‘Space Jam 2’ Director: Making Lola Bunny Less Sexualized Created ‘Super Weird’ Backlash

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” director Malcolm D. Lee and voice actress Zendaya told Entertainment Weekly in a new interview they were surprised by the outrage over redesigning Lola Bunny in order to make the character appear less sexualized. Lee confirmed the redesign in March, saying Lola’s original look from the 1996 was “not politically correct…like Betty Boop mixed with Jessica Rabbit.”

“Lola [Bunny] was very sexualized,” Lee said at the time. “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.”

News of Lola’s desexualized redesign created a “super weird” controversy, Lee said in the aftermath of the outrage. The filmmaker added, “I had no idea that people would be that up in arms about a bunny not having boobs. Listen, I understand people don’t want things to change, but I think we needed some evolution with her, not by objectifying her but by making her strong and still feminine. And, yes, we had all these other women who were like, ‘Oh, you can’t be strong and have big boobs?!’ Sure you can, but we’re talking about a cartoon bunny, not women!”

Lee told Entertainment Weekly the goal to make Lola a more empowered character led to the voice casting of Zendaya, who is “taking ownership of her image, her brand, her business. She’s really the embodiment of Lola, to tell you the truth. That’s the kind of projection of Lola that we wanted to have.”

“I didn’t know that was going to happen either!” Zendaya said about the hoopla over Lola’s new look. “I definitely know we love her, but I didn’t know it was going to be as much of a focus as it was. [Laughs] But I understand, because she’s a lovable character. She’s very important, so I get it.”

Zendaya continued, “She’s special to a lot of people and their childhoods and they’ve been able to grow up with her, so I get that sense of protection. I was like, listen, just as long as I did what the director and the producers and everybody wanted me to do, I’m just here to offer my services. [Laughs] No, but I felt really grateful just to have the opportunity.”

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” opens July 16 in theaters and on HBO Max.

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