THERE ARE CERTAIN shows that defy easy description. Shows whose premises aren’t exactly cut out for the program guide on your TV. Shows like, say, Major Lazer. Here’s the briefest thumbnail we can muster:
Somewhere far off in a dystopian future, Jamaica has become Earth’s most powerful nation—and an epicenter of oppression. From the White House (which has since relocated to the Caribbean), the grumpy, nefarious President Whitewall persecutes the Jamaican people and aims to curb all the good times. He’s aided by the metal-jawed General Rubbish, a right-hand man with what looks to be a vinyl-record-turned-buzz saw for a right hand. Meanwhile, Whitewall’s teenage daughter Penny just wants to cut loose and soak up the music and culture of the real Jamaica—its dancehalls, bars, and streets. She’s also secretly befriended Whitewall’s number one enemy: Major Lazer, a brawny, beret- and sunglasses-clad supersoldier whose right forearm has been replaced with a laser gun. Lazer, who has been portrayed by Terry Crews in live-action form, runs a strip club full of holograms, enjoys cannabis, and can surf on a bird if need be.
There are also several vampires and at least one ninja.
So goes the high-intensity absurdity of FXX’s long-gestating animated series, which premieres at midnight tonight (really that’s midnight tomorrow, but you know what we mean). With a hero voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (aka Lost‘s Mr. Eko), the music-heavy program is based on the mascot for Major Lazer, Diplo’s party-starting, culture-fusing dancehall/electronic act. “Every single episode is pretty ridiculous,” says Ferry Gouw, art director and co-creator of Major Lazer (the character and the show). “Really stupid and really deep at the same time.”
The character’s road to animation started around 2008, after Diplo first created the music project. Diplo and his manager auditioned Gouw, a visual artist, to design a “Rasta commando with a laser gun for an arm” as the project’s visual centerpiece. The properties they offered up as reference points—Marvel Comics, and 1980s cartoons like G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Centurions—were the kinds of things Gouw grew up with. He created a few quick mockups of the Major Lazer character and project logo, and his designs have been used and stayed almost entirely the same ever since.
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