Profiles in Animation: Genndy Tartakovsky

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There’s been news this past week of Genndy Tartakovsky signing a deal with Adult Swim to produce a new series titled Primal. It’s an exciting headline from a big name in the animation field, and it’s worth digging into his career to see just what he’s accomplished.

Genndy Tartakovsky was born in 1970 in the Soviet Union. At the age of seven his Jewish family emigrated to Chicago over concerns of anti-Semitism in Russia. At the time he spoke little English, but learned from Warner Bros. cartoons and Marvel comics. He later attended the California Institute of the Arts, and landed work on the Hanna-Barbera production 2 Stupid Dogs. While working as a storyboard artist on the show, a producer saw a pencil test for a short Tartakovsky had worked on in school called “Dexter’s Laboratory”. This would later blossom into a full series on the up-and-coming Cartoon Network.

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Up until this point, Cartoon Network had fashioned itself as a venue to show the old Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera animated shorts that Turner Broadcasting had accumulated and acquired. However, in 1994, Cartoon Network Studios opened with the goal of producing original content for the channel. The studio started with the What a Cartoon! cartoons, an presentation of eclectic shorts from a variety of artists. Some of these “Cartoon cartoons” later received entire series orders, such as Ed, Edd and Eddy, Johnny Bravo, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory. The show featured an overly-serious young boy who hid his fantastical scientific lab from his parents, while clashing with his more free-spirited sister.

Dexter’s Laboratory proved to be a big success, running for four seasons and helping cement Cartoon Network as a top provider of family entertainment. It also cemented Tartakovsky’s place in the animation industry. He served as a producer on the 1998 show The Powerpuff Girls, a Craig McCracken show that also proved incredibly popular. Then in 2001, Tartakovsky created Samurai Jack. A show about a samurai sent forward in time by his evil nemesis, Samurai Jack proved to be perhaps Tartakovsky’s greatest critical success. The show won eight Primetime Emmys, and while the initial series ran for four seasons before being canceled, it revived in 2017 (again under Tartakovsky’s leadership) for a fifth, conclusive season.

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At about the same time, Tartakovsky was attached as director on Star Wars: Clone Wars, an animated series meant to lead into the events of Revenge of the Sith. It ran for three seasons, from 2003 to 2005, and won three Emmys. He also worked as a producer on twenty-four episodes of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, yet another Cartoon Network show, around 2003 to 2004. In short, Tartakovsky was a major mind behind the first decade of Cartoon Network’s first decade of programming, and making them a powerful competitor in the face of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.

In 2012, though, he made a shift to feature animation with Sony’s Hotel Transylvania. Tartakovsky directed the movie and its two sequels, as well as the connected short Puppy!. The three movies have been the most successful franchise for Sony Pictures Animation, grossing a total of over $1.3 billion on a combined budget of $240 million, and each installment earning more than the previous.

Nowadays, Tartakovsky has been branching into more mature content, with his newest upcoming series Primal heading to Adult Swim. His 2017 capstone to Samurai Jack also went onto Adult Swim. Plus, he’s continuing his partnership with Sony Pictures Animation with an R-rated comedy in the near future. With a track record of delivering both critical and commercial success, it seems pretty clear that both Sony and Adult Swim have a big name in their respective corners.


Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production.  We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.