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A Monster of an Idea

27 Jan, 2013 By: Stephanie Prange

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — It started out as a simple concept.

“What would a hotel with all of the Universal monsters be like?” recalled Michelle Murdocca, producer of the computer animated hit Hotel Transylvania, who spent 10 years on the project.

Filmmakers and singer Becky G, who performs on the soundtrack, attended a Jan. 27 screening to celebrate the Jan. 29 disc release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“I think the hardest part of putting Hotel Transylvania together was there were so many great stories that could be told with these amazing characters that it was hard to pinpoint the right story,” Murdocca said.

The idea really blossomed, she said, when filmmakers settled on a story focused on Dracula.

In the film, Dracula (Adam Sandler) clashes with his teenage daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), who yearns to escape the confines of the hotel, despite her father’s warnings about the danger of mixing with humans. When a dreaded human, Jonathan (Andy Samberg), wanders into the hotel, Dracula has to keep his people-paranoid guests from finding out and thwart a budding romance with Mavis.

“The relationships are really funny,” said director Genndy Tartakovsky. “It’s just a fun movie. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

“We started with the original ideas for the monsters and then we wanted to kind of spin it,” he said. “Like one of the ones that’s really successful is the Wolfman. We thought, well, what’s the Wolfman like and how are we going to kind of make him contemporary and different? And we thought, well dogs or wolves have big litters, so what if he’s a dad and he’s got way too many kids and he’s just like exhausted all the time.”

Tartakovsky cut his animation teeth in television with such hand-drawn series as Cartoon Network’s “Dexter’s Laboratory” and "Samurai Jack." The move to computer animation in Hotel Transylvania was fairly smooth, he said.

“It’s just a different tool, and I’ve got 300 people helping me,” he said.

Traditional animation makes a brief appearance on the disc in a mini-movie called Goodnight Mr. Foot.

“Michelle and I were sitting during the mixing of the movie, and it takes a while, so I started doodling and all of a sudden it came to me: 'Ah, we should do these little shorts about life at the hotel,'” Tartakovsky said.

Another nod to Tartakovsky’s animation past appears in the film itself, uniquely accessible on disc, as it is hard to catch watching the film.

“Maybe on the DVD you can pause it,” he said. “Jonathan takes out his scooter, and he rides it when they are doing charades. Anyway, on the scooter is a ‘Dexter’ sticker.”

Singer Becky G said her track in the film was a happy coincidence.

“I literally had a song called ‘Problem’ that I did with will.i.am, and then this opportunity came along,” said Becky G. “I thought, well, monsters are a kind of problem and I turned ‘problem’ into ‘monster’ and it just sort of happened.”

Three apps accompany the title’s release on disc. The Monster Party app, accessible on Apple products, allows viewers to create their own monster, have it rated on a “scare-o-meter” and share it with friends on Facebook or Twitter or via email. They can also play a monster matching game.

The Monsterize Me app allows Facebook users to alter their picture with monster features such as teeth and eyes, as well as add characters from the movie into their photographs.

With the Goldrun Mobile app, available for Apple and Android products, users can take a photo of themselves nexts to a Hotel Transylvania character.

A sequel to Hotel Transylvania is slated for December 2015, Tartakovsky said.

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