Happy birthday, Space Jam. Today you can finally drink. The greatest sports movie of all time* was released 21 years ago today, and entranced us with an all-star cast of Michael Jordan, various NBA superstars, Looney Tunes characters, and Bill Murray.
For years people have asked for a remake — which is finally in the works with LeBron James in the starring role — but for now we can appreciate some things you may not know about the O.G.
1. Warner Bros had to build Michael Jordan his own basketball court on set
The filming of Space Jam happened in the Summer of 1995, shortly after Jordan announced his return to the NBA in his famous “I’m back” press release. At the time he was training tirelessly to get himself back in game shape, and the prospect of shooting the movie would have taken away from his training.
The solution: His own court on set. Producer Ivan Reitman explained how they ensured Jordan could be in the movie and train at the same time.
“We built a whole gym for him around the Warner Bros. lot because it was the summer that he was coming back to the league. So every evening after shooting was done, he’d have this whole very complex workout regimen, after which there was a 90-minute game.”
Steve Kerr, Jordan’s teammate at the time, also recalled the training in a 2003 interview with the BBC.
“While out in LA, (Jordan) basically let it be known that any of the NBA guys who were in town should come and play with him. They had unbelievable games all summer long. That meant that when Michael came to training camp he was in incredible shape and incredibly motivated.”
2. Looney Tunes legend Chuck Jones HATED the movie
Space Jam never got amazing reviews (except from Roger Ebert, who loved it) but perhaps nobody disliked it more than Chuck Jones, legendary Looney Tunes animator and filmmaker. He despised how the characters were presented, saying in an interview:
"Porky Pig would never say 'I think I wet myself.’”
Jones also hated the premise, saying that Bugs Bunny would never enlist the help of Jordan or other characters, feeling that Bugs could have conquered the Monstars in “seven-and-a-half minutes,” instead of a full movie.
3. Endorsement Yahtzee
It’s unclear the origins, but one line in the movie is rumored to have been a mandatory addition by Michael Jordan’s agents upon reviewing the script. In the movie, Jordan’s publicist, Stanley Podalak walks into Jordan’s hotel room and says:
"C'mon, Michael, it's game time. Slip on your Hanes, lace up your Nikes, take your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we'll grab a Big Mac on the way to the ballpark."
When the movie was filmed Jordan had deals with Hanes, Nike, Wheaties, Gatorade, and McDonald’s — with the line serving as a shout out to every major deal the NBA star had signed.
4. Space Jam is the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time
A total of 46 basketball movies are listed on film-tracking site Box Office Mojo, with Space Jam earning $90.4 million in its theatrical release. Rounding out the top five are White Men Can’t Jump ($76.2M), Coach Carter ($67.2M), and Like Mike ($51.4M).
Hoosiers earned $28.6 million, 3.1 times less than Space Jam.**
5. Warner Bros. couldn’t resist taking a shot at Disney
While trying to settle on a team name, Daffy Duck suggests they name their team “the Ducks,” to which Bugs responds:
"What kind of Mickey Mouse organization would name their team the Ducks?"
This was a dig at the Walt Disney Company, who founded the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993.
6. Futurama could have been very different without Space Jam
Voice actors Billy West (Bugs/Elmer Fudd), Kath Soucie (Lola), and Maurice LaMarche (Pepe le Pew) teamed up on the movie along with a cameo by Dan Castellaneta, who appeared in the crowd. West, Soucie, and LaMarche were all longtime voice actors, but it’s believed the trio met Castellaneta for the first time on set — where he appreciated their work.
West, Souchie, and LaMarche would all go on to be cast in Futurama, which was created by Matt Groening of The Simpsons fame. Castellaneta is the voice of Homer Simpson.
*Don’t @ me about Hoosiers. I don’t care.
**Don’t @ me about Hoosiers. I don’t care.