Billions of blistering barnacles! Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's "The Adventures of Tintin" hit theaters Wednesday. Here are 10 things you should know about the world-famous adventurer before you catch the movie.
1 It's spelled "Tintin," not "Tin Tin" -- and certainly not "Rin-Tin-Tin."
2 "The Adventures of Tintin" is based on a series of 24 comic books created by Belgian artist Hergé (real name Georges Remi) that follow a young reporter and detective named Tintin, his scrappy wire fox terrier Snowy and boisterous best friend Captain Haddock as they travel the globe, solving mysteries, seeking treasures and adventures. Think of him as a cross between a young Indiana Jones and James Bond, minus the womanizing, with a dash of the Hardy Boys thrown in for good measure.
3 The 24 Tintin titles, published between 1929 and 1986, have been translated into more than 100 languages and have sold more than 200 million copies -- not bad for a series barely known in the United States. A large reason for Tintin's timeless and worldwide appeal is attributed to Hergé's meticulously researched stories and striking animation, which drew from many political and cultural events of the 20th century, including colonialism, Nazism, archaeological discoveries, human rights, the space race, the Cold War and even UFOs.
4 Steven Spielberg had been trying to bring Tintin to the big screen for almost 30 years. He was introduced to the comics in 1981, when a French critic compared the filmmaker's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to Hergé's hero. Fascinated by the stunning artwork and complexities of the stories, he immediately snapped up the rights, with the blessing of Hergé's widow. Despite this, the property languished in development for decades. It was only when Peter Jackson, also an avid Tintin fan, got involved in the production that the ball finally began to roll on the ginger-haired detective.
5 "The Adventures of Tintin" film combines the stories of three Tintin books: "The Crab With the Golden Claws," "Red Rackham's Treasure" and "The Secret of the Unicorn." Most of the film's plot is based on the latter book, which serves as the film's subtitle for most of the globe.
6 While Hergé's Tintin adventures are famous for their political subtext, don't expect any in Spielberg's film. "The Crab With the Golden Claws," "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure" were written during World War II, when Belgium was under Nazi occupation. To avoid censorship -- and the threat of death -- Hergé refocused his books released during the war on adventures set in exotic lands.
7 "Tintin" is one of the rare Hollywood films that Americans will be among the last to see. The movie has been playing in most of Europe and Asia since October. Even Quebec got a peek before us. Spielberg and Jackson intentionally did this to capitalize on the series' tremendous worldwide popularity. Their gamble paid off: The film has already grossed more than $230 million.
8 "The Adventures of Tintin" isn't just Spielberg's first 3-D film but also his foray into motion-capture filmmaking (as seen in "Avatar" and "The Polar Express"). Spielberg chose to film Hergé's world this way because it allowed him to place the camera in an environment where he could orchestrate anything he wanted, without the shackles of shooting live-action. The result is Spielberg's most audaciously fun and exhilarating film in almost a decade.
9 Tintin's massive worldwide following has even inspired a cultural study known as Tintinology. Hergé's dense texts have been analyzed, dissected and probed by literary critics, many of whom have published detailed books on the adventures. Those who passionately study and deliberate the themes, characters and motifs in Hergé's adventures are dubbed Tintinologists.
10 There's already a sequel in the works. Spielberg and Jackson always envisioned the project as a trilogy. The second film, to be directed by Jackson, will be based on the two-part story "The Seven Crystal Balls" and "Prisoners of the Sun," and will see Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy traveling to the jungles of South America to solve another mystery rife with peril at every corner. Expect that film to hit cinemas in 2015.