Alain Baran, a close friend and associate of Tintin creator Herge, talks about the many avatars of the intrepid boy reporter, including his latest one.
Alain Baran says he first met Hergé “as a baby. He was a close friend of my mother,” elaborates the Goa-based Alain over the telephone. “I started to work professionally with Hergé in 1978 while preparing for the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the comics. That became a new way of looking at Tintin, it became an international phenomenon.”
Alain says while he had nothing to do with the “artistic side, I took care of the commercial aspects, including merchandising. Hergé was only interested in creating the books, but recognised the importance of the other sides as well.”
Steven Spielberg's introduction to Tintin has now become the stuff of legend but for those who came in very, very late, here goes. When Spielberg's “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was released in 1981, Alain says: “almost all the articles in Europe called it a typical Tintin adventure. I remember thinking at that time that maybe the writer, George Lucas, had read Tintin. Spielberg began to wonder ‘who is this Tintin?' When he got the books, they were in French, but he understood it through the art.”
Alain, who is the co-founder of the Hergé Foundation (today known as Studios Hergé), the organisation charged with preserving and promoting Hergé's work and Moulinsart says: “Hergé approved of Spielberg. He loved Spielberg's first film, “The Duel” (1971). So you see the admiration started very early. It is important that Hergé gave freedom to Spielberg to adapt the books to film. He said ‘I trust him, I give him freedom.' Hergé felt it would be a good promotion for the books. When we received the first communication from Spielberg, Hergé was very weak with leukemia. I went to Los Angeles for the meeting. The two were supposed to meet in 1983 and even spoke briefly over the phone but unfortunately it was not to be.”
Tintin started in the 80s
The Spielberg project, Alain says “started in 1983. A few scripts came up. Spielberg wanted to make a live action feature. Four years passed and nothing came out of it. Work was stopped for the television series produced by Ellipse and Nelvana.” The animated series, which was telecast in India in 2000, is the closest to the books with some frames from the comic making it directly to the screen.
“That was imposed in the contract,” says Alain. “Earlier adaptations were quite different from the books.”
About Tintin's latest movie adventure directed by Spielberg, Alain feels the use of motion capture is the “best way to adapt Tintin's world as Hergé created a mix of fiction and reality. And this was the best way to marry the two.”
While admitting the missing Cuthbert Calculus in the movie was surprising, Alain says: “There maybe some surprises in the sequel. I was in Brussels for the premiere. I think it is amazing. It is truly as Spielberg said Indiana Jones for kids. Purists might say, ‘this is not the Tintin I know.' There was a child who objected to Haddock's voice in a live action Tintin movie in the 60s saying that is not the voice of Haddock in the books! We all have a bit of Tintin in us. I knew this was a Spielberg film and while he has been respectful to the material, it is not a copy-paste job. It is anything but a copy-paste effort.”