We Got a First Look at Genndy Tartakovsky's Beautiful and Brutal Primal

These eyes have seen some terrible things.
These eyes have seen some terrible things.
Image: Adult Swim

He’s best-known for Samurai Jack and Hotel Transylvania, but Genndy Tartakovsky is about to add a whole new dimension to his animated portfolio with Primal, the prehistoric tale of the friendship between a caveman and a dinosaur. A teaser in May gave us our first peek at the Adult Swim series, and the show’s Comic-Con panel opened with a screening of the first episode.


Afterward, Tartakovsky, along with art director Scott Wills and co-composer Tyler Bates (both of whom count Samurai Jack among their credits; the show’s other composer is Joanne Higginbottom) took to the stage at Comic-Con to share more about the series.

If you’re familiar with Tartakovsky’s other work, you won’t be surprised to hear that Primal is, first and foremost, so stunning it looks like a painting come to life. Frank Frazetta’s fantasy art helped shape the look of the show, according to Wills, who noted “We looked at a lot of 1970s illustrations for the vibrant colors.” Vintage pulp novels and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian books were also mentioned as influences.

From the start, Tartakovsky made a deliberate choice that the show wouldn’t have dialogue to distract from the stirring music and sound effects, the latter of which include ambient nature sounds as well as several different dinosaur roars. “It’s the most natural thing [for me] to do,” Tartakovsky explained. “To create a world with sound and visuals, and to transport you guys there, is incredible.”

Not having the characters speak is not just an artistic decision, however; it also fits the story. Primal is definitely a fantasy—obviously, cavemen and dinosaurs didn’t actually coexist—but it’s not the kind of fantasy story that allows for talking animals. Tartakovsky explained the animal cast will include dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and “little creatures” that are drawn both from science and the artists’ imaginations. The story aims for realism when it comes to its emotional explorations, but at the same time, “It’s animation, and I do what I do because I can,” Tartakovsky explains.

And if you’re wondering how and why a caveman and a dinosaur come to be best buddies, well, the gut-wrenching first episode of Primal reveals the shared tragedy that brings the unlikely pair together. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say they bond while fighting a common enemy. And yes, the caveman does eventually ride the dinosaur into battle, and it is awesome.


Here’s a powerful clip that shows a segment of that gory first tag-team brawl:

Illustration for article titled We Got a First Look at Genndy Tartakovsky's Beautiful and Brutal Primal

We probably don’t have to tell you not to get too attached to those adorable baby dinosaurs. Sorry, but the word “brutal” is right there in the headline, and Primal definitely goes for the jugular.

Future episodes, Tartakovsky promises, will be similarly action-packed: “We just kind of drop in and they’re fighting 1,000 raptors, or dealing with some kind of mastodon issue.”


Primal premieres this fall on Adult Swim.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.


io9 News Editor, here since 2016. Previously SF Bay Guardian newspaper (RIP), SFSU (MA, Cinema Studies), member of the SF Bay Area Film Critics Circle, big fan of horror, metal, and verrry small dogs.



“dealing with some kind of mastodon issue”

Love the phrasing.