Yes, of “All-Time!” I can’t believe you even needed to ask…
Never has the word “Greatest” been so relative than when applied to the avalanche of cotton and plastic brought upon by Michael Jordan’s infamous attempt at Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It’s taken almost two decades for me to warm to Space Jam as a film, yet I honestly understand the fandom it enjoys today, be it ironic or nostalgically sincere. There’s an inextricable tackiness surrounding Space Jam that I’ll probably never be able to shake, and I assure you I was desperate to enjoy it. FACT: It’s a cinematic spin-off of multiple commercials and shoe-based marketing campaigns featuring a McFlurry of recognizable brands and logos. Had it come out today, the suits would’ve been just as fine calling it “Warner Bros. vs Nike.”
The commercial that started it all. “This could be the start of a lucrative friendship”
I’m also a diehard Looney Tunes fan, but other than a few moments and a short montage towards the finale, their inclusion in Space Jam is largely incidental. FACT: This is a Michael Jordan movie that just so happens to feature Bugs and Daffy. I can just imagine a studio executive screaming into a hilariously large mobile phone “Michael Jordan’s getting his own movie, and if the Looney Tunes don’t wanna play ball, we’ll find someone else goddammit! *slams phone* Barb, set up that meeting with the Rugrats people!”
I’m not a sports fan, so instead of trying to understand this fairly-watchable testament to Jordan’s popularity in the 90s, why not get angry about it on the internet in the form of a snark-heavy listicle?! But you needn’t feel bad for Space Jam. It nearly quadrupled its budget at the global box office, to the “toon” of $230+ million, and below you’ll soon discover that’s just scratching the surface of revenue generated by the Holy Jam of Space. Behold: THE 10 GREATEST PIECES OF SPACE JAM MERCHANDISE OF ALL-TIME
10. Stupid Space Jam Towels
See! Herein lies my problem with Space Jam in general. If you don’t think Michael Jordan was more vastly important than multiple decades worth of Warner Bros. animated legacy, the evidence is permanently etched upon every single Space Jam terrycloth and shammy. It has nothing to do with his proportionate size to the cartoon characters; Jordan is clearly the focus and the centerpiece here. He’s the one for sale and the Looney tunes are just set dressing.
I’m sorry for getting upset here, but I refuse to sit back and let a guy who was good at sports for a few years overshadow over a dozen timeless characters who’ve been making people around the world laugh for almost a century. I don’t care how many points he scored against the Pistons, do you know how many people Bug Bunny has shot in the face?! Only one of those statistics will be interesting fifty years from now. Fuck these towels.
9. Tee Time Michael Golf Action Figure
Because Warner Bros. knew full well that Space Jam had the potential of being the biggest movie merchandising machine since Star Wars, no corner of the film was left unlicensed. Up to and including the scene were Michael Jordan is golfing with Bill Murray and Larry Bird, and we stumble into a world where all of the Looney Tunes live under a second sky in the middle of the earth’s core… or something? For story purposes, slightly terrible and fairly lazy story purposes, I get that it’s the Tunes’ universe being invaded, but couldn’t that had been anywhere? An ink bottle? An old timey movie screen? Fucking Six Flags?!
Even if the its just a merry melodic portal to another Looney dimension, did it really have underneath a golf course? Uh oh… Knowing how long licensing toys can take, as well as the time necessary to produce and ship pallets of plastic across the globe, it’s time to seriously ask ourselves: Was this action figure made for this scene, or was this scene made for the action figure?! I apologize for blowing this conspiracy wide open.
8. Space Jam: The Video Game
Long before all licensed games were exclusive to just iPhones, it was mandatory that every summer movie merited a hastily produced console game. Twas the mid-90s, so Sega Saturn, the original PlayStation, and Microsoft’s immortal DOS were the lucky recipients of Looney little NBA Jam clone featuring only two teams, Tune Squad and the Monstars. As a Looney Tunes nerd, I was more than a little bummed by the lack of additional unlockable characters or character-exclusive moves, since the Space Jam game instead padded its small roster and shallow B-ball with interstitial minigames where the biggest draw for WB fans is seeing the characters naked.
According to the internet, Space Jam is technically the most profitable basketball movie ever made (with White Men Can’t Jump a distant second), and outside of a literal rubber basketball, this forgettable game is basically the most representative of the sport as any Space Jam merch got. Furthermore, fans of video game dork lore know that Jordan opted to appear in interactive vanity products instead officially licensed NBA games, making Space Jam just about the only place you could actually play basketball as Michael Jordan on consoles during that period.
7. Space Jam Happy Meal Toys
Say what you will about McDonalds’ dedication to international poisoning and agricultural destruction, I absolutely LOVED their happy meal toys of the 80s and 90s. And as a 35-year-old man-baby, I still kinda do. My parents were cheap bastards, so it was an easy way to get the latest action figures, and as an alleged adult, there’s nothing I love more than small plastic representations of the things and characters I love, as long as their immovable. Seriously, just sit still and look cool, I’ve long lost my sense of wonder.
Somewhere along the line McDonalds and other purveyors of diabetes dictated that it wasn’t enough for a small PVC figure or doll to just sit there and ignite a child’s imagination like any other legitimate toy, it had to do something. More specifically, one incredibly cheap thing, such as these idiotic wheeled dioramas for Space Jam. Yep, despite licensing an immortal group of squash-and-stretch cartoons who also happen to be actively playing basketball, these McDonalds Space Jam toys have almost as much functionality as those singing stereotypes on the It’s A Small World ride. Buy them all and link them together to form a sad little Space Jam jam parade underneath your staircase, or wherever you hide from your father! Either way, the promotion was apparently popular enough to launch a second Space Jam campaign featuring $2.99 plush dolls, which continue to delight put-upon Goodwill employees to this day.
6. Space Jam Koosh Balls
Built to be easier for children to both throw and catch, the Koosh ball descended on playgrounds like a plague of pedophiles with locust wings back in the late 80s. But once its popularity began to whither and wane like an actual Koosh ball left in the dashboard sun, how was Koosh to regain its market share and prevent a possible hostile takeovers by those assholes at Wham-O? Why, by infusing their product with characters from World War II, silly! Big brothers the world over rejoiced the added weight, which made it so much more satisfyingly painful to pelt younger siblings with in plain sight of adults.
Oh, and speaking of LOLA BUNNY, head on over to the NEXT PAGE to see more of her, as well as some other top-tier Space Jam merchandise!