Looney Costuming with ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Costume Designer, Melissa Bruning

When the opportunity came to me to interview Space Jam: A New Legacy costume designer, Melissa Bruning, I immediately said yes! Look, I grew up on the first Space Jam. I remember often camping out in the backyard as a kid. My father would always wheel out the tiniest tv with a VHS player, leaving it up to my brother and me on what movies we would watch. My choices were always The Fifth Element (one of the greatest films of all time) or the original Space Jam with Michael Jordan! So obviously, when Space Jam: A New Legacy came out, I was stoked!

I get it; when you think of Space Jam, costume design probably wasn’t the first thing to cross your mind. Rabbit season, duck season, basketball, Martians, Tweety Bird… what role could costume design really play in this film? In this week’s episode of The Art of Costume Blogcast, Elizabeth Joy Glass and I sat down with costume designer Melissa Bruning to talk about her work on Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Melissa told us her immediate response to the initial outreach over being costume designer of Space Jam: A New Legacy was “hell yes!” Imagine the opportunity! While she was, of course, excited, there was a task ahead. This task would be pretty daunting for any costume designer, giving the “Toon Squad” basketball uniforms a modern redesign. I asked Melissa about this task and her relationship with the animators. “They were my best buddies,” says Melissa and continued to say the main concern was that “not only would the uniform [have to] look good on Lebron, it had to look good on the toons.”

Looney Tunes in new uniforms by Melissa Bruning - Space Jam: A New Legacy
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Melissa had to take a lot of things into consideration when creating the concept. While “Daffy Duck could pretty much wear anything, same with Granny,” not all of the Looney Tunes look great in whites or orange. Remember, the Looney Tunes play basketball in the crazy, video-game-like world of the Serververse… so it is very dark with bright neon accents. With that being said, Melissa and the team settled on the blue color with a new, modern twist of the classic Warner Bros. circle. The new uniforms incorporate all of the same elements of the traditional uniforms while breathing a new modern life into them.

Images of Tune Squad uniforms.. Illustration by Christain Cordella. Photos Courtesy of Melissa Bruning

There were many fun costumes we saw on screen, such as Lebron James appearing in the crazy world of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Matrix,” and the 1942 film “Casablanca.”

Costume Concept Illustrations for the various looks of LeBron James by artist, Christain Cordella

There were costumes made for so many other of our favorite movies and television shows. But one that got away still hurts my heart! Elizabeth and I thought to ourselves, wouldn’t it be cool if we saw Lebron James as a Game of Thrones character? Turns out, the costume was made, but it didn’t make it on screen. My heart! “It was a replica we had made of The Hound from Game of Thrones. It was amazing. We did three fittings in it, and it was heavy as hell,” said Melissa Bruning. Elizabeth and I both screamed, “OH MY GOD!”.

LeBron James in armor inspired by Game of Thrones. Illustration by Christain Cordella. Photo Courtesy of Melissa Bruning

Imagine reading on the script as a costume designer,  ‘all of the Warner Bros. villains show up to watch the game’. Where do you even start? Melissa told us she “tried to clear about 250 different categories”. If you look closely, you’ll see Batman villains, Lord Voldemort, The Wicked Witch of The East, Baby Jane Hudson, and Pennywise the Clown from “It.” I could write an entire article on all of the characters seen in this film. “I had one separate costume shop and one separate assistant who, for about 15 weeks, was just making background,” said Melissa Bruning.

The wonderful Don Cheadle played Al-G, a rogue A.I. The costumes on Don’s character were some of the more fun costumes we saw; Elizabeth even mentioned they were her favorite!  While you might think costuming Looney Tunes would be the more difficult part of the job, Melissa had a different idea. “I think that the Al-G clothes were the hardest of the movie. What does an algorithm wear?” Melissa decided to focus on things that would make Al-G “shiny,” concentrate on circuitry and sparkle, like the sparkly tracksuit. But also, Al-G adapted to the different personalities relevant to the situation, such as a studio head or a Hall of Fame coach. “He would do whatever was the most pleasing for whoever was looking at him,” said Melissa.

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

The costume design process behind Space Jam: A New Legacy was incredibly fascinating. For more behind-the-scenes details about the film, please enjoy our interview with costume designer Melissa Bruning. She goes into detail on her ideas behind the uniforms, working with Lebron James, and all of the crazy cameos that took place!  That’s all folks!

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After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with a degree in Fashion Design, Spencer realized that his love for fashion was not entirely found on a runway, but seen on screen through film and television. As a Los Angeles event planner, Spencer began to organize panels of costume designers benefiting students who were fascinated by costume design. As Spencer’s connections within the costume design field began to grow, so did his love for the craft. Then in 2019, Spencer decided it was time to share his love for costume design on an international level and launched The Art of Costume.

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