Ad­ven­tures in the For­est City

In­die an­i­ma­tor Jim Lu­jan and Cleve­land hip-hop duo Koun­ter­clock­wise unite for For­ever-land. By Mercedes Mil­li­gan

Animation Magazine - - Features -

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 for­ 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.

Oh What a Trippy Morn­ing: The an­i­mated ver­sions of Cleve­land’s Koun­ter­clock­wise find them­selves in a fun­k­less dystopia in For­ever-land.

Jim Lu­jan

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