CGW: The Pose by Pose Animation of Hotel Transylvania



"All told, the film has 40 main characters, plus variations of each to populate the resort hotel—a castle. “The castle is so immense, we needed to fill the lobby with a lot of variety,” says visual effects supervisor Dan Kramer, who joined the project about the same time as Tartakovsky. “We couldn’t have 100 skeletons and zombies.”
"Some poses were so extreme, in fact, they took the characters way “off model.”

“Genndy hated the term ‘on model,’ ” Crossley says. “He wasn’t worried about whether Dracula’s eyes were different sizes in the same shots. It wasn’t important to make sure we didn’t pull a mouth corner too high. That was fine. His viewpoint was, ‘Yeah, we’re changing the design. this is the drawing I want.’ ”

Thus, during shot production, the crew often found themselves trying to update characters and make them more pliable. “this was Genndy’s first CG feature,” Crossley says. “He did hand-drawings. He’d say ‘I don’t know if we can get near this, but this is what I’m hoping for.’ Mostly, we never said no.”

Tartakovsky gave animators notes via a Wacom tablet and a proprietary, frame-by-frame player with custom plug-ins, by drawing over keyframes exactly the pose he wanted the animator to hit.

For example, the first character Crossley had tested, helped build, and set up for animators was Frankenstein. He had created a performance using the character for a couple of shots. “The performance was subtle and natural,” Crossley says. “And then Genndy came on the show and had an animator do a shot. Genndy did a drawing over the pose when Dracula is screaming. He drew the jaw literally three times more open and broader than we had ever planned to do. If we had tried to do that, we would have broken the character. His jaw would have crashed into his chest.”"


Two things I agreed with on this article:

  1. 2D nature of the frame and poses is Number 1.
  2. Do anything (including going off-model) to nail Number 1.


I still don’t want to watch this movie because of Sandler, but I also severely want to see it for all of this stuff.

Animation is animation, in the end you should always take advantage of that. Good to see more of those things being pushed…though there have been plenty of examples of focusing on silhouette and doing extreme poses, smears, etc. in CG or even stop motion, the more that can be taught the better it all gets.


Saw it… ugh. Character design… horrendous. Story bad. Adam Sandlers voice was actually the best thing. haha… and thats sayin a lot.

#5 has a couple of stills featuring Genndy’s drawover, and in both cases, you can see how his input improved the poses.


From a rigging standpoint, this article was a bit of an eye-opener for me. No matter how complex the rigs are, or what proprietary plugins the studio might have, those things are just a starting point. The artists still had to get their hands dirty by manually sculpting the poses into the desire shapes.

That’s the kind of production story I wish there was more of. There are enough “yeah, we wrote this awesome tool to get the job done” stories… I want to hear about when those tools went too far, didn’t go far enough, or simply failed, and how the artists had to get around it…


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