Hotel Transylvania is a movie that almost never happened. The film was in the making for six years, and cycled through five directors before Genndy Tartakovsky finally signed on and got the project rolling for good. It’s a good thing he did, because Hotel Transylvania broke box office records back in September, making Hotel Transylvania one of the more successful animated films this year.
Hotel Transylvania follows Count Dracula (Adam Sandler), a hotel entrepreneur and over-protective father who has built a niche for himself and his vampire daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), in the middle of Transylvania. The hotel has developed a reputation as a secret haven for monsters like the Frankenstein family (Kevin James and Fran Drescher), werewolves (Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon), the Invisible Man (David Spade), and even Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz). However, when a human boy named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) happens upon the hidden hotel and begins to fall for Mavis, the Count must determine whether to intervene or let his baby girl make her own chances.
The story is surprisingly touching for a cast that features frequent Sandler collaborators and was written by Borat co-writer Peter Baynham and SNL’s Robert Smigel. Sandler’s movies have always been tinged with family lessons alongside the jokes, but in Hotel Transylvania there’s a great balance between Sandler’s Count and a focus on Mavis’ wants and needs, and the movie subsequently becomes more than just the Adam Sandler Show.
Still, there are touches of more standard, juvenile jokes throughout. There’s a lengthy fart joke involving Frankenstein’s legs going rogue that Tartakovsky openly admits in the commentary to being a part of as well as a werewolf bum sniffing joke that pops up later on. Audiences that can patiently sit through the kiddy laughs will find some performances and side comments that are terribly clever, and besides, even the fart joke isn’t the worst I’ve seen.
In a year filled with strange, scary and macabre animated films, Hotel Transylvania stands out with its animated characters, who retain many of the looks and appeal of the most horrific monsters from legend, while giving them cute or goofy faces and expressions that won’t make them intimidating for kids. Part of the reason I believe Frankenweenie and ParaNorman didn’t do so well with audiences was that those films focused on animation that was strange and scary. While the looks of those movies may be innovative and gleeful for some audiences, a lot of children don’t want to be frightened, and Hotel Transylvania doesn’t fall into that trap.
Hotel Transylvania isn’t the type of movie that will stand out as one of the greatest animated films of all time. It won’t break down barriers or usher audiences into a brand new era of animation, but it is a pleasant family tale that can be enjoyed again and again, and as such, it’s likely a worthy addition to any family collection.
The packaging for Hotel Transylvania is oddly sized. The set itself is thicker-than-normal, and I was surprised the 3D Blu-ray didn’t feature a signature blue case, like most other standard Blu-rays. While I didn’t catch the 3D version of the film while watching, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s film is crisp and heavily detailed on Blu-ray, and the menu page is easy to navigate.
As far as special features go, “Goodnight Mr. Foot” is a cartoon extra which gives us another glimpse at the hotel featured in the movie, but focuses on different lead characters, with an almost Tom and Jerry-like plotline with a witch and a spider. This aired in certain theaters with the theatrical release.
I’m never a huge fan of deleted footage in an animated movie. Most of the scenes are never fully realized before they become part of the disc and are crudely drawn and difficult to watch. With Hotel Transylvania there are several deleted scenes. One in particular is a lengthy scene that explains more about Dracula’s meet-cute with his wife that is worth a watch if you liked the film. However, they are still unfinished scenes.
“Making the Hotel” is actually a great segment. For some reason, animated films are often a lot better at giving behind-the-scenes looks that focus a little more on process. In this segment, the animators discuss their love for their work and then show us some of the changes that are made while working on scenes as well as how animation goes through multiple stages of drawing and computer effects to achieve a final project.
“Progression Reels” is actually an explanatory piece that shows some of the effects different types of animation can achieve. This is really dry, so if you aren’t in to specifics on animation, it’s not the best use of your time. Additionally, the segment looks at some 3D effects, which obviously aren’t nearly as cool on the regular Blu-ray copy. However, if you want a step-by-step look at certain processes, this is one of the most comprehensive segments with a set I’ve ever seen.
A few other bonus features are available with Hotel Transylvania, including “Meet the Staff" and "Guests: Voicing Hotel Transylvania,” which focus on the actors, a music video and a behind-the-scenes segment for the music video, and commentary from director Tartakovsky, producer Michelle Murdocca, and Daniel Kramer, the visual effects supervisor. There’s a nice mix of extras for kids and grown-ups, and a few oddities aside, it’s a spectacular set.