Director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson appeared at the 2011 Comic Con International to promote their upcoming film The Adventures of Tintin. It was Spielberg’s first appearance at the long-running San Diego convention and the packed crowd in Hall H gave him a standing ovation. After the jump you will find what I learned from the panel.

  • Spielberg on the importance of staying child-like: “If I start growing up… I’ll stop making movies.”
  • On Producing: “Here is what I do as a producer: I hire the director and I go away. That is the smartest thing a producer can do.”
  • On working on many projects at the same time: “First thing the director mourns the loss of is our objectivity.” Spielberg says he finds when he’s working on multiple projects he can go away and work on one and come back to another with fresh eyes.
  • Peter Jackson on if he will return to horror: “I do have a couple of things that I’m playing around with at the moment. Definitely, in the future.”
  • When asked when film he produced does he wish he could have directed, Spielberg’s answer was American Beauty. He was sent the script and his wife even joked to him “if you don’t direct this, I’m going to leave you”. But in the end, he feels he could have never made the film Sam Mendes made, and that movie won an Oscar.

The History of the project:

  • Spielberg first discovered Tintin after reading a French review of Raiders of the Lost Ark that kept comparing his movie to Tintin. He went out and got one of the Tintin books, and even though it was in French and he couldn’t read it, the illustrated story won him over.
  • He got the rights to make Tintin in 1983 but the time was never right.
  • Peter Jackson was a huge Tintin fan all his life and has been looking forward to Spielberg’s adaptation for a quarter of a century.
  • Jackson discovered computer effects when he saw Jurassic Park, and pushed himself to learn the new technology. This eventually led him to create WETA. So the whole thing comes full circle with Peter Jackson producing and his company doing the digital work.

On the decision to “shoot” the movie using performance capture over live action:

  • Spielberg asked himself “Do i shoot this live action with a digital dog or do i shoot this computer animated.”
  • WETA even created a live action test six years ago, which they showed to the Comic Con audience. The test featured Peter Jackson dressed as Captain Haddock on a dock with the dog snowy trying to up-show him in the background. At one point, Snowy takes a drink from Haddock’s discarded bottle of wine and drunkenly falls off the dock into the water.
  • Spielberg on choosing Performance Capture over Animation: “This was the medium which was begging us to use it.”

Using Performance Capture:

  • Spielberg had a virtual camera where he could see a roughly rendered version of the performance capture and shot the whole film using the V-Cam.
  • Spielberg says he was able to do things with the virtual camera in the action sequences that he only dreamed were possible with a real camera.
  • The state of the art technology allowed Spielberg to be very close and intimate with the actors, being only a feet away from them directing their performances. “This is much more of a direct to canvas art form.”
  • Most of the same crew that animated James Cameron’s Avatar are working on Tintin.
  • Spielberg praised the technology saying that it has evolved to a place “where they can be realistic to the point where the animators can create the musculature, nerves, and replica of a human body which responds the same way as we do.”

On Making Tintin:

  • On the look of the film: Spielberg wanted the movie to look like the drawings, but he didn’t want to have to cast the actors based on how close they matched the physical looks of the characters. They also didn’t want it to look like a cartoon, so they added super real skin textures to the cartoonish figures.
  • Except for his best friend George Lucas, Spielberg claims his work with Peter Jackson is the best collaboration he’s ever had.
  • Jackson says they chose to start with the Secret of the Unicorn out of the other 23 Tintin stories because that was the story that brought Tintin and Captain Haddock together and focused on their relationship. They also had ideas of how they could expand upon it in different ways.
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