The miniatures of the original ‘Space Jam’

Go behind the scenes with Vision Crew Unlimited back in 1996.

So, Space Jam: A New Legacy is just about to be rolled out around the world. The original Space Jam from 1996 relied on an incredible mixing of techniques to bring its animated story to life: live-action, live-action filmed on greenscreen stages, 2D animation, 3D environments, 3D animation, extensive digital compositing and…models and miniatures.

Those models and miniatures—mainly used for a stadium, a rooftop and some futuristic ships—were crafted by Vision Crew Unlimited, then a new miniatures company operating out of Los Angeles.

Jon Warren from VCU and ‘Space Jam’ VFX supervisor James Lima shooting space bus elements.

I had asked one of the VCU founders, Evan Jacobs, about this miniatures work for a previous Cartoon Brew oral history on Space Jam that I wrote, and now with the release of the sequel, I thought I’d re-visit the models and show even more images.

Vision Crew Unlimited worked with Pam Easly and Helen Elswit (visual effects producers) and James Lima (visual effects supervisor) on the project. Jacobs, who is now a Creative Finishing Supervisor at Marvel Studios, says for Space Jam, Vision Crew Unlimited had been brought on board to create the miniatures “as a bridge between the ‘real’ world and the animated.”

Jon Warren detailing a miniature rooftop.
Final rooftop layout for press conference transition.
Jon Warren on the miniature set.

“We ended up working on a model of the Great Western Forum stadium wrapped in fabric, referencing Christo’s wrapping artworks and a rooftop cityscape which ended up being a transitional element from a press conference scene,” Jacobs explains.

“We also shot some retro-futuristic space ship elements for the film, repurposing some ships originally built by Boss Film Studios for a Philip Morris commercial. Originally, there were some other things planned but they were eliminated from the final script.”

Evan Jacobs working on a mockup of the ‘Christo’ Forum miniature.
Exterior of the Great Western Forum ‘Christo’ tarp set.

Vision Crew Unlimited officially closed its doors at the end of April 2002. I highly recommend checking out their still-up website for some insight on their models/miniatures work over the years. Thanks to Evan Jacobs for sharing these behind the scenes photos!

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