Cartoon Network boasts some of the most innovative cartoons and characters to grace television. From animation style to creative stories and clever quips, one animator had a hand in the creation of several famed series. Russian animator, director and producer Genndy Tartakovsky first got his start with Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, and continued to create new and better shows like Samurai Jack and Attack of the Clones.
Last year, Tartakovsky made his move to Sony Pictures Animation, and while ruminating on his ideas for a full-length Popeye animated feature, the animatino jack-of-all-trades made his film debut with Hotel Transylvania. The spooky kids' movie has an incredible voice cast, including Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, and David Spade. Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier recently met up with Tartakovsky to discuss the humor in his stories, his first feature film, and what sets Hotel Transylvania's animation apart from the rest.
Emmanuel Itier: Though you’ve worked extensively in animation before on shows like Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, why did you choose Hotel Transylvania as your first feature film?
Genndy Tartakovsky: Well first, I was in development on another movie with Sony, one of my originals, but development takes a long time in animation. And then, they approached me about doing this movie and they said, "It's Dracula, and Dracula's a father." And right away, something snapped where I realized what a great opportunity to do a comedic version of Dracula, make it more classical… because. you know, vampires have been changed so much through the years. And to do a really classical version of Dracula as a father and create an over-the-top, almost, like, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck-type character in this world was very rich. And so I decided to try it.
And the challenges were many. Whenever a movie is in development for a long time, it goes so many different ways, and everybody's looking to you to put it on the train and push it through. So it's kind of deciding, "Well, this is what the movie is; now, let's get all onboard and figure out how to make it great."
EI: With your years of experience in the field, what do you think sets Hotel Transylvania apart from other animated films?
GT: Well, for our movie, it's the animation itself. I think it's very exaggerated, very expressive. It's very different than traditional animated features. I think we wanted to make it more of a cartoon, like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, or Tex Avery, and it made it more visceral. I think it's visually so fun to look at, and I think the animation is the big component of that.
EI: Is there a sense of trying to “push the limit” every time you do a new animated project? It seems as though every studio is trying to set itself apart above the rest in terms of technique and design.
GT: No, I think the animation isn't pushed at all. I think there's so much more to do with it, but I think the—tool-wise, yeah, we use the same tool... It's the same tool that everybody else uses, you know, but we just made it slightly different, and we skewed it. The computer is just a different pencil, in my point of view.
EI: The film seems geared towards adults just as much as their kids. Was that a conscious decision?
GT: Yeah, in a way. Like, we definitely wanted to be entertaining for everybody. And it's hard for me because I've never done... I don’t know what a 6-year old likes; I don't know what an 8-year old likes. So we always go, "Well, if we think it's funny, even though it's kind of a more younger joke, maybe adults will find it, too." Because, you know, I'm a kid at heart. And so you try to do stuff like that, but then there's always little things that are a little smarter that you hope the adults will like.
EI: It’s almost inevitable to make a children’s movie without having some sort of message underlying the story. What do you think is the message in Hotel Transylvania?
GT: It's about talking about parenthood. I'm a father of three kids, and I think it's very accessible to have that feeling about, "Oh, I don't want my daughter or my son to do anything. I just want them to stay here at home and they'll be safe." And I think that's a very human feeling and it's very accessible to an audience.
EI: Lastly, after spending so much time with these characters, who is your favorite and why?
GT: I think it's Frankenstein. I think he's kind of nice, and warm and cheery, and he always kind of has a positive outlook on it. So I really enjoyed Frankenstein.
Sony Pictures Animation's 'Hotel Transylvania' was released on September 28, 2012 and is currently playing in theaters nationwide.