Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Coverage of Hotel Transylvania

'No hidden message in my movie'
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated September 27, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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‘Part of the idea was that the monsters think of humans the way they did a hundred years ago – they’re persecuted. They hate them! But then if you think about the way the modern society looks at monsters now, they love them!’| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - There is an early Halloween treat that awaits movie fans when they troop to theaters tomorrow, Sept. 28, because Sony Pictures will roll out the delightful and entertaining family movie Hotel Transylvania, the animated movie that took six years to make and five directorial changes from the time the idea was hatched.

Hotel Transylvania is one of the biggest surprises of the year. It’s one of the very few animated movies that this writer has seen and thoroughly enjoyed. The seemingly simple story of Count Dracula raising a teenage daughter in the modern times is presented through an intelligent union of splendid animation and traditional storytelling combined with a social subtext that will bring such welcome delight to every discerning movie buff.

This writer will not dwell on that particular subtext but those who will read into it will undoubtedly be moved and may just find the movie one of the best this year. Yes, I am that taken!

The fun and energy that the movie generates was something that surprises even its director, Genndy Tartakovsky, the Russian-born director who makes his full-length feature directorial debut after two decades of working on TV and several short films. The multi-awarded director was also the final director who successfully spearheaded the production and delivered a finished movie.


Genndy met with The STAR last Sunday after the screening of the movie. We had a 20-minute one-on-one interview that had an awkward start when this writer greeted the director with an overenthusiastic praise for the movie. He blushed and shyly laughed to my unusual greeting.

“I had no idea,” he responded when I finally shut up and asked him if he expected to make such a delightful movie. “You’re so close when you are doing it. We had a couple of screenings that went very well but at the end of the day you (still) don’t know.” He added that he was only aiming for the energy of the animation and the visuals to overpower any shortcoming in the narrative. “The whole idea of this movie is to do this broad comedy that you really just get a few laughs, enjoy yourself — there’s a good emotion at the core and it’s not heavy-handed.”

Hotel Transylvania had a tortuous run from the time the initial story was developed in 2006 to the time Genndy was handed reins of the movie two years ago which was also the same time comedy superstar Adam Sandler took an interest in the project and eventually became the voice of Dracula and one of the three executive producers of the movie.

Hotel Transylvania begins with Dracula running deep into the forest to hide from humans who want to kill him and his kind. He builds a theme park in the middle of the enchanted forest where he can raise his daughter safely away from humans. The park also serves as sanctuary for his fellow monsters as they run away from human persecution. The tranquility and peace of the park is threatened when a young adventurer discovers the secret passageway and enters the hotel by accident.

It’s fun to watch how monsters scamper away from a human being. The role reversal is one of the many tangible gems in the movie including that curious subtext that may not be readily noticed by the general public.

“Part of the idea was that the monsters think of humans the way they did a hundred years ago — they’re persecuted. They hate them! But then if you think about the way the modern society looks at monsters now, they love them!”

“We are so understanding for the most part and we are a lot more understanding now as a modern culture than we ever have been because we’ve had so many bad periods as humans that, now, for the most part, people are a lot more understanding, to a degree.”

But the director dismisses the idea that the movie has a message hidden within the story. “It’s at the most general sense,” he replied when asked to address this writer’s curiosity.

Hotel Transylvania boasts an array of monsters the world has ever known. From the legendary and infamous to the obscure and unseen, one may never be able to see so many monsters assemble in one movie. Even the Invisible Man makes an appearance! Did you get the irony there? I even teased the director if it was difficult to animate the Invisible Man and he laughed.

“It’s funny because we had to make sure that his glasses were clear,” he said. “It was actually very difficult because the movie is very busy and there’s a lot of characters and so sometimes we go, ‘Wait, wait, where’s the Invisible Man?’”

Among all the monsters in the movie, the director spent the most amount of time on his star, Count Dracula.

“The most challenging was Dracula,” he shared. “I had very high goals for him. I wanted him to become the star. I wanted him to stand out from everybody else in the movie. So the way he moved, the way his cape worked, the very specific type of posing that we gave him was difficult. It was difficult to control and it was difficult to make sure that he stood out from everybody else.”

The movie’s version of Dracula is an original idea by the director. He did not reference any versions of Dracula from old literature or old movies but he revealed that he modeled the look from old classic movie actors most notably Rudolph Valentino — and Adam gave it life with a wonderful voice performance!

In addition to Adam, the movie also features Disney teen sensation Selena Gomez, who provides the voice of Mavis, the teenaged daughter of Dracula who struggles with her life as an outcast and her growing feelings for a human being.

Other stars providing voices include Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Andy Samberg, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon and Cee Lo Green.

When this writer watched the movie, I brought along a friend and her six-year-old daughter who was as loud as me while watching the movie. If a six-year-old and a 36-year-old can enjoy a movie together, I do not see how anyone can’t.

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