I spent today in the Indigo Ballroom, which I believe is the third biggest room at Comic-Con. It was at about half capacity all day until the 3:00 panel for Hotel Transylvania. I guess the monsters in the movie are technically geek-friendly, but I don’t think a kids movie like this would fill up the room if it weren’t for one man: Genndy Tartakovsky. Tartakovsky earned respect the creator of such fine animated series as Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars—sure enough, most of the fans focused on those properties during the Q&A session, paying particular attention to a Samurai Jack movie. Yet Tartakovsky’s unique style was on full display in the copious footage they showed from Hotel Transylvania, which as a result looks very funny. Hit the jump for a recap of the panel.
You can watch the trailer we saw here. It is best to deal with the rest of the footage clip by clip:
Clip 1: The first clip established Dracula’s role as a leader in the community. He owns a luxury hotel where monsters can relax without fear of the human mobs who are always out to get them. Dracula is up on a stool (made up of toads, which made me giggle when I eventually understood) lecturing the rest of the monsters about the evils of humankind. He points to snapshots taken during surveillance of the humans, and naturally the embodiment of this evil is a fat kid messily eating an ice cream cone.
The monstrous voice cast features many names you know: Adam Sandler (Dracula), Selena Gomez (Dracula’s daughter Mavis), Andy Samberg (the human Jonathan), Kevin James (the Frankenstein monster Frank), Fran Drescher (Frank’s wife Eunice), Steve Buscemi (Wayne the werewolf), Molly Shannon (Wayne’s wife Wanda), David Spade (the Invisible Man), Cee Lo Green (Murray the mummy), and more. (If you had to guess, who would you say served as the butt of most of the jokes in this group? That’s right: David Spade, according to Tartakovsky.)
Clip 2: Dracula’s inspiration for starting the hotel was to protect his daughter Mavis. She is about to turn 118, and like any “teenager” wants to explore the world. He has finally convinced her that the hotel is the best place for her. That is when Jonathan, while backpacking across Europe, wanders off the beaten path into Hotel Transylvania. Johnny’s backstory is delivered in a fun flashback. Dracula tackles him through a revolving door that they tumble through continuously during their conversation, intercut with scenes from Jonathan’s oblivious trip through the woods.
Dracula wants to get Jonathan out of the hotel without any of the monsters seeing, and eventually resorts to dressing him up as “Johnnystein.” Still, on the way out the door, things go awry in a breathless sequence that shoots Johnnystein all around the room. You get great look at the many secondary creatures in the film: hydra, brain, skeleton, giant fly, blob, witch, yeti. More than I can remember.
Johnnystein soon bumps into Mavis, and it’s love at first sight. Johnnystein is now firmly entrenched as a guest at the hotel.
Clip 3: Dracula wants to throw a big party for Mavis’ birthday, but his party is decidedly lame. This is cleverly illustrated with a game of Bingo where the balls are tiny skulls that whisper the number weakly in the caller’s ear. Johnny livens things up with a scooter and LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It*”. I am a fan of neither of those things, but the sequence is an enjoyable excuse for more madcap humor.
(*Note: Tartakovsky and Murdocca said while Mark Mothersbaugh is working on the score, the music we heard in the clips today were temporary tracks.)
Clip 4: The party moves outside to the pool, filled with some kind of green liquid. There are a lot of monster puns in this movie, but one of the cutest/most terrifying was the “scream cheese” spread on the bagels. It is essentially cream cheese that screams faintly before you eat it.
At the pool, Tartakovsky pauses on an image of Frankenstein jumping off the high dive in slow motion (you can see it in the trailer) that is oddly beautiful. It has a great payoff, too, where Frank’s stitching comes loose and his body parts float away in the pool below.
Clip 5: Dracula is stressed out as he arranges tables around the room for a birthday banquet. Well, actually, the tables move themselves once Dracula calls out their number and tells them where to go. Where Dracula sees only work, Johnny finds the fun. This leads to a thrilling chase sequence where they ride tables around the room, often jumping from table to table or through a wall of tables in mid-air. This was a great way to close out the clip portion of the panel.
Tartakovsky remarked on how he feels like he has found a new home at Sony Pictures Animation. The footage we saw today reminds me of another Sony movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which is very much a compliment. I would love to see Sony establish this kind of comedy as their brand if Hotel Transylvania is successful and they can indeed lure Tartakovsky to set up shop there.
Hotel Transylvania was first pitched about ten years ago, around the time Sony Pictures Animation was founded. Tartakovsky came on board because he likes the idea of reimagining Dracula for a new generation. He grew up with the Abbott and Costello version of Dracula, and so was especially interested in a comedic approach.
One fan asked about the status of a Samurai Jack movie. Tartakovsky has worked with several teams to try and get it made, but creative differences always halted the production. J.J. Abrams wanted to make it at one point, and Tartakovsky sounded encouraged by Abrams’ take on the material. Ultimately, Abrams became too busy, and the project needed his attention to push it through to development. Tartakovsky closed the discussion by turning to Murdocca with a hopeful, “Maybe at Sony…” Earlier, when talking about making his home at Sony, Tartakovsky said maybe his next film will be “safe” like Transylvania, but the one after that ought to break out of the kids movie mold. Hmm…
Tartakovsky was once attached to work on a Dark Crystal feature with puppets. But they were always a few million dollars short of the necessary budget, so Tartakovsky had to back out.
There will likely be no more Sym-Bionic Titan. The primary reason, Tartakovsky noted despairingly, is that they couldn’t get a deal for a toy line. The property is apparently huge in France, though, so if there is a grassroots campaign for Titan, expect the slogans to be written in French.
At one point, Tartakovsky stated that Dexter’s Laboratory is the show he is most proud of. He is occasionally approached about a live-action Dexter, and always turns them down flat. If you look closely, Tartakovsky says there is Dexter sticker on Johnny’s scooter (I did not look closely enough to see it).