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Bugs Is Back, Bugging Me Again
As 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' returns to HBO Max, what audience is it targeting?
Now Streaming: Earlier this year, HBO Max announced that it was ordering many more shows, specials and movies from some of Cartoon Network's biggest franchises, according to The Verge. My curiosity was finally aroused this week when I saw that the first season of Odo would be premiering, along with the return of Space Jam: A New Legacy, which I wrote about in July when it debuted in theaters, simultaneously with its unveiling on HBO Max.
In the months that have passed, I've narrowed the focus of this column to cover essential family viewing that adults can enjoy on their own, so from that perspective, I'm now left wondering what audience Space Jam: A New Legacy targeted in the first place.
Mind, the film performed well financially, making more than $70 million in the U.S. plus $92 million internationally, per Box Office Mojo, and that's not taking into account the additional subscribers to HBO Max which may have been gained, solely due to the idea of seeing what an animated modern mashup of basketball and Looney Tunes might look like. As I wrote before, "To me, Space Jam: A New Legacy appears to be a 21st-century monstrosity, filled to overflowing with product placement, studio-affiliated advertising, and very little humor that even tries to appeal to anyone who is over the age of 6."
It's the latter point that I've thought about this week, as I searched for new releases to write about. Odo appears to be aimed at preschoolers, in fact, so it's probably not for me. Dragons Rescue Riders: Heroes of the Sky on Peacock TV is fine for what it is, targeted at pre-teens and featuring spry 3D animation and witty dialogue, but I can't really see myself watching all six episodes in a hurry.
That drove me back to wondering what audience Space Jam: A New Legacy is targeting, and a wider wondering: why?
From all appearances, the movie's humor is solely aimed at young children or what adults think will make children laugh. The glory of the original animated cartoons produced by Warner Bros, MGM, Disney and other studios from the 1930s through the 1950s is that they were not trying to make only children laugh, they were trying to make everyone laugh.
The art of making movies that appeal to all ages has largely been lost, especially since the 1980s, when major studios increasingly came under the leadership of people who were driven by traditional corporate thinking, which pushed the industry even more toward the idea of targeting audiences instead of creative artists. If your intent is to target a specific audience, then you must study that audience and endeavor to anticipate what they may want to see.
This backwards approach means that creative thinkers are too often forced to scheme up ideas that may appeal to potential audience members instead of relying upon their own creative instincts for telling a story or creating a mood or making personal art or making movies or televisions shows that satisfy their own creative urges.
We end up with content produced to reach children, aged 3 to 6, or children, aged 1 to 3, or children, aged 9-12, and trying to capture that sort of thing is like trying to make a stranger's children laugh without knowing anything about them except their age, which may explain Space Jam: A New Legacy. [HBO Max]