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He may be a star in Europe, but Herge’s comic-book hero is a veritable unknown in the States. Here’s the lowdown on the comics, the controversies and the movie.
1. The script is based on three books
The Adventures of Tintin combines the reporter’s adventures from The Crab With the Golden Claws and two-parter The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. 1941’s Golden Claws featured Tintin’s first meeting with Captain Haddock. Red Rackham is the best-selling of all Tintin titles. Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish collaborated on the screenplay.
2. Tintin debuted in a newspaper
His origins lie in a comic strip in Le petit vingtieme (The Little Twentieth), a children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siecle (The 20th Century). The irrepressible reporter first appeared on Jan. 10, 1929.
3. Tintin has appeared in two live-action movies
The first was 1961’s The Mystery of the Golden Fleece, starring Georges Wilson (left) as Captain Haddock and Jean-Pierre Talbot as Tintin.
4. Tintin has been controversial
The movie is designed as wholesome family fare. But some of Herge’s past work has come under fire for racism — specifically Tintin in the Congo, which featured stereotypical attitudes toward the Congolese that were common during the 1930s, when it was written. Borders removed the book from its British children’s sections in 2007.
5. Tintin has only one name
Tintinologists (yes, they exist, and engage in passionate arguments) debate to this day whether Tintin is the intrepid reporter’s first name or last. Or could it be a pseudonym? And they pore over the significance of a line from one of his books in which he says, “My name? It won’t mean a thing to you … but at home they call me Tintin.”
6. The movie also goes for laughs
Thompson and Thomson, the bungling detectives from the books, are played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the British comic stars of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
7. It used the latest technology
Spielberg may be spinning an old-fashioned adventure, but he employed high-tech tools. On the virtual soundstage, 100 cameras were mounted on a ceiling grid to capture the action. Eight HD video cameras recorded the performances. The film’s 1,240 shots were then handed over to animators, who spent 18 months refining them and adding detail.
8. Europeans will see it first
While most big movies open day-and-date around the world, Tintin premieres in Europe two months before it opens stateside. The plan, which was in place from the start, is designed to build on the character’s name recognition abroad to gather momentum for the film’s U.S. launch.
9. The stakes are huge
The $140 million Tintin scared Universal, which backed out of cofinancing with Sony, opening the door for Paramount to step in. Motion capture is still a new technique: In Avatar, it contributed to the top-grossing movie of all time. But in other projects, like 2007’s Beowulf, it failed to impress, and that movie barely grossed $200 million worldwide.
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