Calibrate your compasses: the journey is just beginning for a precocious world traveler with a trademark hairdo and his loyal canine companion. The Adventures of Tintin, which premiered in Brussels on October 22, hits U.S. theatres on December 21. The Paramount and Columbia Pictures film, which uses 3D performance-capture technology, is directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Peter Jackson, and stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, and Daniel Craig. According to Box Office Mojo, international ticket sales have already surpassed $200 million.

The film is based upon the beloved Belgian comic book series by Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote using the pen name Hergé. The Tintin books are characterized by Hergé’s distinctive “ligne claire” ink-and-watercolor illustrations, and by recurring themes of espionage, swashbuckling, and science fiction. The books are also known for their slapstick humor, attention to current and historical events, and expansive geographical settings.

The Adventures of Tintin incorporates story lines from three of the 24 original books: The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944). Fans can visit the official Tintin Web site to learn more about Hergé, the history behind the series, and to view the film trailer.

The big-screen adventure kicks off when young reporter Tintin purchases a model of a sunken ship called the Unicorn at a market in Europe, and quickly discovers that nefarious characters are anxious to get their hands on it. After the model ship reveals a hidden message, Tintin and his fox terrier, Snowy, become embroiled in a globe-spanning race in search of the lost Unicorn.

While the film is geared toward a younger audience, nostalgia may draw adults who grew up reading the comics. Serious Tintinologists can find a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the film in The Art of the Adventures of Tintin (Harper Design, Nov.) by Chris Guise, the lead concept designer for the film, in conjunction with the film’s New Zealand-based visual effects company, Weta Digital. The book chronicles the process of adapting Tintin’s world from page to screen, while featuring photographs, artwork, and forewords by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. The book will also be released as an iPad app on December 16 with additional content, including character animations and audio commentary.

Tie-Ins and New Editions Hit the Shelves

Little, Brown, U.S. publisher for the Tintin books, is planning a comprehensive Tintin publishing program that targets multiple age groups. The books include a series of young reader editions which feature the original covers and comics, along with new materials, such as introductions to characters and background for each story. Six of the Adventures of Tintin Young Readers Editions have already been released, including The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure, and The Blue Lotus. Pubbing this month are The Black Island and King Ottokar’s Sceptre.

Little, Brown’s movie tie-in books, which were released in November, include Tintin’s Daring Escape, an original storybook; The Adventures of Tintin: The Chapter Book; and two additional trade paperback early readers, Danger at Sea and The Mystery of the Missing Wallet, all containing movie stills. Last month, Little, Brown also published a full-length novelization of the film, adapted by Alex Irvine.

According to Little, Brown, the series has sold more than 230 million copies internationally and has been translated into over 80 languages; Little, Brown has sold more than three million copies of the books domestically. Though the level of Tintin fandom in Europe has never been matched by an American audience, Andrew Smith, v-p and deputy publisher of LBYR, predicts that the film will spark interest among “nostalgic fans and kids and adults coming to the series for the first time. We definitely expect Tintin’s popularity to grow enormously in the U.S.”