Book: The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania


Titan Books just released The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania by Tracey Miller-Zarneke earlier this week in anticipation of the upcoming film’s release this Friday. Since I’ve got my hands on a copy, I’d figured I go over its awesomeness with the rest of you. 

I’ll have to admit that I sometimes take CG animation for granted. I grew up watching splendidly hand drawn animated cartoons and films from people like Genndy Tartakovsky. To this day, Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack remains one of my favorite animated shows thanks to its blend of culture and genre within its art style. I had this misguided idea that CG animation took less work than the cartoons I used to enjoy. 

Thanks to this book, I’ve learned that I was very, very wrong. 

A nice foreword by Genndy Tartakovsky himself sets the tone for the rest of the art book. His statement paints him as an excited individual who gets to discover new art everyday during the production of Hotel Transylvania and it’s kind of infectious. Tartakovsky’s energetic foreword altered the way I took to the book as well as I found myself looking forward to each page. Now I’ll admit that a foreword isn’t necessarily going to affect everyone in the same manner as mine, but I would hope that the layout of the book’s art helps compel readers forward. 

The layout of each piece of artwork is set up in a way that each page gets a personality. This becomes noticeably apparent within the “Character Design” section of the book. Interspersed with several different portraits of the characters (I should note that if you read this art book before watching the film, some of the monster designs are spoiled) are quotes from the movie and from the selected staff of the film. My favorite of the bunch are charismatic zombies. That sounds like a terrible oxymoron, but it works. A quote from Michelle Murdocca, a producer, explains this well with “We set out to make the zombies expressionless and emotionless, but there’s always that one rule breaker in the bunch, to our comedic benefit.” The coolest thing about that quote though is that it demonstrates the amount of detail that goes into each character design.

And there are plently of character designs. If you had any dounts that your favorite monster was going to get left out, there’s no need to worry. Every character gets at least a page of concept art and finished art. Although the “Character Design”  section of the text is laid out well, the stand out part of the book is when it describes the effort the artists put into the hotel. Seeing as how the crux of Hotel Transylvania is the successful appearance of the hotel itself, its important that art shows itself off well. There is just a huge amount of detail put into it. This section is where the book finally comes into its own. Unfortunately, this is where the sad stuff also sets in. This is just a personal thing, but it kind of pains to see all of this detail go away when it’s quickly moving and condensed into a 90 minute CG animated flick.

It’s also good for the film when you know how much thought is put into the philosophy of the setting. One of the standout quotes about the setting is from Marcelo Vignali, Production Designer, when he states that the “hotel should never be shabby, macabre or disturbing” or that the “hotel is like a tarnished Faberge egg [with the hotel’s] subdued outside [opening] to reveal beautiful, opulent inside.” When I looked through the quirky, yet creepy art style of the characters it helped that setting has a frame of mind that means to find a balance between the scary nature of the monsters themselves and the comedic nature of an animated family comedy. 

The only major drawback of The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania is that it spoils the movie. While this is a nice companion book to Hotel Transylvania, its expanisve nature of the plot of the film and its effect on the character designs is better read after you’ve seen the film. Then again, I cannot fault the book that much since that is the very nature of a companion text, something to further expand the universe of a film. Although that is the major drawback, there are smaller nitpicky things that I should mention. One is the price. As a standard “coffee table” book, The Art and Making Of fares well against others. It’s a hefty amount of content with a nice looking hardcover (that vastly improves once you remove the paper sleeve) but the price makes sure to limit the audience to diehard fans. The only real problem with limiting the audience is that no one is really sure if Hotel Transylvania will actually get those diehard fans. It basically amounts to a steep asking price for a gamble.

While not a major problem to me, but might be an issue to others if they have issues with the asking price, is that with the title The Art and Making Of I was expecting a good deal of content that described the “making of” process. While the quotes and little tidbits of information I praised earlier are welcome additions to giving each artwork selection character, I could have used much more information about the animation process itself. There are some hints of it (especially concerning Dracula’s Adam Sandler like design and movements), but ultimately the deeper details such as potential struggles or thrown out drafts are ignored in favor of another artpiece. The only consolation prize there is that each artpiece is still really stunning to look at.

All in all, as a companion text to its film, The Art and Making Of Hotel Transylvania gets you a good amount of value for your buck…if all you cared about was the intricacies of the artwork itself. It’s a small window into the making of the film that ultimately could have gone deeper without maybe spoiling Hotel Transylvania’s story. This is going to be a book that you get if you really liked how the film looked, but will be probably ignored later down the line.

Then again if you’re a hardcore fan of Genndy Tartakovsky’s work and want to see what he did for Hotel Transylvania like myself, you’re probably going back to look at the artwork from time to time. At the very least, I hope the book lets people to appreciate the animation of Hotel Transylvania a little more.