Belgium rolled out a royal red carpet Saturday for Tintin, its most celebrated son, as Steven Spielberg premiered his blockbuster movie in the comic book hero's home capital.
Posters of the intrepid boy reporter with the quiff and funny pants were plastered across town, and a parade of vintage cars, as portrayed by author Herge in albums set in the 1940s, was organised to coincide with the event.
Spielberg flies in for the first public screening of "The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn", an Avatar-style movie that will bring the boy hero and his trusty sidekick Snowy to cinemas elsewhere from Wednesday.
Co-produced by "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, Spielberg's "Tintin", in the director's own words, is billed as a kind of "Indiana Jones for kids".
Loosely based on several of the 24 Tintin comic albums, the story kicks off in a well-known Brussels antiques market, and city authorities are looking to a tourist bonanza for "the most celebrated of Belgians" -- as the posters say.
Tintin and Spielberg, whose project dates back 30 years, headlined papers and TV broadcasts in anticipation of the movie, which gets its red-carpet premiere early afternoon before Spielberg leaps onto a high-speed train to Paris for a second premiere later Saturday.
"There's a lot of excitement over the movie," said Dominique Maricq, an oldtimer at Herge Studios. "We're curious to see how Hollywood portrays him."
Welcoming Spielberg's decision to unveil the 3-D animation in Belgium, Maricq said that from the start Belgian specialists had been "impressed by Spielberg and Jackson's determination to respect the spirit of Tintin's world, to not turn him into an American super-hero."
Even one of the King Albert II's daughters will be attending the red carpet event.
But among the most avid spectators will be a Belgian retiree who has the distinction of being the sole person ever to have played Tintin on screen -- 50 years ago in a French production.
Jean-Pierre Talbot, a round-faced 68-year-old retired schoolteacher with a Tintinesque quiff, became an actor by fluke after being spotted on a beach by a film director as resembling the comic book hero.
"I'm upset and a little emotional," he said before seeing the Hollywood rendition. "I never acted again but for people here I've remained Tintin."
Created in 1929 by Herge, whose real name was Georges Remi and who was then in his early 20s, Tintin and his colourful and sometimes foul-mouthed companions have achieved cult status for millions worldwide.
Shot using motion capture technology, the Spielberg movie uses real-life actors -- Jamie Bell of "Billy Elliot" fame as the fresh-faced hero, Daniel Craig as the villain Red Rackham -- to breathe life into its characters.
Jackson is to direct two sequels.