Hotel Transylvania: It's a monster mash

The maker of animated monster comedy Hotel Transylvania talks to Russell Baillie about keeping the film a non-frightening prospect

The problem with making a kids' cartoon of classic horror movie monsters, is that, though they may turn up on your doorstep every Halloween, some of them have history. Some of them even have lawyers.

"We definitely had some copyright issues for the Universal monsters," says Hotel Transylvania director Genndy Tartakovsky, referring to the creatures who have been appearing in that studio's horror films since the 1930s.

"We couldn't use the bolts on Frankenstein, or a certain colour red on Dracula but we worked around those things creatively. These characters have been done so many different ways over the years. So we wanted to think of them as icons. How iconic Frankenstein was; how iconic Dracula was - and go from there."

Hotel Transylvania is a 3D Sony Pictures Animation production with Adam Sandler voicing Dracula as the protective solo father of a teenage daughter and proprietor of a backwoods hotel catering to ghouls wanting a break from frightening humans.

He's invited his oldest and dearest clients to the establishment to celebrate his daughter Mavis' 118th birthday.

Only an accidental guest turns out to be a "Jonathan". He's an American slacker-backpacker who takes quite a shine to Mavis and threatens the secure reputation of Dracula's establishment.

Much kid-aimed hilarity ensues.

It's Moscow-born Chicago-raised Tartakovsky's first animated feature after an Emmy-winning career for the Cartoon Network likes of Star Wars: Clone Wars and Samurai Jack.

After animating all those television episodes, making a one-off big screen film in 3D was a challenge he says.

"On television if you get one episode wrong there is always another one. Here you have one opening weekend to get the story right, to get the characters, the humour, the entertainment right and if you don't, you've failed. So that kind of pressure definitely felt different."

Tartakovsky came into the project five years after it was first mooted - the initial idea for the film predated the great vampire uprising in pop culture in recent years. He says he was roped in to make a coherent movie out of what was a mess of character designs and story ideas.

Signing up Sandler meant taking the Dracula-dad concept down the broad comedy path.

"With Adam's it's funny, he's got two little girls and that is one of the reasons he did the movie. He wanted something for his kids that he could sit in the theatre and watch with them."

Sandler's name helped rope in a voice cast which includes Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, CeeLo Green, David Spade, Molly Shannon, and Fran Drescher.

"At first I thought there was going to be so much ad libbing we are not going to be able to control them," laughs Tartakovsky about his vocal cast, "but what I learned is they are such professionals about comedy, like scientists of comedy. If they liked a line and they think it's funny they will do whatever it takes to make that line perfect rather than going off and doing a thousand other variations on it."

Among those, singer and X-Factor judge Green plays Murray the Mummy, certainly the weightiest gauze-clad ghoul ever seen on the screen ("we wanted to make him big and boisterous and we had plenty of skinny characters already"), while Buscemi is the voice of Wayne, a woebegone werewolf ("he didn't have to do much. He just had to be miserable".).

But they are supporting players in a story about a doting dad struggling over the idea of letting his kid go out into the world.

It just happens to be set in a world of monsters - and zombies and witches, and much more - but the film is careful not to scare its intended audience or their parents. It's certainly not trying to be a Tim Burton movie.

"We didn't want to do anything dark and macabre. So it was really easy not to reference his movies at all.

"I don't want to say vaudeville but I think there's a silliness to the idea of the movie .. there aren't a lot of jokes where only the adults laugh."

LOWDOWN
What: Hotel Transylvania 3D
When: Opens at cinemas today.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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