Following the release of Space Jam: A New Legacy earlier this year, today marks the 25th anniversary of the original 1996 classic (if you can believe it!).
The plot of the ’96 film was simple: the Looney Tunes needed to win a basketball game to save their lives, and who better to enlist for the task than the legendary athlete, Michael Jordan? Two-and-a-half decades on, Space Jam is still firmly cemented as a beloved fan-favourite. But what exactly made this wabbit-led sports adventure so successful in the ‘90s and beyond?
Let’s start with the leading brand for this film: Looney Tunes. These iconic characters have been around since the 1930s, a partner series to Merrie Melodies. They were highly successful throughout the years until the end of the ‘60s when, due to budget cuts and profit margins shrinking at Warner Brothers, the popularity of Looney Tunes began to dwindle.
During this period, the Tunes were only appearing within short films in family movies produced by Warner Brothers and reruns of short episodes on TV. Their popularity was revived, however, when characters such as Daffy Ducks, Bugs Bunny and Tweety made cameo appearances in the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Starring Supanova alumni Christopher Lloyd and Kathleen Turner, the project was a landmark of both studio crossovers and animation, combining the realism of live-action film with the infinite possibilities of two dimensional art.
This style was seen again in 1992 for a Superbowl ad for Air Jordan starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. It was an idea known as the ‘Hare Jordan’; a commercial marketing idea supposed to only last a week! However, it sparked up many more releases of the Air Jordan commercials with the pairing. Warner Brothers recognised the marketing opportunity for a revival of Looney Tunes, re-introducing the characters to a new generation of kids without relying on a heavy rotation of cartoon reruns. Hence the creation of Space Jam, which paved a new wave of success for the Looney Tunes!
In the ’90s, it was not a new concept to have merchandise tie-ins for films or TV series, so it wasn’t surprising that Space Jam followed suit, releasing Space Jam themed clothing, Tune Squad jerseys, Tazos, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and more. Even today, the powers that be know nostalgic millennials can’t resist the urge to splurge on a Tune Squad jersey or Space Jam t-shirt, now being labelled ‘vintage’ Space Jam (Editor’s note: We’re feeling so called out right now!).
Has nostalgia tricked us into thinking Space Jam is a great movie? Possibly, but what’s wrong with that? While it may not be a multi-Academy Award winning epic (although, it did rightly win several non-Academy awards, including props for technical innovation!), it’s a lighthearted and joyous flick, which reinvigorated some of the most beloved, iconic characters of all time. You can’t ask for much more than that!
Will Space Jam: A New Legacy go on to become a nostalgic hit for this generation of kids? Will they be reflective, decades down the track, over Space Jam: A New Legacy the way that ’90s kids are about its predecessor? Only time will tell. In the meantime, if you’re struggling for something to watch tonight: here’s your chance, do your dance, rewatch Space Jam (alright)!