Shout! Factory // 1991 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // January 1st, 2012
Belgian boy reporter gets his shot at '90s animated TV stardom -- and succeeds.
Like soccer, Slim Whitman, and mandatory paid vacations, Europeans adore Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi's (otherwise known as Herge) famous comic book character Tintin. From 1929 to his death in 1983, he published more than 23 complete collections of his spiky haired boy reporter's adventures, creating a near universal idol as a result. Of course, like football, falsettos, and forced recreation, Americans don't "get" it. It's not that Tintin is outside the US's frame of reference, it's just that few within the contiguous 48 states see the value in something so...foreign. It's Asterix and Obelix all over again. Of course, all that might change in 2012. Steven Spielberg and creative partner Peter Jackson have made it their goal to turn Tintin into a Main Street America household name, and their first foray into said stardom has just hit theaters on our shores. For those who need a refresher course on the kid, or who know nothing of what these box office titans are shilling, here's a delightful DVD set of an animated take on the material. Faithful and fun, it's well worth your time.
Tintin is a boy reporter who, along with his faithful dog Snowy, longs to investigate and uncover the truth about the troubles in his little town. With the help of The Thompson Twins (a pair of preposterously dumb detectives who always seem to uncover valuable leads) and the rarely sober Captain Haddock, our hero travels around the world looking for danger. When he finds it, the prickly Professor Calculus is usually close by. He's not a villain, just an occasional goofball thorn in the intrepid adolescent investigator's side. The two-disc DVD set from Shout! Factory includes 13 episodes. They represent only seven of the character's many adventures. Selections included are as follows:
* "The Crab with the Golden Claws, Part 1" -- Tintin gets kidnapped and thrown aboard a ship.
* "The Crab with the Golden Claws, Part 2" -- Tintin discovers the ship is smuggling drugs.
* "The Secret of the Unicorn, Part 1" -- Tintin discovers that Capt. Haddock's family history can lead to a treasure.
* "The Secret of the Unicorn, Part 2" -- Captain Haddock tries to uncover his family secret.
* "Red Rackham's Treasure" -- Tintin and Captain Haddock pursue pirate booty.
* "Cigars of the Pharaoh, Part 1" -- An ancient Egyptian tomb is sought.
* "Cigars of the Pharaoh, Part 2" -- Mummies are discovered...a bit too fresh to be part of ancient Egypt.
* "The Blue Lotus, Part 1" -- Tintin discovers that opium is being smuggled out of Japanese-occupied China.
* "The Blue Lotus, Part 2" -- Tintin wants to stop the import of drugs.
* "The Black Island, Part 1" -- Tintin and Snowy investigate sightings of a sea creature in Scotland.
* "The Black Island, Part 2" -- Tintin and Snowy uncover the truth about a supposed sea creature in Scotland.
* "The Calculus Affair, Part 1" -- A rash of unexplained events cause Tintin to suspect the sneaky scientist.
* "The Calculus Affair, Part 2" -- While chasing the elusive inventor, Tintin uncovers a troubling truth.
Unless you have a heart made of stone, or you're just too "USA ALL THE WAY" for the rest of the globe, you will really enjoy this more or less faithful recreation of Herge's intrepid cartoon kid. It's a joy from beginning to all-too-brief end. Filled with interesting plotlines, slapstick comedy, and hilariously likeable characters, The Adventures of Tintin, Season One is more than just a primer for the motion picture. Within its jittery, hand drawn dynamic and cliffhanger serial approach is a wealth of wonder and a flurry of imagination. There's also a heaping helping of instantaneous nostalgia, the storytelling and the personalities sending us back to a time when the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew fired off the literate pre-adolescent's non-gaming creativity. It's all matinees and lazy summer days. Tintin was a title one could get lost in, a world where pirates and smugglers battled wits with a boy and his delightful dog, a universe where good always triumphed over evil and the fate of the planet was precariously poised between war and wisdom.
Without dumbing down or demeaning what Herge created, this '90s series shows why Tintin remains a global icon. Yes, the violence and drinking were toned down for a more PC audience, but for the most part, French and Canadian producers stayed honest to Herge's designs (the fact that it aired on HBO in the US may have helped with some of the more scandalous aspects). We get lots of intrigue and thrills, chases and fisticuffs. Tintin does exist in a time and place where actions speak louder (and more legitimately) than words, and when he's trying to overcome an enemy, a well placed left hook often satisfies more than a sound bit of deduction. Throughout, the narratives are nicely handled (though there is really no need for the overly detailed story rehashes that begin each episode) and the sense of derring-do is front and center. Even the less than fluid animation style serves the product and personalities well.
"Golden Claws" gets us started. It introduces the frequently inebriated Captain Haddock, the main set-up/payoff plotting, and the main theme of almost every Tintin tale: the secret crime going unnoticed by the untrained eye. In "Golden Claws," it's drugs. "Unicorn" follows the soused sea farer even more closely, using his lineage as a means of locating the treasure of Red Rackham (also featured in a solo episode). That last installment also introduces us to Professor Calculus and his sublime shark-shaped submarine. He's a nice addition to the mix. From then on, we get mummies ("Cigars"), some more opium issues ("Lotus"), ample Thompson Twins, and a mysterious sea monster in Scotland ("Island"). By the time we reach the final tale involving a mysterious device which may or may not be causing all the china and glass in Tintin's neighborhood to shatter, our appetite for all things Belgian boy reporter has been whetted for more, More, MORE! Indeed, the best thing about The Adventures of Tintin, Season One is that we want to investigate further -- and for something that was relatively unknown on these shores, that's saying a lot.
As for the technical aspects of this release, be prepared to be a bit disappointed. The 1.33:1 full screen image is good, if a bit faded and fraught with defects. There is dirt and dust galore. Similarly, the Dolby Digital Stereo mix is less than stellar. The dialogue is easy to understand and the music is captured with clarity, but other than that, there is nothing outstanding from a sonic situation. Finally, the most misguided aspect of this release is the lack of added content. Trying to sell something to an audience unfamiliar with what you are shilling demands a bit of background. Releasing this set sans any bonus features is a folly, plain and simple.
It says a lot about Herge's reputation that two of cinema's biggest stars are trying to make him relevant in 2011. It also says a lot about the attention span of the available audience that it takes such titans to establish Tintin's contemporary commercial credibility. While he is still treasured elsewhere, the Pixar-ed and Disney-fied bratlings of today apparently need stop motion overload to make them stop fidgeting with their Cars merchandise and pay attention to a real animated adventure. Should they cotton to the big screen adaptation of Belgium's beloved boy, this would be a grand supplement. If they need a place to start, however, they could do a lot worse than The Adventures of Tintin, Season One. Heck, they could actually go to a library and read a book, but that would be asking too much, right? Right.
Not guilty. A great reminder of why Tintin is a worldwide phenom.
Review content copyright © 2012 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site