“As soon as I read my first of the books, Tintin never strayed far from my thoughts and heart. I knew Tintin and I were destined for some kind of collaboration . . . and a journey of discovery.”
-- Steven Spielberg, Director
From Oscar® winning director Steven Spielberg and Oscar® winning producer Peter Jackson, two of today’s most visionary storytellers, comes a 3D motion picture event: an epic, globe-hopping quest that spans hidden mysteries, menacing criminals and ancient secrets -- and brings to dazzling, life the classic escapades that have enthralled generation after generation with their one-of-a-kind mix of action, humor and scintillating tale-spinning in The Adventures of Tintin.
Based on the internationally beloved and irrepressible characters created by Hergé, the story follows the unquenchably curious young reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his fiercely loyal dog Snowy as they discover a model ship carrying an explosive secret. Drawn into a centuries-old mystery, Tintin finds himself in the sightlines of Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig), a diabolical villain who believes Tintin has stolen a priceless treasure tied to dastardly pirate named Red Rackham. But with the help of his dog Snowy, the salty, cantankerous Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and the bumbling detectives Thompson & Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), Tintin will travel half the world, outwitting and outrunning his enemies in a breathless chase to find the final resting place of The Unicorn, a shipwreck that may hold the key to vast fortune . . . and a ancient curse.
From the high seas to the sands of North African deserts, every new twist and turn sweeps Tintin and his friends to escalating levels of thrills and peril, proving that when you dare to risk everything, there’s no limit to what you can do.
Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures Present in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films, and Kennedy/Marshall Production of A Steven Spielberg Film, The Adventures of Tintin. The film is directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish based on “The Adventures of Tintin” by Hergé. Produced by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy, with Ken Kamins, Hergé Estate’s Nick Rodwell and Stephane Sperry as executive producers. The co-producers are Carolynne Cunningham and Jason McGatlin. Spielberg is joined by his Oscar®-winning collaborators, editor Michael Kahn, A.C.E. and legendary composer John Williams.
The film’s acclaimed international ensemble is led by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as Tintin, Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) as Captain Haddock, Daniel Craig (Quantum of Solace) as Sakharine, Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek) as Thomson & Thompson, Toby Jones (the Harry Potter films) as Silk, Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy) and Daniel Mays (The Bank Job) as Tom and Allan, and Gad Elmaleh (The Valet) as Ben Salaad.
Weta Digital’s Oscar® winning visual effects team includes senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, visual effects supervisor Scott E. Anderson and animation supervisor Jamie Beard, along with art directors Andrew Jones and Jeff Wisniewski.
The Adventures of Tintin will be released worldwide in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D, from Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
A Timeless Adventure Meets Two Contemporary Masters
Hergé, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson
In a series of heart-stopping adventures around the globe, the graphic novel character Tintin became a planetary sensation. The intrepid reporter with the funny coif and the courage to always do the right thing in the most suspenseful situations has ever since been a worldwide hero to young readers and a vivid inspiration to artists. The Tintin graphic novels, written and drawn by Georges Remi under the pen name Hergé, have crossed diverse cultures, multiple generations and even war-torn borders. A pop cultural phenomenon of lasting magnitude, they have been translated into more than 80 languages; and have sold more than 350 million copies . . . and counting.
Yet for all the far-flung places Tintin has traveled -- from Peru to Tibet to the moon –the one place he has yet to venture is the modern movie screen. That changes with The Adventures of Tintin, which not only brings the series to worldwide movie audiences for the first time but does so in an inventive new way that pushes the creative envelope of 21st Century storytelling while staying true to Hergé’s inimitable and timeless visual style.
The source of the series’ sustained power has always been the ways its scruffy, lovable characters and its passport to exotic lands and courageous battles against wrongdoers have tied together people who experienced his adventures with a common bond.
That’s what happened with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who are brought together for the first time as collaborators by their passion for Hergé’s tantalizing tales. Each came across Tintin at entirely different times and in divergent ways. Yet their passion for the characters’ wide-open cinematic possibilities is the same. Neither could resist the excitement of trying to fuse the unbridled fun of Hergé’s drawings with state-of-the-art movie technology and inspired, emotion-rich performances to create an original motion picture experience befitting of Tintin’s vast legacy.
“Tintin is an eager reporter who chases fragments of clues that suddenly blow up into these amazing, globe-trotting adventures,” Spielberg describes. “What makes him so intriguing is his relentless pursuit of the truth, although that always leads him down some treacherous paths. It often seems he’s gotten himself into terrible trouble, but somehow, he finds a way out. From the first reading, I knew that Tintin and I were destined for some kind of collaboration.”
Peter Jackson grew up with Tintin and had been influenced by his adventures. As a boy in New Zealand, long before he began a filmmaking career that includes the most lauded fantasy trilogy in movie history: The Lord of the Rings series, Jackson devoured each Tintin book he could get his hands on, even struggling through the French editions.
“When you’re young, you can easily imagine yourself going on these adventures that Tintin gets himself into,” Jackson notes. “They tap into that fundamental sense of adventure we all have.”
Both men saw the cinematic potential of Tintin embedded in its DNA. “We were all struck by the fact that Hergé was telling stories through what were, in a sense, these beautiful storyboards that were simple, clear and forceful in their narrative power,” says Spielberg’s long-time partner, Kathleen Kennedy, who would ultimately pair up with Jackson to produce.
Spielberg first reached out to Hergé as early as 1983 – and found the Belgian artist deeply enthusiastic about placing his clever character in the filmmaker’s hands. But tragically, Hergé passed away before the two could meet. Later, his widow, Fanny Rodwell, fulfilled his wishes, granting the rights to Spielberg.
“Hergé picked Steven as the only director he thought could do a film based on his work,” says executive producer Stephane Sperry, who has been involved with the Tintin property for decades and a fan for even longer. “And Steven has always been respectful of that.”
The filmmakers worked closely with Nick and Fanny Rodwell, consulting with the two careful custodians of Hergé’s legacy and experts on all things Tintin. “The most important thing was to honor Hergé and get as close to his very unique sense of palette and portraiture as possible. Every single panel of his told a story in cinematic terms,” observes the director. “There was kinetic energy in every pose and action, and it was almost as if he was trying to squeeze 24 frames into a single frame, and succeeding. That was, I think, the genius of Hergé. Each of his stories had the essence of a movie – and now we could be true to that.”
Spielberg was convinced right away that Jackson was the ideal partner. “Peter told me, ‘If you were here right now, you would see over my shoulder the entire series of Hergé’s books, and I would love to be a part of this,’” Spielberg recalls. “And thus began our process of finding a way to capture that artistic style that so defines Hergé and Tintin, and bring it to the screen.”
Jackson couldn’t wait to tackle the task. “I was thrilled that Steven invited me onboard,” he says. “Steven really is quite similar to the Tintin character,” Jackson comments. “He’s young at heart. He’s very curious. He has a great love of adventure, and his sense of humor pretty much matches what Hergé brought to Tintin. It’s a perfect match.”
In addition to serving as producer for the first film, Spielberg asked Jackson if he would direct the second film in the series. Jackson agreed, and with the blessing and cooperation of Fanny and Nick Rodwell, and the estate of Hergé, the adventure began. Fanny, who is now the President of the Hergé Studios in Brussels, explains, “It was a special honor for us to be associated with these exceptional, creative filmmakers who had our full confidence to bring Tintin to his biggest adventures on the biggest screens. Hergé himself once said, ‘I consider my stories as movies.’ How prophetic!”
In close consultation with the Hergé Estate, the filmmakers enlisted screenwriters Steven Moffat and the team of Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish to craft the adaptation. To introduce audiences to the maximum breadth of Tintin and his various allies and enemies, the filmmakers decided to combine three favorite Tintin books -- The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure – into a singular plot that would keep modern moviegoers exhilarated.
The books were the screenwriters’ lodestar. “Hergé’s stories pull you in with vibrant colors and adventures, but they are so much more – they’re filled with moral concepts, a sense of travel and exoticism, while always introducing you to the grandness of the world and to scientific ideas. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re so central to millions of children’s imaginations – and we wanted to bring all that scope to the screenplay,” sums up Cornish.
They were also guided by the conceptual approach of Spielberg and Jackson who saw elements of film noir, Hitchcockian suspense and special-effects thrillers deep inside Hergé’s playful line drawings – and brought them to fore.
The result, Spielberg says is “part-mystery, part-detective story, as well as a pure unapologetic adventure, all built around a tremendous story of friendship, loyalty and belief between Captain Haddock and Tintin.”
DESIGNING THE WORLD OF TINTIN
The first Steps In Moving from Page to Screen
Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson share not only fertile imaginations but also a drive to venture into frontier realms. From extra-terrestrials to Middle Earth, they have forged unforgettable characters and worlds so breathtakingly original they could never have been experienced outside a movie theatre. And yet, neither had ever applied their skills and artistry to a 3D animated motion picture.
Spielberg and Jackson’s fealty was first and foremost to the Tintin legacy – and their shared passion for Hergé’s transporting drawing style inspired the visual design into a fully animated CG film from day one.
Early on, while the script was still being written, the art department and animation team were set up, and collaborators on both sides of the Pacific began brainstorming ideas for the quirk-filled characters and spicy settings for Tintin. One of the first big decisions they made, one that would inform everything that followed, was to keep the period and texture of the story unmoored in time – set in a kind of eternal noir universe, with dark shadows lurking around every corner.
“These stories could take place in the ‘30s, the ‘50s, the ‘80s or now,” notes Spielberg, “and that’s part of their beauty that we wanted to preserve. What we didn’t want in our movie were cell phones, television sets or modern automobiles. Our design cues came first from Hergé, and not from any presumed period or setting.”
Adds Jackson: “We wanted the film to have the retro, edgy feel of a crime drama. That’s not Tintin himself, but the world that Tintin lives in. There’s so much suspense in the story that we felt we could incorporate people with trench coats, hats down in the rain, street lights casting shadows on the wet pavement -- that’s the world we’ve created for our Tintin to live in.”
Next, the artists, designers and animators started envisioning what Hergé’s art would look like if it existed in three-dimensional space. Despite having been drawn decades ago, the artwork lent itself organically to this, says Richard Taylor, Weta Workshop’s co-owner and the film’s design and effects supervisor. “When you look at Herge’s black pen drawings with watercolor washed in flat on the page, all you have to do is close your eyes and begin to imagine the world of Tintin. You can't help but see it in 3D,” he muses.
It worked so well in part because Hergé had left behind the rules of pure reality when drawing Tintin’s escapades in the first place. “The lines of what Hergé drew were not necessarily accurate,” says senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri. “He wasn’t trying to draft exactly what he saw – and we wanted to maintain those exaggerated qualities in the same way that he did. A big part of the design study was to look at what he did, but then to imagine it from different points of view. And that allowed us to start building up a vocabulary of how you would construct his worlds in a wholly 3D animated realm.”
To bring Hergé’s world alive so audiences can sense the very wind whipping through the virtual air, the art department researched imagery and locations that might represent the various environments where Tintin, Snowy and Haddock find themselves, from the boiling high seas of a stormy ocean to the shifting pink sands of the Sahara Desert. A favorite of the designers was Hergé’s imaginary city of Bagghar, Morocco, a seductive realm of Far East intrigue.
“We looked at many different styles of North African structures, patterns and archways,” says conceptual designer Rebekah Tisch, “and were able to use fascinating shapes and colors to create Bagghar. It left me with a real passion to go see the world – and I hope that people watching Tintin will feel that same fusion of excitement and color.”
On an invitation from Fanny and Nick Rodwell of the Hergé Foundation, lead conceptual designer Chris Guise traveled to Brussels to conduct close-up research into Tintin’s native locale, soaking in the atmosphere that led to the creation of his apartment at 26 Labrador Road and the silhouette of Captain Haddocks’s country home at Marlinspike Hall.
“Chris immersed himself completely in Hergé’s world and looked for his early inspirational images, then came back just bubbling over with a fully rounded sense of place,” remarks Richard Taylor.
Digital model supervisor Marco Revelant further added to the process with his passion for model ships, which are so key to the adventure. Revelant traveled to the Musée de la Marin in Paris to visually dissect the ships on which Hergé based the Brilliant and The Unicorn. “Hergé’s designs are a bit more elaborate yet reduced in size,” says Revelant. “We applied those same adjustments to our digital models.”
Visual effects art director Kim Sinclair looked high and low for authentic vehicles, such as the 1937 Ford seen in the books that were then scanned into the computer to be re-created digitally. “Hergé did some meticulous research into the vehicles, like the Ford and the sea plane, and we were able to know the model and year, and even find the original manufacturer’s color charts,” he explains.
But the most critical design element of all, from the start, was the characters themselves. From Haddock’s humor-spiked poses to the sky-ward texture of Tintin’s hair to the distinguishing shapes of detectives Thompson and Thomson’s moustaches to the emotions crossing Snowy’s snout, every nuance was debated, imagined, re-imagined and then fine-tuned during their intensive meetings.
“We looked at ever character from every angle to make sure they had the Hergé facsimile,” Spielberg recounts. “We were never afraid to say, ‘Well, that particular mold of Captain Haddock’s face doesn’t look like we’re on key with the Hergé art.’”
THE INTREPID AND THE TREACHEROUS
The Cast and Characters of The Adventures of Tintin Behind each of the carefully crafted images is an inspired and skilled performance. A major part of the lure for the actors chosen for the film was Hergé’s inimitable characters, each with their own memorable quirks and foibles that had never been so deeply inhabited before. They include:
Tintin and Snowy
To play the iconic role of the intrepid, boyish reporter who has mirrored countless dreams of adventure, the filmmakers chose Jamie Bell. “Jamie’s performance in Billy Elliot was astonishing to me, not just the subtlety of his acting, but the tremendous physical performance he gave,” Spielberg notes. “Peter and I both thought he had all the right qualities for Tintin.”
Growing up in England, Bell had been a Tintin fan since childhood. “There’s something about Hergé’s art that leaves an imprint on you. It’s unforgettable,” he muses. But now, he had the chance to imprint the character with tangible, human emotions and that thrilled him.
Screenwriter Joe Cornish says that Bell captures Tintin in the mold of the classic Spielberg Everyman – an ordinary kid who finds how extraordinary he can be when life demands it. “To me, he’s like a child’s idea of what it’s like to be a teenager,” Cornish says. “He can do amazing things, yet he maintains an innocence and an insatiable curiosity about the world, a sense that he’s looking for a way to do the right thing in any situation. You feel like anyone can aspire to be Tintin because all you need is the knowledge, the interest and the pureness of heart that takes him through these adventures.”
For Bell, this aspirational quality was the way into the character, taking him far beyond the forelock quiff in his hair that is his trademark. “When you see a young person who is so fearless and so adventurous the way Tintin is, it’s everything you want to be yourself,” he says. “Tintin is a very driven character, a very moral character, and I admire that. He will get to the bottom of things no matter what. But sometimes he’s wrong and that’s when he has to trust in Snowy.”
Snowy, of course, is Tintin’s trusty terrier and sometimes savior. Cornish calls Snowy “almost an embodiment of Tintin’s subconscious” and the trick was animating the character to be both that and just a smart, funny little dog. Though Hergé often ascribed thought bubbles to Tintin’s canine friend, Spielberg felt they could bring Snowy to life in a richly expressive way without that textual effect.
“I think sometimes Tintin makes a great sidekick to Snowy, rather than the other way around,” Spielberg remarks of the much-loved character. “But we decided that if there’s any reality to Tintin at all, it’s that the dog doesn’t talk.”
When Tintin buys a model of the lost ship The Unicorn at a local market, he finds within it a secret that will land him on a hijacked sea freighter called the Karaboudjan, and, ultimately, introduce him to an unlikely but lifelong friend: Captain Haddock, a crusty ocean veteran with seawater in his veins and a bottle of whiskey never far away, who will become at once a foil for Tintin and his rough-and-tumble partner in adventure, through thick and thin.
The Captain has long been a favorite of Tintin fans – the gritty contrast to Tintin’s idealism with his endlessly colorful utterances (“Blistering barnacles!” “Thundering typhoons!”) and most of all, a generous, die-hard friend to Tintin. “Haddock appears at first to be the last guy in the world you’d want tagging along on a dangerous escapade,” says Jackson. “But Tintin sees something else in him. I think Tintin sees the goodness in this man and understands who he can become.”
To play Haddock, Jackson suggested an actor he knew had what it would take to embody all the dynamics of the role: Andy Serkis. “Knowing Andy as well as I did, I knew he’d be absolutely terrific, so I arranged for him to meet Steven, who saw right away what he could bring to it,” he says.
Spielberg adds: “Andy and Jamie had fantastic chemistry as this iconic pairing of a youthful, moral straight shooter and an old, reprobate sea captain. They’re complete opposites, yet Captain Haddock brings many lessons to Tintin’s life, and Tintin really gives Haddock a chance to redeem himself.”
Serkis, who has been a fan of the comic since childhood, decided to give his character, whose origins are open to interpretation, a Scottish brogue that sets the tone for his journey. “It seemed appropriate that Haddock should have a kind of rawness and emotional availability,” Serkis explains. “He’s a great seaman and has great potential as a human being, but he’s kind of lost in self-pity, and it is Tintin, this boy, who helps him realize that he can connect with other people again.”
A Sakharine Villian, Thompson & Thomson and More…
Captain Haddock’s turn-about comes as he and Tintin try to evade the threat of the film’s irascible villain: Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, who believes Tintin has unwittingly stolen the secret of The Unicorn and its long-lost treasure. Taking on the nefarious role is Daniel Craig, best known to filmgoers in the role of the far more noble British spy James Bond. Craig, who has garnered equal acclaim for his dramatic work in a wide variety of films, previously collaborated with Spielberg in the political thriller Munich. But he had never taken on a character quite like Sakharine before.
He relished the chance to cut loose with the mercurial bad-man. “I had a lot of fun with Sakharine, and tried to make him as evil and twisted and strange as I possibly could,” he says.
Adding further antics to Tintin’s adventures are Thompson & Thomson—two detectives distinguishable only by the shapes of their moustaches and the letter “p” in one of their names. To play the pair of ham-handed investigators the filmmakers immediately had one common thought in mind: the comic team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who have brought their irreverent sensibilities to such hit films as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
“Peter and I knew we wanted to cast a team as Thompson & Thomson,” Spielberg says. “Then Peter suggested Simon and Nick, who are uniquely funny together and a wonderful addition to the cast.”
Pegg and Frost realized they could have a blast with the detective duo. “We have a certain kind of synchronicity that fed into playing these two bumbling partners,” Pegg allows. “They’re in the great tradition of silent movie stars like Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. They’re fastidious but ultimately faltering, and though they consider themselves to be the greatest detectives in the world, they’re clearly the worst. So, we got to do a lot of silly stuff.”
They also had an opportunity to do what they do best: let their natural comic rapport unfold in the moment. “The difficult thing as actors was thinking about what the Thom(p)sons would do in between each panel,” Frost explains. “That’s where lots of characterization came in for us.”
Throughout the film, the Thompson & Thomson are in the throes of what is, for them, hot pursuit of a pickpocket, Aristedes Silk, a role taken by Toby Jones, who played Dobby the House Elf in the Harry Potter series. Silk, says Jones, is in it for love rather than evil. “He’s someone who enjoys the art of pickpocketing because he loves wallets. There’s something very moving, in a way, about his passion for pickpocketing. He’s the classic example of the Hergé idea that someone may look like a terrible person, but not be one at all,” he explains.
Also figuring into the plot is Nestor, the loyal butler at the storied manse of Marlinspike Hall, played by character actor Enn Reitel. “Like so many butlers, he knows where all the skeletons are hidden, but also like all butlers, he has incredible loyalty to his master, which, at least for the moment, is Sakharine,” says Reitel (who also plays the merchant who sells Tintin a dangerous ship model).
Rounding out the story’s cast of criminals are a pair of thugs, Allan and Tom, played by Daniel Mays and Mackenzie Crook, and the wealthy merchant Ben Salaad, played by Moroccan-born actor Gad Elmaleh. The popular French actor/comedian, whose father was a mime, relished the body language Spielberg encouraged him to bring to the role. “It felt, to me, like the Comedia Dell’arte, the great Italian stage comedies,” he says. “I grew up in this culture and love it, and Steven wanted me to express Ben Salaad in this tradition. It was a gift.”
“Gad brought a great energy to the film,” Kathleen Kennedy says. “He’s treacherous but, in keeping with Hergé’s take on things, funny and strangely loveable at the same time.”
Another fixture from the Tintin books -- the imperious, glass-shattering opera singer Bianca Castafiore -- is played by Phantom of the Opera diva Kim Stengel. “”As we developed the script, we weren’t deliberately trying to write her into the story,” explains Jackson. “It just happened that there was a role that was perfect for her, so she ended up in the movie in a way that is quite delightful.”
Other Tintin characters who make appearances in the film include Tintin’s landlady Mrs. Finch (Sonja Fortag); Lt. Delacourt (Tony Curran); and the only American character in the film, Barnaby, a detective trying to warn Tintin of the danger he’s getting himself into, played by comic actor Joe Starr.
One common thread seemed to run throughout the international cast: a sheer love for the books and a passion to be part of the film. “We all have something in our childhood that touches us,” sums up Cary Elwes, who takes on the role of an attacking pilot. “For me, it was Tintin.”
IMAGINARY CHARACTERS, TRUE PERFORMANCES:
On The Performance Capture Stage
It took two intensive years of research, development, design, pre-production, screenwriting and casting, but at last the time came for the actors, filmmakers and over 200 crew to converge at the performance capture soundstages of Playa Vista, CA-based Giant Studios --- and enter the world of Hergé. Here is where the major alchemy would take place, as the soulful, emotional performances of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig and the entire cast were recorded in the moment, and transmogrified into faithful renderings of Hergé’s ink-and-watercolor stories.
Once on the stage, Spielberg was constantly innovating, matching the performance capture technology to his storytelling instincts, and encouraging his team to think up novel solutions to the most vexing visual problems. He and Jackson ended up driving a mini-revolution in the field with a revolutionary system – dubbed the virtual camera -- that would allow the director a more traditional relationship with the actors and in-the-moment command of the film, all while “seeing” an animated 3D world.
“I didn’t want to divest myself of those instinctive moments that occur on traditional sets, so we came up with a new way to make it more seamless,” says Spielberg.
Entirely unlike a traditional soundstage set, the performance capture process unfolds on what’s called a Volume—a clean, white-and-grey stage featuring up to 100 cameras mounted in a grid on the ceiling, able to capture 360-degree coverage and render that data into three-dimensional space. On the Volume, all the actors (and also the wire-framed props and set dressings) wear reflective dots that are picked up by the camera in less than a 60th of a second, and interpreted into a 3D virtual moving picture.
In addition, another eight HD video cameras captured the raw performances as they unfolded. This was later used as reference for the animators to make sure every grimace, smile, shiver and nuance of emotion, from fear to friendship, came through as the actors’ performances were morphed into digital creations.
Operating the virtual camera using a device slightly larger than a video game controller with a monitor attached, Spielberg was able to walk through the Volume, watch the actors’ avatars interacting within the film’s universe on the virtual camera’s monitor, and compose the shots he wanted in real time. The actors, too, could see themselves in the movie’s world on monitors positioned throughout the studio, allowing them instant feedback.
“The ability to see the playback in real time was so important to both director and actors,” says Joe Letteri. “We worked with Giant Studios very closely to develop that, and that collaboration was very successful because they've understood everything has to be as realistic as possible in the moment.”
While the virtual camera could only offer the lower-res picture quality of a video game, it was more than enough to ignite Spielberg’s creativity and the new technique clicked immediately for him, allowing the director to paint with light and image in a way he never had before.
In addition, an earlier Weta breakthrough – the process known as “image-based facial performance capture,” used to forge the compelling emotional realism of the Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and to create the otherworldly Pandorans in James Cameron’s Avatar – was commandeered by Spielberg to add to the rich characterizations of The Adventures of Tintin.
When using this system, the actors wear a football-type helmet rigged with a tiny camera aimed directly at their faces – allowing a digital recording of the slightest, expressive movements of their eyes, lips and facial muscles. For Spielberg this put the emphasis exactly where he wanted it: on the power of emotionally true performances.
“Every single human being represented in Tintin is an actor giving a full performance -- an emotional performance, a villainous performance – and that all shines through the digital makeup,” the director comments. “We watched Hergé’s characters be reborn as living beings, expressing feelings and displaying souls, and the effect was startling.”
The actor with the most performance capture experience of anyone in the world, Andy Serkis, became the group leader, helping the other actors acclimate. For all his experience with the medium, Serkis was inspired by the transformation he saw in Spielberg and Jackson as they worked together. “It was amazing to see them both really bouncing off each other creatively,” he says. “They’re both so passionate about filmmaking, and it sometimes seemed like this was the first film they’d ever made—they had that kind of energy. They were coming up with ideas at such a quick rate, it was dizzying.”
The time-consuming process was also new to many of the actors. Each morning prior to shooting, the actors would go through two “range of motion” scans, one for the face and one for the body. Once these scans were completed, the cameras could identify the actors in the Volume and translate their actions into a moving skeleton, so they could then be layered over with character “makeup” in post-production.
For Jamie Bell, the Volume felt more like a minimalist theater than a movie set, but that aspect, he says, actually enhanced the work. “It’s an interesting way to work, because the movie set is in your head,” Bell explains. “We were focused on giving these characters life and making them breathe. Then, in this 3D animated world they’ve created, we could see all of our heart and soul and anger coming through. It was remarkable.”
Bell had to act in scenes with a wire frame Snowy, a stuffed Snowy for “stunts,” and an articulated Snowy on wheels --- all operated by property master Brad Elliott who also brought with him years of experience in puppetry at Jim Henson’s company that he turned into a performance.
“It made sense for the actors to have something to interact with,” Elliot explains, “and because Snowy is such a big part of this movie, it was a real privilege for me to do Snowy.”
Throughout, Spielberg cultivated an atmosphere where anything could happen on the performance capture stage. The entire cast was often all be in the Volume, performing stunts, acting on custom-made gimbals to represent planes, cars or ships, and, with Spielberg and Jackson’s encouragement, improvising.
FROM VIRTUAL TO REALITY:
Finalizing The Full Film Experience in Post Production Once the thrilling work with the actors in the Volume was completed, the animation team at Weta began the 18-month process of refining, sculpting and detailing each of the film’s 1,240 shots, before putting them through the final rendering process. It was here that filmmakers began playing with visual themes, cinematic moods and tricky lighting effects in each individual scene, finalizing the look of the film.
Using the stylized world created by Hergé as a template, the artists an animators set-out to bring to life the world of Tintin. “Everything Hergé created has a unique look and color,” recalls Joe Letteri. “His original works already had an animated feel as if his drawings were just waiting to come to life.”
For animation supervisors Jamie Beard and Paul Story, it was the beginning of fully realizing an animated world of Hergé’s characters. “The performance capture process is just the first step for us,” explains Beard. Because Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and all the other actors do not resemble their characters in a literal sense, the animation teams lead by Beard and Story began the process of applying the performance captured on stage to the digital character models built by the Weta team.
“What we have to do is look at the actor’s performance and ask, ‘How does that performance fit into our character design,’ “ says Beard. “We basically start with a rough skeleton over a low-res geometry form of what that character is and from there we basically go in a refine the body motion,” adds Story.
“In a traditional animated film, you would have the actors cast for the voice performance and ultimately how they deliver the lines in the recording booth informs your choices of animation,” explains Letteri.
The animation process for ‘Tintin’ relied heavily on performance capture for the characters’ final render. “Having actors in the mix just gives us a quality of life that is hard to achieve any other way,” continues Letteri. “An actor’s performance underlying all the animation really gives you continuity throughout the film. In traditional animation, that is called ‘keeping the character on model.’ Here, we have the actors who are the ones essentially keeping the character on model. That’s why we like to work with the best actors possible when we’re creating a process like this as it gives us the freedom to expand on those performances and to add a heightened sense of realism, drama, comedy or any other ideas that come up along the way.”
Throughout the post-production process, many aspects of the characters were also refined, always using additional video reference footage shot in the Volume to assure every moment of digital performance reflected the actor’s emotional choices.
Finally, The Adventures of Tintin was rendered a second time to accommodate the digital 3-D process. “Because Tintin was fully rendered in a computer, it made the three-dimensional aspect of the film relatively easy to do,” Jackson remarks. “But it’s very striking with this film in particular. Just the thought of seeing Tintin on the big screen in 3-D makes me feel like a kid again.”
Working in tandem with the team at Weta was longtime Spielberg collaborator and Academy Award® winning editor Michael Kahn. Spielberg and Kahn have been known as being among the last filmmakers in Hollywood to still edit on film -- a medium they both still love in a tactile way. Though Kahn has edited other films digitally, The Adventures of Tintin marks the first time he and Spielberg edited on an Avid. Once Kahn completed his cut of the film, Spielberg showed it to Jackson, and then, earlier in the post-production process than usual, the cut was delivered to legendary maestro John Williams, who has scored all but one of Spielberg’s films.
For the director, Williams’ music became the final, crucial element of The Adventures of Tintin, the last deeply human touch that helped to combine all the human performances with the digital creations to create a singular experience of adventure and friendship.
“John is the bonding agent that unifies all the disparate, eclectic elements of a movie, and with this score, he captures the energy and spirit of Tintin as only he can,” Spielberg concludes.
THE LEGACY OF HERGÉ
In 1929, a 21 year-old Belgian illustrator created a new comic strip featuring a bold cub reporter and his white Fox Terrier traveling in the Soviet Union. The comic, known as Tintin, was an immediate hit with readers -- but the fledgling artist known as Hergé (a play on his given name, Georges Remi, reversing the initials to RG) could not have foreseen the incredible, long-lived adventure his character was about to embark upon.
Five decades and two dozen graphic novels later, Tintin has won millions and millions of hearts of every age group in nearly every country around the world, becoming a fixture of childhood in Europe and Asia, and establishing a cult following in the U.S. Each year, the books continue to find new fans, most recently being translated into Hindi. The phenomenon has spawned toys and collectibles, fan clubs and publications, as well as adaptations on the stage, radio and television – and now, at last, an inventive motion picture that brings the characters to life as they have never been seen before.
What is the source of Tintin’s seemingly limitless appeal? For many it comes down to Hergé’s original concoction of the simple with the complex: his relatable, recognizable characters with their multi-faceted human foibles, his whirlwind escapades with their elements of intricate mystery, political thrillers and sci-fi, and his drawing style that featured straightforward, line-drawn characters in lavishly detailed, color-filled worlds that could spark every imagination.
Hergé famously said, “I couldn’t tell a story except in the form of a drawing” – and it was his artwork that drew so many into Tintin’s world. But it was also the core of the character that appealed across language, culture and time, as almost anyone, anywhere, could envision themselves as this young man whose compass through all his wild travels are his friendships and desire to be on the side of good.
As time went on and Hergé published one highly anticipated Tintin book after another, the artist’s expressive, uncluttered ligne claire style would influence a growing list pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, the latter of whom created a portrait of Hergé at the artist’s request.
In 1983, Hergé passed away, leaving his 24th Tintin book (Tintin and the Alpha-Art) unfinished. But it was clear that Tintin’s legacy would only grow and that he would continue to inspire and enchant fans around the world.
With The Adventures of Tintin, the filmmakers hope a new generation will have the chance to discover a world as full of inspiration as ever. Sums up Kathleen Kennedy: “For us, it’s gratifying that first-time, casual and passionate Tintin lovers can all have an entirely new experience with the characters and the story.”
ABOUT THE CAST While still a teenager, JAMIE BELL shot to worldwide fame starring in the title role of Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot. Among the many honors he received for the performance were the BAFTA Award for Best Actor, and the British Independent Film Award for Best Newcomer.
The northern England native portrayed Charles Dickens’ memorable character Smike in writer/director Douglas McGrath’s screen adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, for which he and his colleagues shared the National Board of Review Award for Best Acting by an Ensemble.
Mr. Bell’s subsequent films include David Gordon Green’s Undertow, opposite Dermot Mulroney and Josh Lucas; Thomas Vinterberg’s Dear Wendy, opposite Alison Pill; Peter Jackson’s epic King Kong; and Clint Eastwood’s acclaimed Flags of Our Fathers, in which he portrayed real-life WWII hero Ralph Ignatowski.
Among his other movies are David Mackenzie’s Hallam Foe (a.k.a. Mister Foe), opposite Sophia Myles, for which he earned a British Independent Film Award nomination, and a BAFTA (Scotland) Award, for Best Actor; Arie Posin’s The Chumscrubber; Doug Liman’s Jumper, with Hayden Christensen; and Edward Zwick’s Defiance, alongside Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Wasikowska; Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, alongside Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender; and Kevin Macdonald’s The Eagle, opposite Channing Tatum.
He is currently at work on Carl Tibbetts’ TheRetreat, starring opposite Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton; and Asger Leth’s Man on a Ledge, starring with Sam Worthington.