Diego: On Thursday, January 10, my good friend Damien and I took a trip to Sony Pictures Animation Studios to get a behind-the-scene look at how the movie Hotel Transylvania was made. When we arrived, we were greeted by two very hospitable ladies who showed us around and walked us through the animation process. Looking around, everyone seemed so enthusiastic and exuberant as they were getting ready for their next big project and wrapping up this one.
Damien: When we walked up to the entrance we were greeted by a life-sized character cutout of Dracula from Hotel Transylvania. The lobby of the studios was filled with giant 3D poster boards of all the characters from the movie. I couldn't believe I was in the studios where so many of my favorite computer animated movies had been created!
Our tour began with a special one on one drawing lesson from Darrell Rooney, a story artist who worked on the movie. He taught us the basics of how to draw Dracula. It's really simple and composed of the three basic shapes: triangles, rectangles and circles.
Diego: Thanks to Darrell Rooney I can draw a decent portrait of Dracula! Of course, it’s nothing compared to what he has done but at least I know the basics to draw my own cartoons. “When drawing a character,” paraphrasing what Rooney said, “it is important to exaggerate, distort, or alternate certain features in order to help with theme development and characterization.” For example, did you know that the shape of Dracula’s head in Hotel Transylvania was inspired by a coffin?
Damien: Then we were off to meet the creator and director himself, Genndy Tartakovsky. He was in the voiceover room where many of the world's animation voices have been recorded. Diego and I took turns doing voice over for Mavis and Dracula by viewing clips from the movie. It was hilarious and super cool to try.
Diego: That was my favorite part of the trip. Going into the scratch room with Director Genndy Tartakovsky and recording dialogue for a scene was really fun!
Talking with Genndy was cool, too. He's an interesting man with an impressive background in the art of animation. When he was young, and he came to America from Russia, Genddy said cartoons were his escape from everyday life. And now look where he is. Cartoons and animation ARE his everyday life.
Damien: The last stop on our tour was to the other side of the studios where we met 3D Stereoscopic Supervisor Von Williams who gave us a sneak peek on the tech side of what it takes to make 3D movies.
Diego: Von Williams is possibly the best stereoscopic 3D professional in the world and he gave us an inside look at his job, too. Watching Von Williams was like observing a potter create a whole entire world from clay, only with computers.
Damien: It's amazing how just the slightest touch of a button here or a flip of a switch there can make all the difference in how a movie can pop out at you. It was fascinating to see the layers and controls that are used to make 3D animation come alive in 3D. It was a lot of fun to learn all the secrets behind the magic of the animation movie making. It really is fun!
Diego: Seeing the characters jumping out of the screen and huge, atmospheric castle chambers make many feel as if they were jumping into the screen. But to actually see the 3D process is a whole other story.
Check out our video report about our time at the Sony Animation Studio on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps website! And watch a video of our voiceover work below!
—Kid Reporters Diego Magaña and Damien Murphy
Photo: Kid Reporters Diego Magana (left) and Damien Murphy take a turn behind the microphone to give voice to characters in Hotel Transylvania during their Sony Animation Studio tour in January.