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@SpringHillEnt/Twitter
@SpringHillEnt/Twitter

The studio set the sequel to hit the court on July 16, 2021. Meanwhile, the entertainment company moved up a couple of its franchise pics. The big one, New Line’s untitled Annabelle sequel was pushed up a week; from July 4 to June 28, 2019.

As for Godzilla vs Kong, it was moved up by nine weeks to March 13, 2020. Space Jam 2 now has a weekend to itself, which is sandwiched between the opening weekends of the next Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible pics.

The director promises one thing for fans when it’s released. Read ahead to see what they said!

Bugs Bunny And Daffy Duck Will Be Back

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Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED

Two iconic Looney Tunes characters have all but been confirmed to return. Voice actor Eric Bauza is the only actor listed on IMDB for the movie, and he will voice both Bugs and Daffy. Really, though, what would a Looney Tunes movie be without its two most popular characters.

The Canadian voice actor has an extensive resume full of voice-over credits. Some of those roles include Stimpy of Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon and Woody Woodpecker in a 2017 live-action computer-animated film.

Terence Nance Promises It Will Disrupt Everything

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Chad Hurst/Getty Images
Chad Hurst/Getty Images

In an interview with Vice, Nance has promised that it will surprise people once it hits theaters. “Pretty sure it’s going to disrupt everything,” he told the media outlet. While the director didn’t give out major hints, both him and LeBron are treating this project very seriously.

With an estimated budget of around $100 million, it is easily Nance’s biggest project ever. It’s currently unknown if Danny DeVito or Bill Murray would return to reprise their roles.

Now that we know that the sequel is underway, here are some behind-the-scenes facts behind the original film!

The Concept For Space Jam Started Out As Something Else

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JON LEVY/AFP/Getty Images
JON LEVY/AFP/Getty Images

A year before Space Jam hit theaters, Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny faced off in a game of one-on-one. It was for a “Hare Jordan” Nike Commercial, and David Falk, Jordan’s long-time agent, believed the commercial had big-screen potential.

The idea would make its way to Warner Bros., and Falk’s timing could have been better. The studio was in the middle of looking for a way to re-launch the Looney Tunes franchise, and Space Jam was born.

While Michael Jordan was known for his intense workouts, he made sure his free time didn’t go to waste.

Big Name Actors Turned Down Roles

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Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com

The basketball film was one of the first to combine animation with live action. Taking a role would mean working with cartoon characters and an athlete with little acting experience. Because of these road blocks, director Joe Pytka had issues casting the role of Jordan’s publicist, Stan Podolak.

Michael J. Fox, Jason Alexander, and Chevy Chase were all approached and turned down the big budget opportunity. Instead, Alexander’s Seinfeld co-star, Wayne Knight, eventually landed the role.

The Film’s Original Website Is Still Running!

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Warner Bros
Warner Bros

The marketing team hit all the right notes, including on the Internet. A group of five outcasts, working out of cramped cubicles and closets, cranked out what would become one of the most beloved websites ever made.

At a time when asking to put a web address on a movie poster produced blank stares, the site pushed all the limits of web development. The most important thing is that the website lives on, and acts as a beloved time capsule all the years later.

Jordan Organized Pickup Games In Between Takes

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imdb.com
imdb.com

The superstar was known for his intense workouts, but made sure his free time didn’t go to waste. Gathering up his co-stars, Jordan would organize pickup games, extending the invite to anyone else who was interested.

Actor Keith Gibbs, who was an extra in the film, told Grantland: “I walk in, and it’s Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Alonzo Mourning, Charles Oakley. Grant Hill shows up. Jerry Stackhouse shows up. Now, all of a sudden, it’s an NBA All-Star pickup game. Every night.”

Warner Bros. introduced a new Looney Tunes character for the film that was an instant hit.

Warner Bros. Gave Jordan His Own Gym

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imdb.com
imdb.com

When the film was in production, the North Carolina alum was in the middle of a dynasty with the Chicago Bulls. Because there was an understanding that their lead actor needed to be focused, they accommodated his day job.

roducers came up with a strict production schedule. Pytka made sure that his star started at 9 a.m. and left no later than 6 p.m. with a two-hour break. With that, there was a temporary, indoor mini-gym on the lot, which became known as the “Jordan Dome.”

The Movie Was Filmed Almost Entirely In Front Of A Green Screen

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@Netflix_CA/Twitter
@Netflix_CA/Twitter

Cinesite had a huge task ahead of them to help create the world for Space Jame. In order to bring that world to the big screen, Jordan needed stand-ins for the cartoon characters. So, the studio brought in a troupe of comedic actors who donned green while running around on their knees.

The result? Jordan managed to simulate the correct eye level as if he was looking at Bugs and the gang. At the time, Space Jam used groundbreaking visual effects that rivaled other big budget films.

The Movie Introduced A New Character

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imdb.com
imdb.com

Lola Bunny was introduced to the Looney Tunes squad. Voiced by Kath Soucie, she’s a rabbit with blonde bangs and a feminist attitude with the expression “Don’t call me doll.” Her introduction to the movie would be enough for audiences to fall in love with her even before Bugs.

After her appearance in Space Jam, she would go on to make appearances in DC Comics’ monthly Looney Tunes comics and the Looney Tunes Show, where she was voiced by Kristen Wiig.

Film critic Roger Ebert may have liked the movie, but other critics? Read ahead to see what they didn’t like about it.

Jordan Teed Off Against A Comedian And An NBA Great

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Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com

In certain ways, golf set the stage for the entire film. This comes to mind when Jordan first meets Bugs, joining the Tunes world the moment he gets sucked down a golf hole. But, it only makes sense that the game played a role off-screen too.

Bill Murray and NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird were the two people Jordan shared a round with. The comedian revealed on Grantland’s Pop Culture podcast in 2014 that it was “really a lot of fun.”

A lot of NBA Talent Was In The Movie

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imdb.com
imdb.com

When you’re the best basketball player on the planet, you probably have other talented friends looking for opportunities to get together with you. With that in mind, Jordan had plenty of basketball pals who appeared in the movie alongside him.

Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley all accepted roles at Jordan’s request. Those former All-Stars had their talents absorbed by the Nerdlucks, who transform into the gigantic “Monstars,” who not only outplay but terrorize the Looney Tunes.

There Were Critical Opinions On The Film

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Jim Ross/Getty Images
Jim Ross/Getty Images

Film critic Roger Ebert may have called the movie “a happy marriage of ideas” and award it three-and-a-half stars. However, other critics were divided on the film.

Rita Kempley of the The Washington Post wrote that director Pytka “brings the attention span of the average gnat to the project, which lacks both coherence and cohesiveness.” However, Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor, as well as the Looney Tunes’ antics and Jordan’s acting.

Did you know that a British artist released a cover to “Fly Like An Eagle?”

Residual Checks For Appearances Are Still Being Rolled Out

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@jimrome/Twitter
@jimrome/Twitter

Most people might not recognize Jim Rome, but the sports radio host had a cameo in the movie. In Rome’s brief scene, Michael Jordan watches the sportscaster tear apart his skills.

“Baseball bat? Get this guy a tennis racket,” Rome quips in the short scene. You’d think Rome wouldn’t still be profiting off the film for cameo. Guess again; in 2014, the sportscaster shared a snap of one of his residual check from the movie.

Despite The Critics Reviews, It’s The Highest Grossing Basketball Film Ever

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Warner Bros./Getty Images
Warner Bros./Getty Images

Space Jam emerged as a box office success. At the end of its run, the film accumulated $90.4 million domestically and an estimated $230-$250 million internationally. As of October 2018, it ranks as the highest basketball film of all-time.

The three other movies that sit behind it are White Men Can’t Jump, Coach Carter, and Like Mike. Additionally, the movie won two ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards for Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures, and The Top Box Office Films.

Seal Covered A Steve Miller Song

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Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for The Music Center
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for The Music Center

Twenty years after Steve Miller’s original version, the British artist released a cover to “Fly Like An Eagle.” He even sampled Miller’s original “Space Intro” parts in the song’s chorus.

Seal’s version peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, with the single being his first and last top ten since 1995’s “Kiss From A Rose.” Not a lot of people know this, but Seal had two good hits from Space Jam as well as Batman Forever.

Who was tasked with picking the soundtrack? Jordan has the answer to that just ahead!

The Cast Allowed The Movie To Make Fun Of Them

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Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com

Some parts in the film were hilarious jokes paid at the expense of both Jordan and his rivals. Do you remember when Charles Barkley bargains with God to get his basketball skills back, promising that he’ll “Never go out with Madonna again?”

That was a reference to rumors of a romance with the pop star. In another scene, Jordan’s endorsements get name-checked, in a nod to his many promotions. Plus, Daffy Duck suggests the team go by the Ducks. Bugs respond with “What kind of Mickey Mouse organization would name their team the ducks?”

Carl Stalling’s Original Music Was Considered Outdated

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Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com

Every fan of Looney Tunes is familiar with Stalling’s famous music. His compositions helped establish the franchise that was essential to the cartoon’s success. The problem was that Space Jam was filmed to be a modern flick.

The star was an NBA Champion and it featured aliens in ways the Looney Tunes universe never really did. According to the book Space Jammin’, Stalling’s music was used as a temporary track. The producers went with composer James Newton, who created a Stalling-inspiring score that would work in a modern context.

Jordan Helped Pick Songs For The Soundtrack

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Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment/MovieStillsDb.com

The soundtrack was a runaway success, selling more than six million copies. It even reached number two on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart, eventually being a certified six-time platinum album. It was filled with catchy tunes including the biggest hit “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Additionally, Seal, Coolio, Squad DJs, and Salt-N-Pepa also contributed to tracks for the movie too. The decision to use R&B songs came from Jordan, who was asked to give his input for songs for the soundtrack.