Wednesday, January 06, 2010

January 6, 2010
It's funny (to me) how certain cartoon characters have inspired me, and, in some cases stalked me. I first heard of Tintin in the eighties when I was doing Honkytonk Sue and flirting with a Hollywood movie deal at Columbia Pictures. On the lot at Warner Bros (in Goldie Hawn's production offices) I heard a rumor that Steve Spielberg had just purchased the rights to the internationally famous cartoon strip (60 books and 200 million sales in 70 languages), and yet, here I was a cartoonist who had never heard of Tintin. Ouch!

The Belgian cartoonist and author, George Remi (1907-1983), went by the pen name Herge, which is a reversal of the artist's real name, or actually, the pronunciation of his initials. His strip about a boy reporter and his dog travelling the world to solve crimes became an instant hit in Brussells and France, then spread to Spain, Portugal, Germany and England and almost every country on the planet, except the United States (when I asked my production staff if they had ever heard of Tintin, everyone shrugged).

Herge's style is quite clean and yet very sophisticated. Last September when we were in South America, we traveled up into the mountains outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia to a small village named Samaipata, which means to rest up high. We stayed at a combination organic farm—B&B compound run by a Dutch ex-pat named Peter who has lived in Bolivia for the past three decades. As he put it, he "escaped the rat race long ago." Well, it turned out that our host at La Vispera is a huge fan of Tintin and had a stash of the boy reporter's adventures, in Spanish, stocked in a cabinet in his organic cafe (where we had delicious herbal, mega-organic omelettes with pan queques, pancakes).

While eating outside on the patio overlooking the town and the valley, I spied the stack of Tintin books and grabbed one to take back to the room. Safely inside my mosquito netting, I was struck, once again, by the clean design and clarity of line in the drawings, and so, for my six sketches for the day, I copied scenes from Herge's Tintin panels:

And, the next day, I grabbed another Tintin book at breakfast and shadowed Herge some more:

What I'm attempting by shadowing him, is to find out what makes it so compelling. And then we flew home and I sort of forgot about Tintin for a while, until I saw a review in the New York Times for several new books on the artist and his creation. So, with a $50 gift certificate from Amazon, I ordered two Tintin books (The Adventures of Herge: Creator of Tintin by Michael Farr, and Tintin And Alph-Art, Herge's last and unfinished adventure). Once again, the sparse and clean line of Herge impacted me and my daily sketches.

And, last night I experimented with how Herge might have illustrated Frederic Remington:

Pretty fascinating. Need to pull back, more symbols for eyes, etc.

Now I hear that Steven Spielberg is finishing The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn which will be out in 2011. Playing Tintin will be Jamie Bell (no relation) and Daniel Craig as Red Rackman. Principal photography was finished in 35 days last summer, with the Avatar style motion capture technology and now the rest of the time will be spent on creating Tintin's world. Amazing.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spielberg acquired the rights to the comic strip in 1983 through his Universal-based Amblin Entertainment. Spielberg since went on to form DreamWorks but the desire to bring Tintin to the big screen never left him. He re-acquired the rights with his longtime producer, Kennedy, who is now partnered with Frank Marshall in the Universal-based Kennedy/Marshall Co.

Will it work? Will Tintin finally become a big hit in the U.S.? Will shadowing his sparse and clean line liberate me to finish Mickey Free? Well, you know how predictions are. . .

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
—Yogi Berra

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