Saturday, 1 March 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Waste Of Space

So Warner Bros. dropped some big news last week, and then later rescinded that big news.

The news they didn't retract was that the sequel to The LEGO Movie is coming out in 2017 - 2 years earlier than I predicted. But the bigger bombshell was that there was going to be a sequel to Space Jam, and it was to star Miami Heat's LeBron James. A few days later, LeBron James refuted that claim, saying it wasn't true. Which was especially disappointing, because everyone had the brain capacity to remember this tweet he sent back in 2012.

Now this weirdly prophetic College Humor video from 2011 is the closest we'll ever get to seeing that sequel.

But from what I understand, Warner Bros. is still forging ahead on Space Jam 2, even if LeBron's gone.

I know a lot of Jam fans were disappointed to hear about these delays, but I think it's the best thing that could have happened. And here are 5 compelling reasons why...






And those are only the ones depicting basketball!

Don't even get me started on the ties!

There was a brief period in the 1990's, where all Looney Tunes characters only played sports. That's all they did. Their sole function was to align themselves with a famous sport or sport franchise, and hawk merchandise. They didn't need to do anything else. It was just funny and interesting enough for them to be wearing clothes. Dressed like athletes! Hilarious!

And I blame Space Jam for this.

Now don't get me wrong. I appreciated Space Jam for what it was. I liked the energy. I liked some of the character animation, especially how Daffy would occasionally morph into his more manic Tex Avery-esque roots, which to my knowledge hadn't been re-tried at the time. And I liked that Bill Murray decided to show up, even though it was probably just for the golf time.

But upon watching Space Jam now, it's kind of embarrassing. Michael Jordan, while seemingly a great sport for sports (real and fake), is a not so-great actor. He can't even mutter his game-time cliches with any conviction. And I recall that the live action/animation hybrid wasn't even impressive back then. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, made 8 years earlier, is STILL a convincing combination today, unlike Space Jam. To pull this kind of movie off, you need a physical actor who can effectively counter-balance against the action, like Bob Hoskins did in Roger Rabbit. Michael Jordan comes off like a plank, leaning against the green screen.

Everything in Space Jam also has an air to it where it seems the filmmakers didn't really have a basic understanding of the cartoon characters. There are moments when they're simply not acting like themselves.

I found this interesting blog post by Trevor Thompson, who at one point had asked Warner Bros. legend Chuck Jones what he thought of Space Jam. "I can tell you with the utmost confidence," he said, "that Porky Pig would never say, 'I think I wet myself."

Seems like cartoons on the court were better suited for shorter spurts - where there's less time for dialogue and thinking. Kinda like the commercials that first inspired Space Jam. Well, at least they ended faster.

And then those short commercials inspired even (thankfully) shorter commercials...

Here's a weird UK offering that replaces basketball and Michael Jordan with soccer star Gary Lineker, who apparently is also a murderer?

Ugh. I thought the 1990's were supposed to have been an animation renaissance?

That's why I was elated to watch Space Jam! Because at that time, cartoons were cool again! And I was happy it was successful and that people liked it. But it seems that without the sports angle, people weren't interested in the characters - as evidenced by the commercial failure of Space Jam's kinda-sorta non-sports sequel from 2003, Looney Tunes: Back In Action. When you consider the terrible marketing though, I guess it's no wonder people didn't want to watch.

While certainly not perfect, and plagued by equally awful performances (especially by a very grating Steve Martin), Back In Action attempted to put the characters back into their more natural settings - sans clothes! The spirit was right, but the live action/animation was still clunky. And by expanding to feature film length, there were just too many lulls to fill. But when the cartoons were free of the oppressive shackles of Brendan Fraser, the Looney Tunes gang were free to shine in moments of their usual brilliance.

It's too bad it didn't work, because director and life-time Looney Tunes fan, Joe Dante, had his heart in the right place. All of his live-action movies are some of the most cartoonish in existence. In fact, Dante put Chuck Jones in both of his Gremlins movies - once in live action form, and once as a handler for Bugs and Daffy, who appeared in the opening and closing credits to the sequel.

I wish there was a sports analogy I could use to sum up my feelings on this. Uh, let's see...I feel the makers of Space Jam didn't give it their all out there. And I hope that if they're going to make a sequel, they put on their game face and get in it 110% in order to make it a must-win. And I hope God's on their side.

***Speaking of Chuck Jones, you may want to check back here next week for another exciting sports-themed Looney Tunes companion piece to this article - this one themed to baseball season!***

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