Monday, 20 January 2014

The Blackheart Gang: The Tale of How

The Blackheart Gang are a group of South African animators, consisting of three people. Each given a specific task, for example, one being the main concept artist and illustrator, another composes the script and audio, and the other makes the illustrations move adding CGI parts which he further blends with the traditional style of the illustrators work.
"The Household" is a world/landscape that they have created for their animations, poems and art to take place. The groups description of The Household - "The Household is a magical world of mayhem and madness, of intrigues and impossibilities", reminds me of my favourite book as a child "The Edge Chronicles" which depicts a world built on a flat piece of land, where the sea falls over the edge of the flat plane.

The Tale of How was created in 2006, and tells of a story which takes place on the back of an octopus, where a tree has grown and happens to be the home of these dodo like birds, which the octopus feds on, until eventually they are rescued by a mouse named Eddie. The animation holds an underlying theme of lost and power, through the dominance of the octopus and the lost of the dodo birds as the monstrous octopus engulfs them.

The Tale of How is a bizarre animation that holds beautiful visual aesthetics, through the mixture of CGI and traditional processes. The blend of both techniques work well through how the CGI has been made to look like the traditional animation style.
The animation depends on the audio, which is presented in a operatic narrative that is eerie and works with the dark and foreboding atmosphere of the plot.

The surreal landscape is based on the plane of The Household and gains influence from a traditional Japanese art, through the use of line and shape with in the waves and wind shown in the animation.

Ringo is the first animation the Blackheart Gang made together and holds the same feel of the surrealist style as the Tales of How, however the CGI character, Ringo, doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the environment as I feel that they clash. The CGI looks harsh compared to the beautiful illustrations of the surroundings through the use of the colour and shading of the character, and as Ringo does standout, it doesn't compliment the rest of the animation. You can see the development of the CGI within the Tales of How animation which works better when blended in with the illustrative style used. The animation does look like an advertisement for a game through the platform based portrayal of the scenes that Ringo runs through and the actions that the character makes whilst he is in that environment.

They later made a commercial for the United Airlines, which incorporates the same stylisation as The Tales of How.  The insanity of the animation is down played compared to the previous short, although the sea creatures still hold that bizarre twist to them, for example the fish that open their mouth where more fish appear in the same fashion with smaller fish with in its mouths and so on. The animation uses alot more CGI processes for the characters and other parts of the scenery that move. I believe this is due to the type of motion that is used and the lack of the illustrative style seen in the water and the landscapes.

The animation that the Blackheart Gang use reminds me of Terry Gilliam's work, influenced through the cutout animated movement and the surreal landscape that the plot is based on. The exaggerated movement of Gilliams work is seen through the Dodo creatures when they talk and teeth are seen with in their beaks.
The style also relates to the game design of Amanita Design games, such as Machinarium, the first full length game that they have created. The game is based around a puzzle plot and the movement and animation around the main robot character is subtle with a surreal landscape influence much like ones depicted in The Blackheart Gang work.

Book -The World History of Animation by Steven Cavalier,
Online - Motiongrapher, Short of the Week, DontPanic, The Blackheart Gang , Amanita Design

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