Saturday, 9 March 2013

Damien Reviews The Art of The Adventures of Tintin

By Damien.

A (Very) Late Review

It's not often that I receive 'Art of' books before I actually get to see the film it's based on. It happened three times: with Cars 2, Brave, and The Adventures of Tintin. With both Pixar flicks, I managed put off opening the book until I'd seen the film.
But with this one, curiosity got the best out of me, and I surrendered pretty quickly to my Tintin nerdiness.

Gus Hunter

"Just the first few pages..."
It won't hurt to look at the very beginning of the book, I thought. Indeed, you can't really be spoiled by just reading the forewords by director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson. While I was at it, I also read introductions by Weta supervisors Joe Letteri and Richard Taylor.
But then, I arrived at the first part of what is essentially a three-part book. It was called 'The Beginning'.

"Let's just see what this is about..."
Basically this first portion of The Art of the Adventures of Tintin is about Weta artists trying to find the look of the film. How do you translate Hergé's ligne claire into a photo-realistic image? How do you go from a very stylized picture to something that would look good in an animated film? To answer that, Weta artists chose panels from the Tintin albums and, keeping the same composition, rendered them with added textures and realistic lightning. The result is sometimes weird, but most of the time it looks right.
These drawings were not part of the actual design of the film. It was just a way of figuring out how to tackle Hergé's world.
Now, what was the next part? Characters? Sounds nice...

Greg Broadmore

"Characters drawings are hardly spoilers, right?"
Right. So I ventured into the second portion of The Art of the Adventures of Tintin. And after that, I would be done.
What's quite interesting in this book is that it's not just an 'Art of'; there are also bits of 'Making of'. Let's be quite clear: there's not a tonne of text; there are far more drawings, behind-the-scenes pictures, original panels, stills and renders from Weta Digital than there is writing. But when there is text, it's often quite judicious, as the artists themselves are quoted and explain why they chose to draw a character the way they did.
It's fun to see the trial-and-error process that was going on in the design stages of The Adventures of Tintin: some early concepts feel very different from what ended up in the movie; among other things, you get to see what Tintin would have been like with a head shaped like it is in the Hergé books - and why the artists didn't go that way.

Chris Guise

As someone who loves Tintin, there's a certain thrill to seeing talented people reinventing some of the characters you know. Not always the way I envisioned them, but some of the artwork is just spot on.
The character section is thorough, as every character from the movie is given at least one page of the book - and much more than that if it's an important character. Should I make the list? Yeah, let's make it: Tintin, Snowy, Archibald and Sir Francis Haddock, Thomson and Thompson, Sakharine, Red Rackham, Allan, Tom, Barnaby, Nestor, Mrs Finch, Silk and Bianca Castafiore...
Hang on... Some are missing! What about Lieutenant Delcourt? And Omar Ben Salaad? Could they be in the third part of The Art of the Adventures of Tintin? Let's see...

Frank Victoria

"After all, I already saw the trailers. And I read the albums, didn't I?"
That portion is dedicated to the environments. Here you see the thought process behind Tintin's apartment, Marlinspike Hall, the Bagghar Palace... It gives a lot of information on why these places look like they do in the movie - but also how some key sequences were brought to life.
In that aspect, again, it is very much a 'Making of', yes. But author Chris Guise never indulges in long prose. And more often than not, he hands it over to fellow Weta artists.
Perhaps one thing that makes this not as fun or surprising as other 'Art of' books, is the source material. Hergé did a lot of research about the places he wasn't familiar with and had to draw, so the albums are very much grounded in reality. Respecting the spirit of Hergé's art, Weta artists chose to not go crazy in their concepts. I think it's a good thing, but if you're looking for an off the chain 'Art of' book, The Art of The Adventures of Tintin is certainly not the way to go.
And yes, the missing characters are in the environments section. Lieutenant Delcourt is appropriately in the military fort pages, and Omar Ben Salaad goes with his Palace.

Frank Victoria

"Okay, I won't read it again before I see the movie."
Weta delivers here a very solid 'Art of/Making of' book. The thing that was appreciable for me, is that it doesn't contain actual spoilers. It would even give you misdirections, as one of the sets has been cut from the final movie. So that's a plus if you haven't seen the movie yet; but more than a year after its release, I'm guessing that's not an issue anymore.
You'll enjoy the art, but you can also learn things about the production of a motion capture film, and reasons behind the design of the characters and places. In the end, it's a lovely book, and it fits nicely in my Tintin collection.


The Art of the Adventures of Tintin, by Chris Guise, HarperCollins. [13th October 2011, £16.00 (UK); 1st November 2011, $16.00 (US)].

Note, all images and artwork used here are property of HarperCollins, Weta Digital and any other respective owners, and are used here for illustrative purposes only and in accordance with the fair use policy of copyright law.

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