Studios Wrongly Thought Genndy Tartakovsky's Fixed Would Need To Be X-Rated

Animator Genndy Tartakovsky began his professional career as an assistant animator on the seminal '90s cartoon "Tiny Toon Adventures," right when the medium was evolving into a new animal. Thanks to the late-'80s and early '90s success of creator-based cartoons like "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "The Ren & Stimpy Show" animators like Tartakovsky suddenly found themselves in a marketplace that was aching for edgier, unique cartoons that were not based on existing IP. In 1996, Tartakovsky created the hit Cartoon Network show "Dexter's Laboratory," and he has been a household name ever since. Tartakovsky went on to create the stoic action series "Samurai Jack," and developed and directed many episodes of the "Star Wars" spinoff series "The Clone Wars." He is currently overseeing the Adult Swim series "Primal," currently in its second season. 

In film, Tartakovsky directed the first three "Hotel Transylvania" movies, intentionally stretching and expanding what could be done in CGI (in a 2009 San Diego Comic-Con panel which this author had the pleasure of attending, Tartakovsky said that he aimed to move beyond the "puppety" nature of most CGI characters). He is currently in production on the film "Fixed" for Sony Pictures Animation. And "Fixed" is, in many ways, quite a departure for him.

One may not be able to tell by the above image, but his upcoming feature "Fixed" is, in fact, a raunchy, R-rated comedy film about a dog's last 24 hours before its owner is set to take him to the vet to be neutered. In a recent interview with Paste, Tartakovsky talked about how the pivot from kid-friendly projects to R-rated adult fare wasn't too much of a philosophical change, although it did require flexing "a different muscle." He also revealed that the studio assumed it was going to be full-on pornographic.

No pop culture humor

Tartakovksy, when making an R-rated film or a silly G-rated film, focused on what was important to the project, namely its humor and its characters. In a way, it doesn't matter the "roughness" of the content, comedy is comedy. If it made the creators giggle, it was going in the movie. Tartakovsky also, in setting his shows in the distant future ("Samurai Jack") or the distant past ("Primal"), has the excuse of jettisoning any bothersome acknowledgements of the present day. "Fixed," in being about dogs, was equally allowed to ignore the foibles of human media and focus on what dogs are like. 

"For kids, I still do what I think is funny, and if the crew laughs, then it will be successful. And then for adults, it's kind of the same thing. I know what I find funny. With 'Fixed,' what's been really interesting about it is that it's not based on one-liners. It's not based on pop culture, so we're not making fun of the Kardashians. It is a character story, so it's very in tune to what I do, I think."

Tartakovsky may have made that statement in reference to several DreamWorks animated projects — films like "Shrek" and "Shark Tale" — that rely quite heavily on pop culture references as the key to their humor. Or perhaps he was making a very general dig at reference-heavy pop culture in general. Either way, Tartakovsky's projects tend to take place in hermetically sealed universes, and he seems to want to stress that "Fixed" is the same way.

Lady and the Tramp rules

And the dogs are dog dogs, not people dogs. Tartakovsky pointed out two Disney animated precedents as his models, each one about dogs, and each one set in a world where dogs can communicate with one another, but not with their human owners. There will be no upright walking, talking dogs in hats and ties in "Fixed," and they will not converse with Ranger Smith. Tartakovsky may like Yogi, but that's not what this is. According to Tartakovsky:

"The animation is turning out to be top notch. It's cartoony, but it still has a sense of reality because the dogs act like dogs. They don't act like Yogi Bear. We're following the '101 Dalmatians' and 'The Lady and the Tramp' rules. But then some jokes and some visuals are very raunchy, pushed all the way. But because it's hand drawn, it's done very nicely."

Tartakovsky's comment on lovely hand-drawn animation would lead him to immediately acknowledge the raunchy content of "Fixed," and point out the difference between depicting a dog's testicles in CGI vs. drawing them by hand. In one version, testicles are not appealing. In another ... well, according to Tartakovsky they can be. Tartakovsky was careful to warn the interviewer that he was about to be a little crass.

"If I can be so crude for a second, if you can picture CG testicles, there's something very gross about it, because you can put in all those extra details. But when it's hand drawn, it's such a caricature that it's kind of still cute."

The penis problem

Tartakovsky's description of dog anatomy had him recalling an early stage in the production of "Fixed" wherein he would have to explain to the studio heads that the script was far more, uh, descriptive than the visuals would end up being. In short, the studio assumed there would be multiple shots of dogs in flagrante. Despite the content, Tartakovsky had to explain that it would be a mere R-rated comedy and not something relegated to the adults-only section in record stores. Tartakovsky said:

"It's funny, because in the beginning we couldn't get a studio to work on it with us. When they read the script, they thought it was X-rated. When they were reading it, they're picturing everything. But when you think about a rated R movie, it's a suggestion of the inappropriate, and we're doing the same thing. It's a R movie, so we don't show penises. Anything that a live action movie won't show, we don't show either."

There's no polite way to put this, but Tartakovsky had to say out loud that dog genitalia were not a part of his plan. Raunchy, he feels, is a far cry from crass or tasteless, and he certainly wanted to skew toward the former. Dog penises, he had to assure execs multiple times, were right out: 

"... I had to literally go through the script and write the way I'm going to execute it. They were like, 'Our animators are not going to draw a dog penis, I'll tell you that right now!' And I'm like, 'What are you talking about? Of course, there's not going to be that!' I'm not a gross person. You can see anything I've done and it still has, I think, good taste."

"Fixed" is set for released in 2024.