‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’: Why the Movie Changed Lola Bunny

1996’s Space Jam is a treasure trove of wild nostalgia. For instance, a then-up-and-coming rapper named Jay-Z ghostwrote lyrics for Bugs Bunny for the movie’s soundtrack. Of course, Jay-Z went on to become one of history’s most beloved emcees. Further evidence of just how much times change, Space Jam: A New Legacy features a redesign of Lola Bunny. Here’s why she got an updated look for the new movie.

Lola Bunny and Bugs Bunny pose in front of the ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ logo
Lola Bunny and Bugs Bunny | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Lola Bunny debuted in 1996’s ‘Space Jam’

When the Looney Tunes find themselves besieged by the alien Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito), they choose to defend their freedom in an epic basketball game. Of course, Swackhammer fights dirty, transforming his tiny Nerdlings into the beefy Monstars by stealing the talent of NBA stars. This leaves the Looney Tunes desperate for some skilled basketball players to flesh out their own roster.

Bugs (voiced by Billy West) recruits Michael Jordan to the cause as the team captain. And try-outs throughout Looney Tune Land attract the attention of Lola Bunny (voiced by Kath Soucie), a character created for Space Jam. Other than the best non-human player on the team, she also serves as Bugs’ love interest. Because of that, Lola is presented in a sultry way, an approach that Space Jam: A New Legacy looks to downplay.

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‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ features a very different version of the character

Some Space Jam fans were less than pleased when they caught a glimpse of the sequel’s Lola Bunny. But director Malcolm D. Lee — who first saw the original film in 2019 — told Entertainment Weekly he knew he wanted to change Lola’s character for Space Jam: A New Legacy.

“Lola [Bunny] was very sexualized, like Betty Boop mixed with Jessica Rabbit. Lola was not politically correct…. This is a kids’ movie. Why is she in a crop top? It just felt unnecessary, but at the same time, there’s a long history of that in cartoons. … This is 2021. It’s important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters. …

So we reworked a lot of things, not only her look, like making sure she had an appropriate length on her shorts and was feminine without being objectified, but gave her a real voice. For us, it was, let’s ground her athletic prowess, her leadership skills, and make her as full a character as the others.”

In reintroducing the character, Space Jam: A New Legacy links her with the world of Wonder Woman. Since much of the sequel taps into other Warner Bros. properties, it stands to reason Lola’s newly liberated character would find kinship with the women of Themiscyra. Who knows what Lola would be like if any of the many previous attempts to make Space Jam 2 had panned out?

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LeBron James and Zendaya lead the ‘Space Jam’ sequel

This time around, LeBron James is the NBA star who teams with the Looney Tunes. Playing a fictional version of himself, he steps in to Jordan’s iconic shoes. Once upon a time, the late Kobe Bryant was rumored to do so. But Space Jam: A New Legacy is the culmination of more than two decades of development hell.

Likewise, the movie’s reinvention of Lola Bunny means the addition of another new cast member. Spider-Man: Far From Home star Zendaya provides the voice of Lola now, building off of her current fame. Ironically, she and James have worked on another movie together before, 2019’s animated comedy Smallfoot.