Tintin and the Temple of the Sun

Over the holidays, I told my wife that I wanted to take the family to see Steven Spielberg’s movie “The Adventures of Tintin.”  She didn’t know much about the movie, but knew it was about a dog.  I had to explain that this wasn’t Rin-tin-tin…this was Tintin.  Now, in all fairness to her, I think many Americans had the same misconception.  Tintin is one of those things that is a phenomena pretty much everywhere except America.  Well, the family all ended up enjoying Spielberg’s film, but as it turns out, it’s far from being the first film based on the character.  Today we look at an animated feature adaptation from 1969, “Tintin and the Temple of the Sun.”

The film takes its inspiration from two of Herge’s stories, “The Seven Crystal Balls” and, primarily, “Prisoners of the Sun.”  In the film, a group of seven explorers have begun falling victim to a strange condition after having taken several Incan artifacts, including a mummy.  They spend most of their time in a strange state of sleep, broken only by occasional fits of madness…lasting just a few minutes.  Sounds like a case for Tintin and his buddies Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, and bumbling detectives Johnson and Johnson.  Oh, and, of course, Tintin’s dog Snowy.

Things get stranger when Professor Calculus ends up kidnapped after having put on a jeweled Incan bracelet.  So, Tintin and company head off to rescue the professor before he is put to death for his crime.  Of course, trouble follows them every step of the way, including their train being sabotaged.  Eventually, Tintin ends up meeting a young Indian boy, Zorrino, who offers to take the adventurers into the Andes to help find Calculus.

The dangers continue as the team encounters avalanches, snakes, crocodiles, a nasty condor, and a tumble over a waterfall before finding the hidden temple where Calculus is being held.  But now, all of our heroes risk being sacrificed to the sun god, unless Tintin can come up with a solution.

This film is over 40 years old and it does have some elements that some people may be a little uncomfortable with in a kids film today.  There is an extended gag involving Thompson and Thompson having a misconception about the term “indian” which results in them spending several scenes dressed like Sitting Bull.  Animal lovers will probably squirm and the number of crocodiles Tintin and Captain Haddock gun down in another sequence.  I mean, the boat captains on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland don’t even shoot the crocs anymore.  But these things really aren’t an issue unless someone chooses to make it one.  The film is still a fun adventure for the whole family.

The film was originally in French and was a French/Swiss/Belgian co-production.  The animation is not, let’s say, Disney level, but is solid.  It’s certainly better than most late 60’s animated television productions.  Actually, there were some elements of the animation that made me think of a late 60’s anime production.  We’re not talking huge eyes and gaping wide mouths here, but some elements in the backgrounds and action sequences are somewhat reminiscent of that style.  A few elements of the animation are a bit over-the-top, like Captain Haddock’s extremely exaggerated gestures.  But that’s nit-picking, this is solid animation.

Though this was the first of two animated Tintin features that came in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the film really doesn’t do anything to introduce us to the characters.  The movie assumes you are familiar with the characters…had I not seen Spielberg’s film a few months ago, I would’ve been somewhat lost for the first half hour of the film.  That’s really my only real complaint, otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

Rumor has it that “Prisoners of the Sun” is in the running to adapted for the follow-up to the recent Spielberg film.  But, in the meantime, this is a fun film that families who enjoyed the new movie should also check out.

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