Michelle Murdocca, the producer of the popular Hotel Transylvania movies has added a new film to her belt, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
In this film almost all of the characters have found love, Mavis is married to Johnny (Andy Samberg) and they have their son Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). Dracula has finally decided he is ready to start dating again, without Mavis’ knowledge of it. In order to help her dad take a break from the hotel Mavis books a vacation on a cruise.
This film is filled with comedy, creativity, and is definitely entertaining for all ages. Murdocca says they work hard to make sure that these films are both family-friendly and entertaining for children and adults. This is why they have a series of screenings to test how audiences respond.
“We want to entertain everybody. Also, there are ideas that come up cause we have a variety of storyboard artists and visual development artists; people once in a while come up with ideas, and if I cringe at it, it’s not going in the movie,” Murdocca says. “We definitely want to make parents, we want to keep them entertained and to make them laugh as well.”
The theme of the other two films — of acceptance — definitely continues in this film. Both the monsters and humans learn to look past each other’s differences and see the similarities between each other. Murdocca says the themes come up on their own during the creative process; as they get a script, storyboard it, and then find the theme.
“(The theme), for the first one it was about Dracula letting go and letting Mavis grow up. For the second one it was actually about a similar letting go theme,” Murdocca says. “Here it was really just a when we have our A story or B story it was like how can we bring them together to just make it a cohesive message, and acceptance just felt so timely and so appropriate.”
Making the villain a love interest was just a deeper, more accepting decision for the storyline. This was especially more diverse in the fact that a descendant of such a famous nemesis of Dracula falls in love with him.
“It makes a more dynamic character that she is Van Helsing’s granddaughter… It was something for the audience to overcome. It was something for Dracula to learn at the end of the movie,” Murdocca says. “I feel like it really points to Dracula being incredibly accepting and really inclusive. Even though she was a Van Helsing, he was still able to love and accept her. It just really feeds into the theme of the movie. I think for her to be a straight character wouldn’t have been as exciting and fun.”
The other two films kept the characters around the hotel for the majority of the time. This film took the characters out of the hotel audiences have grown to love and on a refreshing vacation. The main characters live at Hotel Transylvania due to the fact that they are not accepted by humans, so it was nice to let them get out for a vacation. Murdocca says she loves this movie and that it was nice to take the characters to a different place in this film as compared to staying at the hotel in the previous films.
“I really feel like it’s nice to get out of a hotel. It’s nice to see everybody having fun. I do like the, I like the Van Helsing plot. I like that we really know who the villains are in this one and it’s nice to have a good strong villain that everyone knows who Van Helsing is.”
Regardless of the change in writers from the last film to this film, the story flows well and keeps similar themes from the previous films. The difference with this film is it had a lot more humor in it. In the second film Adam Sandler and Robert Smigal were the writers and in this film, the writers were Genndy Tartakovsky (the director) and Mike McCullers.
“I think that we just had a different type of humor. So I think that Adam and Robert Smigal are great writers; they’re really funny and they’re fun. I just think that Genndy and Mike McCullers were just different types of storytellers and joke tellers,” Murdocca says. “I think really it’s just a little bit of a different style but I think that it really maintained the integrity of the style that we’ve had for all of the movies.”
Murdocca was not always a producer, involved in family-friendly entertainment or even in animation. She actually started out in Boston, Mass. creating industrial music videos and commercials. She says when she moved to LA she worked for a visual effects company, Boss Film Studios, which put her in charge of their CG department during a time when they were expanding in that area. It wasn’t until later that she used her visual effects skills to work in family entertainment but now she doesn’t want to do anything else.
“When I worked on Stuart Little it was my first real family-friendly entertainment and I just loved that it was so inclusive. Then my step kids were really young, they were like three and five; I loved that they could come see the movie with us. So when I decided I wanted to have kids of my own it was important to me,” Murdocca says. “We have a lot of preview screenings and they come to all of them. So they’re really involved, they love it… If I worked on more adult-like PG-13 or content that wasn’t appropriate for them, they really couldn’t be involved in my work and I think that for me that would be challenging… A lot of moms can’t really share their work that way. Especially if you work in a field that isn’t creative, it’s not as tangible to kids.”
The film is doing really well nationally and internationally, and Murdocca says if it continues to do well Sony might be interested in a fourth film. She says she hopes to see this happen. She says she is passionate about her job, loves it and has worked hard to get to where she is.
“Part of what I love about my job is that I get to have fun. I don’t know that I could say that if I were doing some other job, but I think that the fun that you see on the screen is actually happening in the room. Genndy and I really try and create an atmosphere that’s first fun and everyone has a great time together,” Murdocca says. “We love working together and I think that it definitely shows up on the screen. So what I would want everyone to know about me is that I love what I do, I have a lot of fun every day, and I feel really lucky about that.”