History was made Halloween weekend with the first release of images from Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s Secret of the Unicorn, the first of three films the dynamic duo of adventure films plan to make, based on the adventures of Titin, the irrepressible reporter created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi, 1907-1983). Tintin, his dog Snowy, and a gallery of memorable characters had adventures from under the sea to the moon in twenty-four “albums” published from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Although wildly popular in many countries and many languages, Tintin never has won over the United States. The good news is, no matter what, the Spielberg/Jackson films will clear up in the United States just who Tintin is, as I have been trying to do in my articles, beginning with an announcement of this film (here). By the way, Tintin, the fictitious Belgian reporter is not Rin Tin Tin, the real French dog (here).
Although Spielberg completed the thirty-two days of filming over the year ago, Peter Jackson has been working ever since on the stop-action animation. Tintin fans have been fretting for the slightest glimpse of the film, which will not reach theaters until December 2011.
Paramount Pictures gave us the slightest glimpses, mere fragments of images (here), including, most memorably, Snowy’s tail. Now, however, Empire Online has added two complete images (here); click on the thumbnails about halfway down the page. One shows the face of Tintin’s seafaring friend, Captain Haddock, and the other shows back views of Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy. There are no unicorns, because – although this might sound like a meeting of two of my obsessions, Tintin and unicorns – the Unicorn of the title is just the name of a ship.
Of course, all of us Tintin fans have to be a little excited. Check the comments (here). It will be nice to have more interest in Tintin in the United States (more income from my Tintin articles!). But, these two images do not leave me very optimistic. Part of the appeal of the original Hergé albums is their look. Hergé always grounded his pictures in the real world and maintained extensive archives of images to draw on (literally), as Tintin expert Michael Farr details in his Tintin: the Complete Companion.
Yet, as a true artist, Hergé’s vision of the real world was something else altogether. His technique, called ligne claire (“clear line”), produces a flat, clean, almost texture-less image in constrast to the hyper-real textures of the Spielberg/Jackson collaboration. You can see three of Hergé’s images here, but since they are under closely guarded copyright, I cannot reproduce any of them here.
The 1991 Ellipse (France)/Nelvana (Canada) series of animated versions of twenty-one of the original Tintin stories seems to me much closer to the original look and feel of Tintin’s alternate world. They have been shown on television in the United States, but you can view them online for free (here).
If you are on Facebook, check out the updates on this film and all things Tintin-astic here.
You can keep up with my articles about Tintin here. For the most thorough information on Tintin on the Internet, check Tintinologist: the Tintin Fan’s Resource.
Sources are linked throughout the article.
You can find an index to all my stories of hunting unicorns, “The Joys of Chasing Unicorns,” here.