Making Flat, Mid-Century Comic Book Characters Look 3-D for Tintin

November 29, 2011
The elaborate motion-capture animation in Steven Spielberg’s new movie, The Adventures of Tintin, belies the simple lines of the original Belgian comic books.

In the film, the eponymous young reporter (plus plucky dog Snowy and the hard-drinking Captain Haddock) embark on the globe-trotting adventures that readers will remember from The Crab With the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure. But visually, the films have to evoke the books without looking exactly like them.

Georges Remi—who under the name Hergé wrote and drew Tintin—was known for fine linework and a clear drawing style. His backgrounds were intricate, but his characters looked cartoony. “The characters didn’t have to fool the eye because the places felt real and concrete,” says comics critic Douglas Wolk. In a 3-D movie, the rules are different. Here, Joe Letteri, the film’s visual effects supervisor, shows how Tintin went from page to screen.