The animation community, artists and fans alike, need no introduction to the singular Genndy Tartakovsky.
But the same perhaps cannot be said of Sony, which this week releases the visionary director’s sequel to his highly successful feature film debut, Hotel Transylvania. From the infamous Sony hack that revealed creative interference from Hotel Transylvania 2 writer Robert Smigel and star Adam Sandler (whose execrable Pixels was one of the worst, and most offensive, films of 2015) to the studio’s removal of Tartakovsky from his beloved Popeye reboot, Sony still doesn’t seem to understand that it has a cartoon visionary in its midst.
Fortunately, this tumultuous industry backstory doesn’t necessarily come through in Hotel Transylvania 2, which despite its uneven pacing and story still manages to offer more cartoon creativity and hilarious gags than pretty much anything else in animated film’s blockbuster marketplace. But speaking by phone from Sony, it doesn’t take long (at all) for the stubborn and refreshingly frank Tartakovsky to hold forth on his frustrations with the way Hotel Transylvania 2 and Popeye were handled. They are, of course, balanced out by Tartakovsky’s persistent optimism for his next fantastic Sony project, Can You Imagine?, although it is still only in development, as well as the growing certainty that his poetic, timeless Cartoon Network series Samurai Jack will make an inevitable comeback.
And while the same may not be said about his baby, Sym-Bionic Titan — smothered too early in its crib by a short-sighted Cartoon Network, a cancellation that compelled Tartakovsky to abscond to Sony — the Dexter’s Laboratory auteur is nevertheless holding his head high and hoping for the best as Hotel Transylvania 2′s box office returns will come in during a Halloween season in which it has no real competition for the hearts and minds of the all-ages demographic.
I spoke with Tartakovsky about all of these subjects, and why animated feature films, despite perennially appearing in the top five most financially successful movies of the year (any year), are still maddeningly treated like second-class citizens in a cinema industry running short on original ideas.