When it comes to animation movies which were clearly ahead of their time, you’d be remiss not to mention the 90s basketball favorite Space Jam. With the star power of B-ball legend Michael Jordan leading the project, it’s probably no surprise to see how beloved it has become in the years since its initial 1996 release.
With the Looney Tunes undeniable prestige, combined with Michael Jordan’s unparalleled star power, Space Jam was a tantalizing coming together of two very different worlds. It told the story of the cartoon characters’ partnership with Jordan, as they took to the court to defeat those pesky Monstars. With funny dialogue, revolutionary animation design, and a heartwarming core, Space Jam managed to hit several slam-dunks during its 88-minute duration.
However, what you see on the surface doesn’t tell the full story of the film’s production. Whether it’s criticisms of other movies, sly references to an old friend, or the durability of its 20-year-old website, Space Jam contains many obscure tidbits that you never uncovered before (until now, that is). Here are 25 shocking things you didn’t know about Space Jam.
25 There’s Some ‘Adult’ References
Surely a cute kid’s movie like Space Jam doesn’t have any crude or obscene references in it? Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. Because when it finally made its way onto television screens, some of the more risqué lines actually had to be edited out.
It happened during the credits, with Daffy Duck’s line “We’re getting screwed” hitting the cutting room floor. However, that’s not the only example. Other eyebrow-raising moments that were actually left in include Bugs Bunny becoming stiff when Lola tells him not to call her doll, and Patrick Ewing being questioned by a doctor on whether he’s unable to perform off the court.
Sorry guys, even Space Jam contains jokes not suitable for children. Thank goodness they’re too young to understand the references!
24 Out With The Old, In With The New
Space Jam certainly had quite a contemporary soundtrack, with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” being the breakaway hit. However, you’ve probably wondered why the old cartoon music wasn’t used in the film.
Well, it turns out that it was deemed too dated by the producers when compared to the modern and fresh nucleus that the movie possessed. Composer James Newton Howard was brought in to provide a fitting score to accompany the more relevant on-screen action of the film.
Some might argue that Carl Stalling’s classic soundtrack should’ve been used, but it wasn’t to be. What we got instead was somewhat of a hybrid between old and new, just like the movie itself you could say.
23 The Real-Life Homer Simpson Makes An Appearance
Anyone growing up in the 90s definitely got treated to some fantastic cartoons, but The Simpsons was undeniably the cream of the crop. However, did you know that there’s a connection between the show and Space Jam?
Yes, in a rare movie appearance, the legendary voiceover actor of Homer Simpson played a small part in the basketball flick. When the little Monstars attend a ball game to scout out potential players for the team, one of the people they are sitting next to in the stands is Dan Castellaneta, the voice of everyone’s favorite cartoon character, Homer.
It’s not the first time he’s been associated with the Looney Tunes franchise either, as he also did work on Tiny Toon Adventures and Loonatics Unleashed.
22 Inspiration From A Nike Ad
Sometimes ideas spawn from the most unlikely sources, and Space Jam was no different. Because while it was actually Michael Jordan’s agent who pitched the idea to Warner Brothers, he got the concept from a Nike ad which featured the point-scoring superstar.
Aired during the 1992 Super Bowl, the ‘Hare Jordan’ advertisement proved to be so popular, that the movie execs felt it could be turned into a fully-fledged motion picture. A year later, Jordan actually starred alongside Bugs Bunny and Marvin the Martian in another Nike ad, proving that the unlikely partnership had staying power.
Fast forward a few years, and Space Jam was now on the big screen. So, next time you watch the film, just remember Nike’s influential role in its creation.
21 One Looney Tunes Original Hated The Film
As far as key members of the Looney Tunes universe go, they don’t come much more important than writer and director Chuck Jones. He’s responsible for the creation of Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Pepe Le Pew, among others, as well as sitting at the helm of the iconic short cartoons from the franchise.
So, it goes without saying that he’s deeply entrenched in the brand. However, when Space Jam dropped, he certainly wasn’t shy about his hatred of the animation/sports movie hybrid. He called the movie “terrible,” and insisted that the Lola Bunny character had no substance.
He also bemoaned the change of format, going from the short features of the past to a full-length movie running time. So yeah, he didn’t like it…
20 If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
God loves a trier, so chances are he loves Bill Murray. The comic-timing master starred in Space Jam as a wannabe basketball player, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s not the first time that he played such a role.
No, in fact, he played a similar part a couple of years earlier when he starred in a random TV commercial. In it, he stumbles and fumbles his way through the streets with a basketball in hand, along with some weird overdubs of “I believe in the ball,” and “I believe in the court, but I just can’t find the court.” Yeah, we’re confused too…
Pull this one up on YouTube and you’ll likely feel weirdly uneasy by the end of it, thanks to some creepy acapella and Murray’s overly-intense delivery.
19 Tribute To A Deceased Friend
Here’s one for all of you who claim to be attentive; A Space Jam Easter egg that’s admittedly incredibly obscure and non-consequential on the surface. However, on closer inspection, you’ll realize it’s actually a tribute to an old friend.
It can be spotted outside the gym which the Tune Squad hold their tryout sessions at. Notice the name on the placard reading: “Schlesinger Gym?” That’s actually a reference to Leon Schlesinger who was the founder of Warner Bros. and ultimately, the Looney Tunes franchise as well.
He served as not only the founding member, but also, as the producer of much of the cartoon’s earliest incarnations. It’s good to see that the now deceased figurehead of the company hasn’t been forgotten.
18 The Ball’s In Your Court Now
If you get Michael Jordan to be the star of your movie, you better make sure he’s well looked after. The Space Jam producers found this out first-hand when he insisted on training on-set in-between takes.
The answer? He had his very own court built to satisfy all of his basketball needs. But it wasn’t just the court, it was the whole building. Named ‘The Dome," the facility also housed a weight room for his workouts. It was a true all-in-one compound that only a star of his magnitude could bargain for.
It even became a hangout spot for others, with celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, Antonio Banderas, and more, popping by for a few hoops with the B-ball legend.
17 Get Your Game Face On
Speaking of throwing a few three-pointers on his off-time during filming, Jordan also made time for a few impromptu matches as well. His love for the sport was so strong, that he rounded up anyone associated with the movie’s production for quick pickup games.
Everyone was invited to show up, which also meant Jordan’s teammates on occasion. Their NBA prowess was no match for all of the other participants who were asked to play, with extras on the movie even getting in on the action. Now that is what you call intimidating.
Never let it be said that Jordan can’t mix work with pleasure, on Space Jam, he did just that.
16 Just Let Me Do My Thing!
Michael Jordan may have acted in Space Jam, but let’s face it, he’s more comfortable in sports. So it’s no surprise that when he was trying to get a feel for the acting profession, he got somewhat irked by the constant media attention he was getting at the time.
Yes, even while the movie was being shot, Jordan was being hassled by reporters and journalists looking for attention via the former Bulls superstar. It was something that had to be nipped in the bud as Space Jam director Joe Pytka told the Chicago Tribune in 2009.
He recalled, “It got out of hand for a while after they saw this was going to work. He [Jordan] was great. Then they were using him for publicity and every day they’d bring in some dignitary to meet him and that started to [tick] him off.”
15 Shorts And All
Any fan of Jordan will probably know about his weird superstition when playing ball. When he was a part of the NBA, he wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform for good luck in matches, which makes one moment in Space Jam all the more understandable.
In one of the scenes, he requests his sporting garb for before a vital match. However, you’ll notice that he also asks for his UNC shorts too in reference to his real-life pre-game ritual. It’s just another subtle example of Space Jam expertly utilizing the actual quirks of their stars.
And who could argue with Jordan? After all, He has gone down as the most famous basketball player of all time so maybe his good luck charm worked!
14 My Name Is…
Those devious Monstars certainly played a big part in the movie, however, it’s weird that they are never named in it. Despite this, it turns out that they actually do have names after all, and they’re pretty random, to say the least.
The green one is called Bang, the blue one is called Blanko, the red one is called Nawt, the purple one is called Bupkus, and the orange one is called Pound. Actually, on second thought, it’s pretty easy to see why there weren’t mentioned. The monikers aren’t that memorable…
Ah well, they could’ve been worse. Well, except for Bupkus. That’s just an awful name for the big purple fella.
13 Revolutionary Animation
Space Jam was a game changer in many ways, not least in the animation department. Sure, it probably proved difficult to merge real-life action with computer-generated graphics, but the results were undoubtedly worth the growing pains.
But those pains had to be incredibly pronounced, as the movie not only had hundreds of animators working tirelessly on the project, but it also faced obstacles when it came to depicting old characters. As it wasn’t the same old animations over a static background anymore, revolutionary steps had to be taken such as the implementation of 3D models.
However, when all was said and done, the new techniques proved to be a winner from an aesthetic point of view. Bugs has never looked so sharp before!
12 ‘Sneaking’ Back Onto The Shelves
It goes without saying that the film made bucketloads of dollars with the various pieces of merchandise that complimented it, but few apparel pieces were as sought after as the sneakers which Michael Jordan wore in it.
In 2009, fans actually got to purchase their very own pair when they went on sale to the public. It caused the die-hard lot to camp out overnight for a chance to get their hands on a pair of the Air Jordan XI Space Jam sneakers. However, those who missed out the first time got a second chance when they were re-released in 2016 to mark the movie’s 20th anniversary.
Who doesn’t want to pretend that they’re Michael Jordan going for a slam dunk? With this awesome footwear, you’ll be closer than ever before to recreating it!
11 Alive And Kicking
In 1996, the internet was still very much in its infancy. However, one movie made sure to capitalize on its growing popularity and accessibility: Space Jam. At the time, the Space Jam website was seen as cutting-edge, but now? Well, not so much.
Although, that doesn’t mean that it’s not still up and running – quite the opposite in fact. Yes, surprisingly, the site is still accessible for you to see in all of its ‘mid-‘90s splendor. There’s even a link to the Mars Attacks domain too, which sadly, is no longer there.
But what’s most impressive is how well the site still functions today, with sub-sections littering it for your perusal. And if you’re a huge fan of the movie, you’ll get a kick out of how detailed some of them actually are.
10 Some Big Name Considerations
Besides Bill Murray, there really weren’t any big name actors in Space Jam, however, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. They tried to snag a few beloved Hollywood performers but to no avail. We nearly even got a return to the court for one Michael J. Fox!
The role of Stan Podolak went to the actor who played Newman in Seinfeld, but Fox was also considered for the part. As the star of the ‘80s basketball cult classic Teen Wolf, Fox would’ve been the perfect choice for the role, but sadly, the studio didn’t want him. Chevy Chase was also in the running to play the part, but yet again, the studio reneged.
They went with Wayne Knight, who did a fine job in all honesty, but we can only imagine the way the role could’ve been portrayed with Fox at the helm instead.
9 Acknowledging His Limitations
As alluded to earlier, Michael Jordan’s talents on the court didn’t count for much when he had to transition into acting for Space Jam. Refreshingly, however, he never pretended like he was the next Robert De Niro, quite the opposite, in fact.
At the 1996 premiere of the movie, Jordan told the Chicago Tribune, “I’m a learning actor, I can’t say I’m good. This is a whole new arena. I’ve done commercials, which means four-hour, six-hour days. This is a long process, very meticulous, especially when you’re trying to match up with an animated character you can’t see.”
It’s good to see that he’s self-aware when it comes to his acting ability. If only all sportsmen were this honest!
8 Space Jam To Space Odyssey
Who would’ve thought there’d be a connection between the lighthearted kid’s flick Space Jam, and the mature sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey? Surprisingly there is one, but we reckon you never picked up on it before.
If you get your peepers on the shot that depicts Moron Mountain floating in space, you’ll see a rather peculiar object on the upper-right hand side of your screen. Yes, that’s actually supposed to be the dark monolith seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It’s certainly not all that surprising to see movies reference other movies, but when they are both as disparate as these two motion pictures are, then it is a bit of a shock to the system. Nonetheless, it’s cool, and that’s what matters most.
7 Spike Lee’s Script Rewrite Given The Kibosh
The Space Jam script went through a few rewrites, but did you know that Spike Lee had offered his writing services to the movie? It’s true. He was close with the film’s lead star Michael Jordan, and he felt he could add some extra touches to it.
However, the director of the movie has asserted that Lee was denied the opportunity of changing it, due to previous disputes that had arisen between Lee and Warner Bros. Allegedly, they were still feeling burned after Lee had sought out extra financing from his friends for Malcolm X.
Who knows if Lee could’ve given the film something extra, but considered his close association with Jordan, it seems at the outset at least that definitely could’ve.
6 Product Placement Galore
Space Jam might’ve been a great movie for the kids, but we’re sure they weren’t the target audience for some of the blatant product endorsements littering it, many of which appear to stem from none other than Michael Jordan.
In one scene, in particular, several of Jordan’s product affiliations are mentioned, beyond the point of being purely coincidental. When Stanley approaches Jordan in his hotel room, he 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.”
It just so happens that every one of those products was associated with Jordan at the time, who had been sponsored to promote them. Hmm…
5 Shots Fired
Space Jam was mostly lighthearted fun, however, it wasn’t above taking shots at similar movies of its ilk. One film which wasn’t spared criticism was the Emilio Estevez-led hockey flick The Mighty Ducks. Bugs himself even takes a shot!
When Daffy and Bugs are pondering what to call their team, Daffy suggests The Ducks. Clearly disgusted by such a suggestion, Bugs responds with, “What kind of Mickey Mouse organization would name their team the Ducks?," blatantly poking fun at the Disney’s hit movie.
This is another example of a neat inside joke that could easily go over the heads of those not paying close attention. It’s also one which only the adults will get a kick out of, so it’s good to see that the older viewers can share a giggle with each other too.
4 The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Royalty payments from acting credits can keep plenty of actors afloat when the work is suddenly drying up, with checks regularly coming in for a one-time part. Jim Rome knows this all too well because even his small part in Space Jam is still earning him some cash.
The sports broadcaster appears at the beginning of the film very briefly, yet, he is still seeing tiny sums of money for the part. As of 2014, Rome is still being paid, even posting a tweet on Twitter to verify his claims. However, the total gross payment amounts to $6.38, so it wasn’t the most lucrative role in the world.
Considering the fact that Jim Rome isn’t an actor, though, he should be happy that he’s receiving anything!
3 More To That Madonna Line Than Meets The Eye
Back around the time of Space Jam’s release, there was a widely circulated rumor that Charles Barkley and Madonna were dating. The former appeared in the movie, and he didn’t miss the chance to make light of the claim during one of its scenes.
After Barkley loses his ability on the court, he prays for them to return. However, one of the things he confesses in the prayer is that he will never go out with Madonna again should he get his skills back. Now there’s an inside joke if ever we heard one!
At least Barkley could see the funny side of the rumor, and he should be applauded for getting this joke past quality control!
2 It Was A Critical Flop
We hate to say this, but sadly, Space Jam was pretty poorly received by most critics when it was released. It’s easy to see the film through rose-tinted glasses, however, there have been some legitimate gripes leveled at it.
Despite its innovative live-action/animation design, Space Jam was criticized by some for being over-the-top, forgettable, with some even citing it as a betrayal of the Looney Tunes universe. Right now, it’s averaging 38% on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.3 on IMDB, certainly less than stellar scores.
It’s a shame too because as a kid I loved it, but if you didn’t watch it when you were young, then its childlike charm may be lost on you somewhat.
1 A Sequel In The Works?
Could it be? Well, despite the harsh reviews of the movie, Space Jam has endured throughout the past two decades, much beloved by many fans. So, it’s no surprise that there’s been rabid speculation regarding a sequel to the film.
Luckily for those die-hard devotees, Space Jam 2 looks like it’s on the way. However, it may take longer than expected. Director Justin Lin signed on over a year ago to make the film with LeBron James allegedly penned is as the Michael Jordan character, but Lin is taking his time with the project.
He told Slash Films in the summer of this year, “Everybody at the studio’s been calling, ‘Let’s go, let’s go’ and I’m like [it’s] not right yet.” Let’s hope it lives up to expectations when it finally does see the light of day!