Sunday 16 September 2012

The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania Review - Who Knew Monsters Were This Fun?

The latest 'Art of' book that I've had the chance to review is Titan Books' The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania, showcasing the wonderful artwork of the latest film from Sony Pictures Animation, Hotel Transylvania - directed by Genndy Tartakovsky.

Oddly though, the artwork here is far more resemblant of The Art of Madagascar 3, in that it's very fun and vibrant, as opposed to The Art and Making of ParaNorman - although they did both employ a ghoulish green pallet in places. Also opposed to the latter book, this is spiritually an 'Art of' book - a traditional one. Likely due to the fact that ParaNorman is a stop-motion film, a far more craft-based endeavour, so the 'Making' part was more stressed, meaning the book read more like a history of the film, with art accompanying; whereas here the text is used more sparingly, to introduce characters, scenes and the wonderful artwork. I very much enjoyed The Art and Making of ParaNorman, but this is definitely how I like my 'Art of' books: art-focused, lots of storyboards and featuring lots and lots of wonderfully colourful and entertaining drawings.

However, there are still some aspects of the book that definitely fall into the Making category. For instance, it provides wonderful insight into the thoughtful and considered animation process; the text and key quotes provide great detail on how director Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Samurai Jack, helped the CG team adapt the animation to the more stylised, caricatured style that he's used to in traditional-animation. In fact, the book stresses how important Tartakovsky has been to the film. It's well known the many director shifts that Hotel T underwent, but the book, as well as praising the key work of the artists, extols Genndy as the film's guardian angel.

The Art (more later) is supplied by Sony's talented team of artists, and the Making comes courtesy of the book's author, Tracey Miller-Zarneke. Miller-Zarneke, who worked on Meet the Robinsons and The Emperor's New Groove for Disney, has previously authored The Art of Kung Fu Panda 2 and another Sony book, The Art and Making of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; she did a stellar job on them and does a stellar job here too.

Compared to that of The Art and Making of ParaNorman, the text here is concise, and sparse in places, but that's a good thing in these books! The shortage of text means all focus is, rightly, on the artwork, giving you a respect for the artists and the film; the text that is there is high quality and compliments the art well. The more text-heavy nature worked for ParaNorman's book, due to it being stop-motion, but I do definitely prefer my 'Art of' books in this mould, and Miller-Zarneke just gets that.

The book boasts a great foreword by Tartakovsky too. It shows his supreme love of and passion for animation, and his ebullience about making his first feature film is inspiring stuff; Hotel Transylvania really promises to be Genndy Tartakovsky's film. There's also a good introduction by Sony Pictures Digital Productions president, Bob Osher, about SPA's 10th anniversary, his fondness of the film, and more praise for its director.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the film yet, the advertising hasn't been great - but neither was Cloudy's, and that was brilliant! It also has the, frequently stated, benefit of Tartakovsky's direction and its stylish animation. Because that's something I am sure what to make of: the animation is fantastic. The book stresses so much how much delicate thought was given to everything from character poise, to shadows, and the great character designs! The artwork too, has clearly imbued a vibrant life (or undead life...) into every frame of the finished film; that's the best thing about these books, seeing how all these great artists have influenced the overall film.

Speaking of great artists, there's plenty to marvel at! The character and layout designs are hilariously caricatured and exaggerated, it's stylishly, quintessentially Tartakovsky - but in CG! Among the many, many talented artists who contributed their fine work to the film and to the book, I found myself particularly admiring the work of Pete Oswald, John Norton, Denis Koyama, Marcelo Vignali, Noelle Triaureau, Joty Lam and Ron Lukas, as well as great character designs by Craig Kellman, Carter Goodrich, and Tartakovsky himself!

Personal highlights for me (as well as the character-filled settings) were the storyboards and 'story beats'. You may recall that was what I loved most about Chronicle's The Art of Brave, and the same holds true here - it's just such a personal, hilarious style, dating back all the way to the early days of Disney! Shame there was no colour script for the film though, that's always a big plus for me too. In fact, most artwork on display is limited to a particular setting or character, there's little huge, overarching artwork here, meaning there's less diversity in the artwork than maybe you're used to with these books.

So, The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania is a surprisingly fun and vibrant art book, likely indicative of the film's focus on comedy and charm, as opposed to ghoulish scares and tender solemnity. While the range of artwork is rather narrow, it's all beautiful, well presented and has a quality manuscript by the author, meaning The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania is a great, if not extensive, read, and a treat for the eyes!


The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania, by Tracey Miller-Zarneke, Titan Books. [21st September 2012, £24.99 (UK); 25th September 2012, $34.95 (US)] UK readers can order the book by following our Amazon Associates link below.

Note, all images and artwork used here are property of Titan Books, Sony Pictures Animation (and its parent company, Sony Pictures Entertainment) and any other respective owners, and are used here for illustrative purposes only and in accordance with the fair use policy of copyright law.



  1. That's actually not a bad idea for a hotel at all - as long as the monsters are as fun as in the film. Otherwise, I doubt even the most daring hyde park hotels would consider the idea if it were ever possible.

  2. Eye-catching animation and non-stop jokes make this animated monster movie a lot more fun than we expect. It's packed with gross-out gags that will keep kids laughing, plus clever character-based humour for the grown-ups. :D