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Fargo appears in Cartoon Network movie: Filmmaker draws inspiration from real-life friends and hometown

From left, Danny, AJ and Morgan ponder what summer will hold after they finish the school year at Downer High School in a still from “AJ’s Infinite Summer.” Toby Jones / Special to The Forum

FARGO – You can take the guy out of Fargo, but you can’t take Fargo out of the guy. Well, maybe he’ll draw it out.

Nine years after Toby Jones graduated from Fargo South High and moved down to Minneapolis to study filmmaking, Fargo appears in a short movie he made for the Cartoon Network.

“AJ’s Infinite Summer” follows the title character as he gets in over his head at a summer job.

The work stems from Jones’ cartoons based on his friends, AJ Thompson (who voices the character) and Morgan and Danny Davy. A fourth Fargoan, filmmaker, Concordia professor and High Plains Reader film critic Greg Carlson, is the inspiration for AJ’s dad, voiced by “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” alum Chris Parnell.

The characters live in a town called Downer that bears a resemblance to Fargo, with a river running through it and a school (Downer High School) that looks like Jones’ alma mater.

Since 2011, Jones has been in Los Angeles writing and creating storyboards for Cartoon Network’s program “Regular Show,” so when he decided to make his pitch, he had an idea what the channel might be looking for.

You can see the eight-minute piece on the Cartoon Network’s website, but Jones is hoping he can get it into the Fargo Film Festival next year.

How did “AJ’s Infinite Summer” come about?

I wasn’t sure if I was ready to pitch or not, but I was like, “Man, they’re making all of this great stuff, and I’ve got to try and see if I can be part of it.” I pitched them the AJ idea, and they said no the first time, but I reworked it over the course of a few months and they decided to give it a go the second time.

And you got your friends in (Fargo-bred band) Secret Cities to make the music for the short?

I’m a huge fan. It’s so cool that Cartoon Network was willing to let me bring in my friends to do the voices and my friends’ band to do the music.

Are there limitations to cartooning and animation?

There really are absolutely no limitations. I have AJ running perpendicular up a wall and then jumping into a building.

The limitations are time and energy. Animation does take a very long time, and that’s what it comes down to, if you’re willing to put a lot of time into it.

What has the feedback been like?

It’s been really fun hearing back from people from Fargo that they’ve noticed different landmarks. Now that I work in animation, I’m surrounded by these people that I’ve looked up to for years as a fan, and having them tell me they enjoyed it is the greatest thing ever.

Where would you like to see this go?

or the time being, my primary focus is my day job with “Regular Show.” Working on AJ was amazing, and of course I’d love to do more. And there’s always the possibility that the network would want to green-light it as a series, and that would be fantastic.

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