Genndy Tartakovsky Goes Steampunk in Unicorn Warriors: Eternal
Tartakovsky discusses his journey into action comedy, taking “Primal” in a new direction and tackling an R-rated comedy with “Fixed.”
Genndy Tartakovsky proudly became the author of adult 2D animation. New steampunk series “Unicorn Warriors: Eternal” debuts May 4 on Adult Swim; is wrapping up his R-rated dog comedy “Fixed,” due next year at Sony Pictures Animation; and his Emmy Award-winning series “Primal” is gearing up for Season 3 on Adult Swim, but is moving away from the prehistoric world.
“Unicorn Warriors” combines Tartakovsky’s personal steampunk aesthetic with action and humor, harkening back to the days of the old Cartoon Network, but without the grittiness of “Primal” or “Samurai Jack.” It tells the story of three heroes – the powerful sorceress Melinda (Hazel Doupe), the cosmic monk Seng (Demari Hunte) and the warrior elf Edred (Tom Milligan) – who as teenagers have awakened through eternity to fight a mysterious supernatural force that threatens humanity. In the first season, the three find themselves in industrial London and are joined by a steam-powered robot, Copernicus.
“I started developing it at the end of Star Wars: Clone Wars,” Tartakovsky told IndieWire. “It was more about magic than technology. And that’s where the steampunk aesthetic came in. Then, over the years, he focused less and less (on that) and more on the characters and their conflicts: What was it like to wake up as a different person.
“And the biggest benefit was that I had three children in the last 20 years. And so seeing them go from 12 to 13 and suddenly my daughter is a different person. It’s like, “What the hell is going on? What is in your power now? And then to see them become adults, they really fed off of it and that was definitely helpful.”
Courtesy of Adult Swim
“Unicorn Warriors,” which like “Primal” was created at France-based Studio La Cachette, still retained the look of the golden age of character animation that informed “Dexter’s Laboratory,” courtesy of character designer Stephen DeStefano (“Primal”). Melinda looks like Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop, Seng has a Chuck Jones vibe, and Edred has a Zuka influence. But the most amazing character is the R2-D2 influenced robot, the epitome of steampunk. “I feel really good about giving something inanimate so much personality without dialogue,” Tartakovsky said. “And it’s great because Joel Valentine (the sound effects designer) bought these real old steam whistles and bought different libraries of steam blowers and ratchets and cranks. So it’s really very artisanal, almost like on a function level, to give it the sound.”
“Unicorn Warriors” also continues Tartakovsky’s bold use of color, resplendent with crimson, red, black and gold. “We’re still trying to make colors emotional and not just to be fashionable,” he added. “Everything we’ve learned over the years from Samurai to ‘Primal’. We know how important colors are in storytelling, so we’re trying to enhance them and create atmosphere.”
Speaking about his second Emmy-winning “Primal,” all Tartakovsky would say about Season 3 right now is that “it’s a new world, and we’re just trying to figure out how to operate in it. But I think everyone is excited about it. Everyone believes in him.” He previously told IndieWire that he plans to spin “Primal” into an anthology franchise and embrace other genres in the same minimalist animation style. “The big idea is that it will be a ‘Primal’ brand,” he said. “Visceral, emotional, raw, minimal dialogue, artistic.”
Courtesy of Adult Swim
Meanwhile, Renegade Animation’s animated film is about a dog who finds out he’s going to be neutered within 24 hours and decides to have some wild fun with his buddies. ). It’s fully animated, more fully than I could have ever imagined,” Tartakovsky added.
“Fixed” has even more classic Warner Bros. cartoon stock than “Unicorn Warriors,” but it’s contemporary and basically follows the rules of “101 Dalmatians.”
“It has crude humor, incredible cartoon animation, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Tartakovsky said. “But if you can look past the bottoms and the balls, there’s this whole other movie.” So it will be very interesting to see how people react. The very idea of sitting in the audience watching a 2D animated film will be incredible.”
The first two episodes of “Unicorn Warriors: Eternal” will premiere on May 4 on Adult Swim and May 5 on HBO Max, followed by eight new episodes debuting weekly with encores on Fridays on Adult Swim and Toonami n.
Register: Stay up to date with the latest movie and TV news! Subscribe to our email newsletter here.