Talks for a Space Jam successor began after the release of the first film, which Joe Pytka would have returned to direct. Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors, but eventually the deal fell through due to Michael Jordan's refusal to return. Several possible spin-offs focusing on other athletes, including Jeff Gordon, Tiger Woods, and Tony Hawk, were also discussed, but never came to fruition. After several years of languishing, a LeBron James-led sequel was officially announced in 2014 with filming under Terence Nance took place from June to September 2019 around Los Angeles. After a few weeks into filming, Nance left the project and Lee was hired to replace him in July 2019.
Space Jam: A New Legacy premiered in Los Angeles on July 12, 2021, and was released in the United States on July 16 simultaneously in theaters and through HBO Max for a month after its theatrical release. The film has grossed $94 million worldwide and received generally negative reviews from critics, who found it spoiled with product placement by the studio and lacking in the original film's quirky and self-referential humor.
Basketball player LeBron James wishes for both of his sons, Darius and Dom, to follow in his footsteps, but Dom instead dreams of becoming a video game developer. While LeBron starts showing an interest in Dom's arcade basketball game, Dom discovers a glitch after performing a specific move which causes his character to be deleted, to his chagrin.
Later, LeBron is invited with his family to Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank to discuss a movie deal, but LeBron dismisses the idea while Dom shows an interest in the studio's software, particularly its state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI), Al-G Rhythm. Dom expresses an interest in a future with Warner Bros, leading to a blowup argument with his father when LeBron refuses to let him give up basketball. Al-G, who has become self-aware and desires more recognition from the world, lures the two to the basement server room and traps them in virtual reality.
Taking Dom as his prisoner, he orders LeBron to assemble a basketball team made entirely from fictional characters owned by Warner Bros. to compete against his own team, telling him that he will only be released if he wins, and sends him through the virtual space where he lands in Tune World. Meanwhile, Al-G begins to turn Dom against his father by playing on his resentments and helping him develop and upgrade himself and his game, which he secretly intends to use against LeBron.
Over Bugs' objections, LeBron insists on coaching his new players on the fundamentals of basketball. The Tune Squad meet with Al-G's team, the Goon Squad, comprised of upgraded avatars of several active professional basketball players with superpowers and led by Dom. To further the stakes, Al-G livestreams the game and abducts countless viewers, including LeBron's family, into the virtual reality while summoning all the Warner Bros. characters to watch the game. Al-G says that if the Tune Squad loses, the viewers will remain there for eternity and the Looney Tunes will be deleted permanently.
The Goon Squad easily dominate the first half of the game, using their powers to score extra points. During the break, Sylvester attempts to recruit former Tune Squad memberMichael Jordan, but accidentally locates Michael B. Jordan instead. LeBron realizes his mistake and allows Bugs to devise the strategy for the second half using their cartoon physics to catch up with the Goon Squad. LeBron confronts Dom and tells him he no longer wants to stand in the way of his dream, earning his forgiveness and trust as Dom abandons the Goon Squad.
Al-G assumes control of the Goon Squad and uses his own abilities to make them seemingly unbeatable. Dom realizes the only way to win the game is to use the glitch move, even though whoever does so will be deleted. During the final seconds of the game, Bugs sacrifices himself by performing the move, and enables Dom to help LeBron score the final point, winning the game and literally posterizing Al-G, deleting him and the Goon Squad. The James family and the abducted citizens are returned to the real world, while in Tune World Bugs bids farewell to his friends before he disappears.
In the real world, LeBron comes to see his family in a different light and supports Dom's decision to become a video game designer. After dropping him off at E3 Game Design Camp, he is approached by Bugs, who actually survived due to the fact that as a fictional character, he can't really "die". He asks LeBron to put him up for a little while until he can find a way back to Tune World and asks if he can invite the rest of the Looney Tunes over as well.
LeBron James as himself. James also voices his animated form.
While Michael Jordan does not appear in the film, he does make a photographic cameo on the original Space Jam's poster shown in Al-G. Rhythm's Warner 3000 pitch. He is also mentioned and teased to appear in the scene featuring actor Michael B. Jordan's cameo. Don Cheadle teased this gag prior to the film's release, stating, "Michael Jordan is in the movie, but not in the way that you would expect it."Bill Murray, who appeared in the original film, makes a photographic cameo playing golf alongside Bugs Bunny in the credits.
The antagonists of the first film, the Nerdlucks, cameo as spectators during the game via archive animation. LeBron James had confirmed prior to the film's release that their "Monstars" forms would not feature as A New Legacy would be a stand-alone sequel rather than a direct sequel.
Warner Bros. references
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A sequel to Space Jam was planned as early as 1996, shortly after the original film was released in theaters worldwide. As development began, Space Jam 2 was going to involve a new basketball competition between Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes and Berserk-O!, a new alien villain who was planned to be voiced by Mel Brooks. Artist Bob Camp was tasked with designing Berserk-O! and his henchmen. Joe Pytka would have returned to direct and Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors. However, Michael Jordan did not agree to star in a sequel. According to Camp, a producer lied to the studio by claiming that Jordan had signed on in order to keep development going. Without Jordan involved with the project, Warner Bros. was not interested, and cancelled plans for Space Jam 2.
The potential sequel reentered development as Spy Jam and was to star Jackie Chan in a different script. The studio was also planning a film titled Race Jam which would have starred Jeff Gordon. Additionally, Pytka revealed that following the first film's success, he had been pitched a story for a sequel that would have starred professional golfer Tiger Woods, with Jordan in a smaller role. Pytka explained how the idea came from an out-of-studio script conference, with people who worked on the original film allegedly involved. Producer Ivan Reitman was reportedly in favor of a film which would again star Jordan. The follow-up films were ultimately cancelled in favor of Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). A film titled Skate Jam was in early development with Tony Hawk in the starring role. Plans were underway for production to begin immediately following the release of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but were canceled due to the poor financial performance of said film despite improved critical reception to Space Jam.
In February 2014, Warner Bros. officially announced development of a sequel that would star LeBron James. Charlie Ebersol was set to produce, while Willie Ebersol wrote the script. That same month, James was quoted as saying, "I've always loved Space Jam. It was one of my favorite movies growing up. If I have the opportunity, it will be great." In July 2015, James and his film studio, SpringHill Entertainment, signed a deal with Warner Bros. for television, film and digital content after receiving positive reviews for his role in Trainwreck. By 2016, Justin Lin signed onto the project as director, and co-screenwriter with Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello. Professional player Kobe Bryant also expressed an interest in directing the film, though he was uninterested in a cameo appearance. By August 2018, Lin left the project, and Terence Nance was hired to direct the film. In September 2018, Ryan Coogler was announced as a producer for the film. SpringHill Entertainment released a promotional teaser image officially announcing the film, with production set to begin in 2019 during the NBA off-season. Filming was to take place in California within a 30 mile radius of Los Angeles. By April 2019, Coogler and Sev Ohanian were rewriting the script. Final screenplay credit would ultimately go to Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terance Nance, Jesse Gordon, and Celeste Ballard. Prior to production, the film received $21.8 million in tax credits as a result of a new tax incentive program from the state.
Principal photography began on June 25, 2019. On July 16, 2019, it was announced Nance was leaving the project because he and "the studio/producers had different takes on the creative vision for Space Jam 2", and that Malcolm D. Lee would serve as his replacement.Bradford Young, who was set to serve as cinematographer, also left the project and was replaced by Salvatore Totino.
Among locations used for filming included the Sheats–Goldstein Residence owned by James Goldstein, including turning its tennis court temporarily into a basketball court for the shooting. Production wrapped on September 16, 2019. The production spent at total of $194.7 million filming in California, receiving $21.8 million in tax rebates from the state. James held a farewell meeting talking about how he idolized with the first Space Jam film when he was a kid in Akron, Ohio, when the production wrapped, which was later leaked on August 16, 2020, along with pictures of James with his #6 Tune Squad outfit. A scene filmed under Nance's direction in June 2019 involving Pepé Le Pew attempting to flirt with a bartender (portrayed by Greice Santo), only to be rebuffed, was deleted. This decision was later met with backlash among many fans, who accused the studio of double standards by removing the character while allowing a cameo of Alex and his droogs, a gang that commits severe violence and sexual assaults in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, to be retained. The film's trailer revealed that Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam will be allowed to appear with their trademark guns in the film; since HBO Max's Looney Tunes Cartoons, a ban had been enacted to not depict fire weapons due to all of the mass shootings and gun violence in the United States.
In March 2020, photos taken on set and a brief recording of the wrap party were leaked online, revealing that the film will feature characters from other Warner-owned properties. In May 2020, James officially revealed the title and logo of the film, as Space Jam: A New Legacy. Don Cheadle stated that LeBron had an injury he suffered during production, while the filmmakers had a rigorous schedule and shot 14 hours a day.
In July 2020, Dan Haskett, who has worked on the Looney Tunes since 1979, was hired to work in the animation department as well. Matt Williames, who has not worked with Warner Bros. since Looney Tunes: Back in Action, started doing animation for the film in August of the same year. In May 2020, Ole Loken, who worked extensively on animation hit Klaus, announced that he will serve as an animator on the film. By October, Loken shared the design for Lola Bunny and Daffy Duck online, revealing that A New Legacy will stay true to previous designs of the Looney Tunes characters. Despite this, Lola's final design was adjusted to be less sexualized than the first film. The film includes both traditional and CG animation.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
In January 2020, Hans Zimmer was announced as the composer for the film. By April of the same year, Kris Bowers was announced to be working with Zimmer as co-composers. However, in January 2021, it was officially confirmed that Bowers would receive sole credit. The soundtrack was released on July 9, 2021, and labeled by Republic Records and WaterTower Music.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) track listing
The marketing campaign from Warner Bros. for Space Jam: A New Legacy began on July 31, 2020, when a hat with the film's logo became available on the studio's shop website. That August, it was announced that Moose Toys made a deal with Warner Bros. to make merchandise for the film along with the 2021 live-action/animated Tom and Jerry hybrid film.
On April 3, 2021, the first trailer was released, which revealed a number of references and characters who made cameos from franchises owned by Warner Bros. Jordan Hoffman from Vanity Fair compared the trailer to Disney's Tron franchise and fellow Warner Bros. film Ready Player One (2018). That same month, Hasbro also made a deal with Warner Bros. to make two Space Jam: A New Legacy versions of their board game properties Monopoly and Connect Four.
A tie-in video game, with ideas designed by Ricky of the United States and Narayan of India and developed by Digital Eclipse, was released on July 1, exclusively on the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Perks program. That same month, McDonald's launched its limited time campaign in the participating restaurants by including twelve toys free with the purchase of a Happy Meal, while Warner Bros. collaborated Nifty's to release a collection of 91,000 limited-edition NFTs featuring characters from the movie including Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Porky Pig and LeBron James. A large amount of NFTs are planned to be released to balance rarity with broad accessibility, driving "engagement around the film for as many Space Jam fans as possible".
Space Jam: A New Legacy was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on July 16, 2021. It was also simultaneously released on HBO Max, available for subscribers of the ad-free plan to view at no extra cost for one month. The film premiered in Los Angeles on July 12, 2021. In September 2020, SpringHill Company signed a four-year contract with Universal Pictures, making this their fourth and final independent production.
Samba TV reported that 2.1 million U.S. households streamed the film in its opening weekend, one of the best totals for an Warner Bros./HBO Max day-in-date release, with Cleveland being the most-watched city.
As of July 25, 2021[update], Space Jam: A New Legacy has grossed $51.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $42.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $94 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, and was initially projected to gross around $20 million from 3,965 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after making $13.1 million on its first day, estimates were raised to $32 million. It went on to debut to $31.1 million, the best opening weekend for a family film and the second highest for a Warner Bros. film of the COVID-19 pandemic behind Godzilla vs. Kong ($31.6 million), and besting the original ($27.5 million without inflation). The film attracted a diverse audience, with African Americans making up 36%, Caucasian 32%, Latino 23%, and Asian 9%, with a total of 48% being under the age of 17. The film fell 69% to $9.6 million in its sophomore frame, finishing fourth. The steep decline was blamed in-part on the film's simultaneous digital release on HBO Max.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 29% based on 185 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Despite LeBron James' best efforts to make a winning team out of the Tune Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy trades the zany, meta humor of its predecessor for a shameless and tired exercise in IP-driven branding." According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 37 out of 100 based on 43 critics, the film received "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, the same as the first film, while PostTrak reported 78% of those gave it a positive score, with 58% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Giving it a "C–", The A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd stated the film's comprehensiveness did "nothing", although it made misdirections which was subject to "glittering CGI trash heap of cameos, pat life lessons, and stale internet catchphrases." Writing for the South China Morning Post, James Marsh gave the film 1 out of 5 stars and criticized its use of product placement, which he felt neglected both supporters of the NBA and Looney Tunes. Calling it a "supposed family comedy...woefully devoid of laughs," Marsh concluded that it fell just short of "asking audiences point blank to subscribe to HBO Max," and was ultimately "a vacuous and cynical experience that shoots far wide of the mark." In her 2.5 out of 5 star review, Wenlei Ma of News.com.au criticized the film for overtly promoting Warner Bros. IPs, saying: "It's a shame that the cross-promotion was so nauseating and over-the-top because otherwise Space Jam: A New Legacy has a lot of value. It's more entertaining and better paced than the original, the character designs for the opposing team are impressive and it's even used the Looney Tunes characters in a way that stays true to their legacy while also introducing them to a new generation of kids."Alonso Duralde of TheWrap said that the film "barely has jokes for the Looney Tunes, let alone the entire Warner Bros. cast of characters" and wrote: "Viewers who, for whatever reason, love the first Space Jam may well find themselves delighted all over again, but as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to plunge a beloved sports figure into a century's worth of pop culture iconography, A New Legacy is a big fat airball."
Hagan Osborne of FilmInk was more positive about the film, writing: "What is most thrilling about A New Legacy is the liveliness of the worlds created, with each destination carrying with it a varying style of animation that brings with it added freshness." Amy Nicholson of Variety said, "Space Jam: A New Legacy is chaotic, rainbow sprinkle-colored nonsense that, unlike the original, manages to hold together as a movie." Kristen Page-Kirby, writing for The Washington Post, gave the film a score of 2 stars out of 4, saying: "There’s no real reason for this sequel/tribute to the original 1996 film to exist, but now that it does, there’s no reason to wish that it didn’t", and added that the film "has just enough momentum, heart and spirit, even as it does both way too much and not quite enough ... If this is corporate synergy fired up to a terrifying new level, there’s still enough heart at the movie’s center to keep it from becoming all business."Korey Coleman and Martin Thomas of Double Toasted, the former of whom worked as an animator on the original Space Jam, both gave it a positive review. While they admitted that the film felt like an advertisement for HBO Max, they praised the creative use of the characters and the acting, though they took ire with some of the outdated references.
After the release of the film, a third Space Jam was in the talks by director Malcolm D. Lee with Dwayne Johnson involved as the lead, transitioning on the sports genre from basketball to professional wrestling.
^Terence Nance, the original director of the film, left during production because of creative differences, with Malcolm D. Lee taking his place.
^Nance is officially credited twice for story credit; once for writing as a team with Taylor, Rettenmaier, and Coogler, and another for writing solo.
^Bradford Young was initially the cinematographer, but exited the project during production. Salvatore Totino was brought in as a replacement.
^Hans Zimmer was initially the composer for the film's score, but due to unknown reasons, Kris Bowers was brought in as a replacement.
^Lola Bunny's long-time voice actress Kath Soucie, who has voiced her since her debut in the first film, was initially announced to be reprising her role, but it was later announced that Zendaya would be voicing her instead.
^D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 21, 2021). "'Snake Eyes' & M. Night Shyamalan's 'Old' In Cage Match At Weekend Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 21, 2021. Warner Bros’ Space Jam: A New Legacy wound up posting a final three-day cume of $31.05M, which is not Warner Bros’ best domestic debut for the pandemic (Godzilla vs. Kong still is, at $31.6M), and it’s also the second best opening for Malcolm D. Lee after Girls Trip ($31.2M). Nonetheless, Space Jam 2 was the best opening for a family film during the pandemic to date