The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

As the lights go down in the movie theatre I feel my stomach do a turn. This is it, the moment I have been waiting for for the last four years, the moment when I will be plunged into an hour and forty minutes of unbridled joy...or complete and utter disappointment.

When it was announced back in 2007 that Steven Spielberg was planning on making a feature film adaptation of Hergé's The Adventures Of Tintin comics I was filled with excitement. An avid fan of the intrepid reporter ever since I was a child, I still wore many of my Tintin t-shirts and jumpers, poured over the comic books and watched my old VHS copies of the animated series, despite the odd jump and bit of white noise.

The casting of the hugely underrated Jamie Bell in the title role only led to more excitement, and with Edgar Wright involved in the writing of the screenplay the film was feeling like an instant favourite before any footage had even managed to be leaked onto the Internet.

Yes, all the pieces looked set to make this long anticipated film into something special. All except for one rather enormous part of it; it was to be made using motion-capture.
As an animator this technique is always something to be weary of. Sometimes, when joined together with strong animation such as in Avatar or most famously with Gollum in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, it can be truly beautiful and transporting. But more often than not it seems to be a marketing ploy to fill seats, suggesting that an animated likeness of a famous person is enough of a reason for us to pay to see a film that, more often than not, is nowhere near as visually appealing as the CG modelling on the movie posters would have us believe.

And so my stomach flipped. Even with the pretty posters and impressive trailers that I had eaten up in my anticipation, there was still the very strong possibility that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn was going to be an undeniable dud.
But it wasn't. It really, really wasn't. After sitting through a hilariously long and painful silence as a seemingly never-ending list of company logos appeared on the screen, followed by a beautiful and reference filled title sequence, we got to see the film for what it really was; a beautifully put together piece of cinema overflowing with brilliantly realised characters, incredible environments with stunning lighting and distinctly grown-up feeling danger.

The script is strong, filled with just the right mix of character based comedy, rip-roaring adventure and a thrilling, if somewhat predictable mystery that leaves the film open enough for a slew of sequels to come flying out after it.
The characters are all wonderfully realised, which is no small feet considering the huge amount that made it into the film. Jamie Bell surpassed all of my (very high) expectations to deliver yet another inspired performance. His Tintin was everything a Tintin should be; intelligent, funny, brave, that little bit naïve, and oh so good at getting his story, as well as coming away from being hit repeatedly on the back of the head with remarkably little long-term damage.

Serkis too was a shining example of what an actor can do when he has no inhibitions. Set to be an instant favourite of the younger audience, he some how managed to give Captain Haddock that wonderfully human side that he needs in order for him to be the believable and empathetic character that adults can really root for too.

And the motion-capture is by far the best I have seen. Seeming to rely less on animation to spruce it up than other films have, it gives the impression that the actors really are bringing more of the characters to life than simply the voices. Particularly Bell, whose personality seems to pour through the computer graphics and onto the screen, even managing to make the repeated exclamations of 'great snakes!' feel genuine.

However, with all that brilliance going on, the highlight of the film for me, without doubt, has to be Snowy. Heroic, clever and utterly adorable, Snowy is just as much a part of the team as Haddock or Tintin, and he has just the right amount to do in the film, not pushed to the sidelines or given more to do than is necessary, he stands firmly as a leading character, and the cutest one by far.


A very quick little concept image for a story idea I had.

MA, meet my past work. Past work, this is the MA...

So I am on the Masters Degree course at the Atrium. So far it has been a really relaxed and purely creative experience. Its a big change to the way the BA was run. Your not running around with five deadlines coming up and all of these check boxes to fill, its much more about really finding out what it is that you want to do as a career and focusing your projects around really developing the skills you need to in order to get there.

The first month has been all about ideas generation. We have gone through a number of exercises as individuals and in groups and really pushed ourselves to find projects for this year that will reall help us to showcase what we are good at. Sometimes this means coming up with a brand new idea, and other times it means looking back at something you thought you would save for a rainy day. I did both.

I have decided on my idea for the film I will be making, but that's another post. For now I wanted to share some art work I did for an old idea (television pitch project from second year) which I considered using for my film this year. The style was very much influenced by Fashion Illustration, and the story is about a young Parisian girl who discovers a mystery hidden in her late mother's past, which she promptly sets about solving. I like the idea, and some of my old art work for it to, but my new idea is something really new for me, so this one goes back onto the shelf for now.

Old Work

Long time no post! But new year, new chance to get it right! I thought I'd get back into the swing of things by posting a bunch of concept work I did for one of my third year projects...

The project was a comic book adaptation of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale set in the 1930's. Some quick panel ideas:

The Ultimate

Yesterday was the deadline for what is known by my class mates as The Ultimate Image; an image that not only sums up who you are and what you do, but also sells that to perspective clients.

Well this is mine:

My main influence was my writing. These are all characters and ideas from stories I have written or projects I am working as my work is really how I define myself. I am only as good as the work I produce. That's why the quality of this image is worrying to me. Its not terrible, and I am fond of the content, but the execution could have been a lot stronger. But ever the aspiring optimist I have decided to look on this as evidence that my work can only get better, granted that I make them it that way.

After the Effects

Another project, another excuse to indulge my own interests...

At the time I was working on this project I was obsessed with Rihanna and particularly the song Love The Way You Lie, so when the project turned out to be using Adobe AfterEffects to create a title sequence I had my soundtrack down. All I needed to do was find a story, and luckily enough I had a comic book idea from when I was an angsty teenager tucked away.

The story; a young girl with fire powers to powerful for her to control, on the run from the government agency responsible for creating her.

Not the most original idea I've ever had, but it worked with the song, so next up was learning the programme...

(Harry Potter 7 was out at the time I was doing the project so my interest in Emma Watson was heightened, hence her guest appearance)

And then there came the final thing...and obviously it stars my sister...

Over all I am quite happy with the result. It is simpler than I would have liked, and the text went a bit weird at the end and didn't flow like it should have, but now that I've learnt the programme a bit I know I will be able to use it better next time.