20 Years Ago, November 1996, Space Jam Premiered… and You Can Still Browse The Website
It’s true. Space Jam is turning 20 years old. You can even explore the 1996 time capsule that is the original film’s website here. It’s kind of beautiful in its ugliness. It has everything a 90’s website should. A game that requires shockwave player to play. Downloadable Quicktime .mov videos and audio .wav files of R Kelly’s “I believe I can fly”. Clickable images and random tables full of links. The website is actually pretty deep, but of course the navigation is totally nuts and has no consistency.
I don’t know about you but I was 10 years old when Space Jam came out and it was HUGE. My friends and I were obsessed. We saw it multiple times in the theaters, had to have it the day it came out on VHS (which I still proudly own), drank soda out of a Space Jam thermos at school, and had about 50 Space Jam t-shirts that we wore regularly. My cousin Alex and I used to obsessively quote it around our family, “But Mommy, I don’t want to go to school today. I wanna stay home and bake cookies with you!” was one that got overused I’m sure.
The crazy thing is, go watch it today and it’s still a great movie thanks in part to the amazing chemistry between Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, and Bill Murray. Not to mention the talented voice cast including work done by Billy West and Danny Devito. I still crack up every time Devito’s character Swackhammer shouts “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I didn’t know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture!” at Bill Murray when he enters the arena. It’s great stuff.
Another great line is “…what kind of camera is that?”
Knight and Murray messing around is just priceless:
The movie is special. To this day it’s still the highest grossing basketball film of all time, and the third highest grossing sports film. It cost $80 million to make and made $230.4 million at the box office. The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum. But more importantly it kept Looney Tunes in our consciousness.
It wasn’t actually a problem for me. My dad bought us satellite TV early on and made sure to get as many VHS tapes as he could of his favorite cartoons and shows to share with me. I grew up watching cartoons like Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, Top Cat, Tom and Jerry, and Scooby Doo to name a few thanks in part to Cartoon Network and Boomerang in the 90s. Don’t get me wrong, I watched the nicktoons of my generation too, but I was well rounded. I think for a lot of kids my age though, the Looney Tunes were famous mostly for their brand and less for their actual shows and comedy. Space Jam did a lot to turn that around, with a group of filmmakers and actors who obviously really cared about the project.
Roger Ebert said, “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).”
There have been rumor after rumor that Space Jam 2 is happening sometime this year. Warner Bros themselves have announced it and considering they’ve left the original website up for 20 years they seem like they’re not letting go of the idea any time soon.
It may never capture what the original film was able to capture, but the Looney Tunes characters are timeless and deserve to be brought back around as often as possible for new generations. I catch some of the new series from time to time on Cartoon Network, but I don’t know much about it. I do know that when it comes time for me to raise some kids I hope they’re still around. The Looney Tunes were a big part of my childhood, one I hope to share with my kids as well.