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“Hotel Transylvania” talkback

The New York Times has flicked off this film with a 180-word blurb by third-string reviewer Neil Genzlinger. He essentially says, “The story flags, but the animation… is never less than vivid.”

Betsy Sharkey of The Los Angeles Times calls Hotel Transylvania “…a droll bit of cartoon fluff”. Sharkey gives the film a mixed-to-the-positive review, but calls attention to what she calls the “clash between the character animation and the storytelling style”. She states,

“Hotel Transylvania” marks the feature-directing debut for animator Genndy Tartakovsky, the artistic mind behind such cult TV favorites as “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Samurai Jack.” The hyperkinetic cartoon vibe and visual style of those series can be felt in the film, with the animation team exaggerating effects rather than going for a more life-like design, as motion capture in particular has aimed to do in recent years.

I’ve seen the film and I liked it. In fact, I saw it a few days ago – and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I’m going to go see it again. To be sure, Genndy Tatakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania is not the heaviest, most important animated film of the year. But it’s good entertainment and even more important, I think it represents a trend that I hope to encourage.

Genndy made a full “cartoon” feature – with caricatured creatures, comically exaggerated poses and physically impossible “gags” that would make no sense in the somewhat realistic worlds of Happy Feet, Rio or Shrek. Trying to make “cartoons” in CG isn’t new – it is something Pixar has been working towards since day one. Lasseter and his team of classically-trained animators have done a good job infusing Disney-style storytelling into computer generated images. So good, it permeates the entire field. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But it’s time for Hollywood’s CG features to evolve – and it looks like it will take a cartoonist to blaze that trail. I like what Genndy is bringing to the table – a sense of style and humor that pushes (however slightly) what a modern day animated feature can be. It’s a small refreshing step in a exciting direction – and I look forward to seeing where this could go.

But that’s what I think – what about you? What did you think of Hotel Transylvania? Submit your reviews and opinions in the comments section below. (As always, this talkback post is only open to those who have actually seen the film. Since we’ve seen it, we can tell if you have too. We will delete comments by those who have not actually seen the film).

  • Matt P.

    I enjoyed the film! The animation was spectacular and I really think Genndy’s style translate perfectly into 3D. The humor isn’t the best but there are some really funny moments like the Wolfman eating the sheep in the road or even the Twilight jab. I also love how the end credits were actually made using 2D animation! I actually enjoyed Adam Sandler enough as Dracula. Really I like the whole cast. It’s not a great film story-wise but the animation definitely made it worth going to see in theaters. Here’s hoping to more CG films from Genndy!

  • You know what, Jerry? I totally agree with you. I was blessed to see Hotel Transylvania at the Ottowa Animation Festival, and I rather enjoyed it. And had a smile on my face the entire screening. Everyone else was having a great time too.

    There were some jokes that fall flat, but I thought the film was overall funny. Hell, the story even managed to surprise me with twists in it’s second half.

    It is the artistic design of the film that is its major selling point. It is one of the best looking CG features I’ve seen, pushing the medium into further cartoon aesthetics.

    For critics to insinuate that the visuals look cheap and lazy shows an incredible misunderstanding of animation. They would clearly like it to look like a Pixar film, emphasizing realism and naturalism.

    A whole other topic, but I wouldn’t say Finding Nemo holds up that well from a visual standpoint. It was patterned visually on reality, whereas The Incredibles will hold up to scrutiny much longer because it focused more so on clear, appealing design for the characters.

    I’m really surprised by the negative reception that Hotel has gotten from critics. I couldn’t have guessed this would happen.

    I want our community to show their support of Hotel Transylvania, as an animated entertainment. There’s nothing worse than critics, as they say.

  • mysteriousanimatorx

    THE GOOD: Fantastic animation & 2D designs. Reminded me of old Chuck Jones/Tex Avery at times

    THE BAD: The male protagonist, I don’t even remember his name. I wanted to hit him. After him, Adam Sandler. Also, Adam Sandler. And did I mention Adam Sandler?


    We forgive you Gennedy. We know the bad stuff wasn’t YOUR fault. This thing has the stink of a thousand corporate executives on it.

  • Drew

    wasn’t the Samurai Jack movie Genndy first film? That movie had like a 30 minute action scene. I remember seeing it as a kid and being blown away.

    anyway i didn’t like it. Thought it was to cartoony.

    • Dave-id

      Samurai Jack was not a feature-film released in theaters. The first three episodes of the TV series were shown as “The Premier Movie” but were indeed the television series. Genndy has tried to make a film though and still may, I know I’ve got my fingers crossed:

      From Wikipedia:

      In 2009 Samurai Jack reruns were pulled from American television but Tartakovsky promised a film would soon follow. In the years since the property has stayed in development but no progress had been made.[18] In September 2012, Genndy Tartakovsky announced in an interview with IGN, that a Samurai Jack movie is in pre-production. He said; “I’ve been trying so hard every year, and the one amazing thing about Jack is that I did it in 2001, you know, and it still survived. There’s something about it that’s connected with people. And I want it, it’s number 1 on my list, and now Bob Osher, the President (of Digital Production at Sony Picture Entertainment), is like ‘Hey, let’s talk about Jack. Let’s see what we can do.’ And I go, ‘You’re going to do a 2D feature animated movie?’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah. Maybe. Let’s do some research and let’s see.’ So it’s not dead for sure by any means, and it’s still on the top of my list, and I’m trying as hard as I can.” It is going to be the conclusion for the series. The film, which is budgeted at $20 million, will combine traditional 2D animation with stereoscopic 3D. It is being produced by Fredarator Films and J. J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot Productions. Tartakovsky said the loss of voice actor Mako Iwamatsu, who played Aku, would also need to be addressed, but that’s a good problem to have.

  • I would agree with mysteriousanimatorx on some points, The only reason why i watched this movie is because of Genndy because i’ve seen his work and loved it very much and i am eager to see how’d he do in the 3d playground and i wasn’t disappointed at all..and as what mysteriousanimatorx says..We do forgive you Genndy for this one because we know you could’ve brought more to the table other than the stuff we saw in the movie..and im pretty sure that Hotel Transylvania is only the beginning of a wonderful career in 3d animation.

    The movie started a bit lame from the beginning but then it picked up pace as soon as we fast forward to time and the hotel opening up to customers. The only problematic character i saw in the movie which had a huge negative impact in the story was Jonathan..He was inserted rather quickly and was digested in the story rather poorly..since he is a pivotal character in the story but the other characters were awesome! especially the cute werewolf daughter who really made a HUGE gag out of a wolf’s sniffing abilities Tex Avery would’ve laughed his ass off somewhere and would be VERY proud.

    The probable cause of the movie’s problems was probably Genndy wasn’t 100% in control of the movie artistically and would say that this movie is not a legit barometer on how Genndy would fare in a 3d career. I have huge respect for Genndy and i know that he can do better in his next 3d project but hopefully in a more suitable circumstances.

  • Bud

    Just got back. The artistic and technical quality of the film is very high. Sadly, the characterizations and storytelling are flimsy at best (and I’m being kind). Tartakovsky’s not known for strong characters or storytelling, but I’d find myself hard pressed to blame him for this mess. He was the last in a long string of directors on this project, and it shows. The “Sandler” quotient is fairly evident, as the film plays like a series of short sketches rather than a story with a cohesive whole.

    After about 10 minutes, I resigned myself to admiring the craft of the film. Here’s hoping the incredible artists at Sony Animation get directors and support for stronger stories. They certainly deserve it.

  • feep

    It was amazing and I had tons of fun. I don’t know what else to say. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. It’s pushing the visual bar for CG animation, timing and humor the likes of Disney/Pixar/everyone else wouldn’t even dream of pushing as far, and for that all I can do is applaud it. There were some plot problems here and there but the film seemed to have so much fun with the characters and premise that it didn’t care and neither did I.

    The negative rating on rotten tomatoes honestly astounds me and I wouldn’t give that barometer any weight whatsoever. Go watch this movie and get ready for a ride.

  • BT

    Okay, I’ll be the one to say it: this is way funnier than most animated features. It will be the second or third best of the 3 animated monster movies this year (I look forward to Frankenweenie next week) but it deserves credit for all the big laughs. I didn’t know Robert Smigel was going to be involved, and it shows in some of the weird and clever jokes (like Dracula scolding the zombie for trying to take home a mannequin). And I did find some genuine sweetness in there, like the scene where Mavis turns into a bat for the first time, wearing a little pink helmet.

    And yes, it’s great to see all of Tartakovsky cartoony poses. The trailers really don’t give an indication of how much of his style got into the movie. Can’t wait until he gets to do a movie that he develops from the beginning (Popeye?)

    (Why didn’t Symbionic Titan ever come out on DVD?)

  • wever

    “Cult.” …CULT?! CULT favorite shows!??! The nerve! .sigh…. journalists.

    I enjoyed it very much! While the story was simple and predictable like most stories in CG films are, the animation and humor more than made up for it. Loved the twist with the “Monster Festival” and Jonathan enlivening the “dead” birthday party with his own flair. On the other hand, there were too many butt jokes, and Adam Sandler CANNOT do dramatic scenes in that LeGoise voice. I hope this film is successful enough for more cartoony features like this to return to theaters again.

  • birthday70

    I liked it. Sure it was very predictable but this is a kids film and it does have that “studio” feel. I hope Genndy gets to direct a cinema release soon. I really didn’t like the song at the end.

  • Mike

    It was pretty good. As many have said, the story was spotty and the jokes hit-or-miss. But the star of the show was the animation. Between Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (which is FANTASTIC, for anyone who hasn’t see it) and now this, I love that Sony animators are being encouraged to try cartoony styles like this; it’s a huge breath of fresh air, and a step in the right direction in a CG landscape cluttered with films striving to be photoreal in design and motion.

    On that note, I’m actually excited for Tartakovsky’s Popeye, partly because the Fleischer Popeyes are easily my favorite old-school animation after Looney Tunes, and partly because I want to see more of this awesome toony CG!

  • Kevin Martinez

    I did see Hotel Transylvania, and I thought that the looser animation style gave the film it’s own distinct flavor. Sort of like what Hoodwinked! tried to do, but more successful.

    I did love the jab at Twilight. Most of the movie’s jokes and funny moments worked well.

    But the father/daughter between Drac and Mavis was really overplayed and brought the film to repeated screeching halts. Pixar can mix serious moments and comedy really effectively without making it seem contrived (Finding Nemo still works emotionally 9 years later), but the lesser studios should probably find something else to do.

    “Hotel” averages out to “good” for me. Since the production of this movie was a troubled clustermess and Genndy was the latest metteur en scène to be thrown at it, that’s a minor miracle.

  • Conor

    I loved it, first and foremost for the visuals, but I also think the story is still a lot stronger than I see a lot of people giving it credit for. The actual plot is pretty conventional for the most part, but considering a good deal of the films selling point is in having a setting wherein it can riff on all these zany cartoon versions of these iconic horror figures, keeping the story simple is probably for the best. The only genuine concern with a conventional story is that the motives and personalities of the core cast come through strong enough for it not to feel forced or insincere, which I feel the film pulls off thanks in no small part to the excellent character animation.

  • Kevin Martinez

    I guess I’m spoiled by works like “Nightmare Before Christmas” which were able to do something truly unique and novel with the iconic horror staples.

    Hotel Transylvania is alright, but its weak parts give away all the retools, staff upheavals, etc.

  • Vincent

    As others have said, the story was weak. Painfully predictable. The early scenes were frenetic and hyperactive. Why does Hollywood feel the need to assault young audiences with this sort of thing. The character designs were a mixed bag. Some characters, like the mummy, looked great. Others, like Frankenstein, were kind of “meh.” The wolf man children were just little blurs…I couldn’t even get a good look at them, really. A lot of the gags fell flat, but I did enjoy the “scream cheese” bit.
    The romantic angle was okay, but felt half baked, like a lot of this film. Could it be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen? There were three “story by” credits and two “screenplay by” credits.
    I saw this thing in 3D. I really, really am trying to give 3D a chance, but once again, I feel it added nothing to the film.
    On the bright side, I think the trailers for “The Rise of the Guardians” and “Wreck It Ralph” looked great!

  • mike schlesinger

    I enjoyed it very much as well, but I take exception that it’s a kids’ film. In fact, I think it skews older, toward the boomers. To kids today, monsters are Freddy, Jason and Jigsaw, not that B&W crap their parents watch–and I appreciated how it cleverly addressed the monsters’ “dated-ness.” (Anyone remember that “Simpsons” Treehouse episode a couple of years back where the Universal monsters came out on Halloween?) My only complaint is the end (not a spoiler), where everyone suddenly enters the 21st century and performs a god-awful hip-hop song; didn’t the SHREK movies beat that concept to death?

    • Funkybat

      It seems like the “let’s end it with a big dance scene” idea has become de rigueur for almost all 3D animated features not animated by Pixar or Disney. Even movies like “Despicable Me” and “Megamind” threw in out-of-the-blue mass party scenes at their endings. I would really, really like to see it scaled back to maybe one in 10 animated films. It seems like a cheap bid to end the film on an up note, and send the audience out of the theater buzzed.

    • wever

      I loved how they put in prejudice and the theme of change into this movie, which adds some depth to the story. Dracula’s, and the other monsters’, view of humans are incredibly outdated because they have been hiding in the shadows from us for so long. Once Dracula realizes we as a society have changed, that helps in developing his character. I wish the geeks at the Monster Festival had actually used cel phones to help him get Jonathan because that would’ve further emphasized how they’re in the modern age now.

  • Anthony D.

    Definetely a good movie! I don’t watch Adam Sandler movies (though I respect him and his movies), but this is my first one I saw him starred (or voiced) in and he does a good job. The animation; outstanding almost like a Craig McCracken/Tim Burton feel (with some Igor thrown in). I was however kinda expecting a villian like a monster collector or hunter obsessed with catching Dracula. Also, the opening after the on screen title could’ve been a little longer (with a montage of the monsters leaving for Hotel Transylvania like in the first trailer). Anyway, it’s a good movie a recommend it (especially during the Halloween season).

  • I saw the movie around the opening night on Friday, I have been busy here and there with work which prevented me from posting this on here. I went in with this movie with high hopes, and boy were those hopes ever so satisfied. I have heard that Genndy reworked a few things on this movie when he was hired as the director for this. I can see his trademark style in this movie. Now onto the good pointers.

    First off is the animation. Now, seeing that this is from Sony animation, the animation in this is fantastic. Its like looking at a 2D cartoon translated to CG animation. Like how Epic Mickey captured the look of hand-drawn animated Disney cartoons from the golden age but with CG. Part of me wished I could remind it a few times to certain parts of the movie, the animation was that good. Genndy and his crew get bonus points for having a 2D animated sequence for the credits(kudos Genndy!).

    Secondly is the voice acting. Normally, I’m not a big fan of celebrities doing the voice acting over actual voice actors. This is one of the few cases where it even works for me. Adam Sandler(even though I’m not a fan of his movies) did a surprisingly good job on Dracula. Selma Gomez was a good choice for Mavis. Everyone else did a good job too. I am curious on how much Genndy told the actors and actresses to put effort into the voice acting. I know for a fact that he may have told Fran Drescher to put more acting in her voice though.

    For the flaws, I will make this short. There were a few parts that didn’t work, while others worked. I know for a fact I laughed at the part that had Dracula being disgusted by looking at some footage of Twilight. If your into Genndy’s work, I say see Hotel Transylvania. Its different from most animated features these days, and that’s good. Also, there’s a 2D animated sequence for the credits. Stay for that! Now I cant wait to see how Genndy handles Popeye. I know that’s gonna rock. :)

  • Like a good many recent animated 3D movies I found the experience painful and I was a monster kid. By the time it ended and the credits began I wish the movie had been animated in the same style as they were. I might have liked that movie.

  • I enjoyed the film more than I expected to. Going in I was cringing, thinking to myself, “Am I actually paying money to go and watch an Adam Sandler movie?” Thank heavens for the director! There were the expected bodily-function jokes, but they mostly came early in the film and didn’t last too long into it. This is honestly the first 3D film I’ve seen in a while that I actually enjoyed. The colors weren’t washed out, and some of the swoop-around camera shots of the scenery were actually exciting. If I had any complaints, it was mostly that at times there seemed to be like 12 visual reference-gags going on at once — sometimes in a single frame! Visually the film was a kick from the get-go.

  • I had no interest in seeing this movie. However, I went to see it otherwise. For the first 15 minutes, it felt like the movie was standard family-movie fare. HOWEVER it really picked up speed when Jonathan was introduced! I think I liked his character the most. Dracula was also amazing as a control freak, and had many expressions just wonderful to look at to emphasize it! It seemed like every face dracula made was never the same as the last one, something hard to do in computer animation.

    Would I have changed anything about it? No. Genndy did what he had to do and made a simple premise very entertaining to watch. The story is very contrived, though even the simplest of stories are the platform for a lot of good things. I might go back and watch it again, or just by the artbook and wait till it comes out on video. “Paranorman” was a better movie, but Hotel Transylvania was a neat cartoon.

    Also… A+ on giving Twilight the middle finger!

  • In my own words, I should say that Hotel Transylvania is a terrific cartoon feature (dare I say the first?) that Dexter’s creator, Genndy Tartakovsky did, for two big reasons.
    1) The cartoony CG-like drawings in the animation
    2) The really drawn animation of the end credits section of the picture

    Those are my two examples

    And let’s not forget
    the Twilight satire at the climax.
    That’s All, Folks!

  • Jamie

    I was eager to see this film because I am a huge Genndy fan and was curious to see how his designs translate into a CGI feature (as opposed to how his designs translated into that hideous 3D Clone Wars, but that’s another issue altogether).

    I will say that I agree with you entirely. I could mute this film and enjoy it just as much as I would with sound. Hotel Transylvania works not due to the plot (which was poorly constructed at best with a rushed and “dues ex machina” [and dance number] resolution), but rather due to the fact that it ACTS like a cartoon. I appreciate what Pixar does for the medium, and I love what Dreamworks is doing with films like Dragon and Guardians, but those films focus very heavily on being grounded in realism with real world physics. This film takes wacky character designs and animates them in wacky ways. I thought the Dracula character was so much fun to watch (maybe not so much to listen to, but I actually enjoyed Adam Sandler’s effort here). Many times I recognized Genny’s style in the wide pupils that the characters got sometimes and in many of the poses.

    I’m a little sad his style, which works SO MUCH BETTER IN 2D is relegated to the credits (as is where 2D ends up in most films nowadays). Would have loved to see the whole film in his 2D style. His backgrounds are great, but hardly featured in the credits.

    I’d gladly see more films like this, with hopefully more refined plots. The Sony Animation team is definitely talented!

  • Paul Christoforos

    I’m positive about my comment.