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The Adventures of Tintin: Tintin And The Picaros (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 have to admit, I quite like Tintin and the Picaros as the final completed entry in Hergé’s saga. I know he was, of course, working on Tintin and the Alph-Art when he passed, but I think that Hergé’s Tintin and the Picaros is a frank and honest reflection on the franchise, one that perhaps concedes that all good things must come to an end, and that the world around Tintin is not the same as it once was. So, there’s some great potential for a strong finale to the series here. However, the animated adaptation lacks a lot of the subtlety and nuance that Hergé’s original story had, leaving it feeling like a rather generic entry in the series, rather than a fitting conclusion.

Dressed for the occasion...

There’s quite a lot missing here, but most of it is hinted at by what remains. For example, while we’re spared that wonderful shot of the slums as the gang arrive, it is present as they leave. However, while hinting that Tintin’s revolution has done little to improve the standard of living for the ordinary people of San Theodoros, the moment lacks a sense of symmetry. It isn’t clear that things are bad no matter who is in charge, purely because of the cycle of perpetual violence as leaders fight for scraps. The image is there, but the context is lost.

The same is true of a lot of the story. Hergé’s story featured a noticeably older Tintin. This was a character who had retired his iconic pants, just as he had retired from adventuring. Hergé’s Tintin had grown so cynical that he allowed Calculus and Haddock to fly into a trap, rather than flying with them. This version of the character lacks that development. Tintin wears the same pants as always, and the episode features Tintin flying into the South American dictatorship with his two friends – rather than following his conscience a few days later.

In the line of fire...

Perhaps such changes were required to make the episode “fit.” After all, the animated series did produce these episodes out of sequence. Tintin and the Picaros was produced in the middle of the second season, rather than at the end of the run. So it would have made little sense  to carry across the characterisation of a weary Tintin, since he’d only be adventuring the next day. That said, it doesn’t stop the team producing solo Tintin adventures after producing The Crab With the Golden Claws, the adventure that introduced Haddock to the series. Nor does it stop episodes withour Calculus appearing after the team had produced Red Rackham’s Treasure.

Still, even if there is a reason to exclude that characterisation, it still makes the story feel somewhat shallow, as if somethign is missing. Similarly, Captain Haddock’s character development is missing. When Tintin proposes to drug the Picaros, the comic sees Haddock trying to destroy Calculus’ inhibitor. It’s a move that establishes Haddock as an increasingly grounded and sensitive character – much as his slow realisation that he’s being held as a hostage, and his decision to walk into a trap to save a woman he claims he doesn’t like. Both of these aspects are diminished here, which is a bit of a shame.

The wrap party must have been awesome...

On the other hand, Professor Calculus actually gets some nice characterisation here. I have to admit, I like the rather forceful depiction of the character here. He doesn’t take any nonsense. Greeted by an official on his arrival, he states point-blank, “I cannot shake the hand of anyone who disregards human rights.” Later on, as Tintin tries to drag him away from an ambush, he declares quite irately, “Tintin, I can walk!” It’s a nice touch and some good shading for a character who generally doesn’t have any real characterisation beyond “absent minded.” I think it’s nice to see a more human side, just as developed with Haddock over time.

Tintin and the Picaros made for a nice official end to Hergé’s series of books, but I’d be lying if I said it made for a satisfying conclusion to the animated series. It just feels like a middle-of-the-road exotic international adventure, something that robs the story of a lot of its endearing depth.

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