Diplo’s Major Lazer project joins the likes of Gorillaz, Jem and Prozzak, finding commercial success with virtual musicians 

American DJ Diplo created Major Lazer in 2009 as a cartoon alias in order to produce Caribbean-influenced music like reggae and dancehall that didn’t necessarily fit into his repertoire.

What began as a playful way to perform tunes under the guise of a mysterious Rastafarian freedom fighter from the future has spiraled into a full-fledged cartoon series of 10-minute segments, available in Canada on iTunes.

This wouldn’t be the first time music and cartoons have crossed over before. Here are a few memorable intersections.

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Gorillaz (1998-)

Not since the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine has a cartoon band left such an impression on pop culture. Created by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and produced by Dan the Automator, the animated supergroup blends dub reggae, rock, rap and trip hop for an out of this world “feel good” experience. Artists like James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Snoop Dogg and even Madonna have collaborated with virtual band members Murdoc and 2D, and there will likely be more high-profile adventures. Albarn has recently announced a new album, expected in 2016.

New Kids on the Block (1990)

They had all the right stuff for a cartoon series. A golden age of Saturday morning cartoons, pop stardom and legions of young female fans hungry for collectable binders, toys and trading cards. The short-lived series followed the band as they went about their lives escaping packs of fans and doing teenaged pop star things. While they didn’t voice their animated characters, Danny, Donnie, Jordan, Joey and Jonathan were featured on the show with behind-the-scenes interviews.

Jem (1985-88)

Record label owner and band manager Jerrica Benton inherited her deceased fathers holographic computer and used it to transform herself into Jem, frontwoman of the hair-metal-inspired Jem and the Holograms. Her high-tech earrings foreshadowed the wearable technology movement while the band taught the Saturday morning cartoon generation that music was magic through music videos. There was never a live-action Jem band, but a hotly anticipated live-action movie is in the works for October 2015, starring ’80s icon Molly Ringwald in a supporting role.

Josie and the Pussycats (1970-71)

Looking to jump on the bubblegum pop sensation and envious of The Archies’ smash hit “Sugar Sugar,” Hanna-Barbera Studios contacted the Riverdale gang’s creator Filmation to receive permission to create a spinoff series based around the less popular comic-book character Josie. The result was a series that fused concepts of The Archies with Scooby Doo-styled adventures to create a hipper, updated series based around touring 1970s rock band. The show broke ground with outspoken tambourinist Valerie, the first African-American character as a regular on a cartoon.

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Prozzäk (1998-)

Canada’s British-accented dance-pop band (comprised of Canadian indie rockers Jay Levine and James Bryan McCollum of The Philosopher Kings) were inspired equally by the likes of the Beatles and late-’90s internet culture to create catchy feel-good singles, beginning with “Sucks to be You” in 1998. Cartoon music videos were focused on the stoic Simon and the lovelorn Milo on his quest to find a mate. Their breakout 2000 single “www.nevergetoveryou” sampled the catchy “uhoh!” sound effect from social network granddaddy ICQ, which can still be heard on some of Toronto’s Chinatown supermarket cash registers. Catch Prozzäk at a reunion show on July 18 at Atomic Lollipop, the “unique geek festival” at the Ontario Science Centre.

Daft Punk 

In 2001, the perpetually masked French house maestros hired their childhood hero, the prolific Japanese animator Leiji Matsumoto, to create a full-length musical sci-fi film to accompany their smash hit album Discovery. The project was titled Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem and segments from the film were released episodically as music videos chronicling the adventures of an oppressed blue-skinned race of aliens.

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