Sunday, July 24, 2011

Steven Spielberg Needs His Eyes Examined

"According to [Spielberg], the biggest challenge was 'getting it to look like the drawings in the Hergé books. We love the art so much that we used animation to get it as close to the art as we can.'"
Full story here.


Brett W. McCoy said...

Ummm... why not just have made it with traditional animation if you wanted it to look like the original? I don't understand....

Matt Bell said...

Movie Moguls like Spielberg live in Live Action land and are only comfortable with the idea of things being filmed & edited or changed in post production, thus the Motion Capture avenue.
They have no aptitude for the process and potential visual freedom and diversity of Art as film, which is essentially what animation can be.

Sometimes I think even folks like John Lasseter have little idea of this potential. It’s always just more of the same with no real or daring visual & creative process exploration. Why not make use of this mediums greatest ambiance creating and story telling tools; Visual Design and Representation that augment the literal world and enable the telling of stories in ways only imagined.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know if tintin has been made into a traditional animated feature before this mocap idea.

Peter said...

Belvision, who produced the first Tin Tin television series, released 2 animated films: "Tintin and the Temple of the Sun" (1969) and "Tintin and the Lake of Sharks" (1972). There was also a puppet film of "The Crab with the Golden Claws" made in black & white in 1947.

Two live-action films starring Jean-Pierre Talbot as Tintin, made in the early '60s, prove that live actors can look much more like the characters than this attempt at "realistic" CGI!

Charles Kenny said...

What Brett said.

Seriously though, if the 1990s TV version could pull off a look that was pretty darned close to the comics, then Spielberg really is talking out of his backside.

David said...

This is absurd. It's just marketing blah-blah-blah.

If he truly wanted the movie to look like the artwork in the Hergé comics then he had a studio full of traditionally trained animators (many of them Europeans who know Tintin and the Hergé ligne claire drawing style very well) over there on Flower Street in Glendale who could have given him a hand-drawn Tintin movie that would look exactly like Hergé's art.

Floyd Norman said...

I just returned from ComicCon in San Diego and I was initially thrilled when I heard that Steven Spielberg was going to craft his film in the tradition of Hergé.

From what I've seen so far I can only say..."Huh?"

Sandro Cleuzo said...

Spielberg missed a great opportunity here to make a great hand drawn film in the style of Herge. Too bad.

Peter said...

So! It was all just because he wanted an animated Snowy!!
(Presumeably because animation would give a better "performance" than a live dog could.)

Spielberg got suckered into doing a MoCap movie, with "how-the-heck-do-I-make-a-figure-that-looks-human-AND-like-Tintin-with-a-committee-breathing-down-my-neck" designs instead of real actors, and not quite real/not quite convincing sets - just because he wanted Snowy to move as purposefully as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park!

warren said...

"You don't love me all the time. It keeps us honest. Keep taking us to task when you feel like it."

Well, gird your loins, Spielberg. You asked for it.

Steve Schnier said...

Spielberg has more talent in his baby fingernail than the combined comment writers on this blog.

Me? I'm going to wait and see. I expect to be delightfully surprised.

To the rest of you, I offer this two word challenge:

"Do better."

warren said...

But...but...Spielberg said it was okay! He gave everyone permission!

Aw come on.


Steve Schnier said...

I remember very well, the days when the entire animation community was up in arms - Spielberg wasn't using stop motion to animate the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

CG looked fake. No one would ever believe those dinosaurs were real. The arguing and debates went on until Spielberg proved them wrong.

The man's been around for a while. He knows a few things...

Surly Bird said...


With all due respect, it's not that Spielberg doesn't know things or whether we can "Do Better." Valid criticisms can only come from people in the industry who are established pros?

Tintin, from what we've been shown, stresses naturalism and implied realism over style and charm. Look how simple, but effective Tintin is when drawn by Hergé. We don't need to see every hair on his head or the pilling in his clothes to believe in him. It's been shown time after time, the more naturalistic and realistic animated characters become, the less we tend to emotionally invest in them.

The motion picture looks very professional and polished (we expect no less) but nothing shown so far is all that interesting. That's the problem. The inherent charm and appeal of the comic is AWOL, largely due to realism-heavy character designs, boring but immaculate sets and very natural but rather dry motion.

I think the production, in trying to aim to the broadest possible audience, felt the need to make the visuals as safe as possible, i.e. 'real.' I think it's a losing wager and will likely not resonate with audiences. Why not try to capture the essence of the source material and bring what works visually in the graphic novels to the screen?

Anonymous said...

“With live action you’re going to have actors pretending to be Captain Haddock and Tintin. You’d be casting people to look like them. It’s not really going to feel like the Tintin Hergé drew. It’s going to be somewhat different. With CGI we can bring Hergé’s world to life, keep the stylised caricatured faces, keep everything looking like Hergé’s artwork, but make it photo-real.”

Peter Jackson, producer of the upcoming The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg, in Empire magazine

They really don't get it, do they?
I also find so many parts of THIS VIDEO unsettling.

Joe Thornton said...

Spielberg has more talent in his baby fingernail than the combined comment writers on this blog.

Maybe he did once. To quote Sick Boy, "At one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever." Whatever he had is long gone.

Anonymous said...

No one would ever believe those dinosaurs were real. The arguing and debates went on until Spielberg proved them wrong.

He didn't prove them wrong. They did look fake. People got sucked in as they did with Avatar's gimmick. Have you seen Jurassic Park lately? The effects are very dated. Many people still enjoy the old stop motion stuff, like King Kong. No one will care about bad CGI in 80 years.

Steve Schnier said...

All I'm saying is "wait and see".

They've got more than enough rope to hang themselves. If they do - fine.

But in the meantime, the negative attitude that pervades the animation industry does no one any good.

Spielberg and Jackson have proven time and again to be very entertaining showmen. They, more than anyone, should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Dave said...


I don't think anyone here is saying that Spielberg and Jackson are idiots or don't know what they're doing (in general) when it comes to making hit movies.

Their cg/mocap version of Tintin may succeed on it's own merits as a film , but when Spielberg and Jackson make statements that they will "keep everything looking like Hergé’s artwork" and "the biggest challenge was getting it to look like the drawings in the Hergé books. We love the art so much that we used animation to get it as close to the art as we can." they are clearly wrong , or else being somewhat disingenuous about how much they supposedly "love" Hergé’s style.

The clips of the new Tintin movie don't look like Hergé’s style. That would have required a sophisticated use of hand-drawn full animation. All that's being pointed out here is that Spielberg's and Jackson's public statements about trying to closely match Hergé’s art doesn't jibe with what we're actually seeing on the finished film.

The finished Tintin film may be a good film on it's own merits, but it has clearly not "used animation to get it as close to the original art as we can."

GW said...

I have to disagree with you in a certain way, Surly Bird. I think that the problem is not with photorealism, but the purpose of its use and the quality of its usage. Likewise with other less faithful forms like the sort you'd see in comic art.

The critical part is understanding how it works. The visuals have to be an important part of the presentation. It's impossible to make an iconic representation of something with photorealistic visuals. You have to compare real looking things to other real looking things. When you show a rounded head that's realistically rendered, you don't think Oh, a rounded head when you see it like you would if it were outlined or on a stop motion puppet.

I realize that this is only one aesthetic area among many. And history's shown it's filled with the undying ducks of any number of poor filmmakers. Look up Anatoliy Petrov and you'll see the short films he made which aim for high levels of visual realism. His films have many failed elements, but they're far greater, I think, than the uninspired films of rotoscopers, motion capturists, and filmation based crap that many are used to.

To break from the subject a bit, and get down into it, I have to respond to other things you've commented on. First off, you've said that the more realistic a design is, the less entertaining. If this is true, what is the distinction that allows people to enjoy pixillation but disallows for an artificial artistic representation of a realistic looking human being?

One thing I admit is that creating a relatively real looking person gives you less room for toying with shapes and proportions. I can't just say that one's better than the other though, not because I'm politically putting things on an equal plane, but because it's impossible to judge independent of the aesthetic choices of the creators.

This motion capture based binge is clearly the computer animated version of the Soviet's Socialist Realism rotoscoped films. Animation is one of the places in art and fiction where a sort of 'inherent unreality' is the norm, where people aren't depicted in a literal way in the most ordinary stories. In most written literature it doesn't even even occur to the authors that the people, while fictional, aren't almost entirely true to people the way we think of them. In animation, a character can be very short without being called a dwarf.

It's a clear challenge to think of how to keep the balance towards this freedom. Attacking the idea of realistic tendencies in animation will not work, as animation provides a lense through which to examine reality without the direct restraints of eye or camera. The future progress of human understanding depends on our ability to simulate reality, and animation is a crucial part of that.