Genndy Tartakovsky, 'Hotel Transylvania' Director, On The Disappearance Of His Version Of 'Star Wars: Clone Wars'

How LucasFilm Erased Genndy Tartakovsky's Version Of 'Clone Wars'

Genndy Tartakovsky's Emmy-winning version of "Clone Wars" never happened. At least, that's what LucasFilm would want you to believe, focusing instead on the newer version that is about to start its fifth season.

In 2003, George Lucas' company commissioned Tartakovsky to produce an animated "Star Wars" spinoff depicting the battles between the Galactic Republic -- led by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi -- and the Trade Federation. The series was designed to fill in a narrative gap between two "Star Wars" feature films, 2002's "Attack of the Clones" and 2005's "Revenge of the Sith."

In 2008, the "Clone Wars" series was rebooted with a different animation style. It's not lost on Tartakovsky that LucasFilm has effectively disowned his much-beloved version -- going as far as to remove the biographies of characters that Tartakovsky created from official Star Wars encyclopedias (but not before borrowing a few character designs for the new series).

Tartakovsky admits that this bothers him, but he has other things on his plate. The director was in Toronto to promote his new animated feature, "Hotel Transylvania" (which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will open wide on Sept. 28). In "Hotel Transylvania," Adam Sandler voices Dracula, who has just opened up a new hotel for monsters only. That is until an unsuspecting human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) wanders in by accident, catching the eye of Dracula's daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez). Ahead, Tartakovsky describes what it's like to rein in the large personalities on set -- including a run in with Fran Drescher -- and provides an update on a rumored "Samurai Jack" film.

Is there a slippery slope between the adult jokes and the jokes meant for kids?
It's super tough, because the truth of it is is that I don't know what a kid likes and I don't know what an adult likes.

How do you not know what an adult likes? You are an adult.
I know what I like. But that might not be what you like. So, all of the stuff I've ever done, I've always made it for me and the crew working. But i can't sit here and say, "I know what a 6-year-old likes." For sure. I mean, I can definitely do a fart joke or a burp -- something physical -- but you can't sustain that through the whole movie.

I'm sure Kevin James is a perfectly nice man and I'm just using him as an example, but can he come on set and say, "I know how my voice should sound," when you want something else? Are there any conflicts?
It's funny, the only one that kind of happened with was Fran Drescher. Because you hire Fran for who she is -- for that amazing voice. And I think, for some reason, when she came in she kind of didn't want to do it.

She didn't want to be the annoying person.

She has to know that that's the gig, right?
And I think that she does know that. But, for some reason, she started doing a different voice.

How do you approach that?
You're petrified. It's like, "How am I going to tell her?" And I love her -- I love the stuff that she's done and I'm a fan of her. I mean, that's why she got the job. And you try to push it -- you can't say, "Can you just be more annoying?" You have to word it gently, so you find a way. And she's very smart.

Did you care how "That's My Boy," also starring Sandler and Samberg, did at the box office?
No. I mean, we all thought about it -- it was in our minds. But, our movie is for such a different audience. I mean, I hope nobody who is 6 or 8 or 9 went to see that movie. But, we weren't really worried about it. Our audience is totally different.

I thought about it both ways. If it did well, Sandler and Samberg might have gotten the reputation as an R-rated duo.
I think for me, both movies were released from the same studio. So, it was above my pay scale. So, for me, I have to make the best movie that I possibly can. And those things are beyond my control.

Was it hard to rein the cast in when they were on set together? Because they are all friends.
The funny thing is: yes and no. But they are all so serious about what they do -- about the comedy of it all -- that they really control themselves. There wasn't a lot of ad-libbing. It was more about, "Did you deliver that joke right?"

There's a scene with flying dinner tables. At one point it resembled three TIE Fighters pursuing one X-Wing fighter. Was that a deliberate "Star Wars" reference?
Yes. You can't help it -- that's all part of our life. Like, right now I allow one "Star Wars" reference.

Only one? I don't even feel that was a direct reference. You had to be paying attention.
That's right. It's a super subtle one and those are usually the best ones. I think at one point we had a line, "I have you now." But that went too far with it.

There can never be too many "Star Wars" references.
Well, I did "Star Wars." I think I did more before I did it. But then, after i did it, I'm like, "Wow, I actually did the real thing." So I have to back off. A little goes a long way.

Speaking of your version of "Clone Wars," does it bother you that there's another one and that the one you did seems to no longer be canon?
Yeah. I mean, you know, of course it bothers me. But, you know, it's George's characters. It's his world and he has to do what he has to do. And the new ones are totally inspired by what we did: A lot of the same character designs and stuff.

Does that part bother you, too?
No, again, it's not my characters, so he can do whatever he wants. And the story was also that I was going to do it. I was going to go to Lucas and be their John Lasseter-type of person and do a feature and supervise the "Star Wars" television show. And things kind of fell apart, blah blah blah. But, yeah, I'm super proud of what we did. And I felt like we did a justice to "Star Wars" and as a fan.

I mean, people haven't forgotten them, even though we are supposed to.
That's the one thing that is kind of weird that he just wants to wipe it off. Because we used to be in the encyclopedias, some of the characters that we created. And now they're gone. And you can't get the DVD and all of this other stuff. And it's like, whatever. What are you going to do, right? It existed.

But it feels like its been thrown on the scrapheap with the Holiday Special.
I think George is brilliant. And I think he just wants to ... I don't know the reasoning, exactly. But from any sense that I can make out of it, he just wants it to be clean. But there's so much fiction that's out with "Star Wars," I don't think it would matter.

You worked with Robert Smigel on "Hotel Transylvania." Were there any debates over the script? As in you saying, "This might be too smart or too adult for a movie for children"?
There were a couple. There were conversations that we would have between me and him and Adam, and there were some things that I felt were too mean-spirited for my sensibilities. And sometimes Robert agreed, sometimes he didn't. But, it's funny. For me, I've written a lot of the stuff that I've done. So, working here, I did some of the jokes and they did a lot of the jokes. It's harder to make a joke work that's not yours -- you have to really understand it. Especially translating it into animation. But I think he censored himself pretty well.

Is there an example?
There was an Adam line, when Dracula comes in to save Jonathan from Quasimodo. And he says, "Shut your hump hole." And it's a silly line and it's not a big deal, but it was just one step too much for me.

I'm now picturing you and Smigel arguing about the line "hump hole."
[Laughs] To be honest, it's an extreme process -- to tell jokes. One of the first times I had a story meeting with them, it was hard for me because these are proven "SNL" people. And I was just kind of sitting there quietly, just letting them hash it out. But, I had a joke idea. And I'm like, "Well, I can sit here and be quiet, or I can just say something. And if it falls terribly flat, they'll hate me and they'll fire me."

That seems like an extreme reaction.
[Laughs] Yeah, but that's where your mind goes. "How dare you come up with that joke! Get out of the room!" So, I just said the joke and everybody laughed and then you feel so good. Like, "Yeah, I could be on 'SNL.'" I totally can't.

If money weren't an obstacle, what project would you do next?
Well, it used to be an animated version of "Star Wars" [laughing]. And, somehow, that came true. But now, it's actually my own stuff. I would love to do a "Samurai Jack" movie.

Is that going to happen?
We'll see. It definitely feels like it's getting closer. I'm been through it four different times with different producers, but now that I have a home at Sony, I feel like they're kind of interested. And you never know. That's my main thing, but my dream is not so much to do a different character, but to do something different in animation. Technically, we're pushing it like crazy. But, creatively, storytelling wise, we're still in baby steps. So, I feel like if we could push the storytelling -- maybe an adult one, maybe an action one-- that would be really fun.

Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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