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The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania Book Review

The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania book cover - click to buy from Amazon.com The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania

Written by Tracey Miller-Zarneke

Foreword by Genndy Tartakovsky / Introduction by Bob Osher

Release Date: September 25, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $34.95

Titan Books / Hardcover / 160 pages

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It is awfully tempting to see an animated character resembling Adam Sandler and think back to Eight Crazy Nights, Sandler's unloved 2002 Chanukah comedy flop. That would be at odds with Hotel Transylvania's status as the latest film from Sony Pictures Animation, a studio founded that same year which has taken several strides to be considered serious competition for the big boys in computer animation: Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and Disney.
Hotel Transylvania is the company's first entirely animated in-house production since the 2009 hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, whose fall timing it emulates out of wise proximity to Halloween.

This has been a season of horror-themed animation, with Hotel Transylvania arriving a month after the acclaimed ParaNorman and just a week before Tim Burton's Frankenweenie opens. Whereas those films can tout their pedigree (Burton is one of the best-known directors out there and no stranger to animation, while ParaNorman is from Laika, the studio behind the well-regarded Coraline), Transylvania's marketing campaign relies more on its cast of already well-known characters: Dracula (Sandler's lead role), Frankenstein (the monster) and his wife, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, and so on. Even if chances are kids do not know and love Universal's classic monster movies or the books on which some of them are based, those personalities permeate culture, especially youth culture in immeasurable ways.

Devoted enthusiasts of animation may recognize the director of Hotel Transylvania. Though making his feature film debut, Genndy Tartakovsky has commanded respect and admiration as the creator of such television shows as "Dexter's Laboratory", "Samurai Jack", and the 2003 "Star Wars: Clone Wars." Tartakovsky writes the foreword to Titan Books' The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania, a large new hardcover timed to the film's American theatrical release. The director has also hand-signed 1,000 copies of the book, which is written by seasoned animation author and researcher Tracy Miller-Zarneke.

Concept art for Bigfoot and other yetis fills pages 68 and 69.

Full of striking illustrations, arranged by character and location, the book showcases the movie's sense of style and design, revealing creativity that is easy to miss in posters and trailers that do not distinguish the film as anything more than just another wacky computer-animated comedy for families. It sounds like a difficult blend to pull off, which may explain why the film has taken six years to come to fruition. The classic monsters are suitable enough for Tartakovsky's cartoon sensibilities, but grounding that in a presumably sentimental Dracula/Mavis father/teenage daughter plot will be tricky.

The 160-page book complements its abundant artwork with substantial insight into the film's look. There are quotes from Tartakovsky, other crew members, and proud Sony Pictures Digital Productions president Bob Osher, who also supplies a glowing introduction.
Inevitably a bit promotional (although it avoids mentioning any of the famous voice cast besides Sandler), it treats the film with a seriousness that many try to deny animation. The pages share some of the thinking that goes into the smallest visual detail, like monster sweat, and what it says about the personalities.

This is no children's book. Miller-Zarneke gets pretty technical into the nitty-gritty facets of design, making this a more intense read than you might expect. One gathers that much of this is standard stuff that the general public just isn't accustomed to hearing even in this age of DVD bonus features. In terms of spoilers, though it avoids overly synopsizing the film, you still get a very clear idea of how the movie will unfold just by reading this all the way through, so you probably will want to see the movie before looking at this.

Hotel Transylvania opens in theaters tomorrow. Despite mixed reviews, it is expected to place #1 at the box office for the weekend

Watch the trailer for Hotel Transylvania:

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Sony Pictures Animation: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Surf's Up The Pirates! Band of Misfits The Smurfs
Mad Monster Party Monsters, Inc. The Nightmare Before Christmas Coraline The Incredibles
Adam Sandler: Jack and Jill Grown Ups Just Go With It Bedtime Stories Zookeeper

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Reviewed September 27, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Titan Books. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.