Probably the inspiration for Hotel Transylvania was DreamWorks’ Monsters vs Aliens (2009) and its idea of a story that teamed up various classic 1950s movie monsters. Indeed, some of the monsters that that film drew from the title creatures in The Blob (1958) and The Fly (1958) also turn up here. The difference being that, rather than 1950s monsters, Hotel Transylvania draws on the Famous Monsters of the 1930s and 40s Count Dracula, the Frankenstein monster (irritatingly identified throughout this film just as Frankenstein, the name of its creator), the mummy, Griffin the invisible man and Quasimodo the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Although the film that Hotel Transylvania draws on far more than Monsters vs Aliens is surely the delightful Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated monster bash Mad Monster Party? (1967). Before that there was a comedic tradition of various comics encountering the Famous Monsters going all the way back to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and we have had variations on this such as Castle of the Monsters (1957), Frankenstein, the Vampire and Co (1961), Carry On Screaming (1966), Transylvania 6-5000 (1985) and Monster Mash: The Movie (1995).
Hotel Transylvania is a variant pitched down to children. The animation is cute. All of the monsters are cuddly and adorable as opposed to monstrous Dracula seems devoid of any interest in drinking human blood and at most has a scary face he occasionally manifests. Some of the interpolations of the characters are occasionally amusing the wolfman comes surrounded by a litter of wolf pups; Quasimodo is now the French chef; the Bride of Frankenstein becomes the monsters brassy-voiced wife (voiced by Fran Drescher); while Dracula gets a teenage daughter of sorts who merely wants to visit the outside world and transforms into the most adorable batgirl.
It is all amiably slung together, if it never manages to produce much in the way of belly laughs or clever and witty genre asides. The cutest gag is where Dracula spots an in-flight film screening of Twilight (2008) and rolls his eyes This is how were portrayed? In terms of treatment of the Famous Monsters, it is neither a witty or endearing classic like say Mad Monster Party?, Young Frankenstein (1974) or The Monster Squad (1987) nor one that reduces them to absurd figures as say Mama Dracula (1980), Transylvania 6-5000 or the team-ups with Mexican wrestlers. If anything it does bear something in common with the recent ParaNorman (2012) both are classic monster movies retold for kids where the monsters are safe, cuddly and non-threatening. Both films also have a surprise reversal of expectation towards the end where the relationship between human and monster turns out to be the opposite of what we think it is (although ironically the reversal here is exactly the reverse of what it is in ParaNorman).
Sony Pictures, Adam Sandler and director Genndy Tartakovsky returned with Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015).