The production of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's $120 million 3D motion capture project The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn has been fairly secretive. Although you'd think they'd be releasing everything they can about it since most American audiences have very little knowledge of the original character.
Well thanks to Variety we have an update on the project:
This week Spielberg will quietly wrap 32 days of performance capture lensing on the film, then he will hand the project over to Jackson who will spend the next 18 months focusing on the special effects.
Spielberg and Jackson have done everything they can to keep a tight lid on most of the details about the project, except of course touting the revolutionary, one-of-a-kind aspects of the motion capture technology created by Jackson's New Zealand based effects company Weta.
Martin Levy, a longtime spokesman for Spielberg, described the technology: "You have to see it to understand. It really can't be described." But squashed the idea of a set visit: "That wouldn't be feasible."
Kathleen Kennedy, another producer on the film, was happy to talk about the project but she said the world Spielberg and Jackson are creating is hard to describe:
"It's extremely difficult to explain to someone unless they are standing here next to me," Kennedy says from the Los Angeles set. "And usually then their reaction is, 'Oh my god.' "
An interesting thing to note is that Spielberg has only put in just over a month's on-set work for the film, whereas Jackson will be spending the next year and a half of his life working on the special effects with Weta (although I'm sure Spielberg will still be very much involved in that aspect). But even so, Spielberg will get the directing credit for the first film, with Jackson only getting that when he helms the sequel.
Speaking of which, a sequel has not yet been greenlit:
"Paramount and Sony, the first film's co-financiers, have yet to greenlight a followup to the $120 million project and are waiting for a script before making a decision."
It's interesting to bring up the contrast between the filmmaking styles of Spielberg and Jackson: both have dabbled in their fare share of big-budget fair before but Spielberg has always been more about characters and his films are not usually all that long, whereas Jackson is more about spectacle and, evident by most of his previous work, long runtimes.
Despite Jackson not getting a directing credit on the first film, he seems to have just as much influence over it as Mr Spielberg does. Aside from the fact that he has Lord of the Rings and King Kong mo-cap actor extraordinaire Andy Serkis on-board, he also was the one to make a personal call to get Jamie Bell on-board as the lead.
Co-fiancier Paramount will have the biggest challenge on their hands - to introduce this whole thing to parts of the world not really famliar with it (including one of the biggest movie markets - the US). Although an executive for company has downplayed this problem:
"It's not like there was any awareness on 'Kung Fu Panda' either," the exec says. "We had to go out and introduce this property to the world."
But out with non-English speaking countries (outside of Asia, that is, which Paramount is handling), co-financiers Sony should have an easy time selling the film because the original comic-book, which has been translated into over 50 languages, remains extremely popular in most of Europe and in India.
It's hard to say whether or not Tintin will be a successful film entity, with one of the world's biggest movie markets (the US) being one of the few places on earth most unfamiliar with the character. However with the amount of languages the original works have been translated in, and the subsequent popularity, it seems like it could do very well indeed.
I'm sure with the combined brainpower of Spielberg and Jackson, along with the time and effort they're putting into it, that they're confident in it's potential. But only time will tell if the first film does well and a sequel gets greenlit.
Tintin has a planned release of sometime in 2011 but no official date has been set as of yet.
Sources: FirstShowing and Variety