INTERVIEW: Disney Channel’s “Hotel Transylvania” Series Exec Producer Rick Mischel – Animation Scoop

INTERVIEW: Disney Channel’s “Hotel Transylvania” Series Exec Producer Rick Mischel

Yet another highly successful animated movie series has made it’s way to the small-screen. Sony’s Hotel Transylvania: The Series debuts Sunday June 25th on The Disney Channel. Sony Pictures Animation veteran Rick Mischel is the show’s executive producer.

Jackson Murphy: Much like with the new Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs series that you’re also a part of [which debuted in February on Cartoon Network], “Hotel Transylvania: The Series” is a prequel show to the movies. But unlike the “Cloudy” series [which focused on the younger versions of the main characters], with “HT” you’re focusing on Mavis and a handful of her young friends who also happen to be kids of the film’s supporting characters. It’s definitely a unique approach you’re taking.

Rick Mischel: Yeah, we really created a whole new cast of characters when coming up with this series. Mavis, of course, was one of our favorite characters from both movies. She consistently is rated one of the most popular animated characters for Sony. So we knew that we wanted to feature her in the series and age her down. She’s actually 114 3/4 years old in this series, because as you remember in the movie, she was 118, not 18.

So we now have her at 114 3/4, and we wanted her to have a group of contemporary friends. So we did something interesting. We gave a son to Frank (Frankenstein), and his name is Hank N. Stein. And we looked at Murray the Mummy, who’s always a popular character, and we came-up with a cousin named Pedro the Mummy. And then last but not least, we created a daughter of Bob Blob – her name is Wendy Blob. And she’s Mavis’s female pal. When we want to have a “girl talk” part of an episode, Wendy and Mavis are really the girl pals.

And Hank, Wendy, Pedro and Mavis are really the featured foursome of this series. And they’re all teenagers, so we wanted it to be aspirational and relatable to our audience. As you said, unlike “Cloudy”, we created these new characters. But they fit in very well into the “Hotel Transylvania” universe. It’s really worked out well.

JM: Because Mavis is younger… this is before romance enters Mavis’s life with Johnny. So would you say Mavis has even more of a sense of freedom to her?

RM: Yeah, she’s a typical teenager. She’s just trying to prove herself. She’s very cocky. She thinks she can do it all – like a lot of teenagers do. She tries hard to really… achieve and be confident. But sometimes she fails and she’s gotta learn those lessons. And that’s how she eventually becomes the Mavis, as a woman, that we’ve seen in the second film – and we’ll see more of in the third film. It really is faithful, I think, to the Mavis from our films. This is how she would be, we think, at 14 3/4. We’re really happy with her. She’s kind of the leader of the gang. She’s definitely the leader.

And in fact, the premise of the series, and how the series opens, is: Drac is called away to the Vampire Council, and Mavis thinks she’s gonna be the manager of Hotel Transylvania. And, lo and behold, Drac has to explain to her before he goes that, “You’re not quite old enough to do this.” So he brings in his sister – the evil dark baroness, Lydia, who is also a new character, and who is kind of Mavis’s foil.

JM: When you see her in the first episode, she’s kind of a cross in look and attitude between Maleficent, Cruella de Vil and Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother – all wrapped up into one. But yet she’s got a chicken minion with her.

RM: Yes, she has a chicken minion. Don’t ask me how we came-up with that chicken. Our writer (and showrunner) Mark Steinberg, I think he just had that idea and he threw it out. And we were like, “Yeah! Chicken! That sounds fun!” There actually is a short that shows how that chicken came to be, but I’ll let your audience look for that, cause it’s interesting what the backstory is on that chicken.

But you’re right about Lydia. She is a combination of those villains, with one exception, and you see in the arc of the first season, you do see that Lydia has a soft side for her family – her niece, Mavis. And even though she doesn’t show it a lot, you do see that she’s very protective of her niece, even though she’s highly critical of both her niece and Mavis’s friends.

JM: Now that you’re exploring “Hotel Transylvania” even more with this series, that means you get to explore more of the hotel itself than ever before. What kinds of new rooms are we gonna be seeing on the show?

RM: We really tried to say, “What would a teenager wanna do in a hotel?” I need to give a lot of credit to both Mark Steinberg and Robin Budd our director. They really, from a design perspective and a story perspective, really opened up the hotel to be a playground for these kids. And like any kids who think they can run wild in a hotel, we find secret passages. We find tunnels. We find slides under the hotel. We find a clubhouse deep in the bowels of the hotel where these four pals can hang out and hatch their next plot.

We have a cafe where they can hang out. When things go wrong, they can meet up and talk about what to do and strategize. So a lot of new locations – a lot of fun – a lot of visual fun in the hotel with these… visual devices. We have them surfing through the hallways of the hotel with silverfish on their feet. You’re gonna see a lot of fun, monster-related visual gags and visual action with all our characters.

JM: And in the episode, “Hide and Shriek”, Mavis finds an old toy she played with when she was much younger. A lot of teenagers – I’ve gone through some of my old toys recently – we can’t believe we still have certain toys. What’s an old toy that you still have from your childhood?

RM: (laughs) Well, it’s funny you say that because very recently, my mother moved out of our house and I had to go through my stuff. And there was a Beanie doll. I had a Beanie doll. The Beanie is there, but the little thing that goes round and round – the propellor – on the Beanie is long gone. But there was Beanie with his smiling face and little outfit. And right away it brought back so many memories. It really did.

The other thing I found: When I was 10, I went cross country in the United States. And I bought decals, like decals that you put on a car. I bought decals from every site that I went to. And I found them all, and looked back at all those national parks and all those crazy sightseeing things that I did when I was 10 years old. These are things that are great. It doesn’t go quite as well for Mavis in that episode. I’ll leave it for the audience to discover what happens.

JM: You’re right. And in that episode, too, we do get a cameo from Drac. Will we be getting more cameos of him and some of the others in flashbacks or other ways throughout the season?

RM: You’re way ahead of me. Yes we will. Drac and Mavis have a really special bond. They’re really close – father and daughter. Of course, he may be physically far away, but he’s gonna be connected to Mavis. And we will see that throughout the season, both through communication and special letters that he sends to Mavis. And we hear his voice. And he does drop in throughout the season as well, just to check on Mavis and make sure everything is going okay. And it’s the Drac we know and love from the movies.

And we do see some of the other main monsters from the “Hotel Transylvania” movies show-up, especially Frank. Frank does come into the hotel quite a bit to check on his son. And there’s some really funny episodes where Frank plays a big part.

JM: And one of the things I thought was interesting in first reading about the show – that is was going to happen – was that it would be on Disney Channel. Obviously, most people know that “Hotel Transylvania” is not a Disney property. But what made Disney Channel the right home for “Hotel Transylvania: The Series”?

RM: You know, I’m glad you brought this up because Disney, from very early on when they saw only designs and a very rough outline of what the series would be, were incredibly excited about this property and were very aggressive in pursuing the broadcast rights to the new series. They just really felt like this could be a real tentpole for them on Disney Channel. As they move back into animation on Disney Channel… they look to these big properties, and they felt like Mavis was the kind of girl hero that they really wanted to feature on the channel.

And they’ve been so supportive and such great broadcast partners. To us – to both Sony and Nelvana – now, Nelvana is our partner in producing the show – I’ll speak for Nelvana and chorus… and say that we’ve been absolutely thrilled with the level of excitement from Disney. They’ve really treated this series like one of their own properties. It’s been great.

JM: That’s fantastic. And I love the fact that when you watch this show, you get that same high-flying, fast-paced spirit that you get from the first two movies. And will we be seeing that spirit as well with “Hotel Transylvania 3” – out next summer?

RM: Oh, definitely. When you have a director like Genndy [Tartakovsky], you are gonna see some great laughs, visual humor – all the trademarks of Genndy’s direction will be back for “Hotel Transylvania 3”. So they’ll be no shortage of any of that in the film. And hopefully our series will connect to a new audience and bring that audience to the new feature.

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy is a movie critic and entertainment columnist. He is the creator of the website Lights-Camera-Jackson.com, and has made numerous appearances on television and radio.
Jackson Murphy
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