Space Jam, the live-action animated comedy film, celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 15, 2016, bringing back plenty of memories of one of the most popular movies of the 90s that became a cultural phenomenon.
GET HYPED for movie trivia/Space Jam Friday night at 10pm! We'll be giving away prizes (hint: Tune Squad jerseys, Michael Jordan mug)! pic.twitter.com/ub1XyTDgY2
— UofL SAB (@UofLSAB) February 15, 2017
The movie is based on a basketball game between the loveable characters of Warner Brother’s Looney Tunes and the aliens who want to capture their opponents and take them to an intergalactic space park. The movie proved to be a phenomenal success because it also featured Michael Jordan, who appeared as himself in the movie. The Looney Tunes characters seek Michael Jordan’s help to prepare for the game that will decide their fate.
Like any good animated family film, Space Jam has a happy ending in which the Looney Tunes characters win the game along with Michael Jordan, who ultimately changes his mind about retirement and rejoins the Chicago Bulls basketball team. Space Jam was released during the time when Michael Jordan was at the peak of his career. The teaming up of the basketball legend and the ever-popular Looney Tunes characters made the movie a box-office success, and the film became so popular that toys and video games and other lines of merchandise flew off the shelves.
Giannis Antetokounmpo looking like Michael Jordan in Space Jam. pic.twitter.com/jnnHQRCWBp
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) February 12, 2017
Now, 20 years after Space Jam was originally released, Screen Junkies finally produced one of their signature “Honest Trailers” for the movie, after numerous fan requests. The A.V. Club reported that the new trailer will “challenge your rose-tinted recollections” of the movie that, 20 years later, is remembered nostalgically as one of the best films of the 90s.
Even though Space Jam was produced by Warner Brothers, the movie was not originally conceptualized by the famous production company. Sports Illustrated reported that the movie was inspired by a famous Nike advertisement that was broadcast during the 1993 Super Bowl.
Nike’s commercial aimed to market the Michael Jordan-inspired Air Jordan VII shoes by bringing the legendary player and Bugs Bunny together, aiming to evoke a feeling of nostalgia with the help of the “Hare Jordan” commercial. According to Vogue, the commercial that showed Bugs Bunny winning a basketball game with the help of Michael Jordan turned out to be one of the memorable advertisements of that year.
Warner Brothers’ executives were initially reluctant to partner with Nike because the studios believed that Bugs Bunny would not be the right cartoon to feature in a commercial that marketed sports shoes. According to Entertainment Weekly, Joe Pytka spoke about how the creative team had their work cut out for them to get approval from Warner Brothers to use Bugs Bunny in the Nike commercial.
“We fought with Warner Bros. for months, trying to modernize Bugs’ character for the commercial. They finally came around to accepting what we wanted to do, we then did the spot, and it was a huge success on the Super Bowl.”
Figured out why the Patriots had so much success in the 2nd half. Space Jam crew must've payed them a visit in the locker room pic.twitter.com/g357Ou0ywA
— Joshua Allen (@Josh8_Allen) February 6, 2017
The success of the Nike commercial paved the way for the making of Space Jam because Warner Brothers realized that Bugs Bunny was still relevant even in the 1990s. Dan Romanelli, the head of Warner Bros. consumer products division, convinced his seniors to produce the movie, that was later directed by Joe Pytka.
Another important person who made it possible for the studios to produce Space Jam was Michael Jordan himself. The filmmakers made Space Jam’s movie plot appear interesting to Michael Jordan as well as his fans, because the movie depicted the events that took place between Jordan’s initial retirement and his resurgence in 1995.
Even though the legendary basketballer had taken a break from the game, he kept in touch with the sport by regularly following his practice schedule. According to the Washington Post, Bob Daly, the former CEO of Warner Bros., spoke about the dedication with which Jordan used to practice basketball while filming for Space Jam.
“Every day in between shots, he would go practice. And every night, he’d usually bring in some pros in the area, or college kids, and they’d play basketball. That’s when I realized the unbelievable dedication he had to coming back.”
Michael Jordan’s involvement enabled Warner Brothers and Nike to capitalize on the Space Jam merchandise and the Jordan brand. On the occasion of the movie’s 20th anniversary, Nike announced a new Space Jam collection under the Jordan brand.
Don't let Tom Brady distract you from the fact that the Monsters blew a 72-0 lead in Space Jam pic.twitter.com/k7PaaI45pq
— Mateo Mariaca (@mmariaca17) February 6, 2017
The latest media reports suggest that Space Jam 2 might be produced with LeBron James in the lead role. However, Warner Bros. hasn’t confirmed any details about the sequel.
[Featured Image by Marty Lederhandler/AP Images]