Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal is less One Million Years BC and more One Million Years 2D. As would be expected from his more traditional projects via the small screen, Tartakovsky has managed to forge a simple story honed to perfection through stunning use of framework, design and dynamics akin to some of the true masters of cinema. Originally released in October 2019 on Adult Swim, the first two seasons are also currently available via Channel 4’s streaming service in the UK with a third recently announced. It is interesting that, as a mark of its quality, at the time of its original release, in an effort to qualify for the Academy Awards the first five episodes were edited into the feature, Primal: Tales of Savagery.
Harkening back to classic Harryhausen, Stephen Bissette’s Tyrant and the silent Jurassic imagery of Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles, this outstanding piece of work still needs more recognition amongst the wealth of CGI animated features and television shows, Tartakovsky’s criminally overlooked work deserving huge success, especially amongst the threat of A.I. and the current strikes; a show that demonstrates the soul of a creator more than anything.
The best animation will always be about the quiet moments; the stillness and the weight of emotion that even a 2D form may prove. Tartakovsky’s Primal connects on a physical and emotional level that is rarely seen… without feeling overly sentimental. He is steeped in tradition along with dynamic, cinematic storytelling; his style one of supreme intelligence and heart, while at the same time tearing it out and painting the cave walls with our blood. This is a tale of family and friendship forged in the violence of nature ― one-moment tender, the next incredibly brutal ― but amongst the horrific imagery displayed amongst the beautifully painted scenery, it remains subtle in motion and emotion. There is the hunt but equally the problems that come with the marriage of early man and his dinosaur… from snoring to sharing the next meal.
With Tartakovsky’s design, every line and shape counts; he has honed his skills through the purity of form used in Samurai Jack and heightened by the movement and framing of Akira Kurosawa. This is animation 65 million years away from Hotel Transylvania; art born from the shadow puppetry of a cave wall. Not a relic but a 21st-century masterpiece of animation.