I was fortunate to have the chance to see Bob Clampett speak years ago. Clampett was one of the men responsible for the classic Warner Brothers cartoons and helped create Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and later Beanie and Cecil. One thing he said always stuck with me. He said that during the censorship days of the Hayes Committee, the animators/writers would always sneak in jokes that would pass that adults would get and that children wouldn't understand. This made those cartoons something that adults as well as children could enjoy then. While not every animator these days follows that advice those behind HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA do and the result is a great movie that entertains children AND adults.
One hundred and eighteen years ago Count Dracula built a castle/hotel where monsters would find safe haven from the humans that hunted and tried to destroy them. Each year the monsters all gather to celebrate the birthday of Dracula's daughter Mavis. This year will be different though as Mavis' special gift is one left by her mother who died when she was born, to be opened on this particular birthday. Keep in mind 118 in Dracula years makes her in her late teens.
Mavis longs to leave the castle and roam the world to see what is out there. Inspired by a post card she found in her mother's belongings of Hawaii, she wants to see what her mother saw, to experience something behind the walls she's known all her life. Her father, knowing that humans would rather see her dead, wants her to say home though and will do everything in his power to insure she does so. He even goes so far as to allow her to visit a local village, not telling her something she'll only discover later about that village.
Mavis returns home and all seems to be going well until a stranger shows up. Jonathan is a backpacking teen on vacation roaming the countryside who accidentally stumbles upon the well hidden castle. He enters and finds everything he sees amazing until Dracula finds him. Trying to prevent him from being destroyed by the monsters (who think that all humans want to destroy them), Dracula puts Jonathan in make up and has him pose as a party planner there to help with Mavis birthday bash. When Mavis gets a glimpse of Jonathan, the first person she's ever seen close to her age, they both get a glazed look in their eyes and suffer a case of love at first sight.
But human and vampire have no chance for happiness in the eyes of good old dad, so he tries to keep the two apart. Dracula's parties have long since lost their luster and are boring even to the yearly attendees who include Frankenstein, the Mummy, Wolfman, Invisible Man and more. Jonathan livens this up with his youthful ways much to the chagrin of Dracula. Can the star crossed lovers make a go of it? Or will Dracula make sure that the Jonathan stays safe from the rest of the monsters who actually seem to like him almost better than Dracula?
It's a simple plot to begin with and ends up offering plenty of items that will inspire tons of laughter from young and old. The old versus new isn't played out to make one seem better than the other, just different. Dracula is not as bad as one would think watching this movie and his concern for his daughter and her happiness is the center piece to the film. The love between the two is one that should be a good point for families once you get past the whole vampire thing.
The visual gags here fill the film from start to finish. It's one of those movies that you'll probably want to watch more than once just to catch the jokes you missed the first time. The writing is well done and offers just as many jokes as the visuals.
The animation here is fantastic. It still amazes me to see individual hairs on something like Dracula or Mavis in bat form. The detail is crisp and clear and to think that technology has come this far is astounding. The voice work is done incredibly well with cast members like Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Fran Drescher and Steve Buscemi.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA is a movie that the entire family can enjoy together. It offers plenty of laughs and a touching story of father and daughter. It also offers a great launch pad for parents who would like their kids to know what the classic monsters were like. Who knows, maybe it will even inspire some to get their kids to watch those classic Karloff and Lugosi films.