Director Genndy Tartakovsky went under the hood of Sony’s upcoming Hotel Transylvania (Sept. 28) with animation supervisor James Crossley and VFX supervisor Daniel Kramer. They explained that the process was like “digital excavation,” as they had a year to pull it all together on the fly.
Tartakovsky wanted a Tex Avery-style 2D performance, so they broke the rigs to get the appropriate squash-and-stretch, with the director doing draw overs. They tweaked with emphasis on lattice, clusters, sculpt deforms, wrinkle free, blend shapes. They also came up with a visual language that was strong on silhouettes and drop off detail in the distance (trees look like inkblots). Afterward the supervisors told me that they learned some valuable lessons and now they look forward to implementing changes from the very beginning to complement Tartakovsky’s 2D sensibility. I spoke with the director afterward.
What was it like doing this on the fly?
Starting it and not having any idea what it was going to be as the story was still being rewritten was really hard and makes you nervous. Then you know what the tone is it becomes easier.
You were like Dracula in search of control.
Absolutely. Every week was a new challenge whether it was technical or creative. I couldn’t control the pieces as much as I’m use to.
Talk about moving forward with Popeye and your own personal projects and pushing the 2D aesthetic more systematically.
Definitely, the experience was [valuable]. I knew the importance of lighting and so not having a chance to set that up from the beginning was a huge mistake because things could’ve been even more perfect with the style. Things came out good but they could’ve been even more pushed. So going forward we can do that from the beginning and maybe even get Sony to adjust some of the pipeline to help that out. But one of the things about it being positive that it wasn’t my project was this was never designed as a 2D movie. It is what it is and I couldn’t push my 2D sensibility so much that it would break.
What can you say about Popeye?
Tartakovsky: Probably the biggest challenge is keeping the essence but making it contemporary. That’s one thing I haven’t figured out 100%. I feel like I’ve got a handle on what I want it to look like, so if you could imagine that rubber hosey animation with real clothes on him, it could be it’s own kind of style.
What did you think of The Three Stooges?
In my opinion they did such a good job of making it feel like the old ones but not really pushing it to something new. You could tell they were so respectful of the past that they didn’t want to ruin it. So for me I want to respect the past but still put it into now. I’m not saying like sunglasses on baseball caps but making it feel contemporary and keeping the essence that I liked as a kid. It’s that same kind of pressure when I worked on Star Wars: now it’s our chance to do it without ruining it.