Hotel Transylvania makers get their vampire on
October 10, 2012
The makers behind the latest feature-length animation from Sony Pictures talk about the story behind Hotel Transylvania, in cinemas from Friday, Certificate U.
Q: So what exactly is the film about?
Genndy Tartakovsky (director): “Hotel Transylvania is a story about a father and a daughter – it’s just that the father happens to be Dracula. Like all fathers, he’s an overprotective, psychotic, and endearing guy who’d do anything for his daughter, but unlike other fathers, he’s the Prince of Darkness.”
Michelle Murdocca (producer): “One of the toughest things you have to do as a parent is to let your children go out into the world. You can’t protect them forever; you just have to trust that they’re going to be able to take care of themselves. It turns out that even Dracula thinks the world can be a scary place sometimes.”
Q: The story seems to show the more human side of monsters.
Tartakovsky: “Hotel Transylvania makes these monsters funny – funnier than they’ve ever been – but the reason these monsters have lasted through the years is that they all have great personal stories. There’s a humanity to them that makes them accessible, likable and friendly. And that’s what we’ve found for our Dracula – there’s a great, accessible, bittersweet story, where you see how human the vampire is.”
Q: Tartakovsky, this is your first feature-length film. How did it differ from making shorter animations?
Tartakovsky: “In feature films, you’re constrained to be real. But I wanted to take this film to the extreme opposite by making the animation cartoony and fun and exaggerated. In television, you’re allowed to stylise and use caricature to make each project look unique, and I wanted to bring that to the movies so badly. We pushed the animation style to be very broad and very physical. We wanted to make it super expressive. The movement in the movie is all caricature, unrealistic movement. That’s what gives this movie its energy, and energy in a film is everything to me.”
Q: What exactly do you mean by the style being 'pushed'?
Murdocca: “We mean that facial features are exaggerated, body proportions are exaggerated, and when you see the characters animated, it’s fun and unique and most definitely not like real life. Every aspect of the character design lends itself to this ‘pushed’ animation style. There’s a scene in which Dracula and Jonathan are walking and Dracula’s legs look like big, long spider legs. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Q: How did you go about developing the characters?
Tartakovsky: “I think what we’ve done is to take these iconic characters and reshape them. We had to stay true to the characters, but we wanted a fun movie with monsters, not a scary movie – we brought comedy, not scares. It’s just that our main characters are monsters. For example, our Dracula is over-controlling and manic and crazy and obsessive – it’s taking those elements of his character and pushing them tenfold. The banter is very modern, conversational, and timeless, so it feels very contemporary. The end result is that the characters still have that iconic feeling, but modern, updated, and fun
Q: Adam Sandler voices Dracula. How important was his role?
Tartakovsky: “I wanted Adam to redefine Dracula for a new generation. We’ve seen the Bela Lugosi Dracula and all the other Draculas; I wanted a performance that would be a new Dracula for our generation. I’m most proud of Dracula – he’s a fun, manic character to watch. I love to see how people react to the animation – how crazy and fun it gets. The most important thing is that it never takes itself seriously – it’s just so fun.
Murdocca: “Adam is not only the star of the movie, but has been very involved with the making of the film. Of course, he brings the comedy, but he also has a lot of warmth, which comes out in his scenes with Mavis – he’s the loving, doting dad. Then, in the scenes with Dracula’s friends, Dracula can be a little controlling – a guy who wants things a certain way. Adam brings an amazing richness where he can turn on a dime – all of these aspects are part of the same character, the same performance.”
Q: So what was it like working with him?
Tartakovsky: “It was very intimidating when we had our first creative meeting where Adam and some of his guys would be riffing on some jokes. I sat quietly, nervous to contribute but then I gathered some courage and jumped in, and when they laughed I felt relieved.”
Q: You were lucky enough to get the actors together in the recording studio unlike other animations weren't you?
Murdocca: “It really doesn’t happen all that often in animation that you are able to bring your voice actors together. It was really fun to see Adam Sandler playing off of Kevin James, and Kevin playing off of David Spade. It was the beginning of them creating these characters and personalities together – it helped make the characters really funny and really emotional.”