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The Adventures of Tintin: Tintin in America (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here.

I remember catching a few of the animated Adventure of Tintin when I was smaller, and really enjoying them. They were a series produced to adapt Hergé’s stories into easy-to-digest half-hour instalments for kids. Naturally, the early adventures (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo) weren’t deemed suitable for this form of adaptation, so the series jumped right in with the third entry in Hergé’s long-running saga. Which is grand, because I started reading The Adventures of Tintin with Tintin in America.

Tintin gets animated!

It’s immediately apparent that not everything Hergé wrote could be condensed down to a nice thirty-minute runtim (less, if you don’t factor ads). Being generous, you were looking at fitting more than two pages per minute, which is quite a lot – particularly in some of the denser books. Certain characters and ideas were inevitably going to get left on the floor as the writers and animators tried to construct a twenty-three minute Tintin story that didn’t lose any essential part of the source material. That’s a lot of pressure to put on an animation team.

That said, I think Tintin in Americaactually benefits from this sort of adaptation. I’d argue that it’s one of the weaker stories in Hergé’s canon, and it suffers from being a bit all over the place. (Which, of course, is entirely understandable given it was originally a newspaper serial.) However, the book was just too disjointed to ever really grab me, and Hergé’s somewhat skewed impression of Americans didn’t win me over. Apparently the country was home to gangsters and cowboys. And Native Americans. That’s about it.

The mob squad...

The animated adaptation of the story wisely drops the Native American angle, shrewdly detecting that Hergé’s awkward stereotypical portrayal had no place in a modern kids show. Similarly, we also lose the author’s weird fixation with lynching. That said, we also lose some of the better political commentary in the book, but it doesn’t feel like that big a loss when measured against the smoother updates to the story. The original book jumped around quite a bit, so I’m impressed the episode managed to keep most of it. We still get gangsters in Chicago and the Wild West, and a confrontation in a secret underground base, which is – I think – enough.

It’s also interesting that the serial opens with Tintin working on a story. I k now this was still part of Hergé’s mythology at this stage in his saga, but it’s strange to see Tintin actually typing, instead of talking about typing or filing his report. It’s interesting how the series establishes an identity for Tintin so very quickly. I think Philip Pullman was right when he commented on the appeal blankness of the Tintin character – we get no background information, save for the fact that he’s a reporter. I do love the fact that the series unshamed takes Hergé’s plot point about Tintin’s reports on the gangs making news themselves – a reporter who is himself part of the story. “Extra! Extra!” a paperboy yells. “World famous reporter doing expose on organised crime!”Maybe I just need to work on my self-promotion.

Knight in shining armour...

It is strange, though, to hear some of Hergé’s lines spoken. “The scoundrels!” always read pretty well, but it sounds very silly when you declare it out loud like an accusation. Speaking of reading things aloud, Colin O’Meara does make Tintin sound much older than the teenager he seems to be in the books. He sounds like he’s easily in his thirties, with a slightly higher-pitched and whiny voice. I don’t know. I guess that Tintin just didn’t sound like that in my head.

Still, the soundtrack is pretty cool. The theme song is really cool, sounding a bit more classical than most cartoon themes of the time. I do like the ambient jazz music they give the Windy City, and various other nice ambient touches. The animation is fine, and it does a decent job emulating the earlier and rougher work of Hergé. I do worry about how his later stories, the ones with more polish, are going to look.

Tintin in motion...

The series is off to a good start. Let’s hope that they can keep it up.

2 Responses

  1. I liked how the adaptation kept the focus on Tintin vs the gangsters and cut out the cowboy, lynch mob and Native American stuff, which I think is silly. Deleting it made the adaptation much better and more watchable.

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