If you grew up in the 1990s, there’s a high chance that Space Jam was one of the films you watched religiously. I was one of those people and I can tell you that a large part of the appeal laid in its concept. Take one of the biggest athletes in the world – in this case, Michael Jordan – pair him off with the wild and whacky Looney Tunes, and let chaos ensue. And it seemed to be a winning formula. Not only was the film a massive box office success, but its soundtrack won a pair of Grammys and its official website continues to thrive to this day. Surely it wouldn’t be a difficult task to craft a sequel.
And yet that’s exactly what happened. Over the years, Warner Brothers attempted to follow up Space Jam with a number of sequels, and the first attempt took place shortly after the success of the original film. Once again, Jordan would have joined forces with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes in order to win a basketball game – but there was a new villain in the mix. Instead of the alien Monstars, Jordan, and the Tunes would have faced off against a strange new alien named Berserk-O.
Michael Jordan Wouldn’t Sign on to the ‘Space Jam’ Sequel
Both Joe Pytka and Tony Cervone, who directed the live-action and animated segments of the first Space Jam, were attached to the sequel. Cervone also brought his fellow animator and co-collaborator Spike Brandt on board, while Mel Brooks was approached to voice Berserk-O. But things fell through when one of the producers failed to secure Jordan’s involvement. “I felt the whole point of it was – like a lot of sequels – just to cash in on the success of the original,” artist Bob Camp, who designed Berserk-O, said while discussing the sequel’s final fate. “It wasn’t like it was a great idea that people wanted to make a movie out of. It was just, ‘Hey, Michael Jordan is a cash cow! Let’s milk him for all we can!’”
No One Knew What ‘Space Jam’s Sequel Was About
There were other problems besides the lack of Jordan. For starters, no one knew exactly what the Space Jam sequel would be about. “They didn’t really talk to me about it,” Camp said when he discussed designing Berserk-O. “They just said draw him.” Camp also had a brief and rather unpleasant interaction with Pytka, who was well known for his fiery outbursts. And the ironic part is that even though he didn’t get involved in the Space Jam sequel, Jordan continued to do a series of commercials where he starred alongside the Looney Tunes.
Undaunted, Warner Bros. went back to the drawing board. Since Jordan was off the table, the studio decided to turn to other major athletes – with one in particular at the top of the list. Pytka recalls that Warner Bros. attempted to pitch him on a Space Jam sequel that would have Tiger Woods in a major role. But he turned it down as he hated the idea and felt that Woods would never match Jordan’s charisma. “Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes, they got rejuvenated because of Michael. There will never be another Michael Jordan. There’s only been two athletes with that kind of charisma: Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali,” he said during an interview celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary. Robot Chicken – a show that airs on the WB-owned Cartoon Network under Adult Swim – would present its own raunchy take on this scenario.
The Looney Tunes would return to the big screen in 2003 with Looney Tunes: Back In Action, which initially began life as a project titled Spy Jam – and with Jackie Chan attached, no less! Production on Spy Jam and Race Jam – which would have featured NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon – were halted when Back in Action started filming, though WB would approach Tony Hawk for a project appropriately titled Skate Jam. Unfortunately, Back In Action flopped at the box office and Skate Jam was shelved.
‘Space Jam’ Finally Got Its Sequel
Eventually, Space Jam would finally get its sequel with Space Jam: A New Legacy. Once again, a basketball superstar would join forces with the Tunes; this time it was LeBron James, who was playing to save his son from a malevolent computer program called Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle). And much like its predecessor, A New Legacy was met with scathing critical rebuke – this time centered around the fact that people felt like it was essentially a gigantic ad for Warner Bros’ film catalogue. After all this time, it looks like the first Space Jam will serve as a case of capturing lightning in a bottle.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is available to stream on HBO Max. Looney Tunes: Back In Action is available to stream on Tubi.