'Transylvania' stars had monster time creating characters - East Valley Tribune: Movies

'Transylvania' stars had monster time creating characters

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Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012 2:00 pm

The first movie Selena Gomez remembers seeing in the theater: "Seed of Chucky."

Perhaps someday a stranger will ponder the same question and say, "Hotel Transylvania," featuring the voice of the former Disney Channel star as a vampire girl named Mavis. She's turning 118, and her overprotective father, Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler), is having trouble letting go.

"I can relate to it, I mean I just turned 20, I still live at home by my choice. It's good, but we've had our ups and downs," the actress-singer and girlfriend to Justin Bieber said during a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival this month.

Sandler can identify with the other side of the emotional equation in the animated comedy opening in 2-D and 3-D.

"Seeing his daughter grow up, it breaks your heart to see a dad struggling and then also a boy coming into the daughter's life and having to deal with that. That's just something very close to me. My kids are very young, but I feel it coming," said Sandler, seated next to Gomez.

In fact, his two daughters motivated him to make the PG-rated movie, a decade in development. "We want to make a movie that the kids can see and have a good time."

The panel included several "Saturday Night Live" alumni such as Sandler, David Spade, Molly Shannon and Andy Samberg, along with other funny men and women such as Kevin James and Fran Drescher.

They riffed on each others' answers, amusing themselves and the media, as if it were an open-mike afternoon. When Samberg said he did seven seasons of "SNL" and by the end "was pretty exhausted," Spade piped up behind him, "Is that why you look so beat up?"

When the younger star said, "Thanks, Spade," the other added in a self-deprecating tone, "Spade, who's 60." He is actually 48, while Samberg is 34.

Sandler, who fielded most of the questions, called finding Dracula's voice a scary process. "I went through many choices in the car driving to the first session and then, ultimately, I said I'll just do a little twist on the Zohan. That's about it."

The beauty of animation is it's literally one line at a time, and, Sandler said, actors can say the line four or five different ways. Director Genndy Tartakovsky said he could see and hear the actors adjust the timing of their lines, based on the reaction of the listeners, until they teased out a laugh.

And how did the animators come up with the look of Dracula, a wide-shouldered long-legged figure in black cape, with a fuchsia lining, his hair combed back, pale skin and the requisite vampire fangs?

"We wanted the film to be really expressive, so we first started to look at Adam, actually, and to break him down to the barest essentials, which is kind of like a Muppet with beady eyes and big mouth," Tartakovsky said. "Whoa ... whoa," the actor interjected.

"We started to build on that, so there's an essence of Adam in there, but then it becomes his own character," the director added. "We just wanted things to be very cartoony, very caricature, to have its own identity."

Other quick hits from the 40-minute session:

-- Sandler's first exposure to animation: "'Dumbo' was the first one I saw and locked into. 'Bambi' killed me as a kid. I liked all the sweet ones. I liked 'Popeye' a lot, too, which Genndy's going to be doing," as an animated movie.

-- James, who speaks for Frankenstein, on his movie baptism: "I snuck into 'Saturday Night Fever.' It was the first movie I ever saw. What I took away from it was when John Travolta ate two slices of pizza at once and folded them together, I thought that was the coolest move ever. I've adopted it and I've made it my own."

-- Drescher, aka Mrs. Frankenstein, on what the director wanted: "This guy wouldn't let me be as sweet as I wanted to be. He wanted me to sound obnoxious and annoying and angry all the time. He said, just be angrier."

-- Spade on landing the voice of the Invisible Man: "I got a script in the mail, and I read it and said I'd love to play Dracula, and Adam said, 'No, go to page 56, it's highlighted.' ... He called and said there might be a fun thing for you to do in here, and try to make it good and give it your normal 80 percent."

-- Samberg, as a human who falls for Dracula's daughter, which means sharing scenes with Sandler: "We got to play off each other. I like doing voice-over because it's probably the only time in my entire life that people tell me to do things more over-the-top. Do it even crazier than that?"

-- Shannon, who speaks for werewolf Wanda, on her 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son: "They are so excited to see this movie and they're so excited that I'm in it. ... Going to the movies as a mom is one of my favorite things to do with my kids."

-- Screenwriter Robert Smigel on his early idols: "I've always loved cartoons since I was a kid. I used to draw. I wanted to be Charles Schulz; he was my idol. Bugs Bunny cartoons are still probably my favorite art form."

-- Sandler on playing screen dad to the star of TV's "Wizards of Waverly Place": "My kids loved Selena's show. We watched it all the time, and it's a big deal that Selena's in the movie for all of us. ... It was just amazingly exciting to be in the car with my kids and say Selena's playing Mavis in the movie. And my kids were, 'No way! Do we get to meet her?'

"You say Selena's name to my kids' friends, and they just stop in their tracks and listen to everything you have to say."

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