Global Times US Edition - - LIFE -

When triple Emmy-win­ning an­i­ma­tion guru Gen­ndy Tar­takovsky put to­gether the fi­nal touches for 2015’s Ho­tel Tran­syl­va­nia 2 he de­cided he’d had enough of his old pal Count Drac­ula.

The ra­zor-fanged quin­cen­te­nar­ian – that’s Drac, not Tar­takovsky – has sucked a blood­cur­dling $800 mil­lion out of global au­di­ences but the se­quel, un­der­taken dur­ing a mas­sive North Korean cy­ber at­tack on Sony, was gru­el­ing work.

“We’re fin­ish­ing it. And all the ex­ec­u­tives are get­ting fired, and all this ug­li­ness is com­ing out, and we still have to make a funny, en­ter­tain­ing movie,” the 48-year-old film­maker told AFP.

Burned out, Tar­takovsy an­nounced very pub­licly that he had no in­ten­tion of com­mit­ting to a third movie – and learned an im­por­tant Hol­ly­wood les­son: Never say never again.

Hav­ing re­jected the of­fer to di­rect a script he didn’t like, the an­i­ma­tor de­cided dur­ing a fam­ily cruise off north­west­ern Mex­ico that trans­plant­ing Drac onto an ocean liner could open up com­edy doors.

“Some peo­ple love cruis­ing and I don’t. I don’t like to be part of the cat­tle. I like to just do my own thing,” Tar­takovsky told AFP in a re­cent in­ter­view on LA’s Sun­set Strip.

“So I had all that, and my in-laws were on the ship, so you were with the fam­ily con­stantly, so all these ideas came.”

Ho­tel Tran­syl­va­nia 3: Sum­mer Va­ca­tion, out in the US on Fri­day, sees the Tran­syl­va­nian vam­pire (Adam San­dler) and his Drac Pack en­joy­ing mon­ster vol­ley­ball while top­ping up their moon tans on the SS Legacy.

‘Kids are smart’

It’s plain sailing at first, but the fun turns night­mar­ish when Drac’s daugh­ter Mavis (Se­lena Gomez) re­al­izes her dot­ing pop has fallen for the se­cre­tive, dan­ger­ous ship’s cap­tain.

From the Marx Broth­ers’ Mon­key Busi­ness (1931) through Alvin and the Chip­munks: Chip­wrecked (2011) and this year’s Over­board, the deep blue has al­ways been a re­li­able com­edy back­drop.

“You’re just trapped in a space, all to­gether. So usu­ally good com­edy comes from that,” says Tar­takovsky, who also took on cryt­p­writ­ing – sorry, scriptwrit­ing – du­ties.

The ac­claimed creative be­hind the Car­toon Net­work’s Star Wars: Clone Wars, Samu­rai Jack and Dex­ter’s Lab­o­ra­tory has been mak­ing chil­dren’s com­edy for the best part of three decades.

His ex­pe­ri­ence, he says, has taught him that the se­cret to writ­ing ef­fec­tively for kids is, well, not to ac­tu­ally write for kids.

“As soon as you think, ‘Pi­rates are re­ally pop­u­lar right now with kids so I’m go­ing to write a pi­rate movie’... that’s when you’re dead,” he tells AFP.

The di­rec­tor sticks to writ­ing what he finds funny, plac­ing trust in his abil­ity to come up with ma­te­rial that young­sters will en­joy too, rather than try­ing to al­ter his sense of hu­mor.

“Kids are smart. They pick up on that stuff, when they’re get­ting talked down to. So you’ve got to talk at that level and hope­fully you’ve got a good sen­si­bil­ity that kids think is funny,” he says.

“But I don’t know what a kid thinks is funny to be­gin with.”

‘Dou­ble stan­dard’

Gen­ndy, who was born to Jewish par­ents in the Soviet Union, grew up in the US, fall­ing in love with Pop­eye, Looney Tunes and Ja­panese anime.

He got his start at Hanna-Bar­bera at a time when all the mid-20th cen­tury film­mak­ers were still in place, work­ing on old di­nosaurs – pun in­tended – like The Flint­stones.

He at­tended the Cal­i­for­nia School of Arts, made short an­i­ma­tions and went on to make Kuro­sawa-in­flu­enced Samu­rai Jack, widely re­garded as among his and the Car­toon Net­work’s great­est achieve­ments.

Kids’ tele­vi­sion, he says, has bro­ken its shack­les to a cer­tain ex­tent and is no longer afraid to be ir­rev­er­ent and odd.

Tar­takovsky’s an­tag­o­nist is the se­duc­tress Ericka van Hels­ing – a char­ac­ter crit­ics have pointed out looks more like a pneu­matic Olive Oyl than a con­ven­tional beauty.

“We don’t want to just do a generic, beau­ti­ful, un­of­fen­sive, very nice model face. We wanted to have char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity as much as Drac­ula,’” Tar­takvsky said.

“There’s this dou­ble stan­dard where you can make men ugly and then ap­peal­ing but all women have to be at­trac­tive. So we go, ‘Well we want her to be unique look­ing be­cause unique is also at­trac­tive.’”

Since Tar­takovsky has stopped pub­licly rul­ing out fu­ture work, ask­ing him what an­swer he would give to a job of­fer for “HT 4” seems rather point­less – but AFP asks any­way.

“Hah! Same one from HT2,” he says, burst­ing into rau­cous laugh­ter.

Photo: IC

Pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial for Ho­tel Tran­syl­va­nia 2

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