I had the wonderful opportunity to review “The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania” by Titan Books. The book details the artistic process behind the film Hotel Transylvania from pre-production all the way to final rendering, providing a unique behind-the-scenes experience around Sony Picture Animations’ newest animated film.
I knew I was going to love this book from the second I opened the cover (which, by the way, did not do the best job of selling how jaw-droppingly gorgeous this book actually is). The front endpaper shows a watercolor featuring Dracula, his wife and a newborn baby Mavis. This picture alone really sets the stage for what to expect in the rest of the book: rich, vibrant and striking art.
The book was written by Tracey Miller-Zarneke with a foreword by the film’s director Genndy Tartakovsky. In this brief section, I really got a sense for Tartakovsky’s passion for both animation and Hotel Transylvania as he recounted his childhood dream of someday becoming a director of a feature-length animated film. After reading the foreword, you become assured that the film was left in incredibly capable and talented hands.
The Character Design section was my clear favorite part of the book (and, luckily for me, this section took nearly half of the pages). It’s fascinating to see the evolution of the characters’ designs, giving you a glimpse at the characters that “could have been”: body types, clothing, face shapes and personalities. Dracula, in particular, underwent quiet a few rounds of revisions until production zeroed in on his final version that we see in the film. Every once in a while you see a quirky, stylized drawing with the name Tartakovsky written underneath it. It’s clear that Tartakovsky was involved in every phase of the process and that his iconic look (which made him so famous while directing TV series for Cartoon Network) ultimately shaped the film’s final look and feel.
The production design and backgrounds are another treat. If I could describe this section in one word it would be “mood.” The dark and gothic mood is established in every one of the grandiose and sweeping backgrounds. It’s also fun to look at the how detailed the “blind and you miss it” minutia is, from kitchen meat hooks, coffins, bottles, to the patches on Jonathan’s backpack.
As I flipped through the pages and gawked over all the lush artwork, I gained a greater appreciation for all the incredible artists in the industry who don’t work for the popular and coveted Disney or Pixar studios. There is talent everywhere and Sony Pictures Animation definitely has its fair share of them. Some of my particular favorite artists were Arnette Marnat, Carter Goodrich, Craig Kellman, Pete Oswald, Fabian Mense and Marcelo Vignali.
My only qualm is that “The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania” is more of an “art of” book, rather than a “making of” book. The book spends most of its time focused on the concept-art stage, rather than the process of making the film. Personally, I would have loved to discarded characters and plot lines that we obviously didn’t get the chance to see in the final film.
“The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania” is an illustrated delight, worthy of any animation fan’s collection. If there ever were a coffee table book to have around during Halloween, this would be my pick!
Buy it on amazon.com.