Exclusive Interview with ‘Tintin’ Video Game Composer Christophe Héral

An interview with “The Adventures of Tintin” video game composer Christophe Héral
by Alexander Willems

When did Ubisoft contact you for writing the music?

Michel Ancel told me first about this project in summer 2007. Michel showed to Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson a small playable demo of what the game might look like. After that, they asked Ubisoft to do the game “Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn”. Ubisoft contacted me early during the development to compose the music and to supervise the sound.

When did you start writing the score?

I made a first theme for the demo, but I really thinked about the music in January 2011. In a game like Tintin, the cinematic structure should provide a narrative to the game, so I had to wait until they were done.

How long is the score in total?

With the “destroyed” versions of the Coop mode, I think there is more than two hours of music.

How many cues did you compose in total?

I don’t know exactly… a lot ;)

Have you had contact with John Williams whilst composing?

I asked Paramount to give me excerpts from John Williams’ music to know which direction he chose. I received three pieces in february : the opening credits and two extracts finally used in Marlinspike Hall, The Secret of the Scrolls and also when Tintin is in the library, but it was of course impossible for me using any single note of John Williams’ work. I just listened his music twice not to be influenced.

Would you like the score to be released on cd?

Yes, of course, but that doesn’t depend on us. I just hope that music can exist independently.

Do you like the presentation of the score in the game?

In this game, I was Audio Director, so with the Creative Director, Jacques Exertier, and the Lead Audio, Timothée Paulevé, we decided together where to put or not some music. We did, hopefully, for the better ;)

Did you like working with Ubisoft?

I am very lucky to work with and for Ubisoft, because I work with an incredible freedom. On Tintin and Rayman, I was able to compose the music I wanted to compose. It’s very rare to have producers who have complete confidence in you !

When did Mathieu Alvado start orchestrating the score? Was it fun working together?

Yes, yes, and yes. It’s a great pleasure to work with Mathieu. We worked together on “Eleanor’s secret” an cartoon movie for which he orchestrated some cues. Since then to “Rayman’s Origin,” I feel that we never stopped working together !

We had to make trailers for “Tintin” to “Rayman”in 2010, but for Mathieu, the serious work really began in March 2011.

How many themes did you write for the score?

There’s a lot of themes in Tintin. The two main themes are the Unicorn’s theme and the Captain Haddock’s theme. Haddock is a very interesting character. When Tintin meets him on the Karaboudjan, he’s depressed because he belongs to a family of cursed sailors. Then, as the story unfolds, the captain recovers confidence in himself, and will even manage the operations! So his music has to follow this evolution. For the Unicorn I wanted the music to be close to Korngold’s “Sea Hawk” or “Captain Blood”, the kind of movies our parents, our grandparents would have watched when they were young. Mathieu and I listened and studied a lot of that kind of music, and Mathieu orchestrated these themes keeping that in mind!

Over that, there’s the theme for the plane, it’s an adventure theme with some fights, there’s also a theme for Snowy that I wanted to be a tribute to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli (Gypsy music) , a theme for the Thomsons with two alto saxophones , a few love songs, music of infiltration, a theme for Allan, for the fights …

What is the first score that you have ever written?

I composed the music for my first short film in 1986 after JC… :) It was for Cello solo because we had a small budget :)

How many scores have you already composed?

I have no idea. I composed for 40 short films, 20 documentaries, 2 cartoon movies , 3 video games and one tv show. I never counted how many notes of music :)

Do you like the game itself? Do/did you play it?

Ouch! Unfortunately I do not play so much because I do not have time to, and when I’m working on a game, I play a lot, so in the evening I like to read a book …

Are you writing a score at the moment?

Yes, I have to compose the music for a short film, I also have a command from the France for a very nice project about the Mediterranean Sea’s music , and then, very soon will come another game project video, but … shhh, it’s a secret … not the Unicorn’s one, no, another secret :)

Christophe Héral’s official website is www.prod-erable.com

“The Adventures of Tintin: The Game” can be purchased on Amazon.com.