Genndy Tartakovsky is one of my favorite people in animation. His works have become legendary and have been a part of my life since childhood. I grew up on Dexter’s Lab and The Powerpuff Girls, shows full of broad animation and long sequences of action with little dialogue. They were fun, though, and were able to draw in kids along with adults. Then, one day, I saw an ad for a new show called Samurai Jack. The first episode was nuts, with long silent sequences that allowed the animation to tell a visual story in a way I hadn’t seen before. This was new to me and sparked an interest in the visuals of animated storytelling. I went on to follow the animator through his work with Star Wars: Clone Wars and the Hotel Transylvania trilogy. He pushed boundaries and demanded that audiences accept the sound design and visual flair instead of exposition. Samurai Jack returned in 2017 for a final season, one that received critical acclaim and provided closure to fans everywhere. It was a new step for Tartakovsky, allowing blood and consequences to enter the animation.
I feel like he’s now achieved his final form.
Primal is airing nightly, a new series that follows two characters. Spear, a caveman, suffers a horrid tragedy and winds up alone in the prehistoric wilderness. When he comes across Fang, a T-Rex, that also suffers a horrible loss, the two team up to work alongside one another for survival. This sounds silly but the show is incredibly moving, in no small part because of the two aspects that Tartakovsky has been trying to get to his entire career – it’s bloody as hell and contains absolutely no dialogue. The caveman has no way to speak, instead grunting and roaring. The T-Rex is…well, Fang is a T-Rex.
It’s strange how we can have full characters without having them utter one word. Spear and Fang are excellent, tragic, and will pull at your heartstrings. Something magical happens after the first tragedy, with a silent but understanding sequence involving a long climb and a sleepless night, and the animation is able to put out ideas and thoughts that we usually need to be stated out loud. Fang is also able to portray these emotions later in the episode when she joins Spear.
I won’t go on too long about this, just wanted to put it on your radar. It’s great to see a meaningful animated series about depression, crippling loss, unlikely friendships, and the consequences of living in a violent world by violent means. You’ll chuckle, you’ll sit in awe over the method the story is told through, and some of you are going to cry your eyes out for sure.
Primal is airing nightly on Cartoon Network.