Features

Set Visit: "The Adventures of Tintin"

By Garth Franklin Friday August 5th 2011 12:59PM

1. INTRODUCTION

A decade before Batman was a spandex-clad reflection in creator Bob Kane's eye, a Belgian artist by the name of Georges Remi began a serialised comic strip in a local newspaper under the pen name Herge. His hero was a young reporter with no super powers and no costume, only a white and highly intelligent terrier to accompany him.

The setting was a mostly realistic then present day, and his various stories straddled genres from mystery to adventure to political thriller to science fiction, all blended with broad humour, biting satire and informed social commentary. That comic was "The Adventures of Tintin".

Eight decades later, and several decades on from both Herge's death and the last published complete 'Tintin' story in 1976, the title remains one of the world's most popular comic creations of the 20th century with over 200 million copies sold worldwide.

The 23 completed graphic novels continue to sell around two million copies a year and sport such famous and varied fans as Hugh Grant, Paul Giamatti, David Bowie, Terry Gilliam, "Glee" star Darren Criss, tennis player Roger Federer and "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening.

Two such fans are also two men considered amongst the greatest filmmakers of our time, and certainly two of the most popular - Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Jackson's love of "Tintin" started early in life - early enough that he learned to read based on these comics. For Spielberg that love began after "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when a French review of that first "Indiana Jones" feature compared it to "Tintin" and it turned him onto the property.

For years Spielberg had been developing a "Tintin" film but it never truly got beyond the development stage until a few years ago, not long after Spielberg and Jackson met. From there, "The Adventures of Tintin" was born.

Cut to last week. Six years after the project began taking shape, and with only three months to go before the film premieres to its first public audience on October 26th in the UK, I arrived in Wellington, New Zealand. There I and several others spent a long but fascinating day visiting Weta Digital to discuss the movie with many of the key personnel involved in its creation including the two men at the very heart of the production - Spielberg and Jackson themselves.

Wandering into Park Road Post, a tastefully decorated and expansive custom built facility that Jackson commissioned for the various people working at WETA to utilise for film production, we all sat down in the opulent and rather plush film theater to preview scenes from the film which is entering its final few weeks of production. We then took a tour of the facility and spoke to various people in different areas - from the motion capture stage supervisors to the sound effects people to the designers and animators including such legends as Richard Taylor and Joe Letteri.

2. THE PROMISE

This is the point where a confession is in order. While most of the others on the trip were unfamiliar with the property, "Tintin" is a comic I know very well. Growing up in Australia, comics were always divided into two kinds of categories - American superhero comics and everything else. That whole Marvel vs. DC thing? The first time I had ever heard of it was back in 1998 when I was twenty years old and on my first trip to the United States.

While I still love the various superhero films and TV shows to this day, as a kid I found the comic incarnations of Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men, etc. all along the same lines - weird fantasy stories about guys in tights with superpowers battling aliens or people who had become monsters. They were colourful and flash, but it all seemed juvenile, campy and a bit silly - and I loved Roger Moore-era James Bond films so my tolerance of camp was pretty high.

In contrast to them was "Tintin". Here were stories that traversed our globe and dealt with topics of drug smuggling, the human slave trade, forgery, espionage, Government corruption and the control of precious resources. These were great books for any pre-teen because they were neither dumbed down nor too adult - they were clever tales built on strong characters and interesting storylines that treated young readers with respect and intelligence.

One of my favourite stories for example was "The Calculus Affair", a Cold War kidnap thriller in which Tintin and Captain Haddock must rescue their scientist friend Professor Calculus from Eastern European agents bent on turning technology he devised into a weapon of mass destruction.

Another is the "Seven Crystal Balls"/"Prisoners of the Sun" two-parter in which a group of professors, returning from an expedition into the Andes, start slipping into comas one by one. This leads to a journey through South America and the discovery of a lost Incan civilisation.

With only two dozen mostly standalone books, each adding up to 62 pages, they were perfect because you could come in at any title and enjoy, but if you wanted to plow through all of them you could easily do so in just a few days. Despite the majority of them being penned in the 30's, 40's and 50's, the stories have a timeless quality which means they've aged extremely well.

The prospect of a "Tintin" film is one I've longed to see for some time. As each person involved in this project was announced in recent years, my excitement only grew. You want a great director? How about Spielberg. Producers? Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy. Writers? "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock" showrunner Steven Moffat penning the initial draft while Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead," "Scott Pilgrim") and Joe Cornish ("Attack the Block") worked on the subsequent follow-ups.

Then of course there was the cast - Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis as Tintin and Haddock, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thompson & Thomson, and smaller roles filled with a bunch of great British actors including Daniel Craig, Daniel Mays, Toby Jones, Tony Curran, Mackenzie Crook and Kim Stengel. Throw in a score by John Williams and literally you couldn't get safer hands handling something like this.

The big concern however before today remained the motion-capture animation. Aside from the success of Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the technology has mostly come to be defined by its disappointments. A great filmmaker like Robert Zemeckis fell in love with the technology, but his choices of stories to tell left something to be desired - awkward kiddie flicks like "The Polar Express" and "Mars Needs Moms", an ultimately unnecessary re-telling of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", and the ambitious but flawed take on "Beowulf".

"Tintin" already has a leg up on those thanks to the source material being far more accessible, interesting and enjoyable. However the fear of falling into the 'uncanny valley' still hovers like a dark cloud. Zemeckis' films fell into that valley - his CG characters were detailed to the point of being just that 'little bit off' which turned one's emotional reaction to them from wonder into repulsion. Another odd choice of his was making his characters look like the actors playing them which only worsened the disconnect.

The first two trailers for "Tintin" only partially squashed those fears. The first trailer revealed very little, was downright confusing to anyone unfamiliar with the material, and it deliberately avoided the faces which lead to much concern about the animation. The European second trailer (you can watch that at the bottom of this article) sported quite a few more scenes and put some of the fears to rest, yet the issues still seemed to linger around certain shots.

3. THE REVEAL

Watching scenes from the film itself in the proper setting of a good quality movie theater makes a big difference with material like this. From the huge jump in quality compared to compressed HD Youtube videos, to the lack of quick cut editing to allow scenes to breathe, it finally gave me a good clear look at what the aim was here. The result is an unexpected blend of the stylised and the realistic - at one moment playing this almost photo-real, while at another becoming decidedly animated.

The settings themselves are done for real and they work. There's a shot of a seaplane sitting on the ocean which sports the single most convincing water CG effect I've seen, no exaggeration. The characters however are a blend of the stylised and realistic. On the one hand each has extremely detailed hair and skin right down to pores and unique blemishes. On the other, many of them have the exaggerated round noses, unusual beards and unexpected feature placement that's akin to the original Herge designs.

For the characters with unusual facial features, there was no hint of the uncanny valley - the look was stylised enough that it never became an issue. These include the likes of a wonderfully realised Captain Haddock, the Thompson twins, and various henchmen. The most human looking character is Tintin himself. With him there was only one or two brief moments in the footage where the infamous 'dolls eyes' look reared its head, but they were so quick it was hard to tell. For the rest of the time, Tintin had no such issues either.

The scenes we saw included Snowy the dog chasing men who have chloroformed and kidnapped Tintin, shoving him into a crate to be packed aboard an Albanian freighter. The dog runs through the misty streets of Belgium, across the roof of a fire engine, tumbling under and through various vintage-era cars, even running under a herd of cows and startling them as his head hits their udders.

Then we saw the full sea plane sequence in which Tintin and Haddock take off in said plane somewhere in the Mediterranean. Heading for North Africa, they're hit by a fierce thunderstorm and proceed to engage in an over-the-top action sequence - there's a bit of comedy with the plane in free fall as Haddock and Snowy try to drink a giant floating bubble of whisky before the other can swallow it. With the plane running out of fuel, Haddock ends up braving the elements as he crawls onto the nose of the plane and belches into the fuel tank to try and get them a little further along, it doesn't help a lot and soon the plane takes a tumble into the dunes of the Sahara desert.

Combined with backing from a freshly produced John Williams score piece that was finished just two days before, the scenes were not just fun and engaging but, as a big fan of the property, I felt they were very true to the spirit of the books in terms of the humour, the tone and the story. In a Q&A after the footage, Jackson admitted neither he or Spielberg are all that good with computers, so the idea of doing a computer animated feature was daunting to both of them.

Yet they went the way of motion capture in deference to the author's creation. "With the Herge books, our sensitivity was in wanting to capture a kind of art form that would be closer to Herge's style and be able to exonerate these characters in a way Herge was with us he could look up at the screen and say 'yep that looks like Captain Haddock to me'," says Spielberg. "That was really the first choice Peter and I made in deciding what medium we were going to tell the story in".

Jackson talked about the look, saying they "tried to make it as photo real as possible, but then try to bring in the gravity defying little gags and the Buster Keaton-y style things." Spielberg wanted photo-realism from the start saying he didn't want Tintin to be "a balloon with two pinholes for eyes and a quaff. We wanted Tintin to be able to express himself fully, not leaving the guess work about how he's feeling up to the audience 100% - really getting a likeable, tenacious Tintin who in attitude is exactly what Herge wrote."

4. THE LOOK

To do that, the pair went through countless iterations to find the right appearance until they settled upon the final look which took over a year to determine. A bit later in the day we visited super friendly make-up expert and digital artist Gino Acevedo who demonstrated a make-up technique he used on "Avatar" that was redone here - taking molds of real faces and then using a variety of chemical substances that generated a layer of transparent and realistically textured skin.

Molds were taken of the skin textures from various body parts of all sorts of people, those were then scanned into a computer and then applied to the exposed skin areas of the various characters - resulting in incredibly realistic looking skin. He went through some past work on "Avatar", showing us how the skin above the Na'vi chieftain's eye was actually from an animator's arm. From what we were shown, it does make you consider the idea that the marks and mild striations on the arm of Zoe Saldana's character in "Avatar" could well be an exact copy of what the skin on Sam Worthington's left buttock looks like.

The design of Haddock was explained to us in great detail along with how the comic character was translated to the real world. We saw dozens of different versions, how various facial expressions were translated onto a three dimensional model, and how little things like the beard line had to be adjusted to be halfway between what Herge drew and where it would stop in the real world. No detail was left to chance - those involved spent months settling on the looks of these characters and it seems to have paid off.

One thing the production crew had access to was Herge's original research files, which contained hundreds of thousands of newspaper, magazine and research paper clippings. Herge famously did a ton of research on the locations, settings and elements of his stories and the animators and designers went back to them frequently - this means all sorts of things including the various cars and street layouts along with the ships, planes, and marketplaces are not just true to the comics but real life.

Indeed they were so meticulous about getting things right they showed us some storyboards of scenes that made it into the final film in comparison with frames from the comic. Even the minor background characters have been loyally translated to the screen while it looks as if Richard Taylor himself got his own animated incarnation which appears in the street market sequence where Tintin buys the model ship.

Of course visuals are only part of the story. During our sit-down with the directors, Spielberg made it very clear what truly matters even on films like this - "The world is not as important as the story, and I think that is going to always be the case no matter what technology, what tools we use to frame our story, to create a tone, even to sort of define a genre… It always gets down to the basics - story, plot, narrative, character."

5. THE SCRIPT

Jackson said the only real difficulty with the film is the same as with most films - getting the script right and getting it to a point where everyone was happy. The pair never really discussed the tone of the film as they've gone with their instincts and followed the tone laid out in the comics. When it came to getting writers though, the first decision was Jackson's and it came about due to one thing - "Doctor Who". Both filmmakers are big fans of the British sci-fi series, though Spielberg calls Jackson the "grand slam fan" of the show and Jackson mentioned the current show runner Steven Moffat as a possible writer. Moffat agreed and reportedly "worked the closest" with both filmmakers in delivering the first draft.

When Moffat had to go back to the series and couldn't do any further drafts, they brought on Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish to "further the process" with the pair doing "an amazing job" according to Spielberg. Jackson added that there were two big reasons for selecting three British writers with a knack for genre-bending fare - the first being that they wanted to give the movie a very European sensibility, and ideally they wanted them to be big "Tintin" fans as well. "We didn't want to have writers that we had to explain the DNA of Tintin to, we wanted writers who just knew it and have known it since they were kids. It's a strange and very particular mix and so we wanted to somehow try to capture those multiple layers and full range of Tintin in the movie".

Though the film is based on the eleventh title in the series, 'The Secret of the Unicorn', the story is actually a blending of elements from no less than three separate books. These include the ninth book 'The Crab with the Golden Claws' in which Tintin first meets Captain Haddock, 'The Secret of the Unicorn' which deals with model ships and a map leading to sunken treasure, and the twelfth book 'Red Rackham's Treasure' which is about the hunt for said treasure.

Jackson says for this film they wanted to see Tintin and Haddock meet for the first time, an event which took place in 'The Crab with the Golden Claws'. However Jackson said they didn't feel that a feature "was there" in regards to that particular story, even if they expanded upon it. 'Unicorn' however appealed in the sense that it is a grand adventure and mystery story, and it also goes into Haddock's ancestry and was a natural fit. Then they incorporated some of the narrative from 'Crab' with the blessing of the Herge estate. They've also "invented bits, there's bits you've seen in the footage that are not in the comics…we did that to expand the books as they don't obviously turn readily into a screenplay" says Jackson.

One thing I picked up from the trailers is that none of the footage showed any of the events from Red Rackham's Treasure, while other scenes were either extensions of scenes in the book or demonstrated some changes from the material. Asked about that, Jackson said most of "Red Rackham's Treasure" doesn't feature in the film at all because "it's a long episode which doesn't really climax a great deal…you'll understand when you see the film". He says that the second film, which they're plotting now, will go into "Red Rackham's Treasure" a bit. By that he's likely referring to the introduction of Professor Calculus who first appears in the Rackham book but doesn't appear in this film.

6. THE CASTING

The various bits of casting were partly due to the pair's past work and friendship with the talents. Jamie Bell worked with Jackson on "King Kong" and he was suggested to Steven. Daniel Craig worked with Spielberg on "Munich" and they've since become friends. Craig was familiar with the character and Spielberg suggested the film to him which the 007 actor jumped at as he had never done a project like this before.

With Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, both the directors smiled while discussing the much loved "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" duo who're playing the Thompson twins - "they're basically twins in real life" says Spielberg, Jackson adding "they're two halves of the same brain". Serkis of course worked with Jackson numerous times before, but the filmmaker stressed he wasn't just chosen lightly - all of those cast had to properly fit the character.

One upside of the mo-cap in regards to casting is the fact that they could cast actors whose physical appearance bared little resemblance to their characters. Casting the dog of course was an issue that they avoided - even a trained animal was simply not good enough for their needs so one unlucky person had to move around a life-size foam rubber Snowy during the mo-cap filming sessions to interact with the actors. Whomever did it would have to have been bent over for so many hours that I hope their insurance covers chiropractic treatment.

7. THE STAGE

The second part of our visit was a trip to the motion capture stage, which is essentially a converted sound stage. In the roof are somewhere in the range of eighty devices, each about the size and shape of a security camera, which are used for mapping the environment. The stage itself is mostly empty - along one wall is 2-3 rows stacked with computer hardware and populated by around twenty technicians.

The floor itself is an empty space of grey carpet. In the middle stands makeshift and mostly see through metallic wireframes which represent doors and walls and are matched to the computer. Two guys stand on the set in the mo-cap suits - they're essentially full body black wet suits (with strangely coloured jester-esque crotches) spotted with white tracking balls. Each has a piece of custom molded head gear with a small camera essentially stuck pointing right at their faces.

Jackson demonstrates his technique for us. Picking up a foot-long DV video camera with a strange mini-TV aerial on top, he proceeds to move around the set and gets the actors to walk around. On a plasma TV nearby we see the output - a surprisingly well rendered but rough animatic of Tintin and Haddock which shows everything in real time. The actors movements match the characters as they move about a ship's cabin and hallway.

The environments themselves are remarkably realised at this stage. Lighting, atmosphere, and detail is surprisingly rich - think a period version of a "Grand Theft Auto" game, minus the vehicular homicide. These are far from the detail level that will be achieved in the final render, yet they're still quite astonishing - at one point Jackson's moving around with the camera accidentally had us giving Snowy a colonoscopy.

The reason for this level of detail though is due to a massive amount of pre-production, nearly four years of it in fact. Jackson hoped to build "a pipeline in which filmmakers with zero computer skill could step in and shoot their movie in this kind of virtual world. We created a way in which Steven could essentially walk onto this virtual set surrounded by locations that had been built in the computer."

8. THE FILMING

With most motion capture films, including "Avatar", performances with the actors are captured first then a few months later the director comes back on his own into a small room and starts getting the actual shots of the setting into which the performances will be inserted. Neither wanted that approach here, what they used instead was a technique in which Spielberg could use a virtual camera and on the screen be able to see Tintin and Haddock and the surrounding environment. That way he could compose the shots like he would on a live-action film.

"I was able get into the volume with the actors and not only direct the actors being four feet away, but I could bring a kind of conventional wisdom which is the only way I know to make movies," says Spielberg. "I wanted to try and be as immediate as the actors were being giving their performances for the first time, I wanted to be inspired by those performances, and be able to find the shots and choreograph the masters and the coverage the same time the actors were discovering who they were. I really found a creative way of making the movie in real time."

With the controls on the unit they had available, it allowed him to do all sorts of things with just hand gestures that would require half a dozen to a dozen crew members to execute in real life. This allowed him to capture scenes at a record pace - "I would wind up with 70-75 different setups per day" he says.

"I could crane up and down, dolly in and out, I could basically be the focus puller, the camera operator, the dolly grip, I wound up lighting the movie with some of the artists at WETA so I did a lot of jobs I don't normally do myself on a movie" says Spielberg. "It gave me the chance to actually start to see the picture cut together. "

9. THE POST-PRODUCTION

The "constant state of fluidity" of this medium is its greatest strength according to Spielberg. With a live-action film you have 3-4 months worth of footage under your belt and that is all you have to work with - if a scene didn't work it would either be recut or scrapped altogether. With this medium, it allows him to continue refining and creating shots - so much so that he could have a scene "performed, rendered and resolved" at the end of this month (August) and it could still make it into the final print of the film ahead of its international release in October.

This means ideas he got during the post-production he had the ability to fully explore, a luxury almost all filmmakers can only dream of, and everything is "continuously evolving" according to Jackson so it's very dynamic and never gets stale. In fact the night before our visit Jackson did a sound check of the footage we watched and saw some fully rendered shots for the very first time.

Spielberg of course has "War Horse" opening at Christmas, and he says the timing with the projects couldn't be more perfect. Spielberg shot "The Lost World", "Amistad" and "Saving Private Ryan" all in the space of a twelve month period so he's used to handling multiple projects at once and compartmentalising his work. Here, there came a period where the animators were hard at work in post on "Tintin" and there wasn't really anything for him to see which allowed him to go off and shoot "War Horse" without any need for him to communicate with Peter or the WETA crew.

One thing that is surprising is that Spielberg has yet to visit the Southern Hemisphere, let alone Wellington. Due to the nature of the production and the advancements in satellite and video technology, there was no need for him to leave Los Angeles. The five-week shoot with the actors took place in Los Angeles, everything else was then handled in New Zealand including pickups on the mo-cap stage we visited.

Using a Polycom satellite video linkup, Spielberg worked with individual artists in the various departments and has been able to see, approve and even adjust elements from where he is. Thus the only reason for him to visit would be to "bolster morale" as it were, however the "morale was so high, especially after 'Avatar', that it wasn't necessary". He does want to visit WETA and talk with the people he hasn't met in person.

Richard Taylor spoke very highly of Spielberg, in particular the way that he would single out even some of the more junior members of the staff to compliment them on their work, hear out their ideas and discuss ways to improve the final product.

One fun side trip was to the sound recording areas of the facility. With an animated film, every single sound has to be created from scratch and so we were treated to seeing another new scene from the film with Tintin, Haddock and Snowy in a rowboat where the clumsy Captain proceeds to accidentally knock out his companions with one of the oars.

10. THE CHALLENGE

Of course the big issue facing this film is the recognition factor. In much of the world there's a massive awareness of the character and a substantial fanbase. In the United States however the fan base is the textbook definition of a niche audience, the vast majority of the country is unaware of the property's existence let alone its tone or what it's about.

Even geek audiences, the kind who have no problem rallying behind comic titles far more obscure and third-rate, have proven oddly uninterested and in some cases almost wilfully ignorant of the project - more so than had it been a completely original work for example. Part of that might be cultural - there are some things that the world has loved for decades that simply won't reach much beyond a small cult following in the United States like soccer, Kylie Minogue, or the aforementioned "Doctor Who".

Can this film break through to an audience in the way "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Transformers" franchises did? Asked about that, Spielberg had an interesting response to those two comparisons - "one was a Disneyland ride and the other one was a toy that wasn't that popular outside the United States. You never know about these things but that was the least of our concerns… I've faced this question on every single new movie that was an unknown commodity until it was discovered by audiences. I think 'Tintin' falls into that same category."

He went on to say "When I get excited about a project I don't do a market survey to see what the feasibility is for success based on popularity, or a brand that's already embraced. I just look for a story that appeals to me… I just make a movie for the audience, or at least the part of me that is the audience. Then it's a hail mary, you just throw it up into the air and you hope there's an audience that's going to understand and appreciate what you've done and be entertained by it… Even though this was a very steep learning curve for me personally, and a very worthwhile learning curve as I had a blast on this movie as I continue to."

Jackson says "You just have to belief that if you end up making a good film, and obviously there's no guarantee you will, you have to have faith that audiences will find it and enjoy it. You literally have to make the best movie you possibly can and keep your fingers crossed."

11. THE FUTURE

If the first film is a success, there is literally no-one on the planet who will be more happy than Peter Jackson, because that means he gets to go ahead and direct the second film which he's itching to do.

Previously he seemed keen on adapting "The Seven Crystal Balls"/"Prisoners of the Sun" two-parter. Now however he admits he keeps changing his mind every month. They had a meeting a few weeks ago and came up with some good ideas, but Jackson wants to have the freedom to change his mind again.

"There's such a wealth of stories, whether you want to go to South America, or Egypt, or the Balkans or the Soviet Union when it was a cool place to go - secret agents, secret police. There's so many different kinds of genres - you could have an Indiana Jones style adventure, or a "From Russia with Love" style spy story. Or there's Tibet of course which is a whole different thing again."

12. THE CONCLUSION

Numerous things excited me on this visit. The first is that this comic I loved as a kid and still have a big soft spot for will, with the help of this movie, soon be more widely known and will be read by both kids and kids at heart. Many of them will experience the joy of discovering these stories for the first time, for that I envy them.

The second is Jackson. While I've never done a one-on-one with him, I've asked Jackson questions at roundtables and press conferences over the past ten years during "The Lord of the Rings", "King Kong" and "The Lovely Bones" promotions. One common factor every time though was exhaustion - Jackson was obviously tried not just physically but also of talking about the projects he was working on - to be fair though I was usually amongst the last outlets to interview him.

On this day however he was animated to the point of jubilation, genuinely happy about the film he working on and not in the least bit bored. Nor was it in that false way that certain film stars like to believe is convincing (news flash kids, it's not), but in the ways he was unaware of - the little smiles while playing with the virtual camera, the tone of his voice when answering some of the geekier questions, his overall body language - here was a guy still utterly engaged with the project he'd been working on for years and genuinely excited about the possibilities of it in the future.

The third geek-gasm for me was towards the end of the visit at WETA workshop in a moment that probably passed much of the rest of the group by. We were ushered into a boardroom which had numerous pieces of artwork on the wall and for a minute or two there I tuned out the rest of the world.

Early in the film's production when the story to adapt had yet to be settled on, Jackson got his various designers to draw recreations of both the iconic covers and various panels of each of the books, but done in a more detailed, textured and richly animated style. Think something akin to a highly detailed water colour mixed with that style you saw in Disney's "Tangled". The results were on display for all of us to see and they were simply breathtaking.

To me as a fan, the covers of the Tintin books are as burned into my brain as the iconic posters of movies I love like "Amadeus," "Jaws" or "The Silence of the Lambs". To see them realised like this, especially the "Destination Moon" cover and the frame of Sir Francis Haddock fighting onboard Red Rackham's boat, just floored me.

Probably the only guy in the room a bigger fan of Tintin than me was the film's lead concept designer Chris Guise, a devilishly handsome and unabashedly proud Tintin geek whom I asked about the artwork. His enthusiasm was infectious and if there was one regret of this trip is that I didn't get time to really talk with him and wallow in our love of the character.

The fourth and final bit of excitement is the film itself. As a fan it's great to see the film being crafted with care and in the best possible hands. For all the debate about a live-action vs. mo-cap version or whinging over the changes to the narrative, the fact of the matter is everything I've seen is staying very loyal to Herge's work and any alterations are being done with deference to him. Plus it's simply a great little story with a fun spirit that's very much in the vein of an epic, retro Spielberg adventure.

"The Adventures of Tintin" opens in the United Kingdom on October 26th, in the United States on December 23rd, and in Australia on December 26th.

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