The Adventures of Tintin: Canadian DVD review and comparison
- Image © Hergé Moulinsart.
Sections: Introduction | Release Schedule | Thoughts on the Release Schedule | Pricing | Languages | Specifications | Packaging | PAL/NTSC Debate | Picture | Sound | DVD Extras | Menus | Conclusion
The Ellipse-Nelvana Tintin series from 1990 is considered by almost all fans to be the best attempt at a screen adaptation of the Hergé adventures. After a successful VHS release shortly after the series had aired it wasn't until over a decade later that a DVD release was made in Europe. However these DVD's were encoded for Region 2 and in the PAL video format, fine for those of us in Europe but it left the rest of the world to suffer without Tintin. The worst to suffer were those from the USA/Canada who not only had the trouble of purchasing a multi-region DVD player (far less common in the USA than in Europe) but also a TV that would take the PAL format since the American standard was NTSC. This left most fans unable to see the series.
As a small consolation /Tintin and the Lake of Sharks /was made available in Canada in a very poor transfer to DVD, something the UK has yet to see, yet many fans would see this as an insult that such poor production quality should be their only television outlet for such a loved character. However it seemed it would be only a matter of time before Anchor Bay released the set in R1 after the success of the European sets. In the end though it fell to the good people at Alliance Atlantis and Universal Studios to finally end the American drought.
For the purpose of this review when I refer to the Region 2 PAL DVD set I am referring to the 10 disc set that can be purchased from most major online retailers, it is blue and contains 10 think DVD cases containing all 21 episodes from the series.
For comparison purposes, I have used the Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon disc from this set compared to the R1 equivalent disc.
I've tried to compare the regions wherever possible rather than write a straightforward review.
Rather than release the whole DVD collection in one box set Universal have decided to split the series into two with half released on April 5th 2005, and the next instalment coming on September 13th 2005. The episodes come two per DVD and can also be purchased separately.
I've linked each available release to DVDSoon.com who are the cheapest place to purchase them online.
5th April 2005
- Tintin 1: Objectif Lune / On A Marché Sure La Lune
- Tintin 1: Destination Moon / Explorer's on the Moon
- Tintin 2: Au Pays De L'or Noir / Vol 714 Pour Sydney
- Tintin 2: Land of Black Gold / Flight 714
- Tintin 3: L'ile Noire / Le Sceptre D'Ottakar
- Tintin 3: The Black Island / King Ottakar's Sceptre
- Tintin 4: Les 7 Boules De Cristal / Le Tempel du Soleil
- Tintin 4: The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun
- Tintin 5: L'Etoile Mystérieuse / L'oreille Cassée
- Tintin 5: The Shooting Star / The Broken Ear
- Tintin Box Set 1: Volumes 1-5
13th September 2005
- Tintin 6: Le Crabe Aux Pinces D'or / Tintin au Tibet
- Tintin 6: The Crab with the Golden Claws / Tintin in Tibet
- Tintin 7: Le Lotus Bleu / L'Affaire Tournesol
- Tintin 7: The Blue Lotus / The Calculus Affair
- Tintin 8: Les Cigares Du Pharaon / Coke en Stock
- Tintin 8: Cigars of the Pharaoh / The Red Sea Sharks
- Tintin 9: Le Secret de la Licorne / Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge
- Tintin 5: The Secret of the Unicorn / Red Rackham's Treasure
- Tintin 5: Le Bijoux de la Castafiore / Tintin et les Picaros
- Tintin 5: The Castafiore Emerald / Tintin and the Picaros
- Tintin Box Set 2: Volumes 6-10
This information is correct according to the leaflet included in my copy of Volume 1.
Thoughts on the Release Schedule
Without even having two watch any of the episodes most fans will spot one major flaw in this release compared to the European releases and maybe one minor one. The first is pretty obvious and if it's not then count the releases! 10 DVD with two episodes per disc gives us a grand total of 20 adventures. Ellipse-Nelvana made 21 episodes which all appear on the European release and for reasons unknown it is /Tintin in America /that fails to make the cut. To be perfectly honest I have no idea why this is, presumably they wanted just 2 episodes per disc and a stray episode would make one disc need 3 (like in Europe). Whether this was a political decision because the episode was based on America or merely they thought it was the weakest remains to be seen.
The second flaw is rather minor in comparison to missing an entire episode but is fairly important. The order of the discs seems to follow no set pattern. The moon series comes first in this collection and then later on in the series Tintin goes back to not knowing Haddock and Calculus. To be fair the original Anchor Bay releases followed no particular order either but putting Cigars of the Pharaoh after the Blue Lotus to me suggests that the person who was in charge of the sets has no real interest in Tintin or bothered to do their research. It could be that they merely wanted the most exciting episode first to encourage people to buy the other volumes.
The box set retails at around $100 Canadian Dollars which is around £44 in Sterling, whereas the individual discs are $30 (£11). Remember these are the recommended retail price and if you shop around online you can probably knock these prices in half or even more. Bearing in mind that this is only half a set then $100 seems expensive and hopefully we'll see a price reduction in the near future.
As you can see from the titles of the DVD this set is designed prominently for a French market. Now since it is a Canadian release it is quite normal to include a French soundtrack and some French text on the cover but this is the first time I have ever seen a Canadian DVD that is French with English as a bonus feature. The slipcase is entirely in French and the DVD cover is also in French but contains a reversible English cover.
The set has an option screen when you first insert the disc to ask which language you would prefer (French or English) and then all the menus after that are in the appropriate language. However it is geared towards French more than English and the credits and any onscreen text are in French although subtitles do automatically appear to translate key elements such as the title screen. Perhaps slightly annoying if you are an English speaker but nothing major in my opinion and it would not ruin your enjoyment of the set.
Well now for a few boring details about the discs themselves. They are presented in the standard television 4:3 (full frame) aspect ration which is what the series was filmed in so no worries about missing out on a widescreen version. The French and English soundtracks are both Dolby Digital 2.0 and both French and English subtitles are included for the hard of hearing. The DVD is single layer which is appropriate for a feature of this length.
The DVD are also given a G rating which in Canada means General and appropriate for viewing by any age, similar to the UK Universal rating.
Well this is the only section that the R1 release truly beats the R2 hands down, as the packaging is easily the nicest we've seen for a Tintin DVD. Each individual DVD comes in its own full size DVD case and the front cover of each DVD is the same as the album cover for the first album listed on each DVD. Put quite simply it looks so much nicer than any of the R2 releases. The back cover has smaller pictures of both album covers with a short blurb about each episode. The standard cover is in French but if you turn the cover around the exact same cover is available in English. This is extremely common on Canadian releases and looks a lot nicer than the alternative of having translations on the main cover, although normally it is an English cover reversible to a French.
Now we come to the DVD slipcase which quite frankly is the one thing to tempt me to buy this release outright even though I own the R2 discs twice over. Basically it is a carbon copy of the DVD sleeve but made out of cardboard, the lettering of /Objective Lune /is especially nice and isn't printed on but stands out from the cardboard and gives the cover a feel of real quality. The two spines offer a choice between a listing of the titles on the DVD and a picture spine of Tintin running in which you'd need to buy the whole set to complete.
Now I'm not saying the packaging is a good enough reason to buy this set again but it really is nice and would look nice on any fans shelf. It takes up more space than the R2 due to the two sets having to hold 10 full size DVD but if you were to envision how you'd like a Tintin DVD set to look I think this would come pretty close.
Well it's time to get super-technical as I discuss briefly the relative merits of the two differing formats of PAL and NTSC. Both formats have their merits of course and to most people the difference are negligible and hardly noticeable.
The first comparison point is of picture resolution and without getting overly technical a standard Tintin DVD in a 4:3 aspect ration in PAL has a resolution of 720 x 576 whereas NTSC has a lower resolution of 720 x 480 which is a difference in resolution of 20% lower for NTSC. However this is only simplistic and we have to consider that the cartoons were not made in super high resolutions with DVD in mind as many cartoons are today so it is hard to notice the difference even on a high quality entertainment system.
However the NTSC frame rate is 30 as opposed to the PAL standard of 25, this means that the screen refreshes itself more times per second in NTSC than in PAL making for a more fluid motion in animation. This however is negated by the fact that the series was originally recorded in PAL and has since been converted to NTSC for this new release meaning that the resolution has been downgraded and frames have been added to the cartoon to make it run at the correct length.
Are you with me so far? It would seem that the PAL option is the way to go but there is one final factor to consider. DVD uses as MPEG2 compression system and hence quality does suffer to fit the cartoon on a single sided DVD. With the PAL version requiring 20% more space due to the higher resolution required it means that the PAL version has been compressed harder to fit the space meaning a lower quality transfer.
In conclusion, it is generally agreed that the best format to go for is quite varied but the consensus is that if it was filmed in PAL then it will look better in PAL and vice versa due to the fact that it hasn't been tampered with in transferring. I've watched both versions on a 32in TV and I haven't noticed any real difference is the picture quality at all so I wouldn't shell out a lot of money making your TV PAL compliant for little or no benefit to the picture quality in this case.
Regardless of what has been said above about the relative merits of the two formats I can confidently say that if there is any difference between the two formats you will not notice. Sadly the picture is not as good on either release as I would have hoped for a cartoon only 15 years old. There is significant edge enhancement and digitalisation and this leaves the image not looking as sharp as it could have. As pointed out by others some of the scenes have a slightly pink tint to them. Overall not a superb transfer but the picture is clear, as expected the picture is a direct transfer of the PAL version rather than a brand new transfer.
The R1 release contains Dolby 2.0 Stereo sound in both English and French which is pretty much the bare minimum you would expect on a DVD nowadays. The soundtrack is crisp and clear in English and appears to be the same in French (although I am no expert). The R2 also contains a Spanish soundtrack which is absent from the R1.
The only extra available are both French and English subtitles which normally come as standard on most DVD. However the R2 lacks subtitles and although I have never found any use for them having suitable hearing it seems a shame that Tintin fans who are hard of hearing may not be able to enjoy them. Fortunately the R1 release corrects this.
Before you get to the menu you have to sit through two copyright announcements (in French and English) followed by the standard Universal logo introduction and then a final one for Nelvana. The first menu that you will come to is whether to choose the French or English menu which is red with a large picture of Tintin walking along putting his coat on.
The main menu (which is the same whichever language you choose) is not animated like the R2 but static and shows Tintin and Wolff looking at a panel in the rocket with the options listed. Your choices for those that care are Play Episodes, Set-Up and a Scene Selection for either episode. This is technically where we have one of the few errors in this set. When selecting the scene selection menu for one of the episodes I expected to be taken to a sub-menu containing chapters to select, instead what you get is the start of whichever episode you have chosen. A minor point maybe considering you can skip through the chapters on your remote control but it should be noted that the R2 contains this facility.
Perhaps through this review I've been slightly unfair to have compared the regions of the DVD so heavily as since the R2 has been out for so long then this release will be mainly for those Tintin fans in Region 1 who have been unable to play a set of the PAL discs. For those fans then I assure you that you will not be disappointed with this new set as it does an admirable job of bringing the series to North America. Sadly for me the lack of Tintin in America really disappoints me as if they bother to go to the trouble of releasing the set then why go to the added trouble of leaving one out?
This set is wonderfully packaged and definitely the nicest set released so far and also on par on a technical basis with the R2 equivalent. Sadly since the R2 can be picked up quite cheaply almost permanently from various retailers this new NTSC set seems a very expensive alternative for what is fundamentally the same set missing an episode.
Also worth noting is that this set is release by Universal Studios in what appears to be the first in an exciting development for Tintin fans. In the near future we can look forward to a new attraction and a shop at Universal Studios Orlando as well as a brand new computer game. Lets hope this DVD release sells well enough to lead to even more releases in the near future.
Text © Richard Bullivant. Used by permission. Image © Hergé Moulinsart.