Could Tintin be next?

Most of us have probably heard the news by now about Disney’s latest mega-flop, Mars Needs Moms. While movies like Tangled continue to make a good profit, this film did very poorly.  The film was made using motion-capture technology…that’s right,the same technique Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn will be made with. Lots of pages have been going on and on about how this might mean Tintin will do poorly as well. But is that really a fair statement?

Is the world really sick and tired of motion-capture?  There are diverse opinions on whether motion capture has ever really been the best choice over animation and whether it has ever really worked. I think it has simply had it’s ups and downs, but many seem to really complain about it. Common complaints about motion-capture technology are the lack of life in the characters eyes and what is known as ”The uncanny valley effect” , a technical name for that kind of gross feeling you get when you look at a robot or animation that seems like it’s trying a bit to hard to look like a human and instead just winds up looking creepy.  I don’t want to debate the controversial issue of how good or bad previous mo-cap movies have looked in the past or whether people’s complaints on the subject are justified or not. But I would like to try to show that Tintin probably WON’T have any of these problems.

I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to post the 3 long overdue HD images revealed months ago in empire’s article,that we only had scans of. Addressing the ”Uncanny valley” effect, I would like to point out that this normally happens because the animation is trying to make a computer generated images look too much like a person. This is not the case with Tintin. Look at the images below. They’re packed with detail, but also look enough like a cartoon to avoid the ”Uncanny valley” effect. The Thompson’s noses,for example,make them look more like the characters from the book then real people. After all,that was the whole reason Spielberg chose motion-capture for the film in the first place!  The idea is not to reproduce real people in a digital world,but to reproduce Hergé’s friendly lovable cartoon characters.

It is really impossible to tell what will happen with the eyes since we have not seen anything in motion,but I think that the expression on Silk in the image below looks incredibly devious, and Barnaby’s face looks very nice as well. The eyes look pretty good to me so far.  These images are huge,so right click on them and open them in a new tab to see them in their full digital glory.

Here Barnaby looks like he is either asking for help or in pain. I really like the lighting in this shot and the way they brought Barnaby to life. Go grab your copy of ”The Secret of the Unicorn” and compare the two. They are really similar,even if this exact scene never takes place in the book. A perfect example of a combination between staying true to the book and taking some liberties with the story.

This shot looks more like a cartoon then any of the others. The white border in this shot around the characters actually worries me a bit,as it has Chris. But in any case,it is not your traditional motion-capture appearance problem. Hopefully in motion we will be able to understand the odd lighting better. The sand dunes look awesome though. I can’t wait to see this on an imax screen.

So,to wrap this up, we will have to see if the world is ready to give motion-cap at least one more chance, but there has never been a better reason to do so. Anyway,the release date is so far away,I doubt many people will even give Mars Needs Moms a thought when they see the Tintin movie. Are the makers of Tintin scared?  Not at all.  Jamie Bell himself is even confident that the film is going to blow us all away when we see it and outdo any other motion capture film we’ve seen. The star said in an interview: “I don’t think motion-capture has ever met with the right material yet, and Tintin is perfect because we needed control of the world.” Whether he went a little bit overboard with that statement or not, only time will tell. One thing is certain: what we see in the trailer will be VERY important. I think it would be best for them to include some pretty impressive shots in the trailer rather than save it all for the premiere. The Tintin movie,especially in America, will need an important advertising campaign. But we are  talking Spielberg and Jackson here! I believe any possible troubled Tintin fans may rest assured that people will go to see this movie.


  1. Mike Dutton

    Do you know what the problem is with Zemekis’ motion capture? He tries too hard to make the characters look like real people. With James Cameron’s Avatar, they weren’t real people, and that’s why they worked better. Tintin has the same deal.

    This film shows how Motion Capture should be done: they make the characters from the books look like real people, but they don’t over-step the mark that Zemekis does (with the exception of maybe Christmas Carol), in a sense that they have the silly beards, moustaches, ridiculous noses, but at the same time, they look like they could really exist, regardless of their unusual features. That’s exactly what Herge did with his characters.

    Tintin fans who complain that they don’t look enough like real people does astound me, because in all honesty, Hergé’s characters never looked like they could really exist (Rastapopoulos’ nose, anyone?). The fact is, Hergé drew caricatures of real life people, and Spielberg and Jackson are doing the exact same thing, adding not all that much new to it. They look exactly how Hergé’s characters would look in a 3-Dimensional world. The characters in Hergé’s books are perfect, and so are they in the movie.

    But as everyone (quite rightly) keeps saying, we won’t be able to say for sure that that is the case until we’ve seen a trailer. But hey, the longer we wait, the closer we’re getting. As each day goes by, we get closer to seeing the trailer and the movie. Yeah, that’s obvious, but perhaps the more impatient, the more excited we’ll be, and maybe, our response to the trailer will be even greater. Only time will tell, of course…

  2. Pe-ads

    “The idea is not to reproduce real people in a digital world,but to reproduce Hergé’s friendly lovable cartoon characters.”

    ‘Nuff said.

  3. Tim

    ^Then why not just make it traditional animation like the Herge cartoon?? To me, using photo real animation and real-life human motion is the WORST decision ever made. And why is the whole Internet community dissing Zemeckis? It’s not like Polar Express or Christmas Carol failed at the box office. MNM failed, in part, because of Disney’s refusal to promote the actual film.

  4. Mike Dutton


    If they released it as a traditionally animated film, people will be under the impression that it is a children’s movie, and this will lead most adults and Tintin fans into not seeing it.

    They’ve done animated movies of Tintin before, and they were pretty bad. It may be a family film, but making it as a 2D animation would have put people off. And they couldn’t do it in live-action, because it would look unconvincing. This style they’ve gone with is as convincing as a Tintin film could ever get.

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