I bet no one reading this ever thought they’d live in a world where Steven Spielberg couldn’t do whatever the hell he wants to do. And yet that’s exactly where we find ourselves now that Universal has passed on financing Tintin, which came to the studio with a $130m budget.

This is ammunition for everyone who has said for months that Tintin isn’t as broadly appealing as many say (which I think is myopic, as there’s an undeniable global recognition for the character) and that Spielberg and Jackson’s plans for the franchise were unrealistic.

The plan was for Paramount and Universal to split production costs. Paramount has footed the bill so far for everything that’s been done to date, and was hoping that Universal would kick in once production began in earnest. Now with Uni bowing out Spielberg and production partner Peter Jackson are left looking for someone else to contribute the balance. (Part of the problem, as the LA Times points out, is that their fees will eat up a big chunk of that $130m budget, but neither is putting in any money…as of now. That could change fast.)

I’d love to know where marketing costs fit in. When Universal looks at what Paramount spent to market a movie like Tropic Thunder you’ve got to wonder if they came up with a marketing figure for North America alone that is near or equal to the production budget. Tintin maybe a global brand, but it doesn’t have much profile at all in North America; Paramount and whatever partner studio kicks in will have to positively blitz media to get this thing to track properly.