Adventures in the Forest City
Indie animator Jim Lujan and Cleveland hip-hop duo Kounterclockwise unite for Forever-land. By Mercedes Milligan
Indie animator Jim Lujan has been busy lately. In addition to working on his hit webtoon Sanjourno Must Die for RugBurn, developing MasterFreak Theater for DirecTV and partnering with Bill Plympton on a new feature called Revengeance, the L.A.-based artist has completed a 56-minute movie, animated solo: Kounterklockwise in Forever-Land.
Set in a hidden dimension known as Forever-Land, the 2D film follows Kounterclockwise (Cleveland hip-hop artists Deacon Burns and Kaya Rogue) who are transported into this strange world to retrieve “The Glove,” an item of cosmic importance that allows its wearer to “rule the funk.” But in this alternate reality filled with strange characters and creatures, The Glove is in the clutches of despotic ruler Infinitus. Kounterclockwise will have to save the universe from Infinitus’ grasp, restore the order of the funk — and rock the crowd while doing it.
Begun roughly a year ago, the film grew out of Lujan’s work animating three music videos for the act. Burns had become a fan watching his cartoons online and gave Lujan carte blanche to create the videos. “It was kind of always in the back of our heads; after the second video, it just snowballed,” says Lujan. “Their music is so spacey, I thought, I’m going to let their music take me to whatever world we need to get taken to.”
What emerged was a fantastically bizarre sci-fi adventure, produced bit by bit with constant back and forth between the collaborators (who have still never met in person). Lujan would send drawings, scenes or requests for
Watch Kounterclockwise in Forev
er-Land at forever-land.com and visit our website for an extended interview.
dialogue recordings to Kounterclockwise, or they would send him beats and musical ideas to build on.
Music plays a large role in the film. “Basically, it’s 99 percent original music,” says Burns. “The only song we had recorded previously was ‘Hide and Seek’ … We had wanted that song to be a video as well, but the idea basically got put into the movie.” The song is heard when Kounterclockwise encounter the psychic Madame Mesmerelda, who reveals the existence of The Glove and the plight of Forever-Land, kicking off the whole adventure.
On his end, Lujan brought his trademark weirdness and humor to the hip-hop odyssey by drawing characters by hand and scanning them into Flash to be animated. The director notes a bit more than half of the film was creat- ed this way, but over the production he became more comfortable with a new Wacom stylus system that gradually took over. The DIY filmmaker then edited the film in Apple’s iMovie.
“When people ask me about getting into animation, I tell them, you’re concerned about telling a good story,” Lujan says. “Concentrate on the story and make the production process as simple as possible.”
Another point of pride for the filmmakers is the way Burns’ disability is treated. Burns, a “huge animation geek,” broke his back in 2007, leaving him wheelchair bound. With Rogue’s encouragement, he rededicated himself to his music and embraced his new way of living. “This movie features a person who’s in a wheelchair, but it’s not a sad ‘oh, pity this poor guy’ thing. You talk about equal representation, this is a perfect example because we don’t even make an issue of it. Deacon is Deacon,” Lujan explains.
Now, Lujan and Burns are focusing on getting Forever-Land as much exposure as possible through special screenings and the Internet. And Kounterclockwise is planning a tour that will include showing the film, performing its soundtrack and a special audience experience: “We’re going to have the characters dressed up on stage, walking through the crowd … it’ll be like a hip-hop Rocky Horror Picture Show,” says Burns.