Back in June, Screen Rant was invited to a sneak preview of Hotel Transylvania with director Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack) in attendance. Tartakovsky spoke in detail about the film’s unique animation style - that is, unique to computer-animated films.
Days after the preview, Tartakovsky was announced as the director of the new Popeye film, which will also be computer-animated. Now it’s being reported that the Russian-born director will be employing a similarly unique animation style for the upcoming spinach propaganda film.
According to The LA Times, Tartakovsky’s take on Popeye will be “as artful and unrealistic as possible.” One wonders what the “as possible” part means precisely. As possible within the constraints of computer animation, or as possible within the constraints of working on a Hollywood studio production?
Elsewhere in the article, Genndy Tartakovsky said of his work on Transylvania:
"You're the chef. You're hired because they like the taste of your soup. You start cooking and they go, 'No, no, no more salt, take out the chicken.' And you're like, 'But this is chicken soup.' Really, nobody's wrong. It's just all opinions. You're coming into the situation thinking you've been hired because of your point of view.... All of a sudden my point of view is gone. So I feel like that's where I fight."
The implication in the article is that Tartakovsky was able to get his way on Hotel Transylvania - by bringing his 2D animation sensibilities to 3D and by selling his visual humor to Adam Sandler - but the way the quote reads makes it sound like it was a hell of a fight, and that maybe he didn’t always win.
Here’s what Tartakovsky had to say about the animation in Transylvania at the June preview:
"['Hotel Transylvania'] is a really broad comedy. We wanted it to stand out from other movies, so we wanted this really energetic, caricatured, funny tone to the movie. It’s a broad comedy. And so - one of the things we tried to do […] is to push the animation. Feature animation is [typically] really grounded in this traditional, classical style of movement, and I wanted to push [‘Hotel Transylvania’] further and make it caricatured and much more cartoony, in a way.
"So we pushed the expressiveness of the faces. In CG, you have kind of a puppet in the computer to move around, but I wanted the animators to have more of a drawing sensibility to [the animation]. We did a lot more drawings and transferred the drawings to the CG models and had really strong silhouettes and expressive poses. [Sometimes] Dracula’s hands are big, but then they get really tiny for the comedy. We have all these comedians [like Adam Sandler] and we wanted - not just to have verbal funniness, but we also wanted to have the physicality of broad animation. In features it's more unusual, and I think we were pretty successful with that. I think it's one of the unique qualities of the film."
The original Popeye cartoons (themselves based on the 1919 comic strip) were certainly over the top in terms of animation, especially when the sailor man ate his spinach and mercilessly pulverized his arch-nemesis, Bluto. (Poor Bluto.) So it’s good to hear that the forthcoming 3D animated adaptation won’t be taking a more realistic/naturalistic route, as has become common in modern movie animation.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with more realistic animation, either - it’s just preferable that there be a wide swath of animation styles to enjoy at the theater, in this writer's opinion. The more diverse the creative landscape is and the more the medium is pushed, the better.
Apparently, Genndy Tartakovsky is also working on an untitled family comedy from an idea of his own. One presumes he'll have more creative flexibility with that project - and, indeed, Popeye - if Hotel Transylvania is a smashing success. That being the case, I certainly hope that Hotel Transylvania is a smashing success.
Hotel Transylvania hits theaters September 20th, 2012. There's no word yet when production on Popeye will begin.
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