Written by Fredia Lucas and Edited by Alana Anderson
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF LOLA BUNNY
As a kid, did you ever just know that certain cartoon characters were Black? Sure, they were drawn as people with purple skin or as animals, but deep down in your heart, you just knew beneath that 2-D animated flesh there was melanated skin. It was evident in the way that they stood up for themselves or those around them or perhaps the way they understood and communicated about the world. I’m talking about characters like Sandy Cheeks from Spongebob Squarepants, Skeeter Valentine from Doug, Arthur Read & the entire Read family from Arthur, and Goofy & Max Goof from A Goofy Movie. They all exuded the playful yet undeniable genius, coolness, family-orientedness, and fun that encapsulate the Black diasporic spirit.
As a young Black girl growing up in Berkeley, California, one iconic Black cartoon character was instrumental in shaping my wit, charisma, and brilliance.
*Cue the stadium announcer voice*
“Jumping into the arena at 3’ 2”, the baddest rabbit in the land, the one and only, Lolaaaaaaaa Bunnyyyyyyyyyyy.”
Lola Bunny debuted to audiences worldwide in 1996 in the critically acclaimed and box office “monstar” hit, Space Jam. Imagine my disbelief when I learned for the first time that I predated Lola Bunny by three years. 93’ babies make some noise!
On-screen, Lola Bunny was absolutely mesmerizing. Lola was confident, charming, and dually aware of her physical beauty and prowess, slam-dunking the basketball like Lisa Leslie before she walked like Naomi Campbell out of the gym. Lola Bunny was just as sexy as she was skilled, and most importantly, she wasn’t sorry about either. Black women aren’t the only women who behave in this manner, but we are most certainly the blueprint.
Understanding that Lola Bunny was clearly a Black woman with blue eyes (yes, Black people have blue eyes) trapped in a rabbit’s body, I upgraded myself from fan to fanatic. I bought Lola Bunny backpacks, asked my mother to enroll me in youth basketball camps, and watched as much Lola Bunny content that I could, including Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure in 2000 and Baby Looney Toons in 2002. Who else remembers these shows?
2021 will fashion a new historical significance for Lola Bunny as she celebrates her twenty-fifth year in the Looney Toons universe and makes her second appearance on the big screen. Space Jam enthusiasts like myself are eagerly preparing to return to theatres for the first time post-pandemic to marvel at the second installment in the Space Jam franchise, Space Jam 2: A New Legacy, featuring Lebron James, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and of course Lola Bunny. This is exceptionally major because, for the first time ever, Lola Bunny will be voiced by a Black woman, international “it-girl” Zendaya Coleman.
THE PARALLELS BETWEEN ZENDAYA AND LOLA BUNNY
Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman was born in Oakland, California, on September 1, 1996, to her African-American father and German mother. That’s right, the 5’ 10” singer, dancer, model, producer, and actor is also a Bay Area native, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Coincidentally Zendaya and Lola Bunny are the same age, and similar to Lola, Zendaya is using her time on earth to etch her name into the cultural zeitgeist. Coleman’s career catapulted onto screens in the early 2010s via The Disney Channel, co-starring and starring in Shake it Up and K.C. Undercover, respectively. Now at twenty-five years old, the Emmy award-winning actress has since landed roles in the newest Spider-Man franchise, Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie (starring), HBO’s Euphoria (starring), and even made a cameo in “All Night,” one of the many short films from Beyonce’s 2016 transformative album “Lemonade.” A question that deserves to be answered, who doesn’t want a co-sign from Beyonce? In addition to being recognized as the new face for Valentino, Zendaya is known for her powerful voice, her clear point of view, and not allowing the industry and its minions to f*** with her. The combination of Zendaya’s class, relatability, silliness, intelligence, and authenticity makes her the absolute perfect woman to bring Lola Bunny to life for a new generation of Space Jam fans and all us ‘ol heads who decided to never grow up.
LOLA BUNNY'S NEW LOOK
Zendaya’s joining the cast has been largely overshadowed by the news of the redesign of the Lola Bunny character in Space Jam: A New Legacy. In the 1996 rendition, Lola sported a crop top, short shorts, and a coke-bottle body. The “New Legacy” uniform showcases Lola in an elongated jersey, non-visible breasts, and shorts on top of compression pants. Critics on Twitter raised a valid question, why couldn’t Lola continue to be sexy, and the sexualized comments from her fellow team members be the thing that changed? Additionally, some fans argue that making Lola less sexy won’t solve the root of the problem: the over-sexualization of women and female animated characters by men. It’s a conversation worth having. Why is it that women, 2D and 3D alike, are the ones who are responsible for changing when men are responsible for the problems?
Director Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man & Girls Trip) expanded on the rationale for the production decision in an exclusive with Entertainment Weekly.
“Lola [Bunny] was very sexualized, like Betty Boop mixed with Jessica Rabbit,” he said. “Lola was not politically correct,” Lee continued. “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 preparing for the LeBron James-led New Legacy, the Girls Trip filmmaker set out to “reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters,” revealing Lola will be reintroduced alongside the Amazons of Wonder Woman." You read that right, Space Jam: A New Legacy will venture into the Warner Brothers intellectual property vault creating a multi-verse experience for viewers!
“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,” explained Lee. “For us, it was, let’s ground her athletic prowess, her leadership skills, and make her as full a character as the others.”
Although I prefer the original design, as an inaugural member of Megan Thee Stallions "Hottie’s International Association", I have to remind everyone that being sexy is a state of mind and is not about what you wear. Lola Bunny will be a Hot Girl, whether she’s in sweatpants, a crop top, or in a WNBA-certified uniform, which is what her new ensemble resembles.
I’m less concerned about how much of Lola’s mid-riff is shown and more interested in how many scenes she appears in, what we learn about Lola that we never knew before, and how many times we can hear and witness her genius. I feel confident that Zendaya, a beacon of positivity for all that Gen Y/millennials have to offer, will exude Lola’s brilliance, brawn, and beauty flawlessly. Plus, Zendaya is from the Bay Area, and you should never place a bet against a Bay woman.
A MULTI-GENERATIONAL FILM EXPERIENCE
My best friend, I call her my “Twin,” was recently blessed by the birth of her second daughter. Her eldest daughter is now three. In the twenty-five years since Space Jam was released, the children who grew up watching this film are now old enough to have children of their own. Space Jam is not the first example of a film with multi-generational significance, but it most certainly needs to be added to the list.
I don’t have any children yet, but it’s heartwarming to think that we as the older generation can create a new level of connectivity between the younger people in our lives through sequels and other films of this nature. Through mediums like film, we can witness their experience of being introduced to a brand new world, one of which we are true to and not new to. Going to the movie theatre now means that we are the ones buying Slurpees, sneaking in food (KFC if you were my mom), holding tiny sticky hands, and guiding the next generation through cinema, as our parents did for us.
Space Jam: A New legacy will feature Lebron James (his first time as a leading man in a major motion picture), Don Cheadle, and include cameos from many NBA & WNBA players like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike.
Space Jam: A New legacy will be released in theatres and available to stream on HBO Max on July 16, 2021.