Who would have thought that a shoe commercial could have spawned some of the coolest animated aliens ever to grace the silver screen? I am, of course, talking about the Nerdlucks, a disgustingly cute and insanely aggressive race of extraterrestrials from Warner Bros. zany sports adventure, Space Jam (1996).
Now, don’t get me wrong. Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, and the rest of the Tunes are timeless. But you have to admit that the real stars of the film are and always will be those laser-gun-wielding, bright-eyed little talent-robbers who hail from an intergalactic theme park called Moron Mountain (yeah, that name is still ridiculous).
Conveniently coded in bright Care-Bear colors, the five Nerdlucks in question serve as comic foils and primary antiheroes of Space Jam, and we all remember them for being so ridiculously adorable and absolutely terrifying. Much like the Gremlins from the Spielberg classic, these little guys prove that appearances can be quite deceiving.
In light of the upcoming Space Jam 2 (starring LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and directed by Justin Lin), fans have been asking whether the alien clan will return to the story. With that in mind, let's explore how they became the heart and soul of Space Jam all those years ago!
Original Designs: Tap Shoes And Bow Ties!
Of all the cartoon aliens who have appeared in television and movie productions throughout the years, the Nerdlucks can easily be considered the strangest. With their gigantic eyes, curly antennae, colorful skin, and pearly white teeth, they look more like the creations of Dr. Frankenstein rather than a legitimate alien species. In addition, to amp up the cuteness factor, the lead character designers took the liberty of giving them shiny tap shoes and fluffy bow ties, once again proving that the realms of an artist’s imagination are astoundingly bizarre and completely limitless.
Another awesome design element of these aliens is the drastic difference between their two forms. As Nerdlucks, they are stumpy and weak. As Monstars (their terrifying alter egos), they are nightmarish, musclebound juggernauts of destruction who quite frankly give the Titans from Attack on Titan a run for their money. Nevertheless, there is still a synchronous connection between these two forms. Both the Nerdlucks and the Monstars have the same large, expressive eyes and childlike curiosity, which makes them even more entertaining to watch.
Possible Inspiration: Dragon Ball Z's Ginyu Force
On that note, you might notice a similarity between our little friends and another team of outrageous animated aliens: Ginyu Force from Dragon Ball Z. This is especially true for the Nerdlucks’ monster forms, which bear a striking resemblance to the zany bounty hunters from the classic anime.
Think about it. There are five members, who have nearly identical colors and size variances, and both teams work for a power hungry dictator (e.g. Swackhammer and Frieza) whose plans are constantly foiled by crazy heroes (e.g. The Looney Tunes, Goku). Whether this was intentional or not is anyone’s guess, but it’s still a neat piece of trivia to put out there.
And, just like the Ginyu Force, these tiny aliens wield unbelievable power.
After traveling to Earth to enslave the Looney Tunes (as part of an executive order by Swackhammer), the Nerdlucks attempt to hold the comedians up at gunpoint and easily capture them. However, Bugs Bunny tries to negotiate the Tunes’ freedom by challenging the invaders to a game of basketball, a feat which seems impossible for the stumpy, chubby creatures to accomplish. After doing their homework on the National Basketball Association (a-la hilariously cliched black-and-white instructional video), the tiny aliens crack wicked smiles and pull a gigantic Ace-in-the-Hole.
Unbeknownst to the Tunes (and the audience up to a point), the Nerdlucks have the ability to transform into primordial ooze and force themselves inside people’s brains. In doing so, they absorb the victim’s genetic code and memories, and their temporary invasion has a detrimental effect on coordination. Afterwards, their parasitic attack leaves the human a shell of their former selves, as proven after the Nerdlucks infect five NBA All-Stars and rob them of their physical and mental prowess.
But that’s not all. Once they have absorbed their victims’ abilities, the Nerdlucks undergo a gruesome transformation into musclebound, hulking beasts who looked like they walked out of a Ralph Bakshi night terror. And the metamorphosis they invoke is both disturbing and awesome, paying homage to horror and science fiction classics like American Werewolf in London and The Thing. Wreathed by dark clouds and illuminated by lightning, the tiny aliens’ bodies stretch and their bones crack as they grow into hulking titans of awesomeness. Just try watching this painful sequence without cringing once.
What they lack in size (for the most part), these tiny aliens make up for in gigantic personalities that are unforgettably funny. As they parade around their animated world, the Nerdlucks are eager to prove that they are capable conquerors and strong fighters, even if they look like bossy toddlers attempting to scare adults.
However, what lends to their cuteness is the fact that they are so devious. Seeing such adorable, cuddly creatures wielding ray guns and threatening to kill people is an absolute riot, and their sinister dialogue mixed with their high-pitched voices just adds to the hilarity.
Additionally, each Nerdluck is easily identifiable and unique. Let's take a look at their lineup:
The bright orange leader of the Nerdlucks, is a chubby grump who enjoys wreaking havoc, and he takes great pleasure in his physical prowess, what little there is. (Voiced by Jocelyn Blue)
The aggressive green Nerdluck serves as Pound’s second-in-command, and is a belligerent ball of nervous energy, his huge eyes continuously scanning his surroundings. (Voiced by June Melby)
The tiny red Nerdluck serves as the voice of reason of the group, but he is perhaps the most diabolical, possessing a sickeningly cute voice and a repertoire of devious expressions. (Voiced by Colleen Wainwright)
A lanky, laid-back blue Nerdluck who boasts a thick Californian accent, and seems to exist within his own, bizarre reality (insert pun here). (Voiced by Charity James)
This chubby-cheeked, purple Nerdluck has an absolutely ridiculous name and an amazingly charming and happy disposition! (Voiced by Catherine Reitman)
Will the Nerdlucks Appear In Space Jam 2?
Have you ever watched a movie or television show and found that you liked the side characters more than the protagonists? For many loyal fans of Space Jam, the Nerdlucks easily fall into this category. Their energy and liveliness steal the spotlight from their co-stars, and they are as entertaining now as they were in the past.
What role they will play in this potential sequel is still shrouded in mystery. After the events of the first film, the Nerdlucks had given back the NBA talents, returned to their smaller forms, and were allowed to live with the Looney Tunes in the center of the Earth. Since then, they have not appeared in any other media, but they are prominent members of the Space Jam canon, meaning they could possibly return to star alongside LeBron James. Since they are designated "good guys" now, my guess is that they will transform into their monstrous forms once more to help their new friends and battle whatever evil comes their way. That would be an interesting twist, no doubt.
I can only hope that the rumors are true and that these chubby, bright-eyed invaders will arrive in all their supernatural, comedic glory once more!