Arriving just in time for the Halloween holiday season is the home video release of Sony Pictures Animation’s fright-filled family feature, Hotel Transylvania 3, available now on Digital HD, Blu-ray combo, and DVD. In this trilogy capper from animation legend Genndy Tartakovsky, the Drac Pack goes on a “Summer Vacation” by taking advantage of a special cruise ship made just for monster-kind. But what Dracula & Co. don’t know is that an enemy who’s been hunting monsters for generations is also aboard the vessel and will stop at nothing to put an end to what they perceive as the monster menace once and for all.
Tartakovsky’s most recent tale is just as silly, slapsticky, and sweet as the previous two installments, though “Summer Vacation” is easily the weakest of the trilogy. The original surprise hit centered on Mavis (Selena Gomez), the teenage daughter of Dracula (Adam Sandler), who falls for a human guest, Johnny (Andy Samberg), when he stumbles into the hotel for monsters; the core conflict was strongly rooted in family drama but also touched on the differences that divide us and how we overcome them to see the good, familiar qualities in each other. The supporting cast of fellow monster characters shouldered a lot of the humor in the original, and more so in the sequel, where Drac and his pals try to coax out the monstrous side of his young grandson in order to placate Drac’s overbearing and judgmental father, Vlad (Mel Brooks). All of those elements are still there in the third story, they just don’t quite carry as much of an emotional impact as the first two did.
In Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, it’s all about finding love for the widowed Drac once more. You see, for monsters, once they “zing”–a term for feeling the sparks or butterflies of true love–they don’t usually “zing” for anyone else ever again. So for Drac, who has spent his afterlife looking after the hotel and its guests, along with caring for his friends and family, he never really thought he’d have another chance at love and didn’t care to pursue it. That all changes once the ever-expanding monster family takes a cruise together and Drac crosses paths with the lovely and dynamic Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn).
There’s still plenty of heart to go along with Tartakovsky’s brand of humor, which is equal parts slapstick and an ode to classic cartoons, it’s just that this romantic comedy conflict isn’t quite as compelling as the franchise’s earlier movies. It’s still a blast for kids and adults alike, and it’s a movie that you won’t mind watching more than once. The soundtrack provides a rockin’ good time and the animation is top-notch, delivering candy-colored visuals and more sight gags than you could possibly pick up on with just one viewing. And if the little ones in the family are eager for more Hotel Transylvania 3 than just the main movie alone, you’re in luck; there are plenty of bonus features and activities for the whole family to get in on. But for the animation aficionados out there, it’s the audio commentary track from Tartakovsky and his creative team that you’re going to want to check out.
Audio Commentary with Tartakovsky, Scott Wills (production designer), and Michael Ford (VFX supervisor)
- Tartakovsky reveals that almost every early audience screening wanted to cut the opening scene on the train in Transylvania.
- Newcomer Jim Gaffigan first recorded Van Helsing in New York, but Tartakovsky’s first phone call with him was interrupted by a train whistle in a moment of serendipity.
- Wills talks about the textured “old-school” environment of the opening shot of Transylvania and the one-off sequences
- An earlier version of the opening told more of Van Helsing’s origin and history
- Budding storyboard artists, pay attention: More early test screenings for animation are being done with 100% storyboards before any actual animation is produced, so polish those skills!
- Franken-woman’s red, sequined dress was originally created for Olive Oyl in their ‘Popeye” production; each sequin is procedurally animated
- Tartakovsky confirms that they wrote in more physical comedy and opportunities to do the “Tex Avery”-type scenes
- Producer Michelle Murdocca performs the voice of the phone app assistant, along with additional voices
- The Tinkles the Puppy snoring sequence is a nod to the old Three Stooges gag
- Tartakovsky channels the rhythm of Dexter’s Laboratory‘s title character’s speech patterns for the gremlins in the Gremlin Air sequence; Tartakovsky pushed composer Mark Mothersbaugh to do “cartoony … funny, unique music.”
- Tartakovsky says that, in the entire movie, there isn’t one “over the shoulder” shot, which is a standard in TV shows and movies, but he didn’t want one. It makes the movie feel more cinematic and it also is a nod back to the Tex Avery animation of classic Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck conversations.
- The backstory on the fishmen crew is that Van Helsing was trying to capture Dracula’s shape-shifting powers and somehow created a thousand fishmen, who all have the voice of Chris Parnell
- A lot of the “Tinkle” shots were added in late in the production
- Ericka also takes inspiration from Olive Oyl
- The VFX team had to do a practical creation for the shot of champagne hitting characters in the face.
Vlad’s Speedo sequence was storyboarded early on, but Tartakovsky didn’t expect it to ever make the final cut and was pleasantly surprised when it got laughs at every screening, even making it into the trailer.
- “The Hairy Chest Contest” was a sequence that got cut, but “Harry Three-Eyes”, a competitor in it, makes a cameo when he says hello to Captain Ericka. The contest stage and competitors can be seen in the background of the water volleyball scene, as well.
- Van Helsing’s design was always an issue in the preview screenings since people thought he was creepy but not funny; Tartakovsky had a tough time connecting with the audiences’ sense of humor.
- The early shot of the older Van Helsing in the mirror was the final shot the effects team finished on the movie. It’s a compilation of two shots all along the production pipeline, including lighting, etc., essentially doubling the work for the animators.
- Drac’s dance sequence was inspired by 70s Soul Train and the size Drac’s feet was increased 30 to 40% for comedic purposes.
- The chupacabra began as the Mexican boogeyman El Cucuy and was originally red; the joke landed better as chupacabra.
- Tartakovsky cites Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Mr. Bean, Jim Carrey and more as masters of physical comedy that he tries to mimic for Drac’s visual gags.
- Drac asking “Was that you?” after the garlic fart gag was an on-set ad-lib by Sandler.
- Mavis and Johnny surfing on dolphins was also a late add in the production process as a one-off sequence.
- The sole daytime sequence featured Wayne and Wanda enjoying their time without the kids, leading into the Van Helsings having a conversation about Drac.
A lifelong animation fan, Tartakovsky talks about being able to spot the difference between animators in classic cartoons. He also comments on the different abilities of animators who draw versus those who don’t when it comes to character poses and sensibilities.
- The “Instrument of Destruction” was always a McGuffin, but was originally an orb, then a gem, and then the Mouth of Chaos, a little totem statue that would talk and proclaim doom for monsters. The storytelling process eventually shaped it into a family heirloom with more lore attached to it.
- In order to better fit Tartakovsky’s cartoonish animation style, the animators had to tweak their physics-based effects engines.
- Originally, the cruise was headed towards Machu Picchu, but that changed to Atlantis; the dance floor island then had to rise out of the water rather than be on a mountaintop. The effects team looked for big waves crashing against harbors and big ships out at sea to get reference material.
- Tiësto did the EDM music for the final sequence.
- End titles were handled by Emmy-nominated storyboard artist Chris Reccardi and animated by Rough Draft.
- Goodnight Mr. Foot
- Dennis Had a Giant Dog
- Monsters Like to Party Down
- Oh These Wolf Pups!
Monster Lullaby Scary-oke Sing Along with Denisovitch!
- Hush Little Monster
- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat
- Vlady Had a Little Drac
- Holiday Scary-oke “Deck the Halls”
Behind the Screams: The Voices of Hotel Transylvania 3 (10 minutes):
- Cast featurette including returning players Samberg, Gomez, Spade, Michael-Key, and Aaron Laplante, and newcomers Hahn, Gaffigan, Teigen, Parnell, and Joe Jonas
- Tartakovsky and producer Michelle Murdocca also weigh in on the new and returning cast members and their characters
Meet the New Characters (5 minutes)
- Michael Ford (VFX supervisor), Tartakovsky, and Alan Hawkins (senior animation supervisor) walk viewers through this character featurette
- New characters featured include the gremlins, Captain Ericka, Van Helsing, and The Kraken
Johnny’s Home Movies (5 minutes)
- Johnny (Samberg) and Denisovitch (Blinkoff) look back on old “home movies” to explain the franchise so far
Drac’s Zing-Tastic Read Along (3 minutes):
- Cute little story narrated by the cast that explains Drac’s backstory
Monster Activities – Fun home activities with a Hotel Transylvania theme!
- Plan Your Own Spooktacular Sleepover with Murray Lanterns, Dracustraws, Franken-Pillows, Transylvania Table-Top Shuffleboard, and Blobby Gelatin
- Mavis & Drac Make-Up Tutorial – Just in time for Halloween, here’s how to look like your favorite Hotel Transylvania characters!
- Creating Drac: Designing the Character – Tartakovsky goes through a drawing tutorial of Drac’s design, including his coffin-shaped head, animated cape, and a look at early concept art. Animation Process – A basic walkthrough of animation itself and the specific style used for Hotel Transylvania.
- Watermelon Jack O’Lantern – Video tutorial swapping a summer fruit for a fall favorite, with bonus watermelon-lemonade.
“I See Love” Dance Party Dance Along (3 minutes):
- Murray invites viewers to the dance party, with costumed dancers partying along to the track, complete with dance-along moves for kids at home.
- Some of the cast stops by to show off their best dance moves, too!
- “It’s Party Time”
- “I See Love”
- “Seavolution” by Tiësto
- “Mommy, My Hero”
More Hotel T
- Trailers for Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2 and the mobile game