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The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, known as The Adventures of Tintin in some regions, is a 2011 motion capture 3D film based on The Adventures of Tintin, a series of comic books created by Belgian artist Herge. It was directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Peter Jackson. The movie was filmed in Wellington, New Zealand by Weta Digital.1 The film was released in late October (UK) and December (USA) 2011. There is an unreleased sequel titled The Adventures of Tintin II.


The film takes place in an alternate reality from the series, and combines story elements from The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham's Treasure.


Tintin is a young world-traveling journalist living in Brussels, Belgium. At a flea market, he discovers - mostly because of his dog Snowy - a model of a ship called the Unicorn and buys it. A man named Barnaby Dawes warns Tintin and says that he exposes himself to great danger unless he gets rid of the model. Another man named Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine is a collector of model ships and wants to buy the ship from Tintin, but he flatly says no.

When Tintin gets home Snowy starts chasing a cat and then accidentally tips over the ship so that the mast breaks. When Tintin discovers that the mast is hollow, he goes to the Maritime Library, where he finds a book about the Unicorn and its captain, Sir Francis Haddock. It also says that the knight of Hadoque was attacked by pirates and that he had with him a secret cargo in the ship. When Tintin gets home, the model ship has been stolen and he suspects Sakharine. When Tintin comes back after confronting Sakharine, he notices that his apartment has been searched, but nothing has been stolen. But the thieves probably were looking for has always been below Tintin's Office. There Tintin finds an old parchment that says: "Three brothers joined. Three unicorns in company, sailing in the noonday will speak. From what is from the light, that the light will dawn and then shines forth the eagle cross". Then Tintin on the parchment had been in a ship's mast, it fell out of the mast when the ship turned over and then rolled it into the agency and he who stole the ship knew that parchment contained therein. But when the thief took the ship, he discovered that the parchment was not there so he came back to the apartment to look for it, but he did not think it had fallen below the cabinet. That was why the apartment was ransacked.

Murder of Barnaby

Then there was a knock on the door where Barnaby has news for Tintin, but he is shot and the shooter escapes. Barnaby had time to notice eleven letters in a newspaper with his blood before he loses consciousness. Next morning Thompson and Thomson investigate and ask what Barnaby was trying to say. Tintin writes a word with the letters as Barnaby noticed: K, A, R, A, B, O, U, D, J, A, N = Karaboudjan. Tintin's wallet is stolen by the mysterious pickpocket who Thompson and Thomson had long been looking for and he gets away.

Unfortunately, Tintin's parchment was in the wallet, but Thompson and Thomson promise to find the pickpocket.

Capture and escape

Afterwards, Tintin is kidnapped by a sailor named Allan Thompson and taken to the ship as they marked the letters meant, Karaboudjan. The leader of the league proves Sakharine also is looking for the three pieces of parchment that are hidden in the mast on the three Unicorn models. Tintin manages to get loose and hit the man who is actually the captain of Karaboudjan, Captain Haddock Tintin figures out that Haddock is a descendant of Sir Francis Haddock. Tintin and Haddock manage to escape from Karaboudjan and take a life boat to get to Bagghar in Morocco before Sakharine and find the man who has the third Unicorn, Sheik Omar Ben Salaad.In Brussels, Thompson and Thomson, without knowing it, find the thief who turns out to be the retired officer Aristides Silk. They will not listen to him, though he acknowledges several times, until they find the wallets collection he has. Tintin and Haddock are attacked by the Karaboudjan's seaplanes, but Tintin manages to capture the pilots.

Fall of Red Rackham

After Tintin and Haddock have flown a bit, they end suddenly in a storm and crash lands in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Haddock begins then tell about Sir Francis Haddock: The year was 1676 - the Unicorn, the proudest ship of Charles II's fleet, had left the island of Barbados in the Caribbean and set course towards Europe. They had been at sea for less than a day with good wind when it came from the lookout that a ship was heading for them and it was pirates. Sir Francis Haddock saw a horrible revelation to go against him, at that moment in history Haddock passed out. They were found later by Lieutenant Delcourt and taken to Afghar.

When Haddock winds up drinking spirits inadvertently provided by Snowy, he tells the story again. The awful revelation that Sir Francis Haddock saw was the pirates' leader, Red Rackham, who managed to overpower and capture the crew. Rackham, threatened to throw the knight's men overboard if he did not tell was the Unicorn's secret cargo was. Haddock revealed the secret door to the ship's hidden cargo holds and where was the secret cargo: four hundredweight of gold, jewels and treasures. But still Rackham threw Haddock's men overboard and they were eaten by sharks.

When the pirates had fallen asleep, Haddock managed to free himself and subdue Red Rackham following a brief yet spectacular sword duel. To kill all the pirates at the same time, he decided to blow up the Unicorn in the air (ending Rackham's life in the process), but the story was a huge clue: Rackham, said he and Haddock would meet again - in another time, in another life. Sakharine is a descendant of Red Rackham, and he will use his secret weapon, Bianca Castafiore, the Nightingale from Milan, to break the bulletproof glass protecting the third model of the Unicorn containing the last scroll needed, owned and located at the palace of Omar Ben Salaad the sheikh of Bagghar and a model ship collector.


Tintin and Haddock go immediately to Bagghar. When they arrived in Bagghar Thompson and Thomson hand back Tintin's wallet with the parchment.

When the time comes, Castafiore manages to sing down Omar Ben Salaad's bulletproof glass box, Sakharine's pet falcon gets hold of the parchment and Allan steals Tintin's parchment that he had given to Captain Haddock. After a chase through the city succeeds Tintin gets all three parchments, but then forced them to give them to Sakharine to save Haddock and Snowy's lives. Then, when Tintin is about to give up, Haddock convinces him to continue and uses the Karaboudjan's radio frequency to find out where they are headed.


It turns out that Karaboudjan is heading back to Brussels. As a skirmish breaks out between Tintin, Snowy, Thompson, and Thomson against Sakharine's men, Haddock takes on Sakharine, who bashes him with a construction crane and bests him at fencing. Just as Sakharine is about to press his victory, however, Tintin manages to get back all three parchments and Sakharine and Allan are forced to give in when it is found that Barnaby had survived. When Tintin and Haddock are watching properly in the parchment, they see the coordinates at the bottom and they are targeted against Moulin Arts Castle. Tintin and Haddock go into the cellar, helped by the butler Nestor, and find the treasure's location. But there was also a piece of paper there and it is the beginning of a new adventure where they will find the Unicorn's wreck.


Note: (*) indicates that they are played by uncredited actors.




John Williams composed the musical score for The Adventures of Tintin. It was Williams' first film score since 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,[1] as well as his first animated film. Most of the score was written while the film's animation was still in the early stages, with Williams attempting to employ "the old Disney technique of doing music first and have the animators trying to follow what the music is doing". Eventually several cues had to be revised when the film was edited. The composer decided to employ various musical styles, with "1920s, 1930s European jazz" for the opening credits, or "pirate music" for the battle at sea.[2] It was released on 21 October 2011 through Sony Classical Records.[3]

The score received very positive reviews from critics.

Release Dates

  • Oct 23 - Belgium, France
  • Oct 26 - United Kingdom
  • Nov 11 - India
  • Nov 24 - Hong Kong
  • Nov 28 - Spain
  • Dec 01 - Japan
  • Dec 09 - Canada (Quebec only)
  • Dec 16 - Australia
  • Dec 21 - Canada (except Quebec), United States
  • Dec 23 - Venezuela
  • Dec 25 - Mexico
  • Dec 26 - New Zealand
  • Dec 30 - Pakistan
  • Jan 20 - Brazil


See Gallery for more


The Adventures of Tintin was well responded to by critics, and broke Pixar's streak by taking the 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Picture. It did not, however, go on to win the Academy Award for the same category (which it was not even nominated for). It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, but lost to "The Artist."

Changes from the Source Material

  • As the film mainly draws its story from The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), and to a minor degree, Red Rackham's Treasure (1944), several major differences were made from the source material:
    • Instead of the Bird Brothers being the main villains who wanted to find Red Rackham's treasure, Sakharine, the originally innocent model ship collector of the source material, is re-imagined as the main villain and the one who is determined to find the scrolls to the treasure and is a descendant of Red Rackham.
    • Red Rackham's treasure is now instead the property, or at least the stewardship, of Francis Haddock, which eliminates the connotation from the original books of our heroes claiming the treasure as stolen property for themselves. Furthermore, the treasure is not simply the contents of a small chest, but a comparatively vast treasure trove hidden in a secret hold on the Unicorn.
    • In the original book of The Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin intends to buy the model of the Unicorn as a gift for Captain Haddock, but because of the altered series of events in the film, Tintin purchases the model for himself as he does not know Haddock until he gets captured by Sakharine and the crew of the Karaboudjan. Tintin also learns that Captain Haddock is a descendant of Sir Francis Haddock on board the merchant ship shortly after meeting him rather how he learns of it in the original Secret of the Unicorn book.
    • Barnaby is no longer a lackey of the Bird Brothers as he was in the original The Secret of the Unicorn book and is instead an FBI agent who is tasked to protect the three models of the Unicorn from being put into bad hands. He also perishes in the film after being shot at Labrador Road rather than what happens to him in the original book.
    • The opium smuggling venture from The Crab with the Golden Claws is removed entirely from the film's plot (though it is referenced during the final battle scene of the storyline where Snowy makes the same crab tins from the original book fall, tumble, and significantly obstruct a number of the Karaboudjan's crewmates.)
    • When Tintin gets chloroformed, he gets sent to the Karaboudjan by its crew instead of Marlinspike Hall by unidentified goons of the Bird Brothers.
    • Omar Ben Salaad is no longer a drug smuggler like how he was in the original Crab with the Golden Claws book and is instead the sheikh of Bagghar and a collector of model ships. He is also instead a neutral character rather than a antagonist.
    • Nestor is initially portrayed as the private driver of Sakharine and only vastly later becomes the future butler of Captain Haddock, whereas in the original books he was always a butler.
    • The crew of the Karaboudjan (minus Haddock) work for Sakharkine in the film instead of working for Ben Salaad in the original Crab with the Golden Claws book.
    • Bianca Castafiore appears in the film, but does not in the original story source material the film adapts.


  • According to pg. 95 of The Art of The Adventures of Tintin, the events of the film take place in 1949[4].
    • However, according to the newspaper Barnaby used to spell out the Karaboujan, the film is set in 1944.
  • Many references to other adventures, characters and productions of the franchise appear in the film, which include the following, but not limited to:

    One of the cameos of the Moon Rocket in the film's opening credits.

    • Professor Calculus' Moon Rocket from Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon appears twice in the opening credits, first as a graphic on a mug in the very first shot, and later seen flying in the train chase sequence.
    • The Ellispe-Nelvana animated series from the 1990's is referenced when a searchlight appears and focuses on Tintin and Snowy when they run off to the train station, mimicking the iconic logo of the animated series.
    • Several locations that Tintin and other characters have visited appear as reachable destinations on the train station's timetable, including the Congo, Shanghai, the Black Island, San Theodoros,and Syldavia.
    • The Black Island itself, Craig Dhui Castle, appears in the background during the train chase.
    • One of the statues of Pulau-Pulau Bomba island from Flight 714 appears during the train chase just before Tintin and Snowy duck themselves through the railway tunnel.
    • At the start of the flea market scene when Tintin is receiving a self-portrait of himself from a Hergé look-alike, portraits of many characters from the other comic books appear, including Bobby Smiles, Sophocles Sarcophagus, Dr Ridgewell, Decimus Phostle, the Bird Brothers, and several others.
    • When Tintin arrives back at his apartment in the beginning of the film, newspapers detailing previous adventures he has had are shown, including Tintin in the Congo, Cigars of the Pharaoh, The Blue Lotus, The Broken Ear, The Black Island, and King Ottokar's Sceptre.
    • Le Petit Vingtième is referenced by utilization of its name for a generic newspaper provider that the Thompsons share with Tintin after the death of Barnaby.
    • The part where Haddock uncovers a crew member on board the Karaboudjan who was sleeping inside one of the lifeboats is similar to how Professor Calculus managed get on board the Sirius in Red Rackham's Treasure by hiding in a lifeboat and later on having a snooze inside of it.
    • The shot that mirrors a panel from Land of Black Gold.

      When Tintin, Haddock, and Snowy are trying to avoid being shot down by CN-3411, Tintin aims his pistol for defense in a very similar position as to how he aims in one particular panel during the climax of Land of Black Gold.
    • When Sakharine attempts to escape with the scrolls in Bagghar alongside Allan and Tom, the vehicle that Tom drives to escort them is a red jeep identical to the one used by the Thompsons, and later Tintin throughout Land of Black Gold.
    • As mentioned before, the crab tins from The Crab with the Golden Claws appear at one part of the dock crane battle scene between Haddock and Sakharine.
    • During the ending of the film, Tintin is wearing the same casual suit he wore in The Crab with the Golden Claws which consisted of a brown blazer, a white shirt and tie underneath a yellow v-neck pullover vest, his usual brown plus-fours with black socks, and brown shoes.
    • The way how Tintin was able to break out of his imprisonment at Marlinspike Hall by using a large fragment of wood is referenced when the same tactic used by him and Haddock to gain entry into Sir Francis' cellar of splendors.

Possible sequels

Originally, the second Tintin film was to be based on Hergé's The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun. However, screenwriter Anthony Horowitz later stated that those books would be the second sequel and another story would become the first sequel.

Peter Jackson announced that he would direct the sequel once he had finished The Hobbit trilogy. Two years before The Secret of the Unicorn, Jackson mentioned that his favorite Tintin stories were The Seven Crystal Balls, Prisoners of the Sun, The Black Island, and The Calculus Affair, but he had not yet decided which stories would form the basis of the second film. He added "it would be great" to use Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon for a third or fourth film in the series.

By the time The Secret of the Unicorn was released, Spielberg said the book that would form the sequel had been chosen and that the Thomson and Thompson detectives would "have a much bigger role". The sequel would be produced by Spielberg and directed by Jackson. Kathleen Kennedy said the script might be completed by February or March 2012 and motion-captured in summer 2012, so that the film would be on track to be released by Christmas 2014 or mid-2015.

In the months following the release of The Secret of the Unicorn, Spielberg revealed that a story outline for the sequel had been completed and that it was based on two books. Horowitz tweeted that Professor Calculus would be introduced in the sequel. During a press tour in Belgium for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jackson said he intended to shoot performance-capture in 2013, aiming for a release date in 2015.

In March 2013, Spielberg said: "Don't hold me to it, but we're hoping the film will come out around Christmas-time in 2015. We know which books we're making, we can't share that now but we're combining two books which were always intended to be combined by Hergé". He refused to confirm the names of the books, but said The Blue Lotus would probably be the third Tintin film. In December 2014, when Jackson was asked if the Tintin sequel would be his next project after The Hobbit trilogy, he said that it would be made "at some point soon", but he added that he wanted to direct two New Zealand films before that.

In June 2015, Jamie Bell stated that the sequel was titled Tintin and the Temple of the Sun and that he hoped shooting would begin in early 2016 for a possible release by the end of 2017 or early 2018. Later in November, Horowitz said that he was no longer working on the sequel, and did not know if it was still being made, and in March 2016, he confirmed that the script he had written for the sequel had been scrapped.

On March 2016, Scout.co.nz announced that Jackson would produce the sequel rather than direct. The website also announced that a third Tintin film was in development, with Jackson serving as executive producer. Bell and Serkis were reported to be reprising their roles in both films. Spielberg later announced that Jackson was still attached to directing the sequel, and that it would enter work once Jackson completed another Amblin Partners/DreamWorks production.

In March 2018, Spielberg reiterated the above, saying that "Peter Jackson has to do the second part. Normally, if all goes well, he will soon start working on the script. As it takes two years of animation work on the film, for you, I would not expect to see it for about three years. But Peter will stick to it. Tintin is not dead!" In interviews later the same year, Jackson affirmed his intent to make another Tintin film, but said that a script was yet to be written.