Welcome to Space Jam, once again
Every three hours, every day, for the past seven and a half years, an anxious and fiery Twitter robot has delivered a short message of perseverance and hope to the universe.
“The Space Jam website is still live,” he tweets. Or: “Hooray! Space Jam is still online!“
To date, the bot, @SpaceJamCheck, has assured a changing world more than 20,000 times that the official 1996 animated / live-action sports comedy website “Space Jam” remains a functioning web destination. If it surprises you to learn that people care if a promotional website for a mid-90s children’s movie is still live, congratulations – you’ve just revealed your utter and humiliating ignorance of all that. concerns the slightly famous “Space Jam” website.
Where does the “Space Jam” site come from?
The 1996 Space Jam website is important in how ancient maps are important – not because they are necessarily useful tools for current navigation, but because they reveal the boundaries around which people’s lives were once oriented and invite us to remember or imagine a world organized differently.
Many years after its original relevance (of which there has never been much, this is the official website for the 1996 animated / live-action sports comedy “Space Jam”), the “Space Jam” website Now serves as a virtual portal to the ’90s. The homepage – a black galaxy speckled with low-resolution stars whose flat cartoon planets are slapped, like stickers, around the’ Space Jam ‘logo – n is not a nostalgic recreation. It’s the real thing, beautifully preserved in the resin of digital time – a visual artifact of a less connected World Wide Web.
Today, the internet is dominated by overlapping social platforms. But the pre-Google Space Jam website is reminiscent of a time when the web was more like an endless archipelago of islands that you could surf in pursuit of your passions – or by accident.
Executed on a basic HTML script, the website is a godsend of the internet’s first “content”: downloadable screensavers; animation sketches in progress; printable coloring pages with the words “Space Jam” in large Times New Roman; basic basketball tips; a one-second.wav file of Michael Jordan saying, “You are crazy.” And more.
(The plot of the film, told in detail on the site, focuses on a basketball game that pits Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes against a team of aliens who aim to capture them and force them to work as entertainment “slaves” at their amusement park ” Moron Mountain ”located in space. It was the 15th Most Performing Film of 1996, earning a little more at home than “Mr. Holland’s Opus ”and much less than“ The Nutty Professor ”.)
Granted, many ’90s kids are unlikely to spend their free time reading the lyrical development stories of characters like Elmer Fudd posted on the “Space Jam” website. (“Without changing the basic nature or concept of the character, its directors and animators ultimately transformed him into a creature capable of great elasticity,” the copy explains.) At the same time, children with television par cable were almost certainly aware of the film.
But while the film faded from the memories of millennials as it grew older, its virtual altar remained accessible and relatively pristine.
The website catapulted to meme status in 2010, apparently after a Reddit post drew the attention of users to its inexplicable continuing existence. A few years later, Rolling Stone released a long and definitive site history – a story of survival in the face of the rapid evolution of the Internet.
People’s favorite thing about www.spacejam.com was just that it was. (“It’s like finding King Tut’s grave on my childhood movie memorabilia,” wrote one Reddit user.)
But on April 2, 2021 Twitter bot, @SpaceJamCheck, sounded an alarm: “Hmm, looks like Space Jam is offline. Hope this is a fluke; (. “
Here, the “Space Jam” website
The “Space Jam” bot continued to sound its sad tribute for three days, at which point a human, Colin Mitchell, the creator of the bot, intervened. The “Space Jam” website was still full, Mr. Mitchell tweeted, but had moved. to a new URL: www.spacejam.com/1996.
the original domain had been reassigned to announce a new movie “Space Jam”, scheduled for release on July 16.
(In the new version, basketball star LeBron James joins forces with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes to free himself and his son – through a game of basketball – from imprisonment in a world virtual The new “Space Jam” website describes this as “the greatest challenge” in LeBron James’ life.)
The “Space Jam: A New Legacy” website is – at least for the time being – modern, minimal, and far less clickable than its predecessor. The landing page features a crisp image of Mr. James and Bugs Bunny holding basketballs in silhouette. An image of the classic “Space Jam” logo, located at the top right of the screen, functions as a button to return to the 1996 website.
“I think great feature film websites are a thing of the past,” said Don Buckley, who worked as vice president of advertising and publicity at Warner Bros. at the time of the original film’s debut.
Social media, he said, denied the usefulness of most flashy movie websites.
“An online distributed content model is a much more effective means of marketing and communication,” Buckley said. (Indeed, the main event of the new Space Jam page is an embedded YouTube trailer for the film.)
Mr. Buckley was one of the first promoters of movie websites as promotional tools. He’s the one who enlisted a small, largely self-sustaining team of producers and web designers – Dara Kubovy-Weiss, Jen Braun, Michael Tritter and Andrew Stachler – to create a richly detailed online hub for all things “Space Jam”. . The website took shape in a midtown Manhattan office, far from the influence of studio executives and other producers.
The online media, Mr Buckley said, “were awkward and adolescent, just like us.”
“We were exuberant about its possibilities. And, you know, we kind of thumbed our noses at all the skeptics in a subversive way, ”he said.
At the time, few in the advertising industry understood how to build websites – and “nobody who didn’t could pretend they knew,” Buckley said.
“Space Jam happened at a time when the internet was still whispering its promise.”
Ms Kubovy-Weiss, who was a producer on the website and is now the director of a branding consulting firm, said that when she worked at the site, few people in her life visited websites or enjoyed the internet. . The lack of familiarity – and supervision – allowed the design team to experiment.
“We were able to kind of take risks and do things that we thought were fun, interesting or cool without having to go through channels that a more traditional marketing effort would have required,” Ms. Kubovy-Weiss said.
These included a secret effort to sprinkle Easter eggs – or hidden interactive features – on the website. Two decades later, members of the design team, who are keeping in touch via group text assembled after the website’s unexpected popular resurgence in 2010, still won’t confirm how many of them are buried in the html. Fans have discovered at least a few. (For example, clicking on the letter “y” in a publicist’s name on the credits page automatically downloads an audio clip of a voice croaking the word “Yeah”.)
Mr Tritter, who, at 26, was declared the site’s associate producer and is credited by the web team with writing most of his underhanded text, recalls not being particularly excited about the film, which s ‘addressed to a generation now known as “Generation Y.”
“Generation X kids were not the target audience,” said Mr. Tritter, now 51, a music producer and writer in Los Angeles. The film and the website were designed for “kids who were sort of growing up on the Internet for the first time,” he said.
Years ago Mr. Tritter was having a drink with acquaintances at the SXSW Music Festival when one of them mentioned to the group that Mr. Tritter was “Internet OG” and had helped build the website. A younger participant looked shocked and impressed. Mr. Tritter thought he was joking.
It was the first time he understood, Mr Tritter said, “that something I found hilarious – they actually thought it was cool. He had considered the website’s new obsession to be somewhat ridiculous. But, “a whole generation younger than us is like, ‘No, no, no, that’s actually something we were all really into back then.’ ‘
“I realized that I was among the millennials and that they were different from me,” he said. The friend who broke the news to the group said he “walked into a look from a thousand yards and whispered ‘this will define my life’.”
Oddly enough, as the original Millennial audience approaches middle age – the older members of that cohort will turn 40 this year – fans of the 1996 “Space Jam” website seem only to be getting younger. For Ripley Heator, 19, an animation and game arts student in Philadelphia, the source material is countless. He discovered the site in 2020; its features and layout influenced a project for its web design class.
“I don’t have a lot of memories of that movie,” Mr. Heator said. “I am mostly just a fan of the site.”
Mr. Mitchell, 45, created the @SpaceJamCheck bot account in the fall of 2013, hoping he wouldn’t tweet forever.
“I was happy to create a Twitter bot that would be there for what I thought was the inevitable day he went offline,” he said.
When the site was moved to its new URL, fear erupted in mentions of the bot from fans who thought the day had come. Mr. Mitchell, who works as a web developer in Montague, Mass., Began to wonder, as @SpaceJamCheck, if it was even worth continuing the monitoring account.
“I tweeted as a robot, like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about stopping this’ and got a lot of responses that people didn’t want me to do,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I guess they still see some value in it.”
He has mixed feelings about it: “There’s nothing wrong with letting things go, but at the same time, it’s become a really big part of internet history.”