The full roster of the Tune Squad from 'Space Jam'
It was notably hated by Chuck Jones, an animator famous for his work on the original Looney Tunes shorts, though, to be fair, Chuck Jones pretty much hated anything Looney Tunes that he didn't do himself, and also about half of his own stuff. Joe Dante directed the next live action/animation hybrid Looney Tunes movie, Back in Action, and his stated goal was basically to direct the anti-Space Jam. Flayrah's own coverage of Back in Action was not pro-Space Jam, calling it a "disaster". On the beloved side of the equation, however, Warner Bros. will be releasing a very belated sequel to the movie on July 16 of this year (both theatrically and on the HBO Max streaming service), and they usually don't do that if no one liked it (and, seriously, you can probably find someone who actually does like Space Jam very easily).
But despite the fact that the original 1996 website is still up (with the following link, this article is now in compliance with ancient Internet law stating that all articles about Space Jam must mention the original website), there isn't really a good list anywhere on the Internet that provides the complete line-up of the members of the Tune Squad, the Looney Tunes basketball team in the film. Seriously, the Space Jam Wiki does not have a team roster. The IMDB trivia page for Space Jam has a bare bones roster buried half way down the page (and it's very incomplete). Well, that won't stand. Here's the full roster of every character (animated or otherwise), who played against the Monstars in the movie's big game.
Tweety first appeared in the 1942 Merry Melody short "A Tale of Two Kitties", along with his Looney Tune modus operandus of being "bird threatened by cat". His main feline rival, Sylvester, would be introduced later. Tweety and Sylvester jointly share the record for the most Animated Short Oscars won by a Looney Tunes star, with two (which means they can share them); "Tweetie Pie" and "Birds Anonymous". In Space Jam, Tweetie ultimately ended up in an Iron Lung, so he wasn't a major contributor to the victory.
If, for some unearthly reason, you have no idea who Bugs Bunny is, well, you can read this. Bugs Bunny was a big part of Chuck Jones' complaints about Space Jam; he pointed out that Bugs could have solved the problems presented by the Monstars by himself in about five minutes, which to be fair, yeah, that sounds right. However, as Bugs himself frequently pointed out, he could go along for a gag. He probably just wanted an excuse to play a game of basketball with Michael Jordan. Wait - Does that mean Bugs Bunny was actually the true villain of Space Jam all along?
One of the Looney Tunes' perpetual second fiddles, Daffy differentiates himself from the other sidekick of the series, Porky Pig, by actually being bothered by this. Space Jam takes the characterization of the later Daffy Duck shorts, where he's a fairly talentless guy who demands the spotlight nonetheless, usually to his own detriment. True to this characterization, despite the fact that he's one of the few characters who both starts and finishes the game, he's never seen actually scoring a point.
Remember when it was mentioned that Chuck Jones hated half of his own stuff? Well, Sniffles is part of that half; Space Jam seems to concur, as he's nonchalantly squished by the nice Monstar. An early Jones character, he was trying to emulate Disney's style, which was a bit too "cutesy" for the Looney Tunes. Ironically, this has gained him an odd sort of fanbase more recently. Now that most American animation is trying to emulate the Looney Tunes in general, and Chuck Jones in particular, the Chuck Jones Looney Tune that desperately wants to be anything but that style stands out today.
Originally introduced as a tougher, meaner opponent to harass, and be harassed in turn by Bugs Bunny. Bugs' original foe, Elmer Fudd, was seen as just a bit too dim for Bugs to face off against without seeming like a jerk himself. Unlike a lot of the more common characters, Sam stuck with Bugs; he only appeared in one short without the rabbit. Not even Wile E. Coyote was that loyal to the Roadrunner. Speaking of Wile E., Sam's big Space Jam moment was teaming up with Elmer to save the coyote with a Pulp Fiction parody. I'm sure the kids in the audience all got that one.
Species: Geococcyx californianus
The Road Runner could be seen as the Looney Tune diametrically opposed to Yosemite Sam, as he was loyal to Wile E. Coyote, never appearing in a short without him (despite the fact that the coyote himself had the occasional antagonistic fling with Bugs Bunny). Some sources have the Road Runner as the original draft script’s deus ex machina of the Tune Squad, not appearing with the team until the last play of the game; however, that role was eventually taken by another player.
Some of Porky Pig's best known shorts feature him as a sidekick to Daffy Duck, despite the fact that Daffy Duck originally was introduced as a sidekick to Porky. Best known for the phrase, "That's all folks!" said at the end of some Looney Tunes shorts, Porky can't actually claim this as his catchphrase, as the earlier Looney Tunes "stars" Bosko, Buddy and Beans had all finished shorts with the line. Porky, however, was the only one with a signature stutter. Porky's role in the history of the Looney Tunes is significant; in Space Jam, not so much.
Though primarily known for his rivalry with Tweety, Sylvester actually had a varied career in the many Looney Tunes shorts he appeared in. He had a second rival in Hippety Hopper, a baby kangaroo who Sylvester inexplicably mistakes for a giant mouse (who makes a cameo appearance as an audience member). Sylvester was also a single father to a son, and starred as Porky's mute pet in a trio of well thought-of shorts known as the "Porky Pig Gothics". Space Jam, however, might contain the only instance of his being called "Sly" by Bugs Bunny.
Lola was created for the movie Space Jam, and she's been a fairly controversial character ever since. As the sole female member of the Tune Squad, some decried her addition for this reason alone. She was "too PC" for some, not "PC enough" for others. Subsequent variations of the character, introduced later, opened up whole new cans of worms. That character design, though. At least one active member of the furry fandom claimed credit for it - this has been rather thoroughly debunked, however. But, the fact remains, she was the 90s "furry character it's okay for even non-furries to say is kind of hot". Discussion of fact that she's now more sporty than curvy ended up trending on Twitter.
Wile E. Coyote
Species: Canis latrans
Wearing lucky number 13, Wile E. Coyote is the unlikely Jesus figure of the Looney Tunes mythos (source: Grant Morrison). Technically the bad guy, his dogged determination (despite the fact that he is never, ever allowed to win) makes him one of the most sympathetic characters in the Looney Tunes roster. Or most existentially terrifying, one or the other. In Space Jam, Bugs compliments his explosives, which is the nicest thing that’s ever happened to him.
In the role originally meant for the Road Runner, when the Tune Squad is about to have to forfeit the game due to only having four players capable of taking to the courts (Jordan, Bugs, Daffy and Lola), Bill Murray just arrives with basically no explanation (he tells Daffy he’s a friend of the producer, which is true). It’s stupid enough to actually be really, really funny; unfortunately, the trailer totally ruined it. Oh, well.
Player Coach/Team Co-Captain/Starter
People who don’t really like Space Jam like to point out that Michael Jordan is not a professional actor, which is true. Truth be told, the performances of the five NBA players that the Monstars steal their basketball skills from, often come closer to real acting. Jordan just kind of reacts with mild amusement to everything. Maybe a little annoyance. Realistically, he should probably be a lot less chill about this situation. But realism isn’t the movie’s strong suit, so it’s fine.
Despite appearing in 22 shorts, mostly as a rival to Foghorn Leghorn, this character never actually got an official name. I mean, he was memorable enough that, when they chose characters to put on the team, they chose this dog. You’d think he’d have a name! “Barnyard Dawg” is just what people call him now. He appears in the background a lot; it seems the dog is less his own character and more a necessary accessory to Foghorn Leghorn’s appearance.
Foghorn Leghorn is one of those characters who started out as a sidekick to another character and eventually surpassed them; in Foghorn’s case, it’s Henery Hawk that was supposed to be the star. For basically another cameo background benchwarmer, Foghorn does get more lines than most characters relegated to this role. Most of these lines are puns based on the fact that he’s a chicken. The obvious assumption is that he’s the roasted chicken dinner on the bench near the end of the game.
Bugs Bunny’s original and still most iconic foil, Elmer Fudd actually started out as his own character who got into his own adventures. Though his most common, popular and also controversial role is as a hunter, he’s also been a wildlife photographer, mystical warrior and even a magical shoe-making elf with a special fondness for the tenets of American capitalism. To his credit, he’s one of the few characters to actually be shown scoring for the Tune Squad, with a pretty nice slam dunk, as well.
Wayne Knight’s character in the movie, Stan is Michael Jordan’s assistant, despite the fact that MJ neither wants nor needs much assistance to begin with. At the time of the film, Knight was known for villainous and semi-villainous roles in Seinfeld and Jurassic Park; here, he played a much nicer role, if still a bit annoying. He finally gets off the bench near the end, and even manages to score a three-pointer, while giving Jordan an insight into how he can win the game.
Pepe Le Pew
# (A heart)
Speaking of controversial characters, Pepe Le Pew’s characterization in his classic shorts would nowadays most likely result in a lot of sexual harassment lawsuits. Still a very popular character, the French skunk is one of the few Looney Tunes to have earned himself an Oscar for Best Animated Short. Space Jam weaponizes Pepe’s stench to knock out the Monstars while his teammates wear gas masks, allowing him an easy lay-up. Why the team didn’t just continue using this strategy is unclear, other than that wouldn’t have made a very exciting movie to watch.
Species: You’ve got this one.
The Tasmanian Devil (sometimes just “Taz” for short) is one of the most popular Looney Tunes, as shown by his place on the Tune Squad’s starting lineup (he’s the starter who ended up being replaced by Bill Murray in the final play of the game). His massive popularity may disguise the fact that he actually only appeared in five classic Looney Tunes shorts.
Beaky Buzzard is another character that only appeared in a handful of classic shorts, but for whatever reason, has gone on to become a very popular character in subsequent years. Beaky has played foil to Bugs Bunny, and has also starred in a few solo shorts. Though obviously another hunter of Bugs, he’s never shown as really that into it, more likely to be pressured into hunting by his overbearing vulture mother. Despite riding the bench the entire game, he still managed to be covered in bandages near the end of the movie.
Like Pepe Le Pew, Speedy Gonzalez is a very popular Looney Tune who is seen as a bit problematic these days; also like Pepe Le Pew, he is one of the few Looney Tunes to have won an Oscar, because of course that’s how that worked out. Once famously banned from Cartoon Network for propagating harmful Mexican stereotypes, it was later pointed out that a lot of Mexicans actually liked Speedy. Speedy is still caught in limbo between these viewpoints, and this is reflected in his role in Space Jam; he’s on the team, but we never even see him long enough to learn his jersey number.
Space Jam's Legacy
With the new movie, new team members have been added and possibly subtracted. Most obviously, Michael Jordan has been replaced by Lebron James. On one hand, it’s hard to say if James, or for that matter, any of today’s professional athletes in any sport are as universally loved as Jordan was in the 90s. On the other hand, James actually has some acting experience, so that’s a plus.
An early promotional video seems to show a roster for the new Tune Squad; who knows if it’s the full roster. Background and bit players Beaky, Sniffles and the Barnyard Dawg are absent, as well as the live action stars and the controversial duo of Pepe and Speedy. New characters are actually a bit low on anthropomorphic animals, unfortunately; non-furries include Granny, who has been promoted up from cheerleader, Marvin the Martian, who was actually the ref of the original game, and Gossamer the orange-furred monster.
The new furry member of the team is Penelope Pussycat, the mostly mute cat (who still managed her own catchphrase with “Le mew!”) who would be filing the majority of those sexual harassment lawsuits against Pepe. She has been notably absent from most recent Looney Tune-branded cartoons, mostly due to her relationship to Pepe (even though, of course, she didn't actually do anything wrong), so it’s nice to see her back in action.