YOU COULD TELL by its mixed reviews that many critics didn’t know they just took a class in cartoon physics after watching director Genndy Tartakovsky’s debut feature Hotel Transylvania. But the viewing public caught on right away — audiences were so captivated by its gut-busting gags and anti-realism animation that they helped it become the highest-grossing September opening in film history.
Those happy families didn’t seem to care that the film — in which a frazzled Dracula hosts a mad monster party for his daughter Mavis, who’s itching to leave the coffin — didn’t seem to actually care that Hotel Transylvania was acting like a cartoon. Tartakovsky’s debut feature doesn’t delimit itself with unnecessary pretense to reality: It’s strictly about pure characters unleashing rapid-fire jokes, with some metafictional bows to animation envelope-pushers from back in the day like Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. Which is to say, it’s not like anything in the feature animation marketplace today.
“We started out by thinking that animation can do anything — singing flowers, walking chairs, all that stuff,” Tartakovsky told Wired by phone, breathing sighs of relief that Hotel Transylvania’s box-office performance might widen his feature film horizons. “But then we moved to completely copying realism. Maybe this is a good time to start going back to the old ways, where anything can happen.”