Pepé Le Pew Cut from Space Jam 2

We recently learned that Space Jam: A New Legacy will feature a lot more Warner Bros. characters than the Looney Tunes. The sequel finds LeBron James and his son stuck in the Warner 3000 entertainment “Server-verse,” a digital world where the various characters of Warner Bros. movies and TV shows are found. However, one of the Looney Tunes will not be part of the gaggle of intellectual property, and that’s the romantically aggressive skunk known as Pepé Le Pew.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed the news that Looney Tunes character Pepé Le Pew was cut from Space Jam 2. Coincidentally enough, this news comes shortly after the character was mentioned in a New York Times opinion piece about the recent Dr. Seuss controversy and problematic cartoon characters of the same ilk. The piece described the skunk who never took no for an answer as a character that “normalized rape culture.” However, the decision to keep Pepé Le Pew out of Space Jam 2 was made over a year ago.

Even before the #MeToo movement made waves in the entertainment industry, Pepé Le Pew was seen as a problematic character in the Looney Tunes line-up. Every single cartoon was about the horny skunk trying to find love, usually with a black cat who had come to accidentally look like a female skunk. Though the cat, who came to be called Penelope Pussycat, appeared to be put off by Pepé Le Pew’s natural odor rather than his romantic pursuit, it’s the skunk’s refusal to take no for an answer (regardless of the reason) that has given many a bad taste in their mouth. But the Space Jam 2 scene that would have featured the character was going to address that head-on.

The scene that ended up on the cutting room floor last year found Pepé Le Pew alongside Jane the Virgin actress Greice Santo. Deadline reports the skunk was bartending in a sequence inspired by Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Pepe would have started making advances on Santo by kissing her arm. The actress then threw Pepe into the chair next to her, dumped a drink on him, slapped him across the face, and then sent him into a whirlwind by spinning the stool cartoonishly fast.

At this point, LeBron James would have entered the scene with Bugs Bunny. On the hunt for Lola Bunny, they ask Pepe where they can find her. During this exchange, Pepe revealed that Penelope Pussycat had filed a restraining order against him. James then made a remark about Pepe not being allowed to touch other Looney Tunes without their consent.

Though the live-action portion of the scene was shot in June 2019, the animation for the sequence was never completed. The scene ended up being cut even before a rough cut of the movie was screened a few months ago. In fact, this was something that Greice Santo was rather upset about, because as a victim of sexual harassment who empowers women to stand up to sexual predators and harassment, she appreciated that the scene allowed her to give Pepé Le Pew his comeuppance.

Knowing the intention of the scene, it’s a little disappointing that it didn’t make the cut. Perhaps it was deemed to make too much light out of a serious issue. But for Santo’s part, a spokesperson said she’s disappointed that the movie won’t have this scene “to let younger girls and younger boys know that Pepe’s behavior is unacceptable.”

Space Jam: A New Legacy arrives in theaters and on HBO Max (for 31 days) starting on July 16, 2021.

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