Drac and his merry band of classic monsters is at it again with Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. The movie is in theaters now and finished its opening weekend on top of the box office charts. The movie is great entertainment for the whole family—but I’m not here to play movie critic. I’m focused on the technology behind the movie.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Hotel Transylvania movies, though, I’ll start with a brief synopsis. The movies have an all-star cast of voices, including Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Mel Brooks, Keegan-Michael Key and others. Drac—short for Dracula—runs a hotel for monsters and mythic creatures. In the first movie, things get crazy when a human boy discovers the hotel and falls in love with Drac’s daughter. In Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Drac wants a break from managing everyone else’s vacation and indulges in taking one himself—with the usual cast of classic monsters—aboard a cruise ship.
The inspiration for this movie came from Tartakovsky’s actual life. “After I finished the second film, I needed a vacation – and my in-laws surprised us with a family cruise,” he notes. “I’m sure everyone loves their in-laws as much as I do, but the cruise forced us all to be together in a small space for a week. That inspired me—what would happen if you put Drac’s Pack in that situation?”
As with previous iterations of the Hotel Transylvania franchise, director Genndy Tartakovsky laid out an ambitious vision and the team of animators working on the movie had to push the boundaries to make it happen. Most CG (computer graphic) animated films attempt to keep the character consistent using a base model—treating the character rig like a puppet. Tartakovsky encourages his animators to bring an exaggerated version of the characters to life, but without sacrificing what defines the characters.
The characters in Hotel Transylvania are pliable—displaying a rang of emotions from cartoony to subtle and realistic. Tartakovsky and some of the animators explain the challenges and thinking used to create the movie in this exclusive character shot build video:
“The Hotel Transylvania films really are a chance for the animators to live inside Genndy’s head for a little while,” says producer Michelle Murdocca. “The computer doesn’t always see things the way that Genndy sees them in his mind’s eye, but I think our animators love the challenge of breaking the mold and showing the wide range of expressions that are possible in the name of bigger emotion and bigger laughs.”
The computer technology and graphics rendering used to create the movie is crucial to bringing Tartakovsky’s vision to life. It is a cartoon and it’s a fictional world—but it still has to maintain some sense of realism for the audience to suspend disbelief and become immersed in the story. The animators strive to develop characters that are engaging and entertaining, while also paying attention to detail—like how hair blows in the wind, or how water drops or splashes, or how clothing lays on the frame of the character. The attention to realistic detail on otherwise completely unrealistic characters is part of what makes Hotel Transylvania so appealing and helps the franchise continue to be a hit at the box office.