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The Adventures of Tintin: Explorers on the Moon (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.

After a somewhat disappointing adaptation of Destination: Moon, the series bounces back with a wonderful take on Explorers on the Moon. I honestly think that Destination: Moon and Explorers on the Moon are perhaps Hergé’s most optimistic work on the series, aside from Tintin in Tibet. Although one can detect hints of the Cold War on the horizon, informing his writing, there’s still an incredible sense of marvel at the human capacity for what seems to be impossible. While the adaptation of Destination: Moonseemed to miss the comical whimsy to focus on the sabotage subplot, it does a much better job with the more earnest joy of this space-based adventure.

One small step...

I always liked Explorers on the Moon, if only because it was really about as far as Tintin could go as an explorer. He’d found buried treasure and discovered a lost civilisation, so I always figured that the sky was literally the limit. In pushing Tintin to the stars, using space travel as an analogy for mankind’s potential that seemed years ahead of its time, Hergé pushed the series as far outwards as it could possibly go. I think that’s why the adventures that followed were typically more introspective and reflective: once you’ve left the atmosphere, there’s only so much left for the character to discover on Earth.

I also adore Hergé’s artwork. I think it’s some of the most striking artwork in the series, and is absolutely beautiful. The animated series has so far done a very good job imitating the artist’s style, and that continues here. While the time and money available to produce the animation means that some measure of detail has to be sacrificed, it still looks absolutely stunning. In particular, the early sequence involving Haddock and the asteroid stands out, but there are any number of lovely smaller scenes that work just as well – I especially love the sequence where the whiskey in Haddock’s glass floats out in the shape of a bubble. I think I still associate that image with space flight to this day.

I'm hooked...

There are also any number of tiny touches that add up to an affectionate little episode. I love, for instance, that Haddock is humming the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey as he enters orbit around the asteroid. I suspect the show exorcised some of the political subtext from earlier stories in order to appeal to a younger audience, but I wonder how many of them got a gag about a classic Stanley Kubrick film? I think it’s an indication that producers knew they could sneak in little touches that older viewers might appreciate, and I like the small affectionate nod to a piece of cinematic history.

While Tintin in America was the last regular episode produced in the three-season animated series, Explorers on the Moon was the last two-parter in the run. I think it actually fits better as the climax of Tintin’s story, a wonderful accomplishment that stands as an indicator of Hergé’s imagination and the boundless enthusiasm that has endearing the character to an entire generation. That’s not to suggest that I don’t like the remaining stories, but merely that I thin Explorers on the Moonreally takes the idea of Tintin and pushes it about as far as it will go.

I didn't know Haddock ordered a float...

On a practical note, I’m glad they left it to the end, because it seems like everything is all comfortable. The animation is truly top-notch, not that it hasn’t been all along. I’ll confess that I didn’t notice any of the 3D effects that the episode supposedly involved, I found the imagery wonderful and crisp. As I said, I’m not sure about the picture quality of the blu ray as compared to the DVD, but it looks pretty damn good for a twenty-odd year old animated television show.

On the other hand, I will confess that I am still not entirely comfortable with Colin O’Meara’s Tintin, although he is growing on me. There are moments when I wanted to reach into the screen to strangle him. I’ll admit that part of the problem is corny dialogue that works much better on the page than on the screen, but David Fox is well able to get past that problem as Haddock. Tintin’s monologue about setting foot on the moon is quite lovely, especially the observation about stars not twinkling, but the way O’Meara reads the line about how there’s “not a single blade of grass” pulled me out of the moment. Similarly, I’ve never heard a more dispassionate reading of “… and why am I tied up?”He makes it sound as if it’s a minor hindrance rather than a life-threatening problem.

Moon walking...

Still it’s a minor problem, and I really liked the episode. It’s been a great run so far, but things are about to get a bit dicey, as we enter the series’ more experimental phase. The animated series has done an excellent job with the straight-forward adventures, but will it handle the more self-aware and reflective stories that are ahead?

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