Blackheart Gang: Tale of How

Tale of How

Epic. Beautiful. Weird. The Blackheart Gang’s “Tale of How” is a voyage through a surreal landscape (which the Gang calls “the Household”) populated with duck-like creatures being ravaged by a tentacled sea monster, Otto. In the end, a cute, mousey hero named Eddy the Engineer bursts onto the scene to save the day, making for a tidy little narrative that is both strangely familiar and incredibly odd.


If Hieronymus Bosch and Terry Gilliam had a lovechild, maybe it would resemble this video. The visuals are a lush and organic pastiche of 2D and 3D elements, with a hand-crafted attention to detail that makes every still a joy to behold.

Equally impressive is the soundtrack. Composed and recorded by The Blackheart Gang, the music was written especially for this piece, and its lyrics tell the story in a operatic style that is refreshingly original.

The Blackheart Gang

So who are The Blackheart Gang? The short answer: a collective of artists, designers and animators living in Cape Town, South Africa.

The long answer? Well, I think their own (decidedly adorable) words are the best description:

“Ree is a illustrator with red hair, freckles and braces; she also has a very short temper, a ticking time bomb of sorts. Markus is determined and strong, his heavy noble brow is set under a constant frown, he makes music and writes. Jannes takes all of Ree and Markus’ bits and pieces and makes them real. TOGETHER THEY ARE THE BLACKHEART GANG!

The Blackheart Gang is a well oiled machine, a collective of good friends with passion for the arts. Each member has their own sets of skills and talents that form an incredible collaborative dynamic.

Ree Treweek – Illustrator, concept and character developer for The BHG. Ree is 27 and works as a freelance illustrator.

Markus Smit (Wormstorm) – Musician, concept developer and writer for The BHG. Markus is 24 and has a musicstudio called SayThankYou.

Jannes Hendrikz – Compositor and Creative Director for The BHG. Jannes is 26 and works as a compositor and designer for BlackGinger Visual Effects.

We all live and work in Cape Town, South Africa.”

How did they do it?

Again, in their own words:

“To keep it short…Ree drew all the elements with pen on paper, scanned them, and coloured them in with Photoshop. Jannes would then build a scene with her elements in Photoshop, and prep the layers for After Effects. He would then build a 3d environment in After Effects, add live-action elements we shot, and animate all 2d elements. A lot of time was spent blending the 2d elements and live action to create a living world with depth and dynamics. Environmental elements like caustics and volume light helped to achieve this look.

The next step was to give the 3d guys a background plate to animate on. Justin Baker who did all the 3d work, modeled all the birds and developed shaders to look like Ree’s drawings. We wanted to maintain an authentic feel, so it was important for the 3d birds to look as 2d as possible.

Jannes would then composite the renders into his scene, treat them and do the final camera animation. Markus then composed the music and recorded the voice artists.

We really hope to inspire people. This project was about beauty, sincerety and passion. We want to share that. And hopefully, for just a moment, pull people out of the chaos they have grown so accustomed to.

We see The Blackheart Gang as a lifelong project. And we have a lot of plans and ideas for the future.

The Tale of How is one of the histories from The Household. Difficult to tell you much about it in short because it resides in Markus and Ree’s heads. But, it is huge, with many branches and we will probably be working on it for the rest of our lives.”

A little more…

To augment the depth of all of this creative output, The Blackheart Gang has created a couple audio files that are definitely worth listening to.

Second Half

About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.



W O W ! !

I hate to look at things in a monetarily way, but omg, this is an amazing project and these guys will be rewarded for their ambitious endeavor. Whether it be a illustrated book or even a movie, it will make it’s way into hollywood. It just has the word, “classic” written all over it.

The visual continuity is overwhelming. These guys must of done several hundred studies on just the palette and textures alone.

It’s worth the download. Nice post Justin.


Thank God you posted that Justin, I was still freaking out at the prospect of doing so ;)

If only everyone we contacted sent us this much information.



Some recognition for some local SA cats!
Yeah this is a phenomenal piece of work and i hope it gets the recognition it deserves. I remember visiting Jannes + Ree while they worked on this AFTER their day job … to see where it was and how its turned out … my hats off!

Jon Yeo

I LOVE this piece, I watched it 5 times over on the Stash DVD


Thankx for the great Post Justin…glad to hear you’re all liking our little piece there.


hey yeh thanks justin…….


….its amazing, so beautiful.
i think you have accomplished everything you set out to do and more, its food for the soul.

Delboys Daughter

Argh.. i really want to see this but it won’t play. Says it has downloaded but then nothing happens no matter how long i’m waiting for.
I’m using XP and the usual IE. I don’t get it.


Try right-clicking on the “Tale of How” link and doing a Save as to your desktop. Also make sure you’re running Quicktime 7 and that you’ve installed the QT plugin for IE.


won’t play here either, running XP, updated software.
bad choice of codec used to distribute.


MC: A movie doesn’t have to make it’s way into Hollywood to become a classic… Palms are being used on movie posters as a marketing tool. People are not thinking for themselves anymore. Don’t be fooled.


wowww, so beautiful.


hi, i dont espeak well inglish , but i like to know if somebody can do the subtitles for this art piece

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