A scene from "Frankenweenie." (Disney Enterprises, Disney…)
Remember those great black-and-white, atmospheric Universal horror movies of the 1930s and '40s that brought such creatures as Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man and, of course, the Mummy to such scary life?
Chances are your children don't. But that's all about to change with two of this fall's 3-D animated films — "Hotel Transylvania" and "Frankenweenie."
"Hotel Transylvania," a CG comedy that opens Sept. 28 from Sony, finds Dracula (the voice of Adam Sandler) as the owner of a five-star castle resort that caters to the most famous monsters. Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and his brood, the Mummy and even the Invisible Man arrive to celebrate Dracula's daughter's (Selena Gomez) 118th birthday. Like any teenager, though, she is rebelling against her overprotective father.
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Because "kids haven't really seen those Universal monster movies, basically our feeling was we get to introduce these characters to a whole new generation," said producer Michelle Murdocca. "We can design them and make them whatever we want them to be."
The Mummy has long been portrayed as tall, gaunt and wrapped in gauze, but the "Hotel Transylvania" Mummy is "round and fun," said Murdocca. "He has these tiny little feet and hands."
Dracula has gone all warm and fuzzy and the Wolf Man is a henpecked husband with a brood of little werewolves. All of it is meant to entertain youngsters rather than get their hearts racing in fear. "The character design of our monsters, they are goofy-scary," Murdocca added.
In the case of Tim Burton's stop-motion black-and-white "Frankenweenie," which opens Oct. 5 from Disney, the movie embraces the Universal horror films of yore. Based on his 1984 live-action short film, Burton's "Frankenweenie" revolves around a boy named Victor Frankenstein who uses the power of science to bring his dog Sparky back to life.
Producer Allison Abbate said with "Frankenweenie," the hope is to bring those horror films "to a new generation of people. What we tried to do with 'Frankenweenie' is to re-create the excitement Tim and I and the other filmmakers had when we saw those movies. Our hope is that it will spark [kids] to have a deeper interest in it."
Abbate said that there was some concern about shooting it in black and white as the old classic films were because the format would be new for children. "But kids are not born with an inherent issue with things being in black and white," she said. In fact, kids have thought the black and white was "cool," at test screenings of the film, she added.
"For us, it was just about making the movie cool and heartfelt and emotional," she said.