A lot of people have been discovering Tintin recently due to the feature film, but he’s actually been around for a while. If the theater version left you hungry for more, why not check out the original animated series as well?
The first season of The Adventures of Tintin was released on DVD at the end of November. The first five episodes actually include the stories that were woven together into the movie version as The Secret of the Unicorn. I actually watched these five before going to see the movie, and it was pretty interesting to what things were changed from cartoon to movie and which things were preserved. There are several moments in the movie that are lifted straight from the cartoon — which, in turn, were taken from the original books by Hergé.
Within the first few episodes of the series you meet (in addition to Captain Haddock and detectives Thompson and Thomson) Professor Calculus, who is brilliant at times but completely deaf. Bianca Castiofore, the “Milanese Nightingale” in the movie, doesn’t actually make an appearance until late in the season.
I really enjoyed the movie version, but I think the animated series better captures the feel of the comic books: it uses the same drawing style, for one, and more closely follows the original story lines. It’s been a while since I read the books themselves, but watching the series brought a lot of it back: Tintin’s readiness for any adventure (and dumb good luck that gets him out of sticky situations), the slapstick humor of Thompson and Thomson, the politically incorrect portrayals of other cultures. (Yes, if you watch this with your kids you should probably expect to have a conversation with them about this sort of thing.)
The 2-DVD set has 13 episodes, totaling about 5 hours altogether, and retails for about $20, which is a pretty good deal even if you subtract the dozen times you’ll skip past the title sequence after you’ve seen it the first time. The DVDs are strictly the TV episodes, though, with no special features whatsoever. It would have been nice to have something more about the transition from book to screen. Since the series originally ran in the 1990s, you’d think that some of the people involved in its creation would still be around to provide some commentary.
Nonetheless, for fans of Tintin this is a delightful collection, and it’ll whet your appetite for Season Two when it comes out in February.
By the way, I highly recommend the Tintin books, too. As I mentioned above, there are some racial insensitivities and there is some real violence mixed in with the slapstick — but on the whole it’s still less graphic than what your kids have probably seen if they’ve been playing video games and watching movies already. One notable thing about the Tintin books is that, although they’re comics, they have a lot of text in them. I remember reading about them in The Read Aloud-Handbook by Jim Trelease specifically for that reason: you can give them to kids who like comics but aren’t particularly fond of reading, and it’s got as much text in it as a typical chapter book (or more, even). Just don’t be surprised if your kids start running around saying “Blistering blue barnacles!” all the time.
Disclosure: Shout Factory provided a review copy of the DVD set.