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After years spent in development hell, a Space Jam sequel is officially happening. This time around, LeBron James steps on to the court with the Looney Tunes to play some basketball against aliens. The sequel is bound to be as odd a concept as the original, but Space Jam isn't quite as weird as it was in 1996. Nowadays, revivals and crossovers happen all the time, but there is a way for Space Jam 2 is embrace the energy of the first film while standing out from the today's pack: it should be a crossover between all the cartoons Warner Bros. owns.
Warner Bros. has access to some of the most iconic cartoon franchises ever made, whether they debuted in the '50s or five years ago. Rather than filling up the basketball team with just Looney Tunes characters, Space Jam 2 should expand its scouting to include the some of the other franchises from the Warner Bros. library. I'm talking everything from Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones to The Animaniacs and Adventure Time.
Obviously, the main draw of Space Jam is the unique pairing of the Looney Tunes with NBA superstars. It's a super weird concept that immediately catches curiosity. This was especially true in 1996 when a movie like this didn't come around often. Just look at some of the movies that released in November around the same time as Space Jam: The English Patient, 101 Dalmatians, The Crucible and Jingle All The Way, to name a few.
Those are all pretty standard fare and Space Jam clearly stands out from the rest. To be fair, Space Jam is targeting a different audience than most of those films, but even when compared to other family-friendly movies, it's the clear black sheep.
That oddball energy worked out for Space Jam. Though the movie got mixed reviews, it opened at No. 1 at the domestic box office and grossed over $230 million worldwide. To this day, it's still the highest grossing basketball movie of all time -- sorry, Hoosiers.
I'm not sure that I'd call Space Jam a cult classic, but it's remained pretty popular with adults who grew up watching the movie. Those fond memories have in part fueled Hollywood's interest in a sequel, which had trouble getting off the ground for several years until the king himself, LeBron James, became involved.
If you're a basketball fan, James' name is probably enough to get you to the theater. I imagine Michael Jordan's name did the same thing back in 1996. But basketball is only half the component here, and if there was anything that was attracting the most kids, it was probably the Looney Tunes... which is where our problems start for the sequel.
It's fair to say that the Looney Tunes were more popular in the '90s than they are today. Warner Bros. didn't make the Looney Tunes library exclusive to Time Warner properties until 2000, so the cartoons were playing on multiple channels in different television specials and TV shows. The Bugs Bunny Show (eventually known as The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show) aired for four decades on ABC's Saturday morning block, so yeah, they were around.
While there have still been shows and other programs made featuring the Looney Tunes over the last decade, they just don't have the draw or accessibility that they used to have. Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which released in 2003, only grossed $68.5 million worldwide; That's nothing compared to Space Jam's total.
Additionally, sequels to fan-favorite movies that pop up decades later aren't a rarity anymore. It actually happens a lot these days in movies and TV. Content is more IP-driven than ever as audiences respond to things that they are nostalgic about. It's why we're about to get a second Robocop reboot and a sixth sequel/reboot to Terminator.
If the Looney Tunes aren't the draw they used to be, and it's harder than ever to make noise in a nostalgia-driven movie environment, then what's a sequel to do? Well, it seems to me that the only answer is to scream even louder than everyone else. For Space Jam 2, this means expanding the roster of cartoon characters to make this the biggest cartoon crossover since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Warner Bros. has the rights to tons of great cartoon characters besides the Looney Tunes. You have stone cold classics for the parents/grand parents like The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and other Hanna-Barbera characters. There's Scooby-Doo, who has endured for decades through multiple different TV series and films to reach multiple generations.
Keep those '90s kids -- now with paying jobs -- attached by including even more blasts from the past like The Animaniacs, Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, and Samurai Jack.
Then there are more modern hits for today's kids that have aired on Cartoon Network, like Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Ben 10. By including franchises from multiple generations of fans then it's only increasing the scope of the audience that the sequel can reach. Kids today might not have much of an opinion about the Looney Tunes, but throw in Finn and Jake, Gumball, and the Teen Titans, and watch how fast those tickets sell.
Something like this isn't even that crazy. The LEGO movies are made by Warner Bros. and they include characters from multiple different franchises. LEGO Batman fought Voldemort and Sauron once, so this is not beyond the realm of possibility!
And this isn't to take away any of the attention from the Looney Tunes or LeBron James. You can keep the Looney Tunes at the center of it all and just keep the heavy hitters for the actual basketball game (Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, Daffy Duck). With so many other franchises involved, not everyone can have equal screen time, so give the meat and potatoes to the Looney Tunes and then fill out the Tune Squad with the main player from each franchise. Let the basketball game be a showcase for wacky cartoon antics.
Whether or not Space Jam 2 opts to go for this ambitious idea (perhaps too ambitious) is totally up to the filmmakers. However, given the current star power of the Looney Tunes and the competitive movie landscape, it might not hurt to make use of something Warner Bros. has already got waiting to go.