Hijotee's "William Country": The Forgotten Gem of Fanmutation
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
When launching this site, I intended to cover a broader range of media than what's been reviewed so far. As a divisive music lover [while music fascinates me both as a medium of art and intrinsic form of human expression, there’s definitely a ton of material that most people would consider fantastic, essential, or “good” which I don’t have much interest for] over time I devised a personal standard for how I would assess and present the recorded music/performances I chose to write about. I don’t consider myself an authority on music, as either an art form or as a commercial product, but went forward with the objective to seek out and present artists whom I considered to be esoteric, lacking in notoriety, or unique to their locality. I don’t find value in writing about media as a tool for promotion; preservation is my aim. At this point I feel comfortable acknowledging my supplemental objective to record and preserve content which I believe possesses value based on its inaccessibility and non-commercial disposition. Cultural/situational context that I figure is vital to the subject’s artistic integrity and relevance will be stressed as a basis for its discussion. What I’m trying to get at is that moving forward, I’m going to start introducing material that may be alienating or uninteresting to an average reader. My hope is to present this material in a style that sparks interest, without resorting to overtly facetious rhetorical tactics (like writing off amateur/folk media as “weird”) Of course the peculiarity to some of these topics will be addressed, but this will be done to bridge the gap for those unacquainted with a pallet for “outsider” content.
That being said (ever so dryly), the following piece of media is one that I hold dear to my heart, as it’s emblematic of a subculture and period so irrelevant and pointless, but for some reason has left an outstanding impression on me, and I must express it in words. Hopefully ya’ll get a kick out of the topic.
It's Friday night in 2009 and you and your friends are home from school. Homework finished between some unhinged indulgence of cheap pizza and several gallons of off-brand cola, the night is set for sitting in front of the TV to watch the latest episode of Cartoon Network’s (Teletoons’ for those North of the great lakes) popular spoof reality show, “Total Drama Island”. A parodic program that dug into the, already waning, popularity of survival-based reality shows of the time (i.e. “Fear Factor” and “Survivor”), this sardonic toon was immensely popular among bratty preteens too young for “Jersey Shore”, but edgy enough to lose their minds over seeing a children’s cartoon character get censored for swearing. I can’t tell you whether the show was any good or not; the last time I saw an episode was back in 2009 as a sugar subdued child. The series did manage to go on for six seasons, so there had to be some viewership. Nostalgia for my forgotten childhood aside, the focus of this article isn’t the show itself, but the uncomfortably large fanbase of internet savvy preteens, and fan media, that the program spawned. Shudder inducing memories linger of scouring through TV.com forums gossiping over which character got eliminated in the latest episode, or binging through an embarrassing amount of Youtube videos predicting the fantastic futures of the show’s teenage cast (spoiler: most were shipped into miserable marriages or die in car accidents. Kids have weird imaginations.)
Media fandoms can be strange. Usually comprised of young teens who bond over a mutual, maybe even obsessive, interest for some popular intellectual property, these internet-based communities are usually harmless and can even be constructive for adolescents who otherwise would alienate themselves from fear of ridicule for their niche hobby. The way these communities behave online can be odd though. Fan fiction (abbreviated as fanfic) has existed as a genre of literature far longer than one would expect, with its most contemporary connotation dated back to the 60’s. It was customary for fans of intellectual properties like Stark Trek or Lord of the Rings to produce their own scripts and narratives that placed their favorite characters in non-canonical scenarios and trade them among each other, usually in the form of fanzines (abbreviated as zines). With the popularity of sites like fanfiction.net, the genre has amassed a tremendous community of readers and writers, who often dedicate an absurd amount of time and energy to produce a wealth of prose with very little regard to restraint or remuneration. It should be reiterated that people within these fan communities are young, so an excess of time and naivete contributes to the nature of how much content is produced and proliferated. “William Country” is an animation which exists in this fandom context. While serving as a tribute and expression of adoration for its source material, the film’s loose, and almost incoherent, plot suggests a deeper emotional dilemma is trying to be communicated.
Hijotee’s “William Country”, while infamous to those aware of its existence, lives in obscurity due to its erratic presence on the internet. First uploaded in 2009, it was met with overwhelming negativity from members of the "Total Drama Island" fandom. This is due to the film’s poor production quality and unpopular reinterpretation of characters from the show. Allusive ever since, the film has finally been available in its entirety for a little over a year (as of this article’s publishing) on Youtube. Prior to its upload on the Jimmy Formica (a “friend” of Hijotte) Youtube channel, sparse clips of the film would sporadically appear and vanish online. Regardless of its rarity, a reputation managed to manifest, warranting the creation of a TV Tropes page that attempts to rationalize the dysphoric madness encapsulated in this over 2-hour feature.
The film’s premise loosely follows the structure of the television show; ten teenage contestants endure several competitions on a remote summer camp (not an island) with the hope of winning celebrity and riches. This film’s shoddy attempt at encapsulating the show’s content isn’t what makes it notorious though. The real driving force of this infamous slash fiction is the romance between Cody, a shy introvert who I believe was ruthlessly teased and ridiculed in the canonical series, and an original character named Joshua, who’s a pallet swap of Cody. Between challenges, which can best be described as lucid dream-like montages set to a visceral variety of 2000’s Eurodance and trance music, we can find the couple indulging in each other’s company, prominently featured coddling one another and making out. This paring was a point of contention for many fans of "Total Drama Island" and generated most of the animosity towards "William Country".
The film’s animation is a real spectacle of tenacious naivete and technical ineptitude. To be fair, being a product of the internet, there are worse attempts at animation available online that make “William Country” look like an artistic marvel. And in my own very bias and absurd opinion, I’d argue that it does possess marvelous deconstructive and transformative qualities that grant it some degree of artistic notice. Character models are often taken directly from screenshots of the show, or are otherwise traced over with flat and jarring digital brush tools. Sprawling backgrounds also appear to be either stolen from the original show or appear to be traced from pre-existing images of mountains and landscapes. A banner for zdsoft, a soft screen recorder, hovers in the corner at times, implying Hijotee recorded the playback footage off whatever software he used for animation as opposed to exporting the video (at least that’s my attempt at making technical sense of his amateur efforts at production.) Challenge segments, which feel like an incessant succession of fever dreams, will arbitrarily swap in 3D renders of the landscape and replace character models with generic stick figure renders. The film’s lack of directional focus is best demonstrated during its hilarious opening. Two credit sequences introduce the film, unleashing an onslaught of production credit titles (i.e. “Presented by Kevin’s Games”, “A Kevin Ventura Film”, “Hijotee Pictures Productions”, etc.”) that do little more than induce sensory overload and produce lots of laughter. "William Country" clumsily mimics the qualities of its source material and instead distorts its, transcending into a realm of juvenile surrealist splendor.
Brain-draining boredom is a decent way to describe the sensation of enduring the entirety of this film in a single sitting. Watching it is an almost trance inducing experience, in part due to Hijotee’s bizarre decision to have characters constantly moving, regardless of the scene’s context. Arms flail and bodies tremor. If not the character’s then objects are almost always moving in the background. Scenes that take place at the campsite often feature a road in the background, where a rotation of motorcycles and cars loop by. This aloof tactic of excessive and recursive motion, while ridiculous to watch, demonstrates some level of compositional consideration on Hijotee’s part. Understanding the need to have visual stimuli present in order to engage the audience, he produces superficial movement to distract the viewer from the static disposition of a scene’s focal action, along with his generic framing style. This produces the surreal experience of having your attention constantly jolted by miscellaneous obstructions, like random floating graphics and obtrusive text that appears for sudden single frame. What makes this peculiar though is how the pacing of the film remains consistent all throughout. Momentum or consequence is never properly conveyed by visuals, as all objects move in states that are either sluggish or without friction. This elasticity is probably due to Hiottee’s abuse and ineptitude of his software’s technical capabilities.
Time should be taken to comment on the soundtrack and audio. Consisting of forgotten pop hits from the 2000’s, like Chris Brown’s “Forever” or Ne-Yo’s “Closer”, and a mix of blaring house music, the juxtaposition in energy between the languid visuals and overproduced dance music reinforces the film’s surrealistic qualities. Also all the characters are performed by Hijotee, recorded through what sounds like a computer’s built in microphone, and all vocals are panned to the far right. While the whole film is a technical mess, audio suffers the most in terms of inconsistent quality and poor editing.
There is plenty of terrible media that exists on the internet, so why dedicate an article to a shoddily made slashfic from ten years ago? To my warped mind, "William Country" serves as a time capsule for both a forgotten slice of adolescent pop culture and the efforts made by a frustrated teenager who was trying to master a rewarding form of artistic expression. I can’t speak for Hijotee, but based on the prominence of a queer centric romance, the film’s five month production period, and Hijotee’s admittance to being under the influence of drugs during this time, there was definitely greater sentimental meaning behind its creation than just making a shitty fanfic for people to laugh and gawk at (which tends to be the case with most cherished fanmutations revered so prominently in sardonic online circles). It has been noted by the Jimmy Formica Youtube Channel that Hijotee used the film's romance as a vehicle for processing his own sexuality.
Instead of coming from a place of irony, satire, or contemptuous cynicism, "William Country" is an earnest display of a teenager’s attempt at using animation for self expression and affirmation. Hijottee has continued to upload original animations to Youtube, making it evident his interest in the medium goes beyond creating work related to fanfiction. “William Country” deserves more recognition as a fan creation. Its naïve sincerity and unequivocal absurdity make it one of the most underrated anomalies of online media and fanmutation genre. Regardless, the movie’s a good laugh either way.
Attached below is the first part of the film. I encourage watching this with a group; it's great to gawk at with company.