Steven Spielberg walked the red carpet like a regular guy, in an understated hound’s tooth cap, knit scarf and wool overcoat. It was the New York City premiere, at the Ziegfeld Theatre, of his 3D motion capture animated movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. The film opens in America on December 21, two months after it animated overseas box office stats.
For those not familiar, Tintin is a dogged cartoon reporter created by Belgian artist Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi) in 1929. Tintin and his dog Snowy are household names outside America, but Spielberg had never heard of them until he read a 1981 French review of Raiders of the Lost Ark that compared Indiana Jones to Tintin.
Inspired by Tintin’s sidekick Snowy, Purina Dog Chow has partnered up with Paramount Pictures. From now through January 3, 2012, Purina will donate $1 up to $150,000 to therapy dog organizations Patriot Rovers, Reading Education Assistance Dogs, and the Delta Society for every “Like” on their Facebook page.
In the mean time, we had the opportunity for an exclusive interview with Spielberg on the red carpet about his new movie, dogs, and everything in between.
How long did it take to make this movie?
Steven Spielberg: It’s been a labor of love for 28 years when I first optioned the rights from the Hergé estate. I had the honor of meeting, on the telephone, the great Hergé in 1983. This has been the longest gestation between the intention to tell a story and the actual realization. It’s taken all these years but I’m so proud of where we landed. Peter [Jackson] and I first and foremost wanted this to be a buddy picture about an odd couple, Tintin and Captain Haddock, and about Tintin’s dog Snowy. That triumvirate is really what our story is about.
What is the importance of Snowy’s role?
Spielberg: Snowy is Tintin’s sidekick and sometimes it’s the other way around. Snowy brings the audience in. He brings a point of view. He’s kind of the voice of the audience. He looks at all the crazy things going on and sometimes just gives a reaction to say to the audience, “Yeah, I’m with you. This is very confusing.”
Who is your favorite movie dog?
Spielberg: Outside of Snowy my favorite is Benji. He was so cute and I so loved Benji that when my kids were younger I got a border terrier who is 13 years old now.
Did you have a dog growing up?
Spielberg: I had my neighbor’s dog, Blackie. He became a shared dog between two homes. I fed him a lot and that’s why he spent time with us. [Laughs]
How did you come up with Snowy’s look?Were there arguments?
Spielberg: No, never any arguments. Hergé was our style guide. He drew the original Snowy. We got every picture of Snowy he ever drew, put it into a computer, looked at Snowy from every angle, put him on a turntable, until we were able to find a three dimensional — I don’t mean 3D popping out at you — but a dimensionalized Snowy that was both honoring the Hergé design and honoring how people see dogs today.
What were the challenges of making this film?
Spielberg: The challenge was that while working with animation, my hands aren’t tied by weather, real sky, real earth, real ocean. I can go anywhere, do anything, move the camera anywhere I wanted to. Suddenly with my hands free, it was limitless and gave me a chance to make a movie that allowed my imagination to take me anywhere it wanted to go. [His face lit up like an excited kid]
What technical difficulties did you run into?
Spielberg: There are always technical difficulties. Motion capture is a very fluid technology. It’s always getting better. So when we got halfway through the animation we realized how to make it better and had to go back into the first part of the movie and reanimate because the animators kept finding ways to make the characters more photo realistic.
Is there going to be another Jurassic Park?
Spielberg: Oh yes. I don’t know when we’re going to make it but we’re redeveloping it now.
Can you give me specifics?
Spielberg: [Grins] No, you’re going to have to wait to hear all the details.
Is there going to be another Indiana Jones?
Spielberg: Oh, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask George Lucas. He’s over there. [Points]
What was it like bringing the characters to life in 3D?
Spielberg: I was very subtle with the 3D, I didn’t want it to be right in your lap. I wasn’t trying to make a sensationalized 3D movie. I wanted it to be how we see life. We take for granted that we see in 3D. Suddenly we see 3D movies and we’re going, “Oh my God it’s in 3D!” We forget that we see 3D every day. I just wanted it to be lifelike.
What attracted you to Tintin and his adventures?
Spielberg: My love of adventure is not unique to what audiences crave in different aspects. Some people like hard hitting R-rated adventure movies and some people like personal journeys and adventures about relationships but this was kind of a true tribute to the audience, for people who just love what movies are all about, go to the movies all the time, love a good ride, love to laugh, love the screen, love to look at characters and bond with them. This movie has all of that.
What would you say to people about to see the film?
Spielberg: Whatever you’ve heard about motion capture, emotion capture, performance capture, digital animation, this movie will only really work if after five minutes into it all you focus on is the story and the characters and all the fun you’re about to have. So, forget everything you’ve heard and just go and enjoy Tintin.