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Space Jam 2 - What We Know So Far

Released to theaters in November 1996, "Space Jam" became an instant classic sports movie, not to mention a millennial cultural touchstone. The novel plot involved the Toon Squad, a basketball team of classic Looney Tunes characters, squaring off against the Monstars, an alien team which had the competitive edge after stealing the talents of the NBA's biggest stars. Fortunately, the Toons recruited Michael Jordan, a.k.a. the best and most famous basketball player on Earth, and on their way to basketball and galactic glory, their silly cartoon hijinks were backed by a hit soundtrack featuring songs by Seal, Monica, and Toon Squad member Bugs Bunny himself.

"Space Jam" proved a worldwide blockbuster, making a sequel inevitable. It took a long time to get off the ground, and it's been in the works for the better part of the 2010s — but it's finally on its way, hitting theaters and HBO Max on July 16, 2021. 

Replacing Jordan for this second go-around? None other than the heir apparent to His Airness's throne, NBA superstar LeBron James will be the star of the cast. Of course, the cartoon characters will be back as well. Here's everything else there is to know about "Space Jam: A New Legacy."

What is the plot of Space Jam: A New Legacy?

The first "Space Jam" employed a fairly standard (if bizarre) high-stakes science-fiction plotline, with the addition of basketball. After the classic Looney Tunes characters were kidnapped by alien creatures called the Nerdlucks to be attractions at a theme park in space, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and challenged the villains (who stole the powers of NBA stars) to a basketball game — if they lose, they'd remain captives.

The plot of "A New Legacy" suggests it's not a direct sequel, but an updating and reimagining of the first movie's story and themes. This time, the movie centers on the present-day's most dominant basketball player, LeBron James, as he and his son Dom get trapped in a digital world by an evil artificial intelligence program. In order to win freedom for himself and Dom, James has to train, lead, and play alongside all those goofy Looney Tunes cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, and Daffy Duck. Standing in their way: Impossibly tough basketball superhero monsters and robots based on real-life NBA stars, including James' own teammates and friends.

Who is starring in Space Jam: A New Legacy?

The original "Space Jam" not only deftly mixed live action with animation, but it also combined a cast of acting-neophyte athletes with veteran comic performers. On the jock side, "Space Jam" starred Michael Jordan, with appearances from Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, while Bill Murray and Wayne Knight (Newman from "Seinfeld") represented the funny side. Billy West (known for a stunning list of classic characters from "Futurama," "Ren and Stimpy," "Doug," and so much more) led the voice cast on the project, portraying Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

"Space Jam 2" will take a similar approach. Heading up the cast is basketball legend (and "Trainwreck" supporting player) LeBron James, who is also producing the movie via his company, SpringHill Entertainment. In March 2019, Sonequa Martin-Green of "Star Trek: Discovery" and "The Walking Dead" joined the cast, set to play James' wife, Kamiyah. Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actor Don Cheadle will play the villain, a computer algorithm named Al-G Rhythm. The younger cast of the film includes Harper Leigh Alexander as James' daughter, Xosha; and Cedric Joe as Dom James, the basketball star's youngest son, whose kidnapping fuels the plot of the movie.

Many longtime "Looney Tunes" voice actors worked on "Space Jam: A New Legacy." Jeff Bergman will portray Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, and Yosemite Sam, while Eric Bauza voices Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and Marvin the Martian, and Jim Cummings plays the Tasmanian Devil. Comedian Gabriel Iglesias is set to portray Speedy Gonzales, while Emmy-winning "Euphoria" star Zendaya will play Lola Bunny.

Which NBA players will be in Space Jam: A New Legacy?

If "Space Jam: A New Legacy" is anything like the first "Space Jam" from 1996, it's going to feature a lot of interstellar basketball. The most famous and arguably best player of the present day, LeBron James, will step into the lead role, succeeding the best player of the '90s in Jordan. The previous film included some of Jordan's contemporaries, and "A New Legacy" looks to follow a similar approach with big stars of the 2010s. Some NBA and WNBA stars will portray themselves as "The Goon Squad": super-powered hybrid monsters competing against James. Anthony Davis plays a bird/man named The Brow, while Damian Lillard is Chronos, a golden robot with clock parts. WNBA talents Diana Taruasi and Nneka Ogwumike will voice the serpentine White Mamba and spider-like Arachnneka, respectively, and Klay Thompson is Wet-Fire, who can harness the powers of water and flame.

"A New Legacy" will include other basketball-world cameos as well, including brief appearances from players Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Draymond Green, as well as "Inside the NBA" host Ernie Johnson embodying a play-by-play commentator. Also, perhaps to bridge the two "Space Jam" films, one more basketball-playing superstar might be in the "New Legacy" cast.

"Michael Jordan is in the movie, " Cheadle told Access Hollywood in May. "But not in the way you'd expect."

What's the release date for Space Jam: A New Legacy?

After years of metaphorical dribbling and shooting, Warner Bros. and James' production company, SpringHill Entertainment, took the shot in September 2018, announcing that "Space Jam 2" was actually, officially happening. As the film is set to feature a number of basketball stars, it couldn't shoot much during the NBA season, which means it took awhile for "Space Jam: A New Legacy" to arrive. In February 2019, SpringHill tweeted out some concept art for the movie — James alongside Bugs and Lola Bunny — as well as a release date: July 16, 2021. That date may have numerical significance. Per sports reporter Rob Perez (via CBS News): July is the seventh month of the year, and if that 7 is added to the 16, it makes 23. That's the longtime jersey number worn by both "Space Jam" stars Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Unlike dozens of other major films, the release date for "A New Legacy" was unaffected by coronavirus-related theater closures, but the method in which it will reach the public will be different. In December 2020, Warner Bros. announced that while it would screen its big 2021 movies in theaters (where they are open), it would simultaneously release them on the streaming service HBO Max for a period of 30 days. That mid-July date will also fall during or immediately following the 2021 NBA playoffs, making for a fortuitous promotional opportunity.

Who is directing Space Jam: A New Legacy?

As of May 2016, "Fast & Furious 6" director Justin Lin looked to be the front-runner to helm "Space Jam 2," but that didn't quite happen. In September 2018, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the sequel would be Ryan Coogler's first movie after his directorial blockbuster triumph "Black Panther"... but as a producer. Handling directorial duties: Terence Nance, an indie darling and experimental filmmaker/animator responsible for the movie "The Oversimplification of Her Beauty" and the HBO series "Random Acts of Flyness". "Growing up being an animator, someone who loves to draw, I'm just super enthused to work in the canon, learning in a more deep way about it, bringing what I bring from a media innovation standpoint," Nance told Vice at the beginning of 2019.

A few months later Nance was out, and Malcolm D. Lee was in. According to The Wrap, the director of the hit comedies "Night School" and "Girls Trip" worked from a script with multiple credited screenwriters; among those who took a pass at the script: Juel Taylor ("Creed II"), Keenan Coogler (Ryan Coogler's brother and writer of the upcoming "Creed III"), and Nance.

Is Space Jam: A New Legacy part of a cinematic universe?

"Space Jam: A New Legacy" is all about mixtures. It's partially animated and partially live-action, it features LeBron James playing basketball against animal-human hybrids, and it incorporates familiar characters from multiple franchises. Warner Bros. produced and distributed "Space Jam: A New Legacy," and that company falls under a large corporate umbrella that also includes its premiere-day streaming home of HBO Max and the Looney Tunes characters prominently featured in the movie. Warners also had writers and producers insert a lot of its intellectual property into the "Space Jam" sequel, creating a vast, interconnected cinematic universe.

The plot of the film legitimately explains it all: James and his son become stuck in the Server-Verse, a cloud storage space where every movie, character, and TV under Warner Bros.' control resides. This allows James to commune with the tornado from the 1939 film version of "The Wizard of Oz," the violent street criminals from "A Clockwork Orange," Pennywise the Clown from "It," characters from HBO's "Game of Thrones," Space Ghost, one of the Thundercats, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, the Iron Giant, and some Batman villains.

While those are surprising additions, "Space Jam: A New Legacy" will not include a character from the original "Space Jam": lascivious, predatorily-aggressive skunk Pepe le Pew. His originally-scripted scene, in which he reports that the object of his affection took out a restraining order, has been cut over concerns that it was too problematic.

Who is on the Space Jam: A New Legacy soundtrack?

The original "Space Jam" was a multi-format smash. Not only did the film earn $90.4 million at the North American box office, but the accompanying soundtrack album sold six million copies thanks to top 10 singles from Seal, R. Kelly, and Monica.

"New Legacy" will also promote itself musically with a soundtrack full of major contemporary and breaking artists set for release a week before the film officially opens. Hip-hop superstars Lil Baby, 24kGoldn, Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, and Brockhampton contributed songs, as did the Jonas Brothers, soul singers John Legend and Leon Bridges, and "Hamilton" and "In the Heights" breakout Anthony Ramos. The soundtrack also features "About That Time," a collaboration between White Dave, P-Lo, G-Eazy, and Dame D.O.L.L.A. — the latter of which is the hip-hop alter ego of NBA all-star and "Space Jam: A New Legacy" cast member Damian Lillard.

Is there a trailer for Space Jam: A New Legacy?

More than three years after the news that a "Space Jam" sequel starring LeBron James was in the works, an official trailer for the film hit the internet on April 3, 2021, just shy of three months before the movie's scheduled release. The preview for "A New Legacy" does what a good trailer should, setting up the plot of the film, explaining its unique world and circumstances, and demonstrating how it connects to (but doesn't quite imitate) its cartoons-playing-real-basketball predecessor. 

The action begins at James' palatial estate, where he gets in a fight with his son, who is angry that his father is pressuring him to also pursue basketball, something he doesn't want to do. Then they're in a massive server room and get zapped into a blinking box. Suddenly, James is falling through space, and celestial bodies as objects from movies and TV shows zoom past. Finally, a digitized "King James" (as the robotic voice of an electronic Don Cheadle calls him) comes to rest in the "Server-Verse," told that he can get his missing son back after a simple game of basketball. That won't be easy, however, as a now traditionally-animated James realizes, he'll have to play with a "dream team" of Looney Tunes all-stars that includes Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam.

Was there a secret unreleased teaser for Space Jam: A New Legacy?

Fans of the original "Space Jam" anticipating a trailer for the long-awaited, much-delayed sequel almost got to see a teaser for the movie way back in July 2018. Just after the end of the NBA season, the hottest story in basketball was "Where will LeBron James play in 2018-2019?" According to Brandon Robinson of Basketball Society, James planned to announce his new team via the then-new Instagram TV video platform. Then, almost immediately after, James would use the service to drop a trailer of some kind for the still-untitled "Space Jam 2."

King James did go ahead and disclose his move to the Los Angeles Lakers, but no trailer emerged. Instead, rumors have since swirled that the "secret" teaser existed, but was held back at the last minute and will likely never see the light of day.

What happened: Basketball Society reported that James and his management decided against posting the teaser because of that premature leak of the news. A source who worked on the movie told Robinson that the trailer ended with James wearing a Lakers uniform, basically making the teaser an announcement of his move to L.A.