Influenced by artist Frank Fanzetta and Heavy Metal magazine, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal is an animation masterpiece. The Adult Swim TV series presents the prehistoric adventures of caveman Spear and dinosaur Fang, who form a bond after both of their families are eaten by the same family of dinosaurs. But they are not best friends immediately. The relationship evolves the more time they spend together, such as dealing with hunting for food in “River of Snakes.”
The series combines fantasy and horror and doesn’t shy away from depicting violence during these violent times in bloody, gory detail. The opening sequence of Spear fishing shows how dangerous it is to simply be alive and on the food chain. Over the course of the 10-episode first season, Spear and Fang fight against creatures that come to mind during this era, such as snakes, woolly mammoths, hyenas, and armored beetles.
Matters get wilder and more dangerous when the antagonists become more fantastic. “Terror Under the Blood Moon” finds them battling giant red bats and a giant spider. “Rage of the Ape-Men” sees them captured and placed into gladiator fights. The Ape-Men’s champ drinks a drop of a potion that turns him into a raging monster. Revealing that their bond has grown, Spear guzzles the potion after seeing Fang is injured and goes into a berserker rage. In “Plague of Madness,” they run from a diseased dinosaur that resembles a zombie and in “The Night Feeder,” they are pursued by an invisible creature.
They also encounter other human creatures, such as a coven of witches that kill men to have female babies, and escaped slave Mira who appears out of the ocean wearing shackles and a scorpion tattoo on the back of her bald head.
One element that makes the series standout is there is no dialogue, so aside from grunts and growls, the artists have to do more to convey the characters’ emotion and intent through their drawings. Tartakovsky, who directed the season, pushes the talented team at Studio La Cachette to create some of the best animation sequences to date. Adding to the emotion is Tyler Bates and Joanne Higginbottom’s evocative score, which is derived more from electronic sounds than traditional instruments.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC displayed in the original aspect ratio: 2.39:1. The vivid hues of colors across the spectrum pop off the screen, especially the reds of blood. Blacks are inky. The detail on the characters and locations bring the world to life and depth is created by how sharp the background is in focus.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The score fills the surrounds as does the ambient effects, which help set the scenes. Much of the action effects come are heard in the front. The subwoofer delivers strong support for the score and effects.
There is one extra and it’s too short for a show this good. Behind the Scenes: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal (HD, 10 min) Tartakovsky, Art Director Scott Wills, and Julien Chheng and Camille de Knyff from Studio La Cachette discuss making the show.
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal is a standout TV series that has set the bar high for those that follow. While the graphic violence will turn some off, I can’t rave enough about how well written and executed it is. The high-def presentation of both video and audio showcases the work of the talented crew.