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Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated family sports comedy film directed by Joe Pytka. Starring basketball player Michael Jordan,[3] the film depicts an alternate history of what happened between Jordan's initial retirement from the NBA in 1993 and his comeback in 1995, in which he is enlisted by Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny and his friends to help them win a basketball match against a group of aliens who want to enslave them for their amusement park. The film also marks the first appearance of Bugs' love interest, Lola Bunny.

Space Jam
Space jam.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Pytka
Produced by
Written by
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyMichael Chapman
Edited bySheldon Kahn
Distributed byWarner Bros. Family Entertainment
Release date
  • November 15, 1996 (1996-11-15)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[1]
Box office$230.4 million[2]

Released theatrically by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment on November 15, 1996,[4] Space Jam opened at No. 1 in the North American box office and grossed over $230 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing basketball film of all-time. Despite this, the film received mixed reviews from critics for the film's merits of combining Jordan and his profession with the Looney Tunes characters.



In summer 1973, 10-year-old Michael Jordan practices basketball at night while his father steps out and tells him it is past midnight, but lets him make a few more shots. Jordan then shoots while making several wishes about going to the University of North Carolina by playing on a championship team, joining the NBA, going on to play basketball and successfully making every shot as he talks. Impressed, Jordan's father jokingly asks if next he is going to wish he could fly to which Jordan turns to make one final shot. Over the next twenty years, Jordan goes on to become one of the most legendary NBA players of all time.

In 1993, Jordan announces his retirement from professional basketball to follow his now-deceased father's career as a baseball player, but is not as skilled in baseball as he was in basketball, which results in a publicist and an assistant named Stan Podolak to be assigned in order to make his new career less bumpy. Elsewhere in outer space, an intergalactic amusement park called Moron Mountain faces declining popularity, so its owner, Mr. Swackhammer, sends his diminutive minions, the Nerdlucks, to capture the Looney Tunes as new entertainment. Upon arriving the animated world hidden in the center of Earth where the Looney Tunes live in, Looney Tunes Land, the Nerdlucks threaten to capture the Looney Tunes but they ignore the Nerdlucks' threats and, taking advantage of the Nerdlucks' tiny size, challenge them to a game of basketball for their freedom.

To overcome their height disadvantage, the Nerdlucks steal the talents of five professional basketball players: Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues, making them incapable of playing. The Nerdlucks absorb the talent and transform into the gigantic "Monstars", who easily intimidate and terrorize the Looney Tunes.

While playing golf with Bill Murray, Larry Bird and Stan, Jordan is sucked down a golf hole and is recruited by Bugs Bunny to help the Looney Tunes win against the Monstars. Jordan initially refuses by saying he does not play basketball anymore, but changes his mind after being insulted and humiliated by the Monstars when they squash him into the shape of a basketball and bounce him around like one. He then sends Bugs and Daffy Duck to his house to retrieve his basketball gear. Meanwhile, Stan has been digging out the golf hole to find Jordan, but spots Bugs and Daffy leaping down another one and pursues them, reuniting with Jordan in the Tunes' world and joining their team, the Tune Squad. Another new recruit is Lola Bunny, a skilled basketball player whom Bugs is instantly smitten with. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the sudden incapacity of five NBA players is assumed to be a virus or disease, and causes a worldwide panic that eventually results in the NBA season being ended early for the safety of all other players. The five players themselves try fruitlessly to determine the cause of their sudden loss of skill, including hospitalization, therapy and prayer, none of which shows anything.

On the day of the match, the Monstars dominate the first half, leaving the Looney Tunes unconfident. Stan overhears a conversation between the Monstars and Swackhammer, learning of how they gained their talent and informs Jordan and the Tune Squad. Bugs and Jordan convince the rest of the Tune Squad to fight back and as a result the first quarter of the second half allows the Tunes to dominate using old school gags and Acme weaponry. During a timeout, Jordan raises the stakes of the game with Swackhammer: a win by the Tune Squad would require the Monstars to give their stolen talents back to the NBA players while a win by the Monstars would get Jordan as a new attraction.

To ensure his victory, Swackhammer cheats by having the Monstars play rough and injure all of the Tune Squad until only Jordan, Bugs, Daffy, Lola and Stan remain. Stan becomes the fifth player and manages to score, but is literally flattened by the Monstars and is removed from the court. The referee, Marvin the Martian, informs Jordan that unless the team gets a fifth player, they will have to forfeit the game at which point Murray arrives and volunteers to be the team's fifth member. In the final seconds of the game, Jordan gains the ball and manages to use cartoon physics to extend his arm and score the winning points. Murray then retires from basketball and the Monstars blast Swackhammer to the Moon in a rocket when Jordan makes them realize that, since they are no longer smaller than him, they do not have to take his abuse anymore. Jordan convinces them to give up the stolen talents while the Looney Tunes agree to recruit the reformed Nerdlucks in their ensemble. Jordan and a recovered Stan return to Earth with the Nerdlucks dropping them off at Jordan's next baseball game.

Later, the two visit the incapacitated basketball players and return their talent. The players invite Jordan to a three-on-three match; Jordan initially refuses, but changes his mind when the other players question his loss of talent. The film ends with Jordan's 1995 return to the Chicago Bulls to resume his basketball career.


Some of the film's live-action cast play fictional versions of themselves:[5]

Additionally, Dan Castellaneta and Patricia Heaton appear as basketball fans.

Voice castEdit


The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum.[6] It also served as a high point for musical artist R. Kelly, whose song "I Believe I Can Fly" not only was a hit, but earned him two Grammy Awards.[7] Other tracks included a cover of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle" (by Seal), "Hit 'Em High (The Monstars' Anthem)" (by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man), "Basketball Jones" (by Barry White & Chris Rock), "Pump up the Jam"[8] (by Technotronic[9]), "I Turn to You" (by All-4-One) and "For You I Will" (by Monica). The film's title song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.


Warner Bros. released Space Jam through its Family Entertainment division on November 15, 1996.

The film made its cable television premiere on TNT on March 14, 1999, while it made its network television premiere on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney on November 14, 1999.[10]

Home mediaEdit

Warner Home Video first released the film on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD on March 11, 1997. The VHS tape was reprinted and re-released through Warner Home Video's catalog promotions: the Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary Celebration (1998), Century Collection (1999), Century 2000 (2000) and Warner Spotlight (2001). The film was re-released on DVD on July 25, 2000. On October 28, 2003, the film was released as a 2-disc special edition DVD including newly made extras such as a commentary track and a featurette. On November 6, 2007, Space Jam was featured as one of four films in Warner Home Video's 4-Film Favorites: Family Comedies collection DVD (the other three being Looney Tunes: Back in Action - which was released seven years after Space Jam, Osmosis Jones and Funky Monkey). On February 8, 2011, the first disc of the previous 2-disc edition was released by itself in a movie only edition DVD and on October 4, the film was released for the first time in widescreen HD on Blu-ray which, save for an hour of classic Looney Tunes shorts, ported over all the extras from the 2003 2-disc edition DVD. A double DVD and Blu-ray release, paired with Looney Tunes: Back in Action, was released on June 7, 2016.[11] On November 15, 2016, Warner Bros. released another Blu-ray for Space Jam to commemorate the film's 20th anniversary.


Space Jam later expanded into a media franchise which includes comics, video games and merchandise. The Space Jam franchise is estimated to have generated $6 billion in total revenue.[12]


The film was adapted into a graphic novel drawn by Leonardo Batic.[13]

Video gamesEdit

There was a licensed pinball game by Sega based on the film, a video game for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and MS-DOS by Acclaim, and a handheld LCD game by Tiger Electronics.[14]


Toys were released coinciding with the film, including various action figures released by Playmates under the short-lived banner "WB Toy". The toys had limited articulation and paired Michael Jordan or another characters of the movie (Charles Barkley and the Monstars with a Looney Tunes character and accessories). Some figures depicted Michael Jordan as a basketball player, a baseball player and a golf player. The line also included stuffed toys, decorated basketballs and McDonald's Happy Meals.


Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, Space Jam currently holds a rating of 38% based on 55 reviews with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "While it's no slam dunk, Space Jam's silly, Looney Tunes-laden slapstick and vivid animation will leave younger viewers satisifed -- though accompanying adults may be more annoyed than entertained."[15] On Metacritic, it has a score of 59 out of 100 based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Space Jam a thumbs up,[17] as did Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, although his zeal was more subdued.[18] In his print review, Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars, noting, "Space Jam is a happy marriage of good ideas—three films for the price of one, giving us a comic treatment of the career adventures of Michael Jordan, crossed with a Looney Tunes cartoon and some showbiz warfare. ... the result is delightful, a family movie in the best sense (which means the adults will enjoy it, too)."[17] Siskel focused much of his praise on Jordan's performance, saying, "He wisely accepted as a first movie a script that builds nicely on his genial personality in an assortment of TV ads. The sound bites are just a little longer."[18] Leonard Maltin also gave the film a positive review (three stars), stating, "Jordan is very engaging, the vintage characters perform admirably ... and the computer-generated special effects are a collective knockout."[19] Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor as well as the Looney Tunes' antics and Jordan's acting.[20]

Although Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film's animation, she later went on to say that the film is a "fond tribute to [the Looney Tunes characters'] past."[5] Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune complained about some aspects of the movie, stating, "...we don't get the co-stars' best stuff. Michael doesn't soar enough. The Looney Tunes don't pulverize us the way they did when Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng or Bob Clampett were in charge." Yet overall, he also liked the film, giving it 3 stars and saying: "Is it cute? Yes. Is it a crowd-pleaser? Yup. Is it classic? Nope. (Though it could have been.)"[21] TV Guide gave the movie only two stars, calling 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."[22] Margaret A. McGurk of The Cincinnati Enquirer gave the film 2 1/2 stars, saying, "Technical spectacle amounts do nothing without a good story."[23]

Box officeEdit

Despite mixed reviews, Space Jam was a box office success. At the end of its run, it grossed approximately $90.4 million domestically and an estimated $230–$250 million internationally.[24][25] As of October 2018, Box Office Mojo ranks it as the highest grossing basketball film of all time.[26]


In other mediaEdit

The Monstars make a cameo in the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain episode "Star Warners" (a parody of Star Wars). Jordan himself, who was a spokesman for MCI Communications before the film was made, would appear with the Looney Tunes characters (as his "Space Jam buddies") in several MCI commercials for several years after the film was released before MCI merged with WorldCom and subsequently Verizon Communications.[27] Bugs had previously appeared with Jordan as "Hare Jordan" in Nike ads for the Air Jordan VII and Air Jordan VIII.[28][29] In 2013, Yahoo! Screen released a parody of ESPN's 30 for 30 about the game shown in the film. The short dates the game as taking place on November 17, 1995, although Jordan's real-life return to basketball occurred on March 18.[30]


A sequel to Space Jam was planned as early as 1998. As development began, Space Jam 2 was going to involve a new basketball competition between the Looney Tunes and a new villain named Berserk-O!. 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 design artists by claiming that Jordan had signed on in order to keep development going. Warner Bros. eventually canceled plans for Space Jam 2.[31] The film then 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, Space Jam director Joe 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.[32][33] Producer Ivan Reitman was reportedly in favor of a film which would again star Jordan.[34] 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 was cancelled given the poor critical and financial reception to the latter.[35]

In February 2014, Warner Bros. officially announced development of a sequel that will star LeBron James. Charlie Ebersol was set to produce, while Willie Ebersol wrote the script.[36] By May of the same year, 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."[37] 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.[38][39][40] By 2016, Justin Lin signed onto the project as director, and co-screenwriter with Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello.[41] In November 2016, a teaser trailer in the form of a Nike advertisement, was released on Twitter under #MonstarsBack.[42] Later in December, Bugs Bunny and the Monstars appeared in a Foot Locker commercial starring Blake Griffin and Jimmy Butler.[43][44] By August 2018 Lin left the project, and Terence Nance was hired to direct the film.[45] In September 2018, Ryan Coogler was announced as a producer for the film. SpringHill Entertainment released a teaser image officially announcing the film,[46] with production set to begin in summer 2019 during the NBA off-season.[47] Filming will take place in California[48][49][50][51][52][53][54] and will shoot within a 30 mile radius of Los Angeles.[55][56][57] Prior to production, the film received $21.8 million in tax credits as a result of a new tax incentive program from the state.[58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66]


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External linksEdit