March 18, 2012
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Spielberg honours 'Tintin' legacy
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency


(Handout photo)

Great snakes! Stephen Spielberg's wonderful animated film, The Adventures of Tintin, is a visual delight and great storytelling.

In whole, although it Anglicizes the original French character, Spielberg deftly honours the memory of Belgian cartoonist Herge. This is welcome and appropriate because Herge created the beloved boy reporter and his intrepid dog Snowy in 1929 and turned him into an icon in Europe.

Sadly, Herge died in 1983 just a few months after meeting with Spielberg to discuss what would eventually become this high-tech and yet utterly charming movie. For nearly 30 years, Spielberg worked with Herge's widow, Fanny Vlamynck, to develop his version of Tintin. He had to wait until animation technology caught up with his desire to do the right thing. That makes this week's DVD and Blu-ray debut worthy of a celebration.

The celebration is best represented by the excellent three-disc 3D Limited Edition combo pack. It combines the basic DVD, digital copy, a 3D Blu-ray disc and the separate 2D Blu-ray. That last one contains a generous menu of bonus materials, including visits with Spielberg and his collaborator, Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings fame. Among many things, they show how they created Tintin's timeless cartoon world, which is deeply rooted in the 20th century and yet seems contemporary, too.

The filmmakers also show us how Tintin was animated.

But is The Adventures of Tintin really an animated film? Not according to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Oscar disqualified Tintin for a nomination in the best animated feature category, which was eventually won by Rango.


According to Oscar, "an animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of more than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters' performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75% of the picture's running time."

The Hollywood Academy's definition does not jive with other awards groups. The Adventures of Tintin won the animated feature category at the Golden Globes. It was nominated in the same category in Britain's BAFTAs. The Producers Guild of America named it winner in its animation slot. Even the Annie Awards, which are held only for animated films, accepted Tintin. It was nominated for five Annies and won two of them.

So what is the problem? Motion capture! The Academy seems to be the only significant body that is resisting mo-cap as an art form. This is egregious in the feature animation race but also in the acting categories. Andy Serkis should have been Oscar-nominated as best actor for his stunning portrayal of the chimpanzee Caesar in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Not coincidentally, Serkis also co-stars in The Adventures of Tintin, conjuring two more memorable characters -- the colourful drunk Captain Haddock and his sea-faring ancestor Sir Francis.

This is not just voice work. This is pure performance, just as Jamie Bell so vividly lives inside of the Tintin character. Bell obviously was inspired by working with Serkis, who has perfected mo-cap work since first doing Gollum for The Lord of the Rings (Serkis is reprising the character in Jackson's The Hobbit, a two-part epic that is now filming).

The point is that, once the mo-cap performances are locked in, the computer animators go to work. That is just as important. And it is animation to everyone except that stubborn fellow, Oscar. The time to give motion capture its proper due in Hollywood filmmaking is already overdue. Meanwhile, however, we get to enjoy movies as good as The Adventures of Tintin.

 




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