Primal season 2 exclusive: Creator Genndy Tartakovsky teases more action and new worlds
Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal is one of the truly marvelous TV success stories of the past few years. A basically wordless epic about a caveman and a dinosaur barely surviving in an ultraviolent prehistoric world, the series built a dedicated following after its 2019 premiere and scored a raft of Emmy awards.
When the first season ended almost two years ago, Spear (Aaron LaPlante) and his trusty dino-companion Fang had just met Mira (Laëtitia Eïdo), a mysterious (and talkative) woman on the run from some unspeakable evil. It was an eerie tease about new adventures on the horizon — and now Entertainment Weekly is excited to officially announce that season 2 of Primal will premiere July 21.
The first two episodes will air on Adult Swim before streaming on HBO Max the next day. The 10-episode season will continue airing a new episode weekly from there, until the season finale on September 15.
EW is also excited to officially share the trailer for season 2. Suffice it to say, the giant shark is very freaky, and it's only the fifth- or sixth-most freaky thing in the preview.
We recently caught up with Primal creator Genndy Tartakovsky, whose legendary work on Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and The Powerpuff Girls defined a whole generation of Cartoon Network fandom. The busy director is also finalizing the upcoming series Unicorn: Warriors Eternal and the feature Fixed, and recently signed an overall deal with Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. animation. Here, he tells EW what's coming up in Primal and why the show looks so unique.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The first-season finale seems to promise a massive expansion of the show's world. How different is season 2 from what's come before?
GENNDY TARTAKOVSKY: The introduction of Mira gives light that there is more civilization out there that's more advanced. Once you get to ancient civilizations, you go instantly to, like, Pharaohs, Stargate, 10,0000 BC, all those movies. I realized everything we were talking about felt too cliché, too done. So we broke everything down and restarted, and came up with a direction that is more unique. It's gonna keep you on your toes, and basically from [episode] 11 to 20, it's one story. That's the big difference from the first season.
It's even more emotionally complex. The action is on a scale beyond what we've done, and it keeps getting amped up as we go deeper and deeper into the season. There's shock in it. There's a big surprise that's either going to get people to hate me or enjoy it, but as a storyteller this is me having fun. It's super Heavy Metal–ish. It's still pulpy, but at its core the character story between Fang and Spear — it goes bonkers. That was the best surprise of the first season. It wasn't the violence — it was their relationship that people picked up on. As a filmmaker and storyteller, that's what you're most excited about.
Primal definitely stands out in the animation landscape. How gratifying was your Emmy win for Outstanding Animated Program?
It was huge, huge. You look at what we were up against, all the top comedy shows from all the networks. For us to win, first season, and for an action show? There's not even that many action shows to begin with! I've won Emmys in the past, and nothing [felt] different. With the Primal win, I felt like when I started doing meetings, something changed. Usually I'll do a meeting and somebody goes, "Hey, we want you to do this. What do you think about this property?" This time it's: "Hey, what do you want to do?" That's never happened. No matter what I've done in the past, I've never walked into a meeting where they say, "What do you want to do?"
I've watched animation my whole life, but I worry I don't have the proper vocabulary to ask this next question, so pardon me if this sounds simple. Primal just looks so different from other animated shows. Were there any stylistic or production decisions in making it that were different from industry norms?
I think what you're speaking to is the process of sending something overseas. On Dexter, Powerpuff, Samurai Jack, Clone Wars, Sym-Bionic Titan — on everything, we were using a Korean studio. They did a great job, and we had amazing people there. But it is very inconsistent, because it's a big studio, and they have to do a lot. The whole structure of an overseas studio is built on mass and quantity and speed.
What changed for Primal is we used a small studio, Studio La Cachette in France. So now you're having more real animators who are not trying to rush out footage every week just to get it done and feed their families. They're like, "I've got this scene of him walking or running. I'm gonna do something really cool." Our whole pipeline is more of a feature on a TV schedule. Again, not to insult what we've done in the past, but it's just at a different and more consistent level. In the old days, we had two incredible directors, and they had a small team, and they could almost do maybe every other episode, so we always had these B and C episodes that were heartbreaking. For Primal, everything is an A.
I think I understand why there were only five episodes per year for season 1!
I did most of the storyboards, so that took time. It's such a small team. You have shows that have 45 people. Just on our side, preproduction, I think we had maybe 6. It's shocking the way we do it, but this is what we're used to.
Can you talk about your other upcoming projects?
We have 10 episodes of Unicorn: Warriors Eternal. That show is completely different than Primal. Everything in action that I've ever wanted to do is in Primal. It's for 12- to 14-year-old Genndy wanting my own kind of Conan show. Unicorn is everything I was doing through Dexter and Powerpuff and Jack. It's this cartoony emotional comedy-drama-epic-action thing, and somehow we were able to do it at the same time as Primal.
We finally started Fixed, which is the rated-R 2D animated movie about a dog who finds out he's gonna get neutered in the morning, and what does he do with his next 24 hours? That one I've been trying to sell it for 12 years. It's gonna look really good, and it's got heart, but then it's got the super raunch. I've never really seen anything like it.
People are gonna go, "Are you crazy doing these things?" I go, "Look, this is Hollywood. One day, it's anything you want to do. The next day, I can't get a job." I'm still realistic about it. You know, Unicorn was 18 years trying to get it sold, and nobody wanting to believe in it. I got all these babies. If somebody wants to see them grow up, I'm not gonna say no — no matter how busy I am.
Primal season 2 premieres July 21.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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