By Derek Lawrence
March 05, 2021 at 10:30 AM EST
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When Space Jam: A New Legacy director Malcolm D. Lee finally watched Space Jam for the first time in 2019, one Tune left him flummoxed.

"Lola [Bunny] was very sexualized, like Betty Boop mixed with Jessica Rabbit," he says of the character who is called "hot" (by Tweety, of all Tunes!) and "the heartthrob of the hoops" in the original movie. "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 preparing for the LeBron James-led New Legacy, which graces the latest EW cover, Lee set out to make a more fully realized Lola, aided by the "leeway" he had since she was created specifically for Space Jam and didn't have the same extensive history as the rest of the Tunes.

"This is 2021. It's important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters," says Lee. "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."

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Lola is still the Tune Squad's strongest basketball player (well, besides LeBron James), but New Legacy will find her having branched out on her own and reluctant to be pulled back in by her old team, and, chiefly, Bugs Bunny.

"We wanted to meet her with the Amazons, trying to find greener pastures for herself," says Lee, revealing that Lola's reintroduction is set in the world of Wonder Woman, which is just one part of the new film's use of the WB film catalog. "As she says in the movie, there's more to her than just being a Tune."

Space Jam: A New Legacy premieres July 16 in theaters and on HBO Max.

To read more on Space Jam: A New Legacyorder the April issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning March 19. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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