Here be monsters
“The problem with having a cast like that is that they all have good comic timing,” says Tartakovsky. “So then, it’s all down to you not to ruin the joke by getting the expression wrong. I would sit there drawing at the computer getting more and more nervous.”
The film has a troubled history: Tartakovsky signed on late last year as Hotel Transylvania’s sixth director since 2006.
“If it was a live-action film, I’d say I arrived when a lot of the sets were built, a number of characters had already been written, and I had my actors and locations,” he says. “And you’re like, ‘well, a hotel for monsters is a good concept but a lot of these things don’t go together. How can we make them work?’”
The monsters don’t look like Tartakovsky creations but the film’s kinetic energy is recognisably his. Bizarrely, so is the 3D, although he’s never dabbled with it before.
“My own sensibilities are much more simple and designed and graphic,” he says. “So 3D is . . . well, it’s different from that. But I tried to embrace it and figure out the positives. Like the Invisible Man is just a pair of floating glasses but he actually looks pretty good in 3D. He gets a little bit lost otherwise.”
Hotel Transylvania arrives at a fortuitous moment in Tartakovsky’s career. Last year, fans were devastated when Sym-Bionic Titan, Tartakovsky’s long-in-the-making anime was cancelled after one series. The show simply didn’t have enough toys attached to it.
“I was so excited about that show,” he says. “And to be cut short after only 20 episodes, just as the show was starting to grow, well, it was unfortunate. Television is a kind of magic. No matter how much you know what you’re doing, it can take time to click. But I think we were just getting there.
“It’s complicated. Whenever you put art and business together, it gets complicated. You’re there to tell a story and create characters and have an artistic vision, but you have to fall in with what the market demands.” He laughs: “Or with what executives think the market demands.”
Tartakovsky, a mostly cheery, upbeat sort, isn’t remotely bitter about the “rebooting” of The Clone Wars by Lucasfilm, even though the new production has wiped Tartakovskys much admired 2003 microseries Star Wars: Clone Wars from the canon.
“Animation has been so good to me. To have as many shows on television as I do? I’m so fortunate. There’s no other way to look at it. The past few years have been hard at times. But animation is my first love and as long as I’m drawing I’m happy.
With this in mind, Hotel Transylvania marks the first picture in a long-term deal with Sony Animation Studios. Next up is Popeye, a CG reboot of the oddly proportioned spinach fan.
“The whole goal is to do an animated physical comedy,” Tartakovsky says excitedly. “It’s going to be movement-based and timing-based. Not so much talking. Just fun crazy sequences. If I’m using CG, then I’m using it to go for full rubber-hose animation. I want cartoons to be goofy again.”
* Hotel Transylvania opens next week