Tartakovsky Talks Hotel Transylvania 2

Genndy Tartakovsky couldn’t make the Popeye he wanted at Sony but he continues his cartoony sensibility in Hotel Transylvania 2 and hopes to make the very ambitious Can You Imagine? The gang’s all back as Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) get married and have a son and Drac (Adam Sandler) adjusts to being a grandpa and a world where monster and human co-exist. There’s even a cameo by Mel Brooks as his dad, Vlad.

Bill Desowitz: What was it like walking into this very different situation?

Genndy Tartakovsky: Initially, I didn’t want to do the second one and I started doing some stuff on Popeye. And then they started working on the second one. It feels weird because you’re part of creating this world and it’s successful and you start feeling kind of left out a little bit, and then they started talking to me some more about it. Basically, we decided if I got a co-director I could do the second one and Popeye at the same time, so in an ideal world, I could have a movie in 2015 and 2016. It didn’t work out that way but when I came on the story was already started with the kid. The beginning was a lot different — there were different characters. We put it up and had the first screening and it was all wrong [it was very much Sandler and Robert Smigel humor focusing on a conflict with a real estate agent who wants to franchise the hotel and very dialogue-driven). We realized the faults and I was able to put my own ideas in like the Vlad thing.

BD: Talk about the technical challenges.

GT: I wanted to push lighting and color. The computer does realism really well, but, for me, I want cartooniness, more silhouette value, vignettes, clear reads without flattening it out. And so we talked a lot about color theory [with production designer Michael Kurinsky, senior animation supervisor Alan Hawkins and VFX supervisor Karl Herbst]. We brought in this theory of cool and warm, so if the background was warm we’d have some cool light on the characters, especially on the ending fight sequence — it was really fast and busy so we tried to atmosphere out the background. On the first one it was still colorful but a little grayer. Plus, we were getting out of the hotel for greater periods [the camp is woodsy/gothic].

The other thing was cloth dynamics, which was the biggest challenge in the first one and motion blur because we move so fast and the computer goes crazy — it just wipes everything away so you can’t see anything. So they designed a new motion blur system [called Genndy Blur] for this movie, which is based on how we animate in 2D. They would use smears or dry brush to represent motion blur in the old Warner Bros. cartoons or multiple images of the same drawing. There’s a scene where Drac talks about what the Mummy’s gonna do and there’s literally like eight hands. And so the new motion blur picked that up better. And cloth is regular physics in our world and in the Hotel T world it’s so fast and so different that clothing never knows what to do.

For me, it’s cartoony animation with real cloth dynamics and that was so hard to do so they updated the system a bit. It’s almost like have to frame-by-frame it. They also built a muscle system for the cronies. I wanted to try out something like you’d see in a Spider-Man movie for the Lizard and see how they would work in our cartoony world. Because everyone moved a bit too fast, you never got a feel of it. So there would be extra jiggle when a monster stepped. And once we got into it, we realized we can’t make the cronies too scary. So they had to be sillier.

BD: What’s the status of Can You Imagine?

GT: We’re in development. We had a really good first act screening a couple of months ago. And so now just trying to figure out how to make that better. And it’s a new world here with Tom Rothman running the studio and Kristine Belson [The Croods producer-turned president of Sony Pictures Animation], who’s very supportive. I’m trying to find my place. Tom’s balls-out and is a very confident studio head who has his convictions. He had Blue Sky at Fox and he knows animation is valuable. I feel like because of the success of Pixar and Disney, we’re still in that mindset of this is how features should be, whereas Despicable Me and Minions are also super successful. It could be sillier and cartoonier and I thought we started to develop a brand for Sony that was cartoony with heart. And now I’m not sure if that’s going to continue or not.

BD: What are you trying to do with Can You Imagine?

GT: It’s a personal story. As a parent, you juggle being a parent and a friend, especially for me being very young-minded. I think I’m a kid still, but at one point I was best friends with my son and at five or six he suddenly wanted to hang out with his friends more so than me. So the movie’s about losing our youth and finding it again. And it’s contemporary the way I’m telling it…very different kind of storytelling than traditional movies. And then you get to have fun in the imaginary world.

Read the rest at Animation Scoop/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Clips, Movies, previs, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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