Pepé Le Pew will not be in Space Jam: A New Legacy
Lola Bunny is surely thankful for a change in the news cycle.
Last week's EW cover debut of the true Space Jam: A New Legacy first look spurned many (creepy) thoughts about the redesign and rework of Lola Bunny, with director Malcolm D. Lee saying the goal was to make her less sexualized. Well, now comes word about another Tune: French skunk Pepé Le Pew, a longtime cartoon staple, will not be in the film.
The news, first reported by Deadline and confirmed to EW by an individual with knowledge of the situation, comes as the character was called out in a New York Times op-ed as having "added to rape culture."
But the decision to not include Pepé was made long ago, with original director Terence Nance having filmed a scene featuring Pepé, Bugs Bunny, and star LeBron James in 2019 before Lee took over.
According to Deadline, the sequence was part of the film's use of the WB vault, with James and Bugs finding Pepé in the black-and-white world of Casablanca and the NBA super star coaching the skunk on consent.
It's possible Lee felt, like he did of Lola in the original Space Jam, that the character of Pepe was "not politically correct," with the filmmaker admitting "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," Lee previously told EW of the decision to give a new legacy to Lola. "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," he continued. "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."
Space Jam: A New Legacy premieres July 16 in theaters and on HBO Max.