Robert Crumb meets the Estonian school of animation in this delightfully creepy short by Gobelins student Kevin Manach (previously on Cartoon Brew). He made Vésuves during an exchange program at CalArts.
Alan Menken’s song “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast sounds familiar to a theme from the first movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. It’s a good thing that the Walt Disney Company respects the purpose and intent of public domain laws that allow artists like Menken to be inspired by earlier creative works. Oh wait…
(via Nick Cross’s Twitter)
Steven Spielberg’s new Adventures of Tintin is the most technically ambitious film version of Tintin to date, but it is hardly the first time Hergé’s boy reporter has been brought to life. To help place Spielberg’s efforts into context, we turned to someone far more qualified than us, French writer and artist David Calvo. In this exclusive piece for Cartoon Brew, he takes a look at the highs and lows of prior Tintin screen adaptations and helps us understand where Spielberg’s performance capture film fits into the picture. When he’s not being a Tintinologist, Calvo is a creative consultant and writer at Ankama, where he has played a key role in developing the popular MMORPG Wakfu. He has also written numerous novels, comic books and short stories, and draws the on-line comic Song of Beulah.
The History of Tintin Adaptations: From Misonne to Spielberg
by David Calvo
It’s been a long time coming. We can read everywhere how Steven Spielberg and Hergé missed their rendez-vous, at the dawn of the 1980s, a few weeks before the Belgian comic master passed away. We’re now resigned to the American side having the upper hand. Today, we can feel Spielberg and Peter Jackson oozing in every frame of the new Tintin, childhood memories and artist’s pride perspiring behind the dual banter of the Thomson and Thomson. The star filmmaking duo have managed to bring this hot, harshly defended property to a new media. Without delving into the technical aspects of this production, adapting Hergé’s master comic book is already a daunting task. It has been done before–sometimes for the best, mostly, for the worst.
“The Crab with the Golden Claws”
The crowning jewel of all Tintin adaptations is the “The Crab with the Golden Claws” handkerchief puppet extravaganza by Hergé’s friend Claude Misonne and her husband JoÃ£o B. Michiels. Splendid and boring, so abstracted, this stop motion tour de force managed to be a scrupulous, if non-inventive, duplication of the comic, filled with wonderful voice performances, horrendous stock shots, and plagued by severe budget problems. The movie was shown only once in theaters, in December, 1947, in front of two thousand kids. The film was seized next morning by the justice, because the adaptation fees wee never paid. The movie has now achieved cult status as the first Belgian animated feature, a visionary precursor in stop motion history.
“Tintin et le MystÃ¨re de la Toison d’or”
Often cited as the worst thing you can do to Hergé, the two live-action movies of the Sixties, “Tintin et le MystÃ¨re de la Toison d’or” (“Tintin and the Golden Fleece”, Jean-Jacques Vierne, 1961) et “Tintin et les Oranges bleues” (“Tintin and the Blue Oranges”, Philippe Condroyer, 1964), deserve to have their reputations rehabilitated today. If “la Toison d’Or” fares better than the “Oranges Bleues,” it’s because of the exoticism, the touristic adventures, and the multiple references to the Tintin canon. Despite their cruel lack of any cinematic values and terrible scripts (both are original stories by André Barret), these playful, lush productions were able to pull the major feat of having perfect main characters: a Tintin superbly played twice by Jean Pierre Talbot, and two Haddock incarnations, Georges Wilson and Jean Bouise–both major French actors bringing uncanny depth to this difficult character.
Belvision’s Tintin series
The Sixties were the apotheosis of the Franco-Belgian comic-book school, and Belgian studios Belvision, founded by Le journal de Tintin editor Raymond Leblanc, had a winning streak of flair. First they adapted Tintin as a cartoon TV show. Produced by Ray Goossens, the seven serials were aired between 1959 and 1964 as five-minute shorts, for a total of 50 episodes (only “The Calculus Affair” was bundled as a feature film). Despite having brought the best animators in Europe to Brussels, the old-fashioned animation and funny characterization perks struggled to overcome the horrid scripts and schematic action. To fit the format, the albums were condensed and chopped, often badly, but the overall thrust of non-stop action and cliffhangers, typical of any serialized mystery, worked perfectly on TV. Curiously, Belvision also produced a stunning fifteen-minute industrial film, “Tintin et la SGM” (1970), to promote a Belgian mining company. (Watch a clip from the industrial film.)
The animated feature “Tintin and the Temple of the Sun”
Next, Belvision seized the big screen with two animated features, which are still a Christmas fixture in France. “Le Temple du Soleil” (“Tintin and the Temple of the Sun,” 1969) was a deeply faithful adaptation of the source material (with thoughtful alteration by comic book artist and journal de Tintin editor Greg). A more technically challenging endeavor, enhanced by a splendid soundtrack featuring a song written by Jacques Brel, the musical alter ego of Hergé. Even if the movie only focused on the second part of the two-album story arc (which will be “adapted” next by Peter Jackson), it retains a large part of the adventurous setting and rhythm. The next feature, “Tintin et le lac aux requins” (Tintin and the Lake of Sharks, 1972) is a funny, original Tintin story pitched by Greg, featured an awesome visit to Syldavia and touching characters, though lacking animation brio and depth.
Opening titles for The Adventures of Tintin
In 1992, The Adventures of Tintin, a new animated TV series aired on FR3, co-produced by France Ellipse studios and Canadian outfit Nelvana (directed by Stephen Bernasconi, assisted by Tintinologist Philippe Goddin). It had a huge success in primetime. The sheer scope forces the admiration: all Hergé’s albums are converted, except for the most controversial (“Tintin in the Congo” and “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets,” while “Tintin in America” was heavily tweaked to erase the Native American problems). Eighteen 45-minutes episodes, and three 24-minute ones, achingly faithful and masterfully executed, were produced. Maybe too faithful. Clean and respectful, lacking any hint of craziness, this adaptation got rid of most of Tintin’s quirky element–guns, politics, alcohol–to provide neutered family entertainment devoid of any risk. One of the key aspects of Hergé’s work was his perfect balance between reality and fantasy. The episodes have been syndicated many times since, cut up and chopped in every possible combination to re-create a serialized experience.
At the dawn of the 21st century, Tintin is back for the masses. Belches and zoophilic jokes aside, it is a clever twist thrusting a quaint, old-school narrative into the future. The movie texture is stunning, everything reflects the overwhelming obsession of Spielberg, including reflection itself, and the fabric gives a sense of depth and place achingly relevant in achieving that “ligne claire” dryness to every overexposed shape. The details are inspiring: the tiny, drunkards eyes of Haddock, his cartoon nose, Tintin’s hands (beautiful), the Thomson’s moustaches and greasy skin. The somewhat jumble of the script, blending two majors storyline with details from all over the oeuvre, manages to remain faithful and utterly sacrilegious at the same time. The whole movie lacks the whimsical, restrained tempo of Hergé, that, despite their short-comings, the previous adaptations managed to pull out.
This over-emphasis on heavy action set pieces, with barely a pause for the characters to breathe, is deeply troubling. Are world mass audiences hungry for more action, more technical bravado, trampling the subtle inheritance of of the most idiosyncratic saga of our time? The shiny, invisible center of Hergé’s mind is still missing from all these adaptations. The endearing success of Tintin is not one of motion, nor emotion. It is tied to the page, to the frame. Subject and Form linked in a perfect, beautiful harmony that cannot translate, giving birth to a singular expression of a universal time frame, frozen forever in a quaint space between conservatism and rebellion. We will have to wait again–this time for Peter Jackson bravado–to see if the Hollywoodization of Tintin’s quirky sensibility can exist in another space.
Several more outstanding Christmas films from animators far and wide. Some of these are greeting cards, one is a commercial spot, another a segment from a TV show…
First up, from London-based Beakus, this sweet little piece by Matthias Hoegg for client CBeebies, guaranteed to make you feel all warm and tingly…
Vancouver animator Trent Corey, who worked on Sony’s Smurfs movie, sent us this:
Kirsten Lepore (Bottle) did this spot for the Yo Gabba Gabba Christmas Special! (Nick Jr.). Music by Adam Deibert, performed by James Husband:
Seed is a stop motion short directed by Ben Richardson and Daniel Bird about “an egg and an apple who build competing broadcast towers that vie for the attention of a transistor radio” with a “narrative of animal evolution, competition and reproduction.” Your mileage may vary–I personally found the storytelling obtuse and drawn-out–but it’s an undeniably attractive piece of stop motion with lovely photography and production design.
Get ready for a treat! Virgina Mahoney has started building a virtual Fleischer History Museum online at the Fleischer Studios website.
The first exhibit is now open and its dedicated to “Christmas at Fleischer Studios”. Ginny writes:
“Since Christmas was a special holiday for them… a good time to show off their drawing skills, get together, be crazy, and party! This was a nutty group and this exhibit shows it. To visit the exhibit go to our website – Fleischerstudios.com – Click on the word ‘Museum’ near the top of the page (under Fleischer Studios) This will take you to our museum site– where you can click to enter our first exhibit ‘Christmas’. This is a ‘preview,’ an early look at our first exhibit. We plan to have an Official Museum Opening sometime in January.”
Ginny has posted 86 Fleischer staff Christmas cards, from the likes of Max and Dave Fleischer, Dick Huemer, Shamus Culhane, Al Eugster, Ted Sears, Dave Tendlar and dozens of others. In addition, she’s uploaded rare footage from the 1935 Fleischer Studio Christmas party, and the entire contents (24 pages) of the 1939, 40 and 41 Flipper Club menus and program books. These rare items contain articles by Pinto Colvig, Tedd Pierce and Dan Gordon, and rare artwork by Grim Natwick, Dave Tendlar, Gordon Sheehan and lots of lettering my the mysterious Fleischer/Famous calligrapher (the cover for the 1939 edition – thumbnail below right – gives a credit “Cover design by Arthur Greenbaum”. Is that the mysterious Fleischer lettering genius?).
All-in-all, this is a must-see; An early Christmas present from the Fleischer family to all of us who appreciate the artists behind the great Paramount cartoons.
Looking for something to do after all the presents have been opened and all the parties are over? On Monday, December 26th at 2 & 7 pm, The Alex Film Society (of which I am a part of) will be presenting the 2nd annual Greatest Cartoons Ever event at The Alex Theatre in Glendale California (216 N. Brand Boulevard).
Each year we select eight great cartoon shorts from the golden age of animation, then project rare 35mm film prints (some of them in original Technicolor; all of the from the studio vaults) on the large Alex Theatre screen. Great characters, great films and an incredible movie-going experience. This year’s program includes:
Duck Amuck (Daffy Duck, 1953, Warner Bros.)
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Mouse (Tom & Jerry, 1947, MGM)
Mother Goose’s Birthday Party (Mighty Mouse, 1950, 20th Century Fox)
Popeye Meets Ali Baba (with Olive Oyl & Bluto, 1937, Paramount)
Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951, UPA, Columbia)
Lonesome Ghosts (Mickey, Donald & Goofy, 1937, Disney)
Woody Woodpecker (1941, Universal)
What’s Opera, Doc? (Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd, 1957, Warner Bros.)
Tickets on sale now online or at the box office. Hope to see you there!
What’s Cookin’ Doc? Another classic card from Eddie Selzer and family. Click the image below to see enlarged to full size.
(Courtesy the collection of Tim Walker)
Our long national nightmare is almost over. The trailers and billboards for The Adventures of Tintin will start to disappear as the film opens today in the USA – and the manufactured enthusiasm starts to wind down.
This is not “the future of animation”. Mo-cap works for alien creatures, penguins and “apes”. It works for games. It will not replace human beings in narrative stories for motion pictures. I’m sure there are clever and correct uses for motion capture technology – outside of James Cameron (Avatar) and Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), I haven’t seen it yet.
The Adventures of Tintin is a major letdown. Surprisingly, the core problem for me wasn’t the use of mo-cap, but the lack of empathy with the major characters. We are never properly introduced to Tintin, nor why we should care what happens to him. Or why he looks like that. Or has a gun.
Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’ creates animated, nonstop, excruciating headache by Tom Long
A clamorous headache of a movie, it’s hard to say who the intended audience for “The Adventures of Tintin” might be.
Is it 60-year-olds who want to relive fond memories of a childhood hero? It’s hard to imagine today’s youth being taken with a youngster in knee-pants with a funny hair cut that looks plastered on.
Or is this a film for techno-geeks who want to see just how far director Steven Spielberg can push motion-capture animation? To answer that question, he can push it too far. “Tintin” is the sort of nonstop noise parade that quickly becomes exhausting rather than exciting.
You know how Harrison Ford sighed, pulled his gun and just shot a threatening bad guy in the first “Indiana Jones”? You want to do that to Tintin after about half an hour. And he’s the hero.
The plot is a mess, essentially just a set-up for scene after scene after scene after scene of animated stunts that have no real effect. It starts out with someone being murdered, then Tintin (Jamie Bell) gets kidnapped and taken aboard a boat where he teams up with a drunkard captain (Andy Serkis) to find clues to a sunken treasure, battling all the while with a dastardly bad guy (Daniel Craig).
This film offers no context – who is this Tintin guy; why does he dress like that; how come the kid wields guns; who pays for his stylist and why hasn’t that stylist been shot? Without knowing something about or caring about the character it’s hard to invest in the action, especially since it’s animated. It should be character first, then story, then action, but “Tintin” reverses all that to disastrous effect. You’re just plopped into an action-adventure story with a character you know nothing about.
Unless, of course, you’re that 60-year-old reliving fond memories of a childhood hero. In which case, well, have fun. But no one else will.
What did you think? Did you love it? Per our standard “talkback” rules, our comments section is only open to those who have actually seen the film. All other comments will be deleted.
Indie animation’s most eligible bachelor, Bill Plympton, is tying the knot!
For those who don’t know, Plympton is essentially New York City’s “king of independent animation”; Flament is a Paris-based illustrator who has worked as an assistant on several of Plympton’s films. My personal best-wishes to both of them. Bill can be congratulated in the Comments below.
I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid for Tex Avery, for years now. Little did I know Avery actually directed a Kool-Aid TV spot, until I came across one in my collection this past weekend. Credits for such commercials are scarce, so if this isn’t Avery I don’t know what is. Love the politically incorrect native American designs and Thurl Ravenscroft’s narration. “Oh Yeah!”
We are being bombarded with holiday wishes from animators all over the world. We simply can’t post them all, but here’s a sampling of some of our favorites:
First up, from Corrie Francis, an incredible sand animation.
This is the third music video Billy Polard has made using the Nintendo DSi’s Flipnote animation program:
And finally (for now), from those blokes at Mukpuddy Animation in New Zealand: