When I set the DVR to record the premiere of a new animated Halloween special called DEAR DRACULA on Cartoon Network, I had no idea that it was based on a graphic novel. Sure enough, the special was adapted from a 2008 story by Joshua Williamson and Vincente “Vinny” Navarrete that was released through Image Comics’ Shadowline imprint. Why did I set the DVR to record? I thought it would be a cute special for my daughter to watch.
Finally getting to watch it with her yesterday, what I discovered is that DEAR DRACULA is a fun tale that truly works “for all-ages.” At the core of the story is Sam (voiced by Nathan Gamble), a young boy that loves to watch horror movies. While he seems a little disconnected from some of his peers, Sam just wants to fit in and make friends, and has a particular desire to befriend a girl named Emma (Ariel Winters). While most kids look forward to writing a letter to Santa for Christmas, Sam decides to take a chance and write to Dracula (Ray Liotta) for Halloween. After becoming touched by Sam’s letter (in which he proclaims himself to be Dracula’s “biggest fan”), the Vampire King and his sidekick (voiced by Emilio Estevez) decide to pay Sam a visit.
With Dracula having dropped out of popular lore as a terrifying figure in recent years, a new breed of “vampire” led by Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and the TWILIGHT gang has risen in his place. There’s more than a few not-so-subtle jabs at the phenomenon, with Dracula himself even deeming a “costumed” vamp (as pointed out by Emma, with only “Hair and Teeth”) to be “Lamest vampire of the year.” Beyond that, there’s something to be said about what audiences find scary now versus the past, and a serious love for the classics can be felt throughout.
In the end, while Sam helps Dracula bring back the fright, it’s old Vlad himself that teaches Sam the value of “being yourself,” providing a great lesson for kids of any age.