Book Review: “The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania”

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Out this week at your favorite retail book outlet is The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania, written by Tracey Miller-Zarneke. A book exploring the art and preparation surrounding the new film Hotel Transylvania, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, The Clone Wars). Thanks to the good people over at Titan Books, I was able to get myself a copy to review.

If you’re not familiar with Genndy Tartakovsky, now would be a good time to Google his work. Did you do it? Are you back? Good! Genndy’s art style is very unique. Now that you’ve seen what Genndy has produced, you can throw that all out the window. Not in a bad way. Just in a different approach to how you see the art of Hotel Transylvania. It’s a smooth digital style, which is quite different from Genndy’s previous animated ventures. That being said, Genndy is still a driving force in the production of Hotel Transylvania.

The book begins with a foreword from Genndy Tartakovsky. He begins right out of the gate with a candid statement. “I’ll be honest, making an animated feature film is both a dream come true and one of the most difficult things I’ve experienced.” Genndy goes on to mention that he wasn’t immediately comfortable in the feature director role. Going from television to film proved to be a bit more intimidating than he realized.

Before the book begins, President of Sony Pictures Digital Productions Bob Osher let’s us know in the introduction that Sony Pictures Animation is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Relatively new compared to most animation production houses. Osher tells us that we are going to get a “glimpse behind the curtain of these artists’ majestic and, often times, magical contributions.” And I would have to agree.

I’m a fan of behind the scenes anything. Television, music, movies, etc. I’m the person who will watch a movie over an over with various commentaries playing during the movie. I will seek out DVD’s and Blu-ray with special features. So a book like The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania is completely in my wheel house. Even though the book is more “Art” than “Making.” You get a glimpse of the concepts that will soon be brought to life on the big screen. But, you don’t actually get to see how it’s made, or an idea of how it was finally brought to film. If you are an artist or a fan of animation, then this book is for you.

The book begins with the character design. Well, it actually begins with a quick bit of info about the film and what you are about to encounter with the monsters and landscape of Hotel Transylvania But that’s brief, and the best of the book starts with the characters. Dracula is our lead character and the one who is (trying) to hold this story together. You can see below that Genndy’s sketches help bring Dracula, and the Dracula we eventually will see on screen, to life. Annette Marnat and Carlos Grangel have a drastically different idea of the look for Dracula. Genndy’s concept wins overall and let’s us see that his style will be brought to the film as much as possible.

The sketches of the characters are interesting to see. It’s great to have so many different ideas from other artists shown here. Even though one eventually wins over the other, the chance to see what could have been brought to the film is an interesting one. There are so many characters/monsters going into this film. Dracula, Mavis (Dracula’s daughter), Jonathan (human backpacker), Frankenstein, Eunice (Frankenstein’s wife), Wayne the Werewolf, Wanda (Wayne’s wife), The Werewolf Pack (Wayne’s pups), Murray the Mummy, Griffin the Invisible Man, Steve (the blob), and many other miscellaneous guests. There are 18 pages devoted to the many guests that appear at the hotel. What you don’t hear about in the book is the nightmare it was to work through legal issues in regards to creating the monsters. Not being able to have Dracula with a widows peak, or Frankenstein’s bolts on his neck. All things that are specific to Universal’s monsters, and under copyright. That would have been good to know, and some insight into why we don’t see those iconic parts of the monsters.

The magic, as Bob Osher mentioned, takes place in the Production Design chapters of the book. This is where I found a great appreciation for the artists working on this film. From the structure of the hotel, to the lighting, the rooms, the Transylvania city, and the many props. Joty Lam helped to create a concept of the Lobby and Main Hallways. It’s not overly detailed. But, you get that visual of the hotel that let’s you know you are somewhere mysterious yet glamorous. Check out her design below. You’ll also spot some fun guests (not sure if they appear in the film, but that would be very cool!) like Casper, Cookie Monster, Barney and members of the illustrious Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.

The book is a quick read and perfect for the animation enthusiast. It’s perfect for display around the house for young and old to read through. I don’t think it will hold longevity with the other books on the shelf or on the table. If you’re a fan of Genny Tartakovsky’s work, then this is something you will want to own. Pick it up today online at Amazon.com. Also be sure to check out all the fine books from Titan Books.

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