Hotel Transylvania was directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and produced by Michelle Murdocca. It was released in September 2012 by Columbia Pictures, and produced by Sony Pictures Animation.
The film follows a family of vampires made up of Dracula and his daughter Mavis. Dracula runs Hotel Transylvania where monsters, including a Frankenstein's monster, referred to as "Frank", retreat from the dangers of human society. Mavis pines for a life outside of the confines and safety of the hotel, including envisioning a trip to Hawaii, where her parents met and fell instantly in love. Dracula dreads letting Mavis be independent or wander into the potential danger of human society, going so far as to create a 'fake' human town made out of ghouls working for him in an attempt to discourage Mavis from her dreams of exploration in the human world. During the planning for Mavis' 118th birthday, a human backpacker named Jonathan stumbles upon the grounds. Dracula disguises Jonathan from the hotel's monstrous patrons. Jonathan's disguise takes the form of a Frankenstein's monster, referenced as a "cousin" to the monster "Frank" of the film, voiced by Kevin James. Frank is married to Eunice. Dracula eventually reveals to Jonathan that his wife, Mavis' mother, died in a fire set by an angry mob of humans which resulted in him seeking shelter and safety for Mavis separate to human kind forever. After Jonathan's human identity is exposed, he attempts to protect Mavis by rejecting her as Dracula asked him to. As he leaves on a plane, Dracula and his monster friends overcome numerous obstacles including the burning effect of sunlight in order to prevent Jonathan leaving. Once succesfully returned, Dracula attempts to stop controlling Mavis as to her love life and gives his blessing to Jonathan and Mavis' relationship. They kiss after Dracula leaves the room. The film ends with the continuation of the party with the cast singing "Zing."
Major Themes Edit
Outsider Status and Appearance Edit
Hotel Transylvania continues the adaptive process and reverses it somewhat in reference to the concept of outsider status and appearance. Jonathan is a central character in the film, who must hide his human self from the monsters who are in the majority. His human identity is revealed by a smearing of his Frankenstein's monster disguise, causing the group of monsters distress. Their fear and repulsion in reaction to Jonathan's human appearance references Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In the source text the monster's appearance causes intense rejection, fear and sometimes violent distress on the part of humans who can see him. Likewise when the monsters in Hotel Transylvania see that Jonathan is truly human visually, they flee in panic.The monster in the novel Frankenstein is in the extreme minority among humanity, which is reversed with Jonathan among the monsters of Hotel Transylvania. Jonathan's disguise is also that of a Frankenstein's monster in the film, emphasizing again the role of appearance in determining the 'other.'
Outsider status is additionally developed in Hotel Transylvania with the narrative of Mavis and Dracula, and the death of her mother by an enraged mob of humans. This scene portrays a human majority violently abusing the minority/outsider monsters, showing violence and blind hatred expressed towards the monster by humans in the source text. The fire in this scene also references other Frankenstein adaptions like the 1931 James Whale film where the monster hates fire, and a building is burned down by angry mobs while he is inside it. This type of violence can also be seen in the novel during the scene with Felix and Safie's family(Shelley 103). Dracula withdraws from the world after his wife dies, rejecting humans due to their violence and blind hatred much as Frankenstein's monster rejects humanity in Shelley's Frankenstein. The separation between the monstrous and the human during different narrative strands of Hotel Transylvania depicts themes of outsider status both in terms of the individual human among monsters and the monsters attacked by a larger group of humans.
Monstrosity and Acceptance Edit
A significant difference between the source text Frankenstein and Hotel Transylvania is that in the former, rejection and violence lead to tragedy for almost all of the significant characters. There is no healing reunion between the monstrous and human. In contrast, Hotel Transylvania adapts the source narrative, depicting the monsters of the film coming to the realization that humans are not as violent or out to get them as they had previously imagined, while the humans of the film come to the assistance of monsters and seem to accept them. This 'positive' ending may be seen in terms of the format of the adaption being a children's film, but it also seems significant in that it attempts to resolve the issues of appearance, reverse rejection and bring the outsider into the community somewhat in the conclusion of the film. Dracula accepts Jonathan's relationship with Mavis hesitantly.
The monster in Hotel Transylvania referred to as "Frank" is an exaggerated representation of visual cues developed in previous film adaptions of the novel Frankenstein. Frank appears tall and bulky, grayish blue and square-headed, very much like an animated version of Boris Karloff's iconic black and white represenatation of Frankenstein in the James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) films. This square headed bulky monster image is now extremely culturally recognizable, even without any background knowledge of the 1931 James Whale film from which it originates. The novel Frankenstein does not describe the monster as any definite color; if anything the monster's skin is referenced as yellow (Shelley 37). In early adaptions his skin may also have been portrayed as blue, shifting later to a usually green hue. The patchwork appearance of Frank's skin in Hotel Transylvania references numerous film adaptions and the description in Frankenstein of the monster upon animation: "his yellow skin barely covered the work of muscles and arteries underneath." (Shelley 37)
The Female Monster Edit
Frank is married to Eunice - a character that did not exist in the novel or in other adaptions. The female monster was destroyed in the novel, before she became animated in film adaptions like Bride of Frankenstein (1935), although she was not shown in a consensual relationship in that film. Presenting the female monster in Hotel Transylvania as an animated, speaking character who is in a married or active relationship with the monster is a development in the evolution of Frankenstein narrative, building on other previous adaptions where the female monster is animated, but does not engage in a relationship with the monster.Fran Drescher voices Eunice, the wife of "Frank" in the film. The appearance of Eunice's hair is a visual reference to Bride of Frankenstein and the female monster's animation scene in James Whale's 1935 film. The use of the iconic hair style from the Bride of Frankenstein in Hotel Transylvania demonstrates a visual inheritance among Frankenstein film adaptions. The film Young Frankenstein also incorporates this image, increasing its cultural recognition. The female counterpart to the monster in Shelley's Frankenstein is destroyed before completion, and is never conscious. So the imagery in these film adaptions and narrative changes as to the female counterpart of Frankenstein's monster is noteworthy in that it shows the intersection and interaction of adaptions with each other, creating their own recognizable narrative framework outside of source text material.
Hotel Transylvania garnered middling reviews from critics. Ben Kendrick at Screen Rant criticized the weak characterization of Jonathan and a general lack of substance or over reliance on low brow jokes in the film while praising Tartakovsky's aesthetic. Empire gave the film 2/5 stars, calling it "mediocre" and "a profoundly generic tale about parental overprotectiveness." Peter Bradshaw at Guardian likewise rated the film at 2/5 stars, describing it as "coasting along on Halloween type marketing." Hotel Transylvania cost $84 milion- $104 million and broke box office records for a September opening on it's release. The successful box office reception despite middling critical reviews indicates the film had strong cultural capital.
Significance of Adaptation Edit
Film adaptions like Hotel Transylvania are significant because cultural conception and recognition of the Frankenstein narrative is shaped and influenced by adaptions with a large audience, regardless of critical response. The use of visual cues in Hotel Transylvania that reference and build upon previous adaptions show how extremely successful the Frankenstein narrative is in terms of cultural awareness, to the point that it seems to have become almost independent to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. Films like Hotel Transylvania rely on a high level of viewer recognition for visual cues like Eunice's hair, and Frank's Karloff-esque bulk to be recognisable and to work in terms of imagery. This shows the success of Frankenstein.
In their article “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and "success": Biologically,” Gary Bortolotti and Linda Hutcheon criticize adaption theorists for thinking in terms of "higher and lower forms" (Hutcheon 444) of adaptions. Hutcheon and Bortolott make a "homology" (Hutcheon 444) between biological and cultural adaptions which is helpful in viewing Hotel Transylvania in the context of interelation and intersection with other Frankenstein film adaptions and the source text Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In Borolotti and Hutcheon's view, adaptions like Hotel Transylvania should not be dismissed but interpreted in relation to and on the same level as more "respected" adaptive works. Hotel Transylvania may be viewed by some as a "lower form of adaption" (Hutcheon 444) as both a children's film and for having garnered a mixed critical response. However Hutcheon and Botolotti argue that all adaptions have "equal cultural validity." (Hutcheon 446 )Hutcheon and Botolotti also argue against valuing adaptions based on their being 'faithful' vs 'unfaithful' to the source text. (Hutcheon 445) In light of Hutcheon and Bortolotti's arguments, Hotel Transylvania can be understood seriously in terms of its relationship to other film adaptions which visually intersect with it or whose visual imagery it develops, such as Bride of Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein and Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein in order to develop a deeper understanding how the story of Frankenstein as a cultural entity has evolved and changed over time.
References/ Suggestions for Further Reading Edit
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: Longman, 2003. Print.
Hotel Transylvania. Dir. Genndy Tartakovsky. Perf. Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Selena Gomez. Columbia Pictures, n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
"‘Hotel Transylvania’ Review." Screen Rant. N.p., 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
"Hotel Transylvania." Empire. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
Bradshaw, Peter. "Hotel Transylvania – Review." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
Bride of Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Prod. Carl Laemmle. By William J. Hurlbut. Perf. Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, and Colin Clive. Universal Pictures Corp., 1935.
Young Frankenstein a Mel Brooks Film. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1974.
Bortolotti, Gary R., and Linda Hutcheon. “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and "success": Biologically”. New Literary History 38.3 (2007): 443–458. Web...
James A. W. Heffernan. “Looking at the Monster: "frankenstein" and Film”. Critical Inquiry 24.1 (1997): 133–158. Web...