“Space Jam: A New Legacy” promises to bring a contemporary twist to the beloved Warner Bros. live-action/animated hybrid original — and it’s not just because it centers on basketball star LeBron James in place of Michael Jordan this time around. One element that’s getting what the filmmakers see as a necessary refresh is the design of the character Lola Bunny, voiced by Kath Soucie, who plays for the Tune Squad and with whom Bugs Bunny falls in love.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Malcolm D. Lee (director on films including “Girls Trip” and “The Best Man”) said he was surprised at how “not politically correct” the character’s original design was.
“Lola [Bunny] was very sexualized, like Betty Boop mixed with Jessica Rabbit,” he said. “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.” (In the original movie, Lola is called “hot” by Tweety, and referred to as “the heartthrob of the hoops.”)
Lee added that it was easier to reimagine Lola Bunny because she’s a character that originated in “Space Jam,” and not out of the Looney Tunes vault.
“This is 2021. It’s important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters,” he said. “She probably has the most human characteristics of the Tunes; she doesn’t have a thing like a carrot or a lisp or a stutter. 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.”
Lee also said that Lola Bunny’s reintroduction into the world of “Space Jam” is actually set in the universe of “Wonder Woman.” The film travels throughout the Warner Bros. catalog, including films like “Mad Max,” “The Matrix,” and “Casablanca.”
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” debuts July 16 in theaters as well as on HBO Max.