Those of us who have enjoyed Genndy Tartakovsky’s work on shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Star Wars: Clone Wars, 2 Stupid Dogs, and Samurai Jack get to start the Halloween season this weekend with his film debut: Hotel Transylvania.
Count Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler, has a sad backstory that’s left him as the single dad of Mavis (Selena Gomez), who’s turning 118 (which, it turns out, is a lot like turning 18 in human years). He has built a castle, the titular hotel, as a safe haven away from the dangers of humans for Mavis and all monsters, many of whose voices you’ll recognize, including Andy Samberg Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, CeeLo Green, Molly Shannon, and David Spade.
As a PG movie, it’s got a few nudge-nudge jokes for the adults that will fly right over your kids’ heads, and despite all the monsters, it’s a lot less scary than most kids’ movies. There’s no especially dramatic peril or bad-guy chase. That also means there’s not a particularly deep or moving plot, which is getting it a lot of rough reviews from critics. But this isn’t an artsy indie film to be picked apart. It’s something fun you can do with your kids.
They’ll laugh at the goofy zombie staff, the fart jokes, and the antics of the multitude of werewolf children.You’ll sympathize with the werewolf dad’s parental plight and chuckle to yourself at Dracula’s reaction to Twilight and the Johnny teaching the monsters to rock, reminiscent of Back to the Future. Sure, the puns are bad (“Invisible Man, nice to seeee you.”), but that’s what kid movies arabout. Stupidly silly fun.
For a closer look at the monsters and a deeper appreciation of what goes into a movie like this, take a look at The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania. Author Tracey Miller-Zarneke has several animation credits of her own and has written several other behind-the-scenes animation books, including The Art of How to Train Your Dragon, The Art of Kung Fu Panda 2, and The Art and Making of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
The book shows the evolution of art that goes into an animated feature–each character goes through many iterations and different looks before what you see on the screen. You’ll also see some of the story and characters that were cut from the movie, like a beautiful drink-dispenser system behind the bar and details you’d never be able to catch, like the headlines on The Daily Inquisition, the spirit-world newspaper. Interspersed with storyboards and sketches, you’ll read insights from those who worked on the movie, including a foreword by Genndy Tartakovsky about his dream of working in animation and the experience of his first feature film.
The book is art-heavy, which makes it friendly to your younger fans as well as interesting to the older ones, particularly the aspiring animators in your family.
The book is available now. Hotel Transylvania opens in theaters on Friday, September 28.