Genndy Tartakovsky Talks Hotel Transylvania
Really, the simple concept of funny drawings, that’s missing from CG. Usually you can’t tell one animator from the next, because they’re using the same puppets essentially. What I wanted to bring in, what I said was, you can’t figure the scene out doing video reference of yourself. That’s not what I want. You need to draw it out, feel it out, either on paper or on your computer. However you want to do it. Find a pose that represents the character.
That was really the biggest challenge, to get the animators to think about it as funny drawings and funny poses rather than some kind of naturalistic gesture. It took a little while. We did a lot of scenes that started out looking like beautiful Disney animation, traditional animation. Well, you say, what’s special about this scene, what’s funny about this scene? You try to analyze it. Then I would draw some different poses and people started giggling and you knew you were on the right track.
A lot of times, working in TV, I would have to do that in a vacuum because I was home at night trying to figure it out by myself. But here, it was great because I had an audience. As I drew on the screen, people start laughing and it felt good because you knew you were telling the joke in a strong way. As far as the timing, I had to really watch out for the kind of underwater feel that CG sometimes has. James Crossley, my animation supervisor, he understood what I wanted and really helped me guide the animators to make it feel like when we held something, it really held.
People were afraid of holding something for a long time. But it feels great because it gives you that contrast. We have a lot of that quick zippy stuff, but when we do some more dramatic emotional scenes, the characters are very controlled. There is nothing zippy about it.
DS: So as far as “Genndy Blur…”
GT: That whole issue of motion blur was basically my enemy because it blurs all these great drawings away. So, we had to find a system that retained some of the fun and energy of the animation without it blurring away to nothing. Not to get too technical, and I didn't even know this, but the animators had sub-frames in between frames. So, we’d go in and add extra poses in the sub-frames and that tempered the motion blur a little bit.
DS: And that’s the “Genndy Blur?”
GT: And that’s the “Genndy Blur,” yeah.
DS: Looking back on this experience, what was the biggest challenge in making this film?
GT: I think the biggest challenge was probably to have the conviction that what you’re doing is right. Sometimes during this production, and I’m not just talking about me versus executives or anybody else, sometimes I’d feel like I’m in the car, I’m driving and all the signs are pointing like I’m going the right way. And then everybody else is driving the opposite way, yelling at me that I’m going the wrong way.
Sometimes that got really heavy, like am I doing this wrong? Because sometimes, in a way, everybody is against you. That was one of the big challenges. In television, it’s so fast and so quick, everyone says, “All right, this is what you want, I’ll do it, no problem.” In features, the culture is more, “Oh, this is what you want? Are you sure this is going to work the best way? What about something like this?” Sometimes you hear that before anyone even tries doing what you want.
It really made me a lot more bullish. Sometimes I would make mistakes. Maybe that wasn’t the right direction to take. But because I came from TV and because I came from doing so much of my own material, I had this bullish attitude that, no, this is what I want and I know this is going to work.
So I think the biggest challenge was to get everybody on board, to trust me. Because of the schedule we had, we had to change the culture a little bit and have everybody jump on that same train and support it rather than pulling it off the track. It’s very easy to pull something off the tracks. You can make a story in five different ways and it can be good each of those ways. But I chose these tracks for better or for worse. That’s the direction this train is going.
DS: And that’s your decision.
GT: And that’s my decision. I have to live and die by that decision.
Dan Sarto is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Animation World Network.