By: Kayla Caldwell
With the Omicron variant of COVID-19 raging, it can be hard to find that delicious serotonin. Thankfully, on January 14, that will be an easy fix with the release of HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA on Amazon Prime Video. The fourth installment of this beloved animated series sees the monster gang scrambling to reverse the effects of Van Helsing’s mysterious new invention. It’s Freaky Friday meets Brave as the monsters become humans and Johnny becomes a monster.
Ahead of the release of this truly delightful animated feature, we had a chance to join in on a virtual press conference with legacy cast members Fran Drescher (voice of Eunice), Selena Gomez (voice of Mavis), Andy Samberg (voice of Jonathan), David Spade (voice of Griffin), and Keegan-Michael Key (voice of Murray). Read on below to find out what the actors had to say about their monsters’ human forms, and learn what the cast think of the franchise after making its fourth, and seemingly, final film.
What were your reactions when you saw your new character designs?
ANDY SAMBERG: I love the new design… He goes, you know, basically like full burning man backpacker meets Godzilla, which I think is something I dreamed about looking like as a child anyhow. So it was kind of a dream come true for me.
DAVID SPADE: I play Griffin, the invisible man, who is sort of a bit of a scene-stealer. I was a bit surprised, because they put out some pictures of Griffin, and I guess it wasn't what people thought, because they wanted Griffin to be better looking, like Bradley Cooper or something. And I'm like, Griffin's this goofy ding dong that hangs out with the monsters and, you know, a little outta shape, red hair - they were looking for more of a Prince Harry or something. But I think it's funnier that Griffin looks funny, because it's for kids and families. And I think cartoons should be funny-looking. And so I'm a hundred percent into my Griffin.
KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: I was surprised… I expected him to be bigger. I expected Murray to be bigger. Like I thought it was like, to me, it was one revolution of wraps. So I thought he'd be like this big, kind of corpulent guy. And then when all the wraps come off and you see that he's this, first of all… he is really working the jowls. That was my favorite thing. Just jowls for days. But I like that, and, yeah, it's really great ‘cause it helps inform you as to what you want to do vocally then. ‘Cause it had to be a completely different voice, you know, for him.
Selena and Fran, you've brought these characters to life for nearly 10 years, and they're wonderful outsiders. What advice do you have for those who, in real life, are struggling to fit in?
SELENA GOMEZ: Oh man, that's a loaded question. ‘Cause I could give you, you know, the like, “believe in yourself” kind of answer. But I mean, I think it's a challenge, right?.. Sometimes you do feel those feelings, and I think it's important to take moments and breaks from social media, personally. And I think it's just nice to be present, and be with yourself for a bit. But it doesn't mean that you need to have a lot of friends, and a lot of people around you, to be cool. ‘Cause like, I have four friends, and I think we're the coolest.
FRAN DRESCHER: You know, I think that the most attractive thing you can be is yourself, and not get into peer pressure, not feel lost. You have to be like anybody else. So you have to twist yourself into a pretzel, ‘cause you think that's what somebody else expects you to be. I think that every single day, the more you practice self confidence in loving exactly who you are and doing exactly what makes your heart sing and nothing else, then you're on the right path to living a really successful life - successful in the sense of being happy, both inside and making kindness and compassion your compass is also something that brings value to your life. And to those you touch.
DAVID SPADE: I’ve been doing it wrong.
Andy, what are the challenges in trying to bring comedic timing to an animated role?
ANDY SAMBERG: You're right. I love talking about the craft. It's not particularly challenging. I mean, we're on the fourth one here, not to, like, deflect, but you know, you've seen the style of animation they do, which, you know, in my opinion is one of the greatest things about these movies. It's so fun and exaggerated, and obviously, kids love it. But when I watch it, it makes me giggle, just seeing like the expressions and the gesticulations they give all the characters. So yeah, kind of like, this time around, doing the recording, you pretty much know they want you to go huge and insane - and then they are going to push that even further with the way they animate it, which is, it's very freeing. You know that there's no, you're not going to get, like, “Whoa buddy, come on. That was too much."
FRAN DRESCHER: Never too much.
Selena, we have all loved watching Mavis grow and mature over the last three films. What can fans expect from her this time around?
SELENA GOMEZ: It's been such a pleasure playing this character, and also, growing up, ‘cause it's such, it was so long ago, that was in a different phase of my life. And so it's actually wonderful to be able to kind of, you know, grow with this person or sorry, grow with this character… She's definitely, like, I think just tough, and she's not always demanded to be you know, as big. She's just always worrying, I think, and that matches my personality really well. I just want things to run smoothly. I actually understand what it's like to have, you know, differences between, family members, and things like that. And so it's nice that we're touching on such a real thing, but in such a, you know, crazy way. It's fun.
David, this is the first time that your character Griffin has actually been seen. What do you think that means in a movie like this, that's all about transformation?
DAVID SPADE: Selena, what's the answer on this one? First of all, I would like to say, I love that I got to do these four movies with all these people. It was such a fun time, and I get so many nice comments from so many different older, younger people about watching 'em together and it's, it's been a blast. I just want to get that out there, because it was a really cool thing to be a part of. And having Griffin be not seen was kind of interesting the whole time. So I'm just floating glasses, and it was nice to be a full-on character that was relating to other people. And I think that's going to be really fun for kids. It was a great hooky fourth idea, because then it's a switcheroo, and then everyone gets different and just like a fun visual thing.
And like Andy was saying earlier, you see these jokes written on the page, and then when they add the animation to 'em, the jokes are like, three times better because there's a joke behind you. There's a joke over here, and it just flushes it out so much that the movie turns into just more and more fun. And it's just so clever when you see what they can do. We're adding one layer, and then what they do to it makes it even better. So they just really know what they're doing. And that's why these are so fun and proud to be a part of.
Fran, you certainly found the secret to good, live action comedy through The Nanny. What do you think is the secret to good comedy in an animation?
FRAN DRESCHER: I think physical comedy is very important. I mean, we did quite a bit of it on The Nanny, and I think that, in animation, it's absolutely imperative. You can do so much, because it's such a, you know, make believe world. I mean, you can contort characters in ways that they could never really do in real life. Even the best stunt person couldn't get away with some of the stuff that animated characters can do. So I think that that's a big you know, through theme of doing an animated movie is, you know, how far can we physically take these characters to do funny and surprising things?
Keegan, what has been the most rewarding part of the voice acting animation experience?
KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: I would say the most rewarding part, to actually go back to what Andy was saying, is that concept of not having any limitations that, especially in these movies, like we were saying, the look of the characters are so exaggerated that you get -- anything that you would've been busted for on a live action movie, you don't have to worry about. And that is the best, freeing thing. 'Cause that's what you did -- it reminds me of being a kid, and you play with your other friends, your imagination went everywhere and there'd be times you're out at the field and playing and screaming -- all of that abandon, you get to channel that again as an adult when you're doing animated films. It's not only not frowned upon ,it's encouraged. That, to me, is my favorite thing about working in this space.
ANDY SAMBERG: I love, Keegan, that you and I both are like, “We just like that no one gives us the note that we're being too big."
KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: Exactly. That's the answer to the question. No one's going to tell you to take it down a notch, and that's like, the best.
ANDY SAMBERG: A real peak inside at our process.
It's been nearly 10 years since the first film was released. Did you guys ever think this franchise would last this long, and would lead to three sequels?
ANDY SAMBERG: No, but… I’m really glad it did. You know, I think the reason is because kids love them so much. That's the real bottom line with these movies, which makes it such an easy call, you know? Like they're just so infused with joy and positivity… I think everyone grew up loving these sort of classic monsters, and it's a new spin on it, and it's really fun for families. And that's why it's endured.
FRAN DRESCHER: What I like about this movie also, is that it's really written funny. Parents really enjoy it as much as kids, and similarly, you know, certain jokes, I think, may go right over the kids' heads, but the parents get it, and see the humor in it. And it's always very positive, and look at the talent, you know? They're all very serious comic actors. So, you know, it really does...
KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: The other thing… that's interesting is the way that they portray the family dynamics, like how spouses, and loved ones, and girlfriends, and everybody is working off of each other. Those dynamics are really well observed in the movies… Yeah, Fran where, you know, that sense where an adult can be laughing at a hard joke with a hard punchline, but also at the same time, there's this sense of like, “Oh my God, we do that. Me and my wife do that,” you know, there's really -- it's super deliciously relatable.
From all indications, this will be the final HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA installment. What would you guys each say that you will miss most about this series? Fran, let's start with you.
FRAN DRESCHER: I’ll miss Eunice. I love her. I love the way they drew her, and I love her look, and I love that she is a bit of a matriarch to the monsters. You know, she really does. She gets wound up, and screams a lot, but for the most part, she really cares about Mavis and her family, and and her husband, too, you know, Frank. So I will miss my character, Eunice.
KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: I'm going to miss the final products that we always see. The movies are really, really done on such a high level, and it's the rhythm of the movies, and the spirit behind them, that really, really kind of moves me. So in a way, I'm saying I'm going to miss seeing them. ‘Cause if, indeed, this is the last one, I'm going to miss seeing a new one coming out. ‘Cause they're always really, really, really well done.
DAVID SPADE: I do like when they come out, that's a good point. We did one, and you're waiting for it to come out to see if it worked. And it's nice to be a part of something that works. And when it worked, it was fun. And then they're already talking about another one. So it's kind of fun. People are like, “Is there going to be another one?" You go, “Yeah, yeah. We're working on, it's coming out soon." And then that comes out, and you see it ,and you go, “Oh good. It's funny again. You know?" And then there's like, “Oh, there's going to be another one." And to have it stop is kind of a bummer, but I'm glad we got, you know, seeing the fourth one, I'm glad they all were good quality. And if that's where they have to stop, that's where they have to stop.
Andy, take us home.
ANDY SAMBERG: I don't like to admit that it's over. You know, if we say it's done, we're just caving to Sony, you know?
DAVID SPADE: Yeah. Wrap-aphobia.
ANDY SAMBERG: I don't know. I'll miss it all. It's been such a fun thing to do. I'll miss the swag bags, you know, I'll miss the junkets…
SELENA GOMEZ: [Returning after her internet went down] I didn't enjoy working with Andy at all, actually.
DAVID SPADE: That's all she wants to add.
SELENA GOMEZ: No, no. But I did want to answer the question. I remember I was really excited to meet Andy, ‘cause I've watched all of, like, SNL, and watching David, too, and everyone growing up. So I would have to say the first time being able to sit down with him, he made it so fun and easy. And, if anything, he's helped me kind of relax more in interviews, and just kind of feel a little bit normal. He also had my back. I will never forget, 'cause they asked me, like, a dating question or something, and I don't do those. And Andy answered for me, and it was nice.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA will be available streaming via Amazon Prime Video starting January 14, 2022.
ANDY SAMBERG: For the record, Fran said this movie's as good as Spinal Tap.