Genndy Tartakovsky Talks Hotel Transylvania
But the biggest thing about coming here was the CG animation. I didn’t know how to do computer animation. I’d tried, I’d fiddled with it but I didn’t become comfortable with it. But here at Sony, I didn't have to do as much physically as I was used to doing. On a TV series, I would redo the storyboard, I would redo some designs, I would tweak some backgrounds and tweak a few color things. I got really involved in the process, tweaking all the way through production. Here, I’m just directing people to do that. I don’t physically have to do it. I mean, I did a lot of storyboard work, some design work, but otherwise, it’s been more watching a scene play out and criticizing it.
DS: You’ve got a much bigger team now.
GT: Yeah. At one point, we had almost 80 animators. That’s one of the most exciting things that I did on this project, sitting in the room with my animators and going through each shot. Meticulously talking about it. That was the most amazing thing. We could take a shot, we’d watch the rough version of it and nobody laughed. Then we’d massage it and squeeze the humor out of it in the next couple of passes. We’d show the same scene to the same animators and all of the sudden, the room laughs. That was the fun of it that I hadn’t done for a while. In TV, usually I’d write out the instructions and we’d send it overseas to get animated. And then you’re stuck with it. Sometimes it turned out great, sometimes it didn’t.
DS: Your film is filled with tremendously iconic characters. Were there any particular references you used or any particular path you took with how you created these characters?
GT: I thought it was funny because when I started reading up on some of the mythologies, I really wanted to remember the characters as icons like you mentioned. But I didn’t want to be trapped by that mythology. I considered what’s iconic about all these characters and how could we twist that a bit and make them more modern and much more conversational.
So, they are more like your aunt and uncle rather than Frankenstein. Kevin James’ Frankenstein, you get a big lovable uncle. The voice cast pushed us to redefine the characters. Dracula, he’s an obsessive father, but he still has all those controlling qualities that you think Dracula should have. He had that depth of being able to stand still and control the room, then completely freak out over his daughter leaving. It’s contrast that always brings the humor. So, the more we could go from still to active, the more extreme it became, the funnier it became.
DS: Your style, your sense of humor, it’s very distinctly rooted in 2D. It’s not just a slam dunk to transfer that style over to a CG environment. Tell us how you injected your comedy style into a CG environment? Tell us about “Genndy Blur.”
GT: The first thing is performance. I mean, going into it, I wanted to bring in more of a Tex Avery, Warner Bros sensibility. I knew it was going to be a little bit of an uphill climb in this day and age because people have forgotten what was so great about that style of animation. I’m not even talking about the big bulging eyeballs or the big crazy takes. It’s more about the energy, the performance and the posing.
It was important to have characters that were expressive. We chose this expressive cartoony caricature animation style where we were able to push the characters much more, really bring a 2D drawing sensibility into the CG world. We really started to push the expressions of the characters. When you’re animating in CG it’s like you’re manipulating a puppet. I really wanted it to feel like we were drawing, so the animation felt more organic. You’re not bound so much by your models as you are in a 2D drawing. Se we really started to push the characters beyond what the design was. It was very challenging for the animators and the people who rigged the characters.