Monday, November 21, 2011

Tintin and the 1 500 000 figurines

Bondi & Tintin in Brugge - Salamanca - Derry

I was about seven years when I first encountered Tintin books in Bourke library, beginning with The Secret of the Unicorn / Red Rackham’s Treasure pairing. What a world of discovery that was! My only experience of 2D* animated characters thus far had been Disney cartoons and comic books. Without even referring back to the books I can recall it as being the first place I had a story with history, submarines, pirates, a scientist, humour and the little snapshot of a moment in time found in each frame.  By the time the last finished title in the series arrived in 1976 I had collected all the books for my own re-reading pleasure. I remember my father would often visit my room in the evening to borrow a few volumes of Tintin and Asterix to read in bed – he must have read the entire series many times over by the time I took them away in the late 80s.

(* I had to say 2D because my first animated love was the stop-motion phantasmagoria that is The Magic Roundabout, like Tintin, another French-language creation. Unlike Tintin, the dialogue was entirely transmuted to a completely new sensibility for English-speaking audiences. )

Carrefour Condom - Tintin display

With the release of the Stephen Spielberg/Peter Jackson 3D animated adaptation of Unicorn(with bits of Rackham and Crab with the Golden Claws thrown in), the French Carrefour hypermarket and supermarket chain has launched a huge marketing campaign using the Tintin characters. The cost of outfitting its 4587 French stores with Tintin posters and displays, Tintin trolley livery and billboards everywhere would have Captain Haddock screaming “Pithecanthropic pickpocket! Purple profiteering jellyfish!”

Captain Haddock

Captain Haddock, big hamEach Tuesday I get a large wad of advertising brochures through the post. Jean calls it the “Conforamagasm” and is very meticulous about making sure that I don’t miss a single leaflet. As Christmas nears, the number and thickness of each is growing. The Carrefour supermarket specials are decorated with Tintin characters, and I can’t say the results are always terribly attractive when the corpse-like skin of the film versions is transferred to cheap colour newsprint.

Given Captain Haddock’s propensity for colourful language I would have liked to have seen his image screaming Cornichons!  or morues dans un carton à chapeau (cod in a hatbox*)! on suitable grocery illustrations. He is next to a beard-trimmer on one page, but I’m still wondering if “big ham” translates literally into French as per the image on the right.

(*”cod in a hatbox” sounds like something that could have come from the mouth of Royce “God on a Wheel” Reed, surely the spiritual daughter of Captain Haddock and Bianca Castafiore. This comes from a frame in Explorers on the Moon. It’s not actually an insult; the Captain is lamenting that the lunar crew will die like cod in a hatbox, or in the English version, the drearier “kippers in a crate”.)

Part of the promotion is enticing customers to buy enough to earn vignettes (little stickers) that will eventually allow them to have some of the “exclusive” character figurines of which there are only 1.5 million available. True collectibles…hmmm. They don’t seem to look very much like the original characters or necessarily like the film versions.

Swedish cuisineThe good news for Gustav was found in the Intermarché brochure: half-price Swedish sandwiches!

Actually I think that’s a good one for Captain Haddock: half-price Swedish sandwich!!


  1. Anita4:25 pm

    Jambon emental (did I spell that correctly??) sounds better than hma and cheese doesn't it?

  2. Anita4:26 pm

    No I didn't, did I? :o/

  3. Lesley8:28 pm

    A couple of weeks ago the BBC2 had a prog. about Tintin au pays des Soviets (the first story) and interviewed the, now, 'little elderly lady' who did the translations for Herge into English. It was she that made up the Captain Haddock expletives. I wonder how they sound in some of the other languages in which Tintin is now published.
    I was always sorry the Milou had become Snowy.

  4. Obsessive Tintin fans have compiled directories of Haddock's expletives. There are even web/phone apps to generate them.

    The English list at Tintinologist has a link to translations of the additional curses put in one Turkish edition.

    The comprehensive list of French originals is in the French wikipedia (not duplicated for English).

  5. Lesley12:05 am

    Wow! I should have realized that there were Tintinologists. I shall now have to check up on Moomin.

  6. LOL. Gustav knows I would probably explode if I saw a combined Tintin/Moomin mug.

    Which reminds me that I should do a Moomin mug update soon...

    My friend Ben who was staying earlier in the month is playing a concert in Tampere Finland next month. This is where the Moomin museum is based....but I don't think he's keen on visiting.