Blokhedz Blokhedz
Feature Film


If the Hollywood establishment isn’t producing the kind of animation you want to see, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. Case in point: this work-in-progress trailer (below) for a locally produced“hip-hop meets anime” feature called Blokhedz. Production designer and VFX supervisor Joshua Geisler sent me some information on the project:

We are a small independent company in L.A. attempting to create this film with a limited budget. The film is based on a comic book mini-series of the same title, and follows roughly the same story line. Earlier this year we produced a short animation test / proof-of-concept piece using 2D character animation and 3D backgrounds. I am the background artist on the piece, and I supervised the compositing of the project. It’s a little rough around the edges, but we learned a lot from the process and we are feverishly working on our design pack to refine character construction and effects development.

I really like the graffitti-styled effects animation. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its creators are passionate, ambitious and serious about making it work. Good luck to them.

  • It’s not entirely my cup of tea because of the design of the characters ( I’m not a fan of big feet characters ).
    But I gotta say that it’s a relief to see that there has been put so much work and love into animation, detail, and effects. Colours are well chosen also.
    To think all of that with a small budget. I think it’s really really good!!! Great work.

  • Some Rap Superhero

    Very nice. I wish the producers the best of luck too. (Anyways, we need more freestyle villanous monologues.)

  • That’s some pretty slick animation going there! I do like the graffiti-as-weapon effect, pretty cool! I didn’t care for the music nor did I know what was going on, but it has nice production values to say the least.

    If they can sell Boondoxxx to CN, then surely this can work too.

  • “…hip-hop meets animeâ€? feature”…

    The only show that has gotten that right so far is The Boondocks. This looks good, but it’s not at that level yet.

    And the ending made me think of Dragon Ball Z, which is never a good thing.

    I still wish them good luck on their project.

  • K. Borcz

    I Love the look and feel of this. It’s a rapsical (excuse the coined phrase, as I wouldn’t call it a musical) that sorta has a japanamation thing going on with the ghost samuri’s showin up. sweet stuff, thanks for postn

  • stavner


  • Chris H

    “The only show that has gotten [hip-hop meets anime] right so far is The Boondocks.”

    Eh, I would have to say Samurai Champloo does a better job balancing the two influences. Boondocks and Blockhedz just borrow the character animation techniques (neither have exceptionally anime-influenced backgrounds or themes, IMHO).

    Pedantry aside, I like the character animation and the concept might go somewhere interesting.

  • Charlie

    Honestly the only real anime aspect of this that I noticed is the lack of lip syncing.

    But seriously that was pretty dang good. The graffiti effects where very well done, and the piece had some very slick coloring.

  • Chris H – what exactly is an Anime “THEME” none of my anime movies are anything like one another. They all have broad themes. And Champloo wasnt an integration. If you took the music out the only thin in Champloo that would be graff/hip hop would be Mugens always doing windmill kicks.

    There was a little too much static verbals going on for my taste. Like the holding sill and delivering lines bit seemed more like a music video with dope animation in it versus a flick that had actual beats.. i dunno.

    This is really slick. Fun to watch and thats the main thing. The movement really impressed me because it had a TON of secondary motion that was really smooth BUT it wasnt all tween. Like it looked like actual 30fps at times versus 10-15 like most anime.

    Been quietly following these guys’ projects for a few years now. Amazed by how far theyve come. Truly inspirational.

  • Dan

    On a limited budget and a dedicated and confident team pulling it out? This is great stuff! Some soso animation but some really nice stuff too (when he gets blindsided and thrown against the wall and then hits the ground). Solid posing. This could be great, gawd knows we could use some more traditional animation up in here. Good luck with the flick! Sorry if this doesn’t make sense, im tired.

  • Nonimus

    hip-hop + anime =

  • Chris H

    eeedel: I’ll rescind whatever it was in my comment to which you took offense. What I mean to say is that I see, for example, the themes Katshuiro has been interested in reflected in Watanabe’s work, and I don’t see (nor do I see a need for) a similar theme or content influence between the works of any traditional Japanese animators and McGruder or Hewlett. Is that supposed to reflect poorly on anyone? Of course not. Am I misinterpreting any of the above? It’s a reasonable possibility. But, given that impression, it seems OK to say Boondocks is “hip hop sensibility expressed using anime character animation technique/style” rather that implying it is a significant blend of the two cultural traditions.

    I will, with all apologies, stick by the suggestion that the influence of hip hop culture on Champloo runs pretty deep. There’s the surface bits you talked about, yes. There is also, though, a fairly consistent cross comparison of hip hop tradition and ronin tradition, of a segment of African American cultural history and late Edo Japan. For a quick example, follow the episode titles:
    Ep 1 Shippu Doto is a Japanese translation of Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), an art movement stressing personal expression (which seems central to hip hop tradition);
    Eps 3/4 Ishin Denshin refers (loosely) to a state of mutual understanding (I’ve seen it as “heart to heart” or “thought transferrence”), a close relation which it seems (from interviews/press) that Watanabe thinks holds between his two historical influences and is also an interesting intersection between cognitive and noncognitive expression that is featured in all lyrical music but especially (IMHO) in rap (since lyrical presentation is stripped down to cognitive content and rhythm, yet strong noncognitive content remains);
    Ep 5 Baji Tofu meaning indifference to what others think, almost the definitive characteristic of early rap’s public stance toward social criticisms due and undue, and also the remaining root of what it means to “keep it real” in actual practice;
    etc, etc.

    If music and moves are all there is, I’m surprised that pot (Ep 9) and graffiti (Ep 18) were prevalent enough in that location, much less in that era, to factor significantly into character motivation and plot.

    A deep thematic blend doesn’t hold through every episode, and frankly Watanabe is more influenced by Japanese hip hop than American so the themes are twice-filtered. Fair enough, there is some shallowness that necessarily remains in the project–but I think it is a close as anyone has gotten to blending hip hop and anime without using one or the other as a means to an end, and that’s just fine. McGruder does not need to be digging through Tezuka’s body of work in order for us to think his own work is worthwhile. Boondocks is great just as it is (I say as a longtime fan of the comic). The Blokhedz trailer looks good; if this is what ImajiMation does with a limited budget, they must be pretty dedicated to the project.

  • WOW! Great job folks! Keep up the good work! I sincerely hope you get some type of series deal or financing to carry on with your project. I met you folks at the San Diego Comicon and I could sense your dedication to this project( which is why I bought one of your ESSENCE maquettes) Fight the good fight! You got what it takes to suceed!!

  • William

    Sad to think that hip-hop related animation has been so few and far between. Considering that the music’s been established for over 20 years,and still so little animation that reflects this.
    So much of original old school hip-hop was steep in pop culture that,you think there’d be more cartoons like this.
    And there’s not,this must change.

  • ted

    Chris H- go on…

  • Jay

    Great effects, great feel, and some really slick animation here.. I love the use of hip-hop as actual dialog instead of just random verbals going on in the background. The only thing bringing this down is the weak facial animation… there’s no emotion or impact when they’re delivering their lines, just standing there and lip-flapping in a dull cutout way. If they nail that, this could be really top notch.

  • It’s a wonder why the hiphop-anime concept has not been explored more than it has. In my opinion, the two styles have a lot in common. They have similar posatives and negatives in that what is thought of as typical “anime” and typical “hip-hop” often overemphasizes style (coolness) and vanity over substance. On the posative side, both hiphop and anime can be *so* cool and dynamic, it makes other things seem boring. Does anybody remember those old Sprite hiphop Voltron commercials that aired in the 90’s? The response to those ads was pretty enthusiastic.

    As far as that clip goes, it has potential/promise, but my usual worries about the concept can’t help but put a damper on enthusiasm. Will the story be coherent, let alone any good? Are the characters going to be at least interesting, or are they just going to be the usual projections of vanity and excess of the creators like the typical hiphop video? Pointless gratuitous violence/profanity? Characters full of (as John K might call it) ” ‘tude”, with no weaknesses or vulnerabilities? The animation shows some promise, and the color is decent. The idea of fighting with graffitti art was cool and well-executed. Hope its’ taken up a few notches in the final cut. It’ll be really interesting to see how this project develops.

  • Wow, missed this at Comic-Con. Beautifully done. So what that the lip sync is loose…that’s how they do it in Japan. Yes, there have been other cases of cross-pollination between Hip Hop and Anime, from The Gorillaz musical project to Samurai Champloo to Afro Samurai. If you widen it to include all hip hop and animation fusion projects, you’d also have to include Bebe’s Kids and MTV’s Downtown. (wish the latter would come to DVD!)

    This still looks unique enough to be interesting. I’m down.

  • Wel I am getting tired of both anime and hip hop. This was good from techinal POV but that is all I will give this thing.

  • red pill junkie

    It does look real promising, eventhough I’m not a big hip-hop fan.

    But I agree with the previous comment that the weakest part of the short was too much static animation with only lips moving. Maybe they should zoom-in-out, change angles or something there.

  • this looks fantastic! Good luck to all those involved.

  • Lawson W.

    What the posting doesn’t mention is that this is based on a Graphic Novel that came out quite a while ago – Was not the best comic i’ve ever read – I’d like a more original take on the hip-hop/anime mix like Samurai Champloo did but I’m still real excited about this project. Anyone who wants to get an idea of how the movie will be should check out the comic since I’m willing to bet the movie is a direct adaptation of the comic storyline.

  • Hammer

    I remember this being around for quite some time, as they were trying to get this off the ground. I was hoping to see that some credit would have been given to Redrover Animation, and Andy Knight, as they did a bunch of the artwork on this as well. However the product looks good so far, and apparently from the comments not many people realize the mountains you have to climb to produce something like this on your own.