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Feature Film

A ‘Space Jam’ Sequel Might Be In The Works

Is Warner Bros. preparing to make Space Jam 2 with NBA superstar LeBron James?

The Internet seems to think the answer is yes, and they have good reason to believe so after Deadline broke an exclusive story yesterday that claimed a Space Jam script has been written by Willie Ebersol, the son of former NBC Sports TV exec Dick Ebersol. However, there’s no guarantee that LeBron James will star in it; his camp has already refuted the story to a writer for Disney-owned ESPN.

UPDATE: In 2012, LeBron James himself tweeted, “Wish I could do Space Jam 2!”

Frankly, it’s hard to think of a time in the past couple decades when Warner Bros. hasn’t had a Looney Tunes feature in development. In fact, comedy writer Jenny Slate recently completed her own Looney Tunes script, according to a NY Times interview.

Looney Tunes scripts like Slate’s and Ebersol’s are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, and they usually don’t make it into production because they’re not very good. Hollywood’s misguided enthusiasm for creating these scripts is ironic because the original shorts have been loved by audiences for eighty years running precisely because they weren’t written with scripts. They were ‘written’ in a visual format by artists, and brought to life by directors with exemplary storytelling skills. It’s certainly possible to write a Looney Tunes script, just as it’s possible to eat a hamburger with your feet, but there are smarter, easier, and better ways to do it.

  • Roberto Severino

    If one does use scripts (better yet, outlines), they gotta understand comedy, good characterizations and especially make sure they have actually watched the cartoons, story structure, and gag structure. They also should understand how an animated cartoon is made from the ground up.

    Most of all, they need to have the utmost respect for the animators bringing these cartoons to life and let them have a say in the process. Let them have freedom to add funny gags and dialog and other things probably not part of the script explicitly in during the storyboarding part. This also goes to making sure everything will be suitable from a technical level. They also have to make sure they don’t get too long. Otherwise, there’s a huge chance that the finished product will suck and be a slap in the face to people who love Looney Tunes. Your post is so spot on.

  • Bob

    I’d see the film if it looked like the picture in the post.

  • WriterofthePlains

    So Amid, the original shorts weren’t at all scripted? How did they put the stories/gags together? Just curious. Was it close to something like… improv? Well, as close as animation can get to improv.

    • AmidAmidi

      The best resource for understanding how animated films were constructed during the Golden Age is here:
      There’s a four-part series there with explanation and numerous examples of how writing and drawing were used in tandem to create animation stories.

      • WriterofthePlains

        Oh, cool! Thanks, Amid!

  • Jayreen

    Seriously?? Are people still even interested in a sequel after all these years? Weren’t we suppose to be getting that Looney Tunes reboot instead that’s being done by that lady who had a voice in a Chipmunks movie that Warner Bros is barley providing any coverage for?

  • Max C.

    If it really did get made, I doubt they would use 2D considering we’re in an era where Back in Action flopped and Warner Bros. won’t do a live-action/animation hybrid unless that medium is CG. Not that the original was a good movie or anything.

    • Animator606432

      But the character animation was nice.

  • Fraser MacLean

    In fairness, both from an organisational and from a financial (funding versus box office) standpoint, don’t we have to accept that putting together a 7-minute short format animated film is – and always has been – a quite different process, not because one kind of “cartoon” (the Termite Terrace short) was somehow made “for the people, by the people” and the longer format (Disney and Fleischer) hand-animated features were somehow made by and for “the man” in some kind of second-rate corporate mindset? Having been lucky enough, thanks to being hired to work on the original “Space Jam”, to spend time at both Warner’s and Disney feature in the late ’90s, I can’t honestly say that the collaborative – visuals-versus-words – process for putting together individual sequences was that different to the process described by so many historians – and by guys like Chuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Mike Maltese et al – for “staging” a Looney Tune or a Merrie Melody. I appreciate the strength of feeling behind many of the comments, but I’m not sure how far it’s possible (or helpful) to take the comparison.

    • AmidAmidi

      Fraser – All studios in the Golden Age used the same visual approach to storytelling, even Disney on its films like “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio.” This is not to say that treatments, scripts, and the like didn’t exist, but the mindset was to tell the story visually, and the production methods were designed to enhance the visual approach. “Space Jam” may have superficially used a similar production process to the classic shorts, but the stunted humor and cartooning in deference to the script suggests otherwise.

      • Fraser MacLean

        I appreciate all of that. But I’m sure you would agree that the marketplace that people now have to compete in, whether they have “finished” scripts to offer, character suggestions to put forward, story outlines to suggest or simple one-off ideas for great individual gags – is a broad, fiercely competitive marketplace that simply didn’t exist back in the Golden Age. It isn’t that I don’t share your frustration about the quality (or the intent) of so many of the feature ideas that get pitched these days – not to mention some of the ideas that actually make it through to being made and marketed. It’s just that I don’t see how a direct comparison can usefully be made between a contemporary freelance pitch for an animated feature production and the kind of smaller-scale collaborative, sketch- and gag-based approach that the salaried Looney Tunes directors and their teams were free to take – on productions for which both the outlay and the recoup of expenses were a fraction of the gamble now being taken by any studio attempting to send a completed feature – in any animation medium – out into the world. My point is that the present day and the Golden Age are/were two different worlds – just as short format and feature animation were (and remain) two different worlds. And, come to think of it, were there really never any dud Looney Tunes or less-than-stellar Merrie Melodies or Silly Symphonies? All approaches have their draw-backs and, from time to time, their failures.

        • AmidAmidi

          Fraser – There are many ideas that can be adapted from the Golden Age of animation that would significantly change the outcome of today’s films for the better. The simplest suggestion: an animated film should not be developed conceptually or story-wise without the guidance of a director.

          The contemporary approach in which stories are developed first without a director’s input, much less any idea of who the director will be, is a boneheaded approach to popular filmmaking that doesn’t serve the end product so much as it serves execs who want to dilute creative authority through a divide-and-conquer strategy. The director-is-the-leader approach is the model used not only by some of live action’s greatest auteurs—Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, Godard, Cassavetes—it also happens to have been the same model used during the Golden Age of Hollywood animation.

          • Fraser MacLean

            Certainly from the earliest days when I was helping do the Animo scene composites for Uli on the first digital-to-35mm tests that were done at Telemagination and Cinesite in London on the movie, stories were pouring in about what sounded like very chaotic scenes on the giant green screen sound stages out in LA. It’s difficult not to get the feeling that you believe I’m siding with the “boneheads”, Amid. All I’m saying is that, no matter what the merits might be of the Termite Terrace approach you were speaking of in your original post, I don’t believe there’s a Director anywhere who would be allowed or encouraged to take that approach – and apply it to the writing or the production of an animated feature – in today’s movie-making environment. I’m sure Uli would back me up also on the fact that people who wish to be seen as “auteur” directors within the animation field often wind up acting more like boneheads than the “suits” everyone seems to enjoy bashing. David Hand was nominally the Director on “Snow White” – are you really saying he and Walt somehow worked in the same “auteur” way that Tarkovsky or Godard did on their live action movies? I’m getting very confused here….. People who want to be seen as creative are capable of making mistakes that are often just as big as those made by people who are paid to worry about “bean counting”. I think there’s a danger in suggesting that one group of people – with one particular approach or mindset – are saints while the others, who somehow have to organise and bankroll the whole thing – are perpetually sinners (or “boneheads”).

      • Uli Meyer

        I don’t remember there being much of a script when we got involved with Space Jam. Well, there was one but it wasn’t very good. While Joe Pytka was shooting miles of green screen footage of Jordan shooting hoops, the Sherman Oaks studio and us were boarding frantically, sometimes working backwards to fit the random Live Action. Jordan had a ‘window’ in his basket ball schedule and the shooting commenced without there being a solid plan. I remember live action director Joe Pytka getting wrist-slapped by Ivan Reitman on the set who questioned his choice of shooting angles. A nervous Pytka, who was used to being the only tyrant on a film set, took me to one side and asked me if this is going to work. There were many talented people involved who fought an uphill battle to please the almighty Ivan Reitman, who was treated like a god by an army of Hollywood henchmen. Space Jam certainly is not a milestone in film-making but given the circumstances under which it was cobbled together, it turned out okay. The two animation directors, Tony Cervone and Bruce Smith aided by their team of animation producers did a pretty good job holding it all together. Still, if they will ever do a sequel and get some of the old crew back, I would love to get involved again. Working on the first one was an adventure, to say the least.

  • Brittany

    If it’ll be hand drawn animation then yay! I’m a 90’s kid & had a lot of fun watching the original, I thought they did a great job being true to the characters. And at least the plot had some weight, for a wacky comedy. But since I don’t care about sports I don’t really have high hopes for a silly sequel beyond seeing hand-drawn looney tunes again. Although I didn’t enjoy Back In Action…it was trying too hard to be random. :/

  • AmidAmidi

    No one ever mentioned the word improvised. Standard animation, by the very nature of its production pipeline, cannot be improvised.

    • Jayreen

      Sorry. I think I might have used the wrong word when saying Space jam 2 should be more visual storytelling.

  • Steven Bowser

    I don’t think Space Jam actually holds up today as a good film. It’s mostly nostalgia that keeps people interested. But as far as the actual composition of the film and the story, it’s pretty hammy and weird.
    And they created a well-endowed female bunny “Lola” just for that film, as if they were trying to attract the male audience…to a bunny. It’s just weird.

    • Pat Lewis

      I think “Lola Bunny” was less to attract adult males, and more to have a “strong female role-model” character they could use to sell merchandise to little girls. (Either way, though, she certainly wasn’t included to be funny or enhance the story or in any way make the movie better.)

      • Funkybat

        I assumed she was there to add “sex appeal” and to possibly set up gags that took the old “Bugs dressed up in drag” premise and throw a monkey wrench into it, since there now WAS a buxom and vivacious female bunny character they could use in such situations.

        But yeah, Lola can’t hold a candle to Babs Bunny when it comes to characterization or humor. (I can’t really speak to her “The Looney Tunes Show” characterization, because I gave up on watching that series before she really showed up much.)

        • Steven Bowser

          She has an actual unique personality in the new Looney Tunes TV show. In Space Jam she just comes out of nowhere and makes things kindof weird.
          I don’t think the film does justice to ANY of the Looney Tunes characters. Space Jam is just a cash-in based on an ad campaign. And the music is awesome. :P

        • ilvbrownies

          Sadly, Lola’s story is even sadder than what you have hypothesized. Her sole purpose, when created was to be a marketing ploy. Also, her original design was a lot less curvaceous, but one of Space Jams biggest sponsors, McDonalds, threatened to pull out if Lola wasn’t changed because her original design could be mistaken for a young teen, say the 14-15 years of age and execs at McD’s didn’t want to bump any elbows with the misconception of Bugs who was at that time around 56 years old (using the Gregorian calendar) was dating a 14 or 15 year old. As far as your assessment of her part it’s true she didn’t get as much screen time as she deserved, you can thank the budget for that, In case you are unaware, there are a number of fan fictions that answer to her part being snipped away to satisfy the budget, while leaving the audience with a doe (female rabbit) who is good at hoops, doesn’t appreciate 1920’s lingo (D-O-L-L) and finds love but beyond that nothin. I hope this helped.

  • Funkybat

    Oh God, I think my mind blocked that out, but yeah, now that you mention it I do remember rumors about something like that.

    I was so happy there was no “follow-up” to Space Jam. Back in Action kind of was related inasmuch the Looney Tunes were interacting with real people, but the story was less of a blatant commercial or ego piece and more of an ensemble, just not a particularly funny one. I do still love the opening scene in the commissary with the “real Shaggy” tearing into Matthew Lillard’s portrayal of him!

  • Max C.

    Back in Action wasn’t that bad either (apart from the Taz fart joke which I can only blame the executives on).

  • Pedro Nakama

    Work for 2D animators!

  • Kyle_Maloney

    This is an old rumor and untrue. Not sure why it popped up again.

    • AmidAmidi

      Kyle – The Deadline story is from 4 days ago, and it’s the first time we’ve heard of the Ebersols being involved with a seuqel. What evidence do you have to refute the Deadline story about the Ebersol brothers putting together a new script?

  • Roberto Gonzalez

    If this is true it’s more proof that WB has no idea of what to do with the Looney Tunes. I am almost more interested in the Jenny Slate script. And I hope they dont use CGI or at least not realistic a CGI. Also I never thought Lola Bunny was one of the worst things in Space Jam ( the Monstars and life Action parts were much worse) but mayyybee the new Lola from The Looney Tunes Show would make things more enjoyable. Sometimes the new version is annoying as hell but other times she’s funny and Looney in her own right.

  • Emanuel Alfredsson

    Well, what could happen. All I hope is that they drop the tediously sophomoric tone that “The Looney Tunes Show” accidentally brought into it. It’s narratively dated and frighteningly common in Hollywood already (Miley Cyrus, anyone?).
    The Bechdel Test is here for a reason. Use it! “Friendship is Magic” already passes that and is still funny as hell.

  • Fernando Garcia

    Okay, the picture shown is mad creepy.

  • Carson Maitland – Smith

    Why don’t The Wiggles make another TV Series