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The Adventures of Tintin: Tintin in Tibet (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.

Tintin in Tibet is a wonderful book. It’s probably, despite coming towards the end of the series, the perfect book to give somebody who wants to try to read The Adventures of Tintin. It’s a perfect encapsulation of all the heart and warmth that makes Hergé’s series so fascinating, and an illustration of how appealing and endearing his two leads are. More than that, though, Hergé’s story is one of hope and faith, and it’s hard not feel a little bit warm inside after reading it. So the animated adaptation has quite a lot to work with. While they don’t surpass the original book – which would be quite a considerable accomplishment – they do it proud.

It's Snowy out there...

Tintin in Tibet is one of those stories where the general fidelity to the source material comes in handy. I’m not saying that there’s no way to improve on Hergé’s work, or that a more aggressive attempt at adaptation couldn’t produce a similar result, I’m just observing that the source material here is so strong and fascinating that there’s little need to change anything. It transitions the screen perfectly. Tintin in Tibet is an emotionally powerful adventure, written by the author in a time of great personal crisis, and there’s enough heart here to make the episode compelling and engaging.

I will confess though, that the episode doesn’t illustrate the relationship between Haddock and Tintin quite as well as Hergé’s source material. In the book, Haddock tries to force Tintin to return from his dangerous quest by refusing to go any further with him. When Tintin refuses, Haddock joins him again, making excuses about how he might as well accompany his friend part of the way. (Even though we know he’s in it until the end, even if he’d never concede it.) The episode plays the scene, but slightly differently. Haddock’s return isn’t masked by his insistence that he’s only there for a little while, and there’s no sense that the affection between the pair is masked beneath Haddock’s gruff exterior. I don’t really mind, but I found the relationship more nuanced when Haddock tried to hide the level of devotion to his best friend.

Haddock snaps...

The animation team do a great job here. I’ve repeatedly remarked what fantastic work they’ve done bringing Hergé’s style to life. In particular, they handle the dream sequences quite well. Tintin’s dreams, with the consuming sea of white, mirror Hergé’s own nightmares at the time, and I can’t imagine transitioning them from still drawings to animation was the easiest of tasks. Still, the team do an impressive job. I also quite like Haddock’s almost absurdist dream, including a school boy version of Professor Calculus, which is even more disconcerting in action than he was on the panel.

The voice cast continue to do solid work. Colin O’Meara has been a bit hit-and-miss as Tintin, but he does a great job here. After all, this is the entry in the series that seems most intensely focused on Tintin himself. Usually just a reader surrogate in a world full of colour, here Tintin becomes his own character against sheets of white. It’s as if we’re really focusing on the character for the first time, against a blank page – so there’s nothing to distract our attention away from him. Tintin is a character without any real attachments. Any friends he has made, he has made in the series itself. He has no extended family that we’re aware of. And, yet, one has grown around him.

This trip is a dream, or this dream is a trip...

Usually stoic and observant, here the character is impulsive and irrational. Rather than trying to break a story, or engaging with a case out of intellectual curiosity, the goal here is decidedly personal. It’s the first time in the series that Tintin seems to drive the adventure, rather than stumbling into a series of strange goings on that happen to intrigue him. I think it’s a very important entry in the series, if only because we get a sense of who Tintin is, rather than just a vehicle for these international adventure stories.

David Fox continues to impress as Haddock. He does a lot of the episode’s heavy-lifting when it comes to comedy, ev en though here he’s tasked with being the grounded character to Tintin’s excited excessive. Fox has one of those rare voices where it’s easy to read the character in his voiceafter watching the show. It’s really something.

Hell of a cliffhanger...

The animated version of Tintin in Tibet might not be quite as good as the book of the same name, but that’s a very high standard for anything to meet. It is, however, an affectionate and efficient adaptation, and well worth seeking out any potential fans of Tintin out there.

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