Looney Tunes is one of the oldest and most beloved animated comedy series of all time. Just about everyone grew up with them to some extent, whether it be with the original show, other series that came later, video games, or movies on the big screen. Bugs Bunny was even shown alongside the Warners Bros. logo before any WB films for years. The Looney Tunes are set to return to the big screen next year in Space Jam: a New Legacy, which is sure to make any 90s kid pumped. However, where the Looney Tunes exist outside of just Space Jam, will revisiting the cult animated-live action hybrid basketball movie be enough to gain a following from newer, younger audiences?
Space Jam may have been a goofy idea; Michael Jordan teaming up with Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes to compete in a game of basketball against aliens that want to turn them into amusement park attractions, but it was still a hit. Kids loved it, and it has gained a pretty significant cult following over the years. Even the film’s incredible theme song is unforgettable and is a must to jam out to at any 90s party. It’s definitely exciting we’re getting the opportunity to return to the world of Space Jam, this time with LeBron James instead of Michael Jordan. That being said, I don’t think kids nowadays are going to be too excited to see it. Not only because the original film came out more than 20 years ago, but because they might not even be familiar with the Looney Tunes.
Sure, other movie franchises have released sequels long after the previous installment and done extremely well, like Star Wars or Jurassic World. Space Jam could certainly experience the same fortune. There are other franchises, though, that have tried to make that comeback, like Independence Day or Dumb and Dumber, that have completely bombed and failed to recapture what made the older films so great. The same could happen with Space Jam.
The key difference between Space Jam and those other movies is that Space Jam isn’t just its own property, it uses another existing property altogether: Looney Tunes. Not only does Warner Bros. need to get people nostalgic and re-excited about Space Jam, which came out so long ago that older crowds might not be as excited about it, but they need to do the same for Looney Tunes at the same time. That may be one heck of a challenge considering Looney Tunes hasn’t been popular in quite a while.
Many kids these days might not even know who Bugs and Daffy are. Why would they want to watch them play basketball? Looney Tunes was first introduced to the world in the 1930s, and stayed popular for an especially long time. Even when I was growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, not only did we have Space Jam, but it was easy to catch reruns of the classic shows on cable, there was a remake series of Duck Dodgers, and there were the releases of Tiny Toon Adventures, Loonatics Unleashed, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and other series and movies.
More recently, however, there was a series on cartoon network titled The Looney Tunes Show, which replaced the lovable slapstick featured in every other version with comedy-drama between the Looney Tunes as they live as roommates in an apartment. Whether you are a fan of that or not, it’s probably not what we’ll see in the new Space Jam movie. Some of the classic shows are streaming on HBO Max, a new Looney Tunes series is planned to release on the same streaming service, and Space Jam is currently on Netflix, but I don’t know how much kids are gravitating toward them. Perhaps this new movie is being made with older folks, the ones who grew up with the original, in mind for its target audience. However, considering it’s using a property that’s primarily geared toward children, could that work?
The Looney Tunes definitely need to have a major comeback first if they want to gain the interest of a new or younger audience. Yes, a new series is releasing on HBO Max and it looks like it will be fun and faithful to the original. It looks like it’ll capture the spirit of the old school shows. However, is that something that today’s kids will be interested in? It could just be another thing that attracts those who already grew up with Looney Tunes in the past. If that’s the case, would those older folks want to put the time in on a new series or would they prefer rewatching what they are nostalgic for? There will certainly be parents who will introduce their kids to this new show, but I doubt it will be enough to make the franchise as popular as it once was.
I’m personally more than excited to see some new Looney Tunes, but it may need a bigger comeback than just a new series on a streaming service most people might not even have. Don’t get me wrong, that new series will definitely help, but maybe there should be something that today’s kids will be more interested in. Using this new HBO Max series, along with streaming the classic shows, is a great jumping off point. Perhaps there could be multiple series, like a new Duck Dodgers show and some others. Multiple new series would make Looney Tunes feel like a big deal again.
The other way to make it feel like a big deal like it once did while also using what’s currently popular to attract modern audiences is to us a cinematic universe of sorts. There have always been multiple series within Looney Tunes; Sylvester and Tweety, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, Bugs vs. Elmer Fudd, and so on. Having a handful of Looney Tunes movies, each one based on one of the iconic animated reoccurring shorts, could be huge for bringing these characters back into the spotlight while familiarizing them with children. That way, when the new Space Jam film is released, all eyes would be on it including old and new audiences. This is a trend that has been proven to work with today’s audiences, as seen with the extreme popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Several individual films crossed over in one giant movie event, and fans of all kinds flocked to it. It’s possible that something similar could work for Looney Tunes and Space Jam.
Whether or not Looney Tunes makes a big splash again soon or not, the Space Jam sequel with LeBron James is coming. There is the concern that perhaps it won’t gain the audience it has the potential to attract since Looney Tunes hasn’t been as popular in a while, but it can still be enjoyable. Either way, whether the new movie is good or bad, gains a large or small audience, I’m certainly excited and am looking forward to seeing it.