2012 (January 19, 2013)
Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation (Sony Pictures)
- Film/program category: B-
- Video Note: A-
- Audio quality: A
- Additional Rank: C+
In Hotel Transylvaniareleased in 2013 to great box office success and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (samurai jack, Primitive), Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) raised his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) alone after her mother died shortly after she was born. He opens a secret hotel in the middle of nowhere that only monsters can find and stay in, and the last occasion is Mavis’ 118th birthday party. Although she loves her father and his life, she longs to get out into the world and see it for herself, which the Earl is utterly opposed to, instilling in her that all humans only want to destroy their kind. . Johnny (Andy Samberg), a very human young man who unwittingly connects (Zings) with Mavis, shows up on their doorstep one day, much against the Earl’s wishes. He then attempts to keep the truth about the outside world and Johnny’s status as a human hidden from everyone while going about the day-to-day duties of running a hotel, planning a party, and… birthday and the happiness of his closest friends. To date, the Hotel Transylvania The franchise has spawned three sequels, a television series, and a devoted fan base.
Count me among those who saw the first trailer for Hotel Transylvania and wrote it off completely as mainstream, low-end drivel for the masses. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally sat down to watch it (admittedly almost a decade after its theatrical debut) and found it to be better than I expected in almost every category. Most of the voice work is strong, especially from Sandler whose very name is enough to write off any film for those who despise him. He does a great job here, as does the rest of the cast, including Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon and David Spade, all of whom have plenty of moments to shine. The story and many of the moments that tend to happen in mainstream animated movies are predictable, but the characters are given a bit more gravity and react in unexpected ways. Granted, there are occasional fart jokes, but there’s enough humor from the characters and situations that these types of moments, which would be major turning points in lesser films, become minor. In fact, the movie as a whole is surprisingly funny and heartfelt.
To be clear, Hotel Transylvania and its sequels aren’t necessarily what hardcore moviegoers looking for the works of Godart are looking for, but not everything has to be that. It works for young, old and everything in between. To put a finer point, it’s like a slice of cake that’s neither too sweet nor too bitter, but enough to satisfy in all the right ways – critics be damned.
Hotel Transylvania was digitally animated, finished as a 2K digital intermediate, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 2D Blu-ray is as colorful and crisp as you can imagine for 1080p. Everything is rendered well but not too sharp, appearing slightly soft around the edges to give characters and objects more definition. Hues are all over the map, from vibrant primaries and secondaries to a range of neons during the party and dance sequences. A bit of background digital noise is sometimes visible, but it is brief and barely noticeable (and possibly inherent in the master). Blu-ray 3D offers a presentation that focuses above all on depth. Even the Columbia Pictures opening logo stands out beautifully. The many environments and kinetic character activities in wide shots and close-ups allow 3D to wrap around rather than rely on gimmicks. Both options offer beautiful presentations of the film.
The main audio option is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and it’s a very active and immersive experience. Because the film is filled with a number of monsters doing a number of things, the sound design occupies the soundtrack. Frequent activity is staging all around, panning and zooming from speaker to speaker, but also providing background ambience. The track also helps Mark Mothersbaugh’s excellent score… the closing credits music is particularly beautiful. The dialogue exchanges are also clear and precise. Other audio options include descriptive audio in English; French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (the latter on Blu-ray 2D only); Portuguese audio description; and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, SDH English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Audio commentary subtitles include English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Sony’s release of Hotel Transylvania includes a 3D Blu-ray, a 2D Blu-ray and a DVD of the film. The following extras are included on both Blu-ray discs:
- Audio commentary with Genndy Tartakovsky, Michelle Murdocca and Daniel Kramer
- Goodnight Mr. Foot Animated Short Film (4:07)
- Deleted Scenes: Prologue (3:43)
- Deleted Scenes: Shadows (1:03)
- Deleted Scenes: Caught in the Act (1:48)
- Meet the staff and guests: Voicing Hotel Transylvania (6:29)
- Make the hotel (3:44)
- Progress Rolls: Genndy Blur (2:44)
- Progress Rolls: Mavis Adventures (1:32)
- Progress Rolls: Image Appearance (3:59)
- Trouble (Monster Remix) Music Video (3:27)
- Behind the Scenes (Monster Remix) (2:21)
- Smurfs 2 Preview (:40)
- Arthur Noel Preview (1:34)
- The Pirates! Preview of Band of Misfits (2:24)
- Zambezi Adventures (1:47)
The audio commentary featuring director Genndy Tartakovsky, producer Michelle Murdocca, and visual effects supervisor Daniel Kramer is mostly flat and technical, but the three contributors provide a wealth of information, sometimes speaking off the cuff but not very often. A few instances of silence creep in as they talk about the production while they watch it together (likely due to cut content), but the track mostly continues. Good night Mr. Foot is an exclusive animated short in the style of the film’s closing credits animation in which Bigfoot stays at the hotel for the night and a witch (housekeeper) makes sure he is not disturbed while sleeping. the Deleted scenes are mostly pre-visualized storyboards, featuring the film’s original opening in which Dracula meets his wife and they have Mavis; the fully animated sequence in which the various guests leave their homes to come to the hotel; and a deleted rap song sequence featuring Johnny (for better). Meet the staff and guests talks to some of the cast and crew about the voice and cast sessions. Make the hotel discusses concept designs and the process of getting the final animation. the Progression Reels show the animation of various moments in transition with the narration by the filmmakers. The rest of the extras are self explanatory. The DVD contains most of these extras, but loses the Meet the staff and guests and Make the hotel featurettes, as well as Progression Reels.
Despite the negative critical reception, Hotel Transylvania created its own little corner of pop culture and became a favorite with many audiences. It has a surprisingly broad appeal, and if you’re like me and rejected from the start, give it a shot, especially in 3D.