I went to see this movie over winter break and was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. I had never seen the animated books, but the movie was a complete re-imagination of the concept, directed by Steven Speilberg. It centers around a young reporter who uncovers an old secret that could lead to treasure, which leads him on a journey with a captain and his dog (it's a lot better then it sounds). The characters and environments were incredibly realistic, especially since the movie was in 3D, the storyline and humor was actually pretty mature for a kids movie. The movie used it's own internal art department in order to create all of the animations for this movie that referenced real items and locations in order to create picture-perfect recreations. The characters stayed true to the actors performance through captured motions and keyframe animation.
An interview with Matt Aikten, the visual effects supervisors, goes over how they recreated cities, oceans and entire deserts for the movie. They first did a template of the entire movie in CGI and previs, where they used the actors and doubles to create the scenes that were then turned over Aikten to edit and add lighting, animations and effects to create "a highly detailed world or idealized reality". The characters themselves were created with intention to look human, through their skin and movements, but kept a connection with the original characters through cartoonish sized hands and heads. I think this is interesting because when we eventually try to animate body parts, we have to make that distinction between real and animation sized objects. Many animated movies distort the characters so that there is a very noticeable difference, but TinTin had a very real feel to it's characters, and a look that even mirrored the voice actors. Below is a behind the scenes look at some of the high action scenes and how Speilberg created them and the artwork.
Aikten also mentions in the interview, that they used raytracing in order to create many of the reflections seen in the movie. One of the characters is introduced from the other side of a whiskey bottle, there is another scene in the beginning of the movie where we see a model ship through several mirrors. Rendering with raytracing gives them the correct spacial relationship between the character and the object.
He also mentions working with fluids to create an entire ocean, and that moving the stable objects with the flowing ocean is very hard to do. Aikten even mentions that a short shot of one character falling into the water and creating a splash was one of the most difficult things his company has ever done.
I would recommend this movie, even if you're not a fan of the original story, the animation is definitely worth it.