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‘Hotel Transylvania’ Sneak Peek: Previewing Adam Sandler’s Monster Comedy

Hotel Transylvania
Sony Pictures Animation

The inventive and antic animation of Genndy Tartakovsky has been blowin’ our mind during hazy late nights for years. The creator of ‘Samurai Jack’ and ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ as well as the first (and still superior) ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’ has a wide palate (he’s responsible for much of the look of ‘The Powerpuff Girls’ as well as the gruesome and bloody prologue to last year’s ‘Priest’) but has always worked in traditional 2D animation.

With ‘Hotel Transylvania‘ he’s taking his first step into the feature film-friendly world of 3D computer imaging and the result, based on the selected scenes shown at Sony HQ in New York, are exciting. It’s nothing too underground or subversive, but compared to factory line junk like ‘The Lorax’ it is quite an artistic achievement.

‘Hotel Transylvania’ is a simple enough kid’s flick. Adam Sandler is Dracula, and he runs a spooky hotel. All your favorites are there – from the Mummy to the Wolfman to Frankenstein’s Monster. Drac’s daughter (Selena Gomez) has just turned 118 and wants to go “out into the world.” The very protective Dad really doesn’t want to get her mixed up with humans, so goes to great lengths to keep this from happening. When Andy Samberg shows up at the hotel as a dopey hiker, hijinks ensue.

Okay, “hijinks ensue” is usually something you say when you don’t really mean it, but this time it’s a very accurate description. The clips shown of ‘Hotel Transylvania’ had me grinning for two main reasons. The first is that Adam Sandler (who I know isn’t for everyone, but I’m basically a fan) does the world’s worst Dracula impression. It is so stupid and over the top that you can’t not laugh. The second, no doubt more intentional reason, is Tartakovsky’s energetic animation style.

To view a still of ‘Hotel Transylvania’ you may not think its look is all that different from, say, ‘Despicable Me.’ In motion, though, there is an essence of fun and creativity imbued it almost every shot. The facial expressions are manic, the camera movements are vibrant and there are just enough breakaways from the laws of physics to make everything seem like, for lack of a better term, a trip.

Hotel Transylvania

There’s also no skimping on design. The monsters, from the walking skeletons and sloppy living brains to the strangely adorable flying ghost banquet tables are familiar yet still quite crafty. I can think of no higher compliment than to say that at one moment, when everyone was screaming and yelling and carrying on, ‘Hotel Transylvania’ reminded me of ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse.’

I spoke a bit with the film’s producer, Michelle Murdocca, who felt compelled for some reason to push this as a film about fathers and children. Yeah, sure, that’s fine to tell insecure actors, I guess, but let’s not sell ‘Hotel Transylvania’ short – it looks like a great big goofy mess of monsters and that’s what kids (and emotionally stunted adults like myself) want to see.

Hotel Transylvania

I also had a few moments with Tartakovsky where I kissed his ass quite a bit about ‘Clone Wars’ and the opening to ‘Priest,’ then asked him the question that all the burgeoning entertainment lawyers out there want to know: how is it that Sony gets to release a movie with all the Universal Monsters?

Actually. . .it took some phone calls. While some concepts are in the public domain, certain cinematic depictions of our spooky friends are not. As Tartakovsky tells it, a Sony lawyer called a Universal lawyer and they were given a very specific list of what wasn’t allowable.

Being nosy, I pressed for specifics. For Dracula, only Universal can use a red cape. Universal owns that. (Strange if you consider that the original Tod Browning film was in black and white.)

For Frankenstein’s Monster, no neck bolts.

No neck bolts? Did this bum him out? He said he was simply too glad the studios came to an agreement in the first place and didn’t want to press his luck. But there is a moment in the film that involves flowing electricity and, yes, he admits that it would have been a lot cooler with neck bolts.

There were no restrictions on The Mummy. (I forgot to ask about the Wolfman. I suck.)

‘Hotel Transylvania’ comes out on September 28th. Just in time for you to start thinking about your Halloween costume. Flying Ghost Tables FTW.

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