Widescreen: Warner Bros. invites all its characters, not just kid-friendly ones, to 'Space Jam'
Corporate synergy may have officially gone too far last weekend when the first trailer for "Space Jam: A New Legacy" premiered online. It's the summer sequel to the 1996 pairing of Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, a live-action/animation hybrid that pitted His Airness, the Looney Tunes and Bill Murray against a monstrous basketball team in an intergalactic theme park. (Read that sentence again and try not to lose your mind.)
This time LeBron James is the human star, along with seemingly every character from the Warner Bros. studio vault.
Spotted in the trailer: Dozens of Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, including Scooby-Doo and Fred Flintstone. Batman villains, including both the Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito incarnations of the Penguin. Drogon the dragon and the Night King from "Game of Thrones." Stephen King's Pennywise the clown. The white-painted War Boys from "Mad Max: Fury Road." And, most inexplicably, the gang from Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange." (No, really. They're cheering on a basketball game whose players include Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. No, I'm not joking.)
Warner Bros. is no stranger to peppering their movies with past properties. "The Lego Movie" prominently featured DC Comics heroes including Batman, who went on to star in his own sequel, "The Lego Batman Movie." Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One," set inside a virtual world overstuffed with pop culture references, gave its most prominent callback to "The Shining," setting an extended sequence inside Kubrick's haunted Overlook Hotel.
At least Spielberg collaborated with Kubrick in the past, and the scene in question was central to the plot and felt like a loving homage. It wasn't a cheap joke involving a gang of rapists in a children's movie.
Time for moral outrage? No.
Time to question the judgment of studio executives desperately hoping that adults will watch their Bugs Bunny movie? Most certainly.
We can all play another round of spot-the-reference on July 16 when "Space Jam: A New Legacy" premieres in theaters and on HBO Max. Let's hope Regan from "The Exorcist" doesn't show up.
• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who saw "Space Jam" on opening night at One Schaumburg Place. A few years later, that mall would be gutted and rebranded as Streets of Woodfield.