Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Micahel Jordan” with a minor in “Un-killable Websites”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult believes it can fly and jumps out of a fourth floor window after an overdose of Space Jam!
When the alien amusement park tycoon Mr. Swackhammer and his team of MonStars threatens to enslave the Looney Tunes as new entertainment over a game of basketball, Bugs, Daffy, and the rest of the gang recruit retired basketball star turned minor league baseball player Michael Jordan to save them! Can the Looniest team of misfits defeat an extraterrestrial ‘Mean Team’ with the stolen talent of five star players? Michael Jordan stars in Space Jam!
Ahh, the 90s! Michael Jordan shocks the world by retiring from Basketball to play baseball for the Birmingham Barons (before returning to Basketball and the Chicago Bulls in 1995), R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” wins a Grammy for Best Song Written Specifically for Motion Picture or Television, there were just 20 million Americans on the internet (in comparison to the 245 million of today) and films like Mission Impossible, Independence Day, and Supercult Classic The Rock give Americans a collective patriotism boner the size of Mount Rushmore, just in time for the Lewinski Scandal! It’s an era of miracles…and then came Space Jam, the cherry on top.
Released in 1996, Space Jam is a comedy film essentially inspired by a series of highly popular Nike ads in which Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan faced off against Marvin Martian and his alien henchmen in basketball. Apparently we can add commercials to the list of things that Hollywood will base a film off of given enough financial incentive. Space Jam was a landmark film in a number of ways. It marked the debut of Lola Bunny, a crop top jersey wearing, borderline sexist love interest for Bugs Bunny who’s only character traits are being legitimately good at basketball and disliking the nickname ‘doll’. Space Jam was also the second feature film of low-level director and cinematographer Joe Pytka, whose previous works include the film Let It Ride and a video documentary of Michael Jackson. In all honesty Pytka probably got the job simply on his ability to handle superstars named Michael, especially considering that Warner Bros. built Michael Jordan his own basketball court just to keep him happy while filming.
Along with Jordan, Space Jam features Wayne Night (as Stanley, Michael’s bumbling publicist), Bill Murray, basketball greats such as Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Jonson, and Muggsy Bogues, as well as the voice talents of Danny DeVito as Swackhammer. Towards the end of the film, Daffy asks Bill Murray, “Exactly how did you get here?” to which Bill’s character responds, “The producer is a friend of mine.” Which is true. The Producer of Space Jam, Ivan Reitman, also produced: Stripes, Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters II, all of which Bill Murray starred in. Sadly Mel Blanc, the creator of the majority of the voices for the Looney Tunes died in 1989. Originally his son Noel Blanc was booked to provide all the male Looney Tunes character’s voices, but when he and WB couldn’t agree on a contract the studio was forced to replace the singular Blanc with four other voice actors to do the 12 voices.
Space Jam actually has a surprising number of under the radar jabs at Hollywood and the entertainment industry. At one point Daffy suggests naming the team “the Ducks”, and Bugs asks “what kind of Mickey Mouse organization would name their team the Ducks?” This actually happened in 1993, when The Walt Disney Company established the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League. Ironically, Space Jam’s debut appearance on TV would eventually be as a part of ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney. At one point Stanley comes into Michael’s hotel room and says, “C’mon, Michael, it’s game time. Slip on your Hanes, lace up your Nikes, take your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we’ll grab a Big Mac on the way to the ballpark.” All of those things were products that Jordan had been a sponsor for around that time.
Space Jam received mixed reviews. TV Guide called it a “cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of Warner Bros. cartoon characters and basketball player Michael Jordan, inspired by a Nike Commercial.” Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribute said, “”Is it cute? Yes. Is it a crowd-pleaser? Yup. Is it classic? Nope.” Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were more forgiving, calling it, “delightful, a family movie in the best sense.” The worst criticism for the film came from the veteran Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones, however, who said that were the film more true to the source material, Bugs Bunny would not have required or even requested the help of Jordan or the other Looney Tunes characters to defeat the Monstars, “and moreover, it wouldn’t have taken him an hour and a half. Those aliens, whether they were tiny or colossal, would’ve been dealt with in short order come the seven minute mark.”
Despite critical reception, Space Jam was a box office success grossing $230 million internationally from a budget of $80 million. Space Jam still stands as the highest grossing basketball movie of all time. Space Jam spawned a licensed pinball game, and video games on the Playstation, Sega Saturn, and PC, and a line of moderately successful toys. Even the soundtrack sold over 6 million albums to be verified as 6x Platinum and in February of 2014 Warner Bros. announced a sequel, set to star LeBron James! Space Jam’s total economic impact, according to a 2009 Chicago Tribune article, has topped $5 billion.
The most interesting aspect of the film however, is actually its website. It’s hard to believe it now, but back in 1996, just 8 years after the release of Roger Rabbit, Space Jam seemed like an impossibly risky $80 million gamble. It was a hybrid live-action/2D animation film starring the most recognizable athlete on the planet and the most popular cartoon rabbit of all time. Warner Brothers saw Bugs as not only a more modern, cooler version of Mickey Mouse, but also the most important piece of IP they owned. As a result, Warner Brothers threw all their full weight behind marketing the film, including a custom website in a time when websites were treated like exotic travel destinations by the baffled masses. The site was programmed in basic HTML, and filled with low-resolution stills from the film, information about cast and characters, and downloadable videos, screen savers, and desktop wallpapers. If some of the language in the website sounded like it was written by an angst-y, anti-authority teenage nerd with no sports knowledge whatsoever and a casually indifferent attitude… it’s because it was. Here are a few choice excerpts:
“The Jamminest two minutes of trailer time that ever hit a theater. It’s 7.5 megs, it’s Quicktime, and it’s worth it.”
“Here you’ve got footage taken from additional cameras on the set (and called “b-roll” by those in the biz) in which Michael Jordan plays against several men who are both shorter than he and less talented at the sport of basketball. The little green men will later be digitally removed and replaced with cartoons. Neat stuff, huh.”
The best part of the website however, is that it still exists, preserved like a digital relic of a simpler, funkier time. By modern standards it is a garishly designed fossil, but back in the day the Space Jam promotional website was at the forefront of web design and online marketing. In a way the website perfectly represents the film itself: ambitious, successful, cheesy beyond compare, and marketed out the @$$!
Visit the Website here: http://www.warnerbros.com/archive/spacejam/movie/jam.htm
Space Jam has a 6.2 on IMDB and a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, but in our 90’s kid hearts it will always be the Jamminest 100 minutes of our lives, for no other reason than watching Michael Jordan get sucked into a golf hole, be kissed by Bugs Bunny, and then dunk from half court.
Get ready to jam!
The Supercult show is proud to present Space Jam!