Genndy Tartakovsky's Original Plan For Primal Sounds Like A Very Different Show

Genndy Tartakovsky is one of the best living animators, a director who always tries to push forward what the medium can do, whether on TV or on film. In under three decades, Tartakovsky has delivered many classic cartoons that have captivated children and adults everywhere, whether they are cartoons set in a galaxy far, far away or starring a small boy genius or an out-of-time samurai.

His most recent show, "Primal," feels like his magnum opus, the show his entire career has been building up to, combining exquisite action sequences with a huge heart and great animation. The show follows a caveman named Spear and a T-Rex named Fang as they navigate a world of savagery and blood, trying to survive, bonding over their respective trauma, and killing everything that moves.

While most shows change a lot between development and the final product, Tartakovsky's original plan for "Primal" could have been a vastly different show.

A kid and a dinosaur

Speaking to CBR, Tartakovsky revealed that he first came up with the idea for "Primal" over a decade ago, and it all started with doodles: 

"I started doodling this little kid and a dinosaur, and he was riding a dinosaur. It was gonna be like a normal, 6-11 type of show, and it kind of never went anywhere. I always believe in the organic process of developing a show or story that if it's meant to be, it's gonna find its place. So that part, never really connected and none of the stories really stuck, so I kind of left it alone."

Of course, given Tartakovsky's career path working on cartoons aimed at young audiences, this makes perfect sense. A decade ago, the director had just finished his underseen cult-favorite "Sym-Bionic Titan" and was working on the first "Hotel Transylvania," so a show about a kid and a dinosaur makes sense. After all, Tartakovsky has never shied away from anachronisms, whether it's Dexter bringing a caveman to modern times or a samurai meeting and befriending a Scotsman and a group of Spartans. 

So what could a show about a kid and a dinosaur have looked like? Well, perhaps it would have looked something like the upcoming "Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur," light, full of energy, with tons of action, and fun for all ages. This is not a bad thing, however. After all, "Samurai Jack" was already excellent and that show was aimed at all audiences, as was "Clone Wars" which remains the single best "Star Wars" TV show ever made. 

A tale of savagery

Thankfully, things changed after "Samurai Jack" came back as an adult show on Adult Swim. The fights could be bloody and the show could explore more complex themes than the original cartoon's run. That last season of the show contained every lesson and innovation Tartakovsky had gained throughout his career up to that point, from dynamic action and fight choreography to a bigger focus on emotional stories and more sequences with zero dialogue.

That's when Tartakovsky decided to make a new show build out of those sequences with no dialogue, taking a page out of Golden Age cartoons to tell stories with no words, just images. And what story lent itself perfectly to that idea? Apparently, that's when Tartakovsky remembered his "little idea about the kid and the dinosaur." So he aged the characters up to make it more adult, added a big dose of "Conan the Barbarian" pulp, and got one of the most unique shows around. Like "Conan," Tartakovsky's "Primal" cares not about any rule other than the rule of cool, mixing characters and creatures from vastly different eras and genres to deliver a wholly unique story.

Of course, the show was a hit. Not only did it win an Emmy, but now Tartakovsky is interested in making this little show about a human and a dinosaur into an anthology telling very different stories from aliens to WWII. So much for the cute little idea about a kid and his unique pet!

"Primal" is streaming on HBO Max. New episodes air on Adult Swim and HBO Max.