Steven Spielberg’s motion-capture movie The Adventures Of Tintin isn’t the first attempt to translate Hergé’s internationally popular comic-book series into another medium. There was a stop-motion animated feature made in Belgium in the ’40s, a pair of live-action French films in the ’60s, and assorted cartoons of varying lengths and origins. Each in its way drew on different aspects of what’s made Tintin so successful since the character’s 1929 debut: the globe-hopping action, the vivid cultural detail, the colorful characters, the slapstick comedy, and the pluck of Hergé’s boy-reporter hero.
The 39 half-hour episodes of The Adventures Of Tintin that the Ellipse and Nelvana companies co-produced in the early ’90s have a different emphasis: Hergé’s art. The ’90s Tintin cartoons mimic the look of the original books, right down to the typography and layout of the credits. The animators used the comics for reference, copying layouts wherever possible, and employing Hergé’s “ligne claire” style, with lots of thin lines and gentle curves—nothing too expressionistic. The stories also follow the source material closely; some elements have been toned down, but the basic plots of Tintin graphic novels like The Blue Lotus and The Black Island remain intact, even where there’s gunplay or drugs. The Adventures Of Tintin: Season One DVD set contains 13 episodes, adapting seven Tintin books about as faithfully as anyone ever has.
Of course, faithfulness doesn’t always equal excellence. The Adventures Of Tintin remains a good show, but in its first season, at least, it never made the leap to indispensability. Ellipse and Nelvana recreated the outline of Hergé’s Tintin, but failed to fill it in with anything that would illuminate either the original work or the people adapting it. What’s here is a lot of fun: action-packed stories in which the pointy-haired Tintin and his dog Snowy stumble into danger and have to think their way out—sometimes with the help of acquaintances like the gruff Captain Haddock, the scatterbrained Professor Calculus, and the bumbling twin detectives Thomson and Thompson, and sometimes in spite of them. For anyone who wants to understand why children and adult comics buffs alike adore Hergé and Tintin, these cartoons make for a strong introduction. But there is a point at which an adaptation can be so much like the source material that it becomes superfluous.
Key features: Non.