Steven Spielberg
’s cutting-edge computer-animated film The Adventures of Tintin (aka
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) is a
photorealistic 3D cartoon based on Hergé’s famous
comics series

It’s the first time Spielberg directs an animated film, and it’s his first 3D movie.

discovers Hergé’s comics when Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is compared
to them, and he manages to obtain the cinematic rights. Hergé writes the following note about Spielberg: “If anyone can bring Tintin successfully to the screen, it is this young American film director…”.  

However, conflicting schedules cause the project
to be delayed until the late 2000’s when DreamWorks renews Spielberg’s option
for the film rights.

The Adventures of Tintin is produced by
Peter Jackson, whose visual effects company Weta Digital provides the
computer animation. It is based on three of Hergé’s albums: The Crab
with the Golden Claws
(1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red
Rackham’s Treasure
(1944). The screenplay is written by Steven Moffat,
Edgar Wright
and Joe Cornish. Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh also
contribute to the script.

The cast includes
Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg who
lend their voices and portray their characters via motion-performance. For
Tintin’s dog Snowy, a dog’s motion is captured digitally, so the
animators have inspiration for realistic movements. His vocal effects
are taken from various breeds of dogs (unlike the comics, cinematic
Snowy has no voice).

Filming is due to begin in
October 2008 for a 2010 release. This plan deteriorates when Universal
opts out of co-producing the film with Paramount, and Sony steps in. The
delay results in Thomas Sangster, who is originally cast as Tintin,
departing from the project. As his replacement Peter Jackson suggests
Jamie Bell
, having cast him as Jimmy in his remake of King Kong (2005).

a partnership which Spielberg describes as “doing a crossword puzzle
with a friend,”
Peter Jackson convinces Spielberg “not to do Tintin in
as it would not do justice to the comic books and opts for
motion capture as the best way of representing Hergé’s world of Tintin.

In 2006, a demo is shot on the stage that is used by James Cameron for
Avatar (2009). The test involves Andy Serkis as Haddock and Peter
Jackson standing in for Tintin. James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis are
present during the shoot. Weta Digital produce a twenty-minute test reel
successfully demonstrating a photorealistic depiction of the

Starting on January 26th 2009,
Spielberg completes principal photography after 32 days, with other
directors such as Guillermo del Toro, Stephen Daldry and David Fincher
visiting the set. Peter Jackson is present for the first week and
supervises the rest of the shoot via  customized iChat
videoconferencing. Spielberg treats the film like live-action, doing a
lot of his own camera work
, noting: “Every movie I made, up until
Tintin, I always kept one eye closed when I’ve been framing a shot,”

because he wants to see the movie in 2-D, the way viewers would. “On
Tintin, I have both of my eyes open.”
Spielberg finishes six weeks of
additional motion-capture filming in mid-July 2009.

Loyalty to the original concept is key to Spielberg’s approach, the
characters’s look and personalities painstakingly matched to their comic
counterparts. This is apparent right from the film’s stylish title
and the first scene that features a painter who looks a lot like Hergé and draws Tintin’s portrait in Herge’s style. Spielberg describes working on this film as “feeling
artistic and painterly”
. Fittingly, the movie starts with a closeup of a
painter’s palette.

Jackson supervises Weta Digital during post-production, with
Spielberg attached via video conferencing. Director of Photography
Janusz Kamiński serves as lighting consultant for Weta, contributing to
the “film-noirish, very atmospheric” look of Tintin. To improve the
quality of the indoor lighting nuances, Weta Digital and NVIDIA develop
the ray tracing software application PantaRay, which requires 100 to
1000 times more computation than traditional shadow-map based solutions.
Post production is completed on September 2011.

When working
with Spielberg, Michael Kahn has always edited his movies on a Moviola and KEM, but for Tintin, he cuts digitally using Avid.

composes a mindboggling score for his first animated film.
Most of it is written while the animation process is still in the early
stages, with Williams attempting to employ “the old Disney technique of
doing music first and have the animators trying to follow what the music
is doing”.
Eventually several of his cues have to be revised when the
film is edited. Williams employs various musical styles, with “1920s,
1930s European jazz”
for the opening credits, or “pirate music” for the
battle at sea. American opera singer and soprano Renée Fleming provides
the singing voice of Bianca Castafiore, performing a section of Romeo et

The film is released on the 30th
anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark
. Its world
takes place on 22 October 2011 in Brussels, followed by
subsequent releases in European countries on 26 October 2011, and in the
USA on 21 December 2011, in Digital 3D and IMAX.

Adventures of Tintin
grosses over $373 million against a budget of $135
million, earning considerably more outside the US (where Hergé’s comics
are virtually unknown). It receives positive reviews from critics,
being compared to Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It is the
first non-Pixar animated film to win the
Golden Globe Award for Best
Animated Feature Film. John Williams is nominated for an Academy Award
for Best Original Score.

Producer Peter
Jackson intends to direct a sequel
, with Spielberg serving as producer.
Spielberg and Jackson also hope to co-direct a third film.

his fascinating analysis of the Tintin film, Paul Bullock focuses on
Spielberg’s use of his core visual motifs (light, reflection
and the idea of seeing) and how they reflect three of his key themes:
emotional development, heritage and community.


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