|Also known as||Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal|
|Directed by||Genndy Tartakovsky|
|Voices of||Aaron LaPlante|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Animator||Studio La Cachette|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original network||Adult Swim|
|Original release||October 8, 2019 –|
Primal is an American adult animated television series created and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network's late night programming block Adult Swim. Primal draws in elements of fantasy, horror, action, and adventure. The first episode premiered on Adult Swim on October 8, 2019. The first season of Primal consists of 10 episodes, the first half airing daily on the week it premiered. The second half of the season aired on October 4, 2020. A film retelling of the first four episodes, Primal: Tales of Savagery, screened at the London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills on November 21, 2019. This version was submitted in the Best Animated Feature category for the 92nd Academy Awards, but it was not nominated.
Critics have praised the series, in particular the animation, the pacing and editing, and the storytelling. The show has won three Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation Juried Awards from the Emmy for Storyboard Artist (Genndy Tartakovsky), Art Director (Scott Wills) and Character Designer (Stephen DeStefano).
It has been officially renewed for a second season to premiere in 2021.
Set in an anachronistic and fantastical prehistoric-like world, the premise is a bond between a caveman and a Tyrannosaurus (named “Spear” and “Fang” in the production notes and credits, respectively) who struggle to survive as they encounter the various dangerous fauna and people that live in their world.
In comparison to Tartakovsky's other shows where there are multiple characters, Primal initially only features two protagonists in the show as they encounter different prehistoric or fantastical species and various tribes of hominins. Tartakovsky stated that although the show is a work of fantasy, the animals in the show are based on real prehistoric animals, mythological beasts, as well as some new ones created by the artists involved in the project.
According to Tartakovsky, Primal was an early piece of work he scrapped because it did not click with him at the time. As he learned more and more about what drew people in to his shows, he wanted to experiment with those artistic traits, particularly the use of no dialogue and slow moments. He also stated that the method in which he approached animated shows and films began to slow down in terms of energy after Dexter's Laboratory. By the time he began working on season 5 of Samurai Jack, it had come full circle. He said he was inspired by Conan the Barbarian and vintage pulp novels, as well as films such as The Revenant. Tartakovsky felt that people would not take the show seriously because they were "breaking the rules" by having "a man and a dinosaur together," so he emphasized that it is a character study, a "buddies" journey about two characters who are very different but bonded by tragedy.
The first season consists of 10 episodes. On August 31, 2020, it was announced it has been renewed for a second season which will also consist of 10 episodes.
|No.||Title||Written and storyboarded by||Story by||Original air date ||U.S. viewers|
|1||"Spear and Fang"||Genndy Tartakovsky||Tartakovsky||October 8, 2019[d]||0.538|
|A caveman, Spear, after a deadly fishing session where a Deinosuchus nearly devoured him, returns from fishing to find his mate, son, and daughter devoured by a trio of horned tyrannosaurs. Distraught, he contemplates suicide before resolving to take revenge. He sees the silhouette of a dinosaur and, believing it to be one of the horned tyrannosaurs that killed his family, silently pursues it into a thicket. He comes face to face with the hornless Tyrannosaurus Fang, with two offspring with her. The sight of the young dinosaurs causes Spear to back down, just as they are attacked by the horned tyrannosaur pack. Though Spear helps Fang kill two of them, their gargantuan alpha eats Fang's babies. Spear and Fang slay the alpha, but Fang is left distraught over the loss of her children. Spear leaves Fang and walks off alone, but is later approached by Fang, and the two decide to travel together.|
|2||"River of Snakes"||Genndy Tartakovsky||Darrick Bachman & Tartakovsky||October 9, 2019||0.661|
|While hunting warthog-like suids, Fang consistently bogarts any food she and Spear come across, causing him to grow increasingly agitated at her. Eventually, Spear snaps and attacks Fang, losing his spear in the process, but their fight is interrupted when they wander into a den of large snakes. A flash flood rushes them and the snakes into a swampy river, where a Titanoboa resides. Fang kills it, but despite working together to stay afloat, she and Spear fall down a waterfall, causing him to hit his head on the way down. Fang pulls Spear from the water, and as he comes to, Fang fetches Spear's lost weapon. They reconcile and continue their journey together, now hunting food as a team.|
|3||"A Cold Death"||David Krentz||Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman, Krentz & Genndy Tartakovsky||October 10, 2019||0.573|
|In the harshness of primordial winter, an elder woolly mammoth is separated from its herd and subsequently killed by Spear and Fang. Spear harvests as much meat from the mammoth as he can, using one of its tusks to pull a makeshift sled. When the dead mammoth's herd comes across their desecrated elder, which is already being scavenged by sabertoothed canids, they follow the sled's tracks and attack Spear and Fang. The pair attempt to fight them off, but they are quickly overwhelmed by their power and numbers. In a final act of desperation, Spear defends himself with the elder mammoth's tusk and notices that the other mammoths stop their attack upon seeing it. He returns the tusk to them, who leave in peace and bring it to their mammoth graveyard to mourn.|
|4||"Terror Under the Blood Moon"||Don Shank & Genndy Tartakovsky||Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman & Tartakovsky||October 11, 2019||0.557|
|After Spear and Fang evade a pack of dromaeosaurs, they experience a red lunar eclipse and encounter a tribe of cavepeople being attacked by gigantic red bats. They attempt to fight the bats off, but Spear is carried away by one, his spear left behind with the cavemen. Fang pursues the bats to a tall stone pillar, which she finds impossible to climb. Seeing two of the bats emerging from the top, she plays dead and allows them to carry her to a cave at the peak. While searching for Spear, Fang discovers the nest of a massive spider that the bats share their food with. Fang frees Spear, who helps her kill the spider. As the bats return, Spear and Fang use the spider's webbing to safely descend the pillar. Spear retrieves his spear from the cavemen as he and Fang flee from the bats and lead them into a fight with the dromaeosaurs before safely escaping towards the rising sun.|
|5||"Rage of the Ape-Men"||Bryan Andrews & Genndy Tartakovsky||Andrews, Darrick Bachman & Tartakovsky||October 12, 2019||0.654|
|Spear and Fang reach a seemingly peaceful oasis and relax before they are captured by a vicious tribe of Ape-Men. The Ape-Men hold a brutal tournament to the death, with one of them eventually coming out on top. After the champion drinks an enhancement serum which mutates and enrages him, Fang is lowered into the arena for him to fight. Helplessly watching as Fang is beaten to near-death, Spear breaks free from his bindings and drinks the rest of the serum, causing him to transform into a hulking monster. After killing the Ape-Man champion, Spear proceeds to massacre the other Ape-Men in the arena overnight. When Spear eventually returns to normal, he runs to Fang's side as she lies unmoving.|
|6||"Scent of Prey"||Bryan Andrews||Andrews, Darrick Bachman & Genndy Tartakovsky||October 4, 2020||0.442|
|Spear agonizes over the apparent loss of Fang after the events of his fight against the Ape-Men. Fang awakens, but is critically injured. Seeing that the Ape-Men corpses are attracting vultures, Spear builds a litter to carry Fang and fashions a new spear for himself. He struggles to nurse her back to health while simultaneously trying to fend off scavenging wild dogs while she's in her helpless state. As the wild dog pack grows and continues stalking the pair, Spear and Fang are forced to take shelter in a cave, where Spear has to fight flesh-eating armored beetles. When the wild dogs attack the cave in large numbers, Spear defends Fang long enough for Fang to heal and help Spear annihilate their assailants.|
|7||"Plague of Madness"||David Krentz||Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman, Krentz & Genndy Tartakovsky||April 1, 2020(April Fools Day) ||0.539|
|October 11, 2020||0.404|
|An Argentinosaurus is infected with a flesh-eating rabies-like virus by a diseased Parasaurolophus, which compels it to decimate the rest of its herd. Spear and Fang stumble across the devastated nesting grounds and become the crazed sauropod's next target. Running for their lives, the duo trick the behemoth over a cliff and into a narrow ravine before finally escaping with their lives by making a mad dash across a lava field. The sauropod's massive weight makes it fall into the magma, which incinerates it as Spear and Fang observe its final agonizing moments.|
|8||"Coven of the Damned"||Nagisa Koyama & Genndy Tartakovsky||Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman & Tartakovsky||October 18, 2020||0.464|
|Spear and Fang come across a tribe of primitive human witches at a ritual. The leader of the tribe uses dark magic, stealing the essence of a male caveman to birth a female baby, which she gives to a follower as her daughter. The witches spot Spear and Fang and give chase to the duo, capturing Spear and magically controlling Fang. One of the witches, Lula, uses her magic to travel into both of their pasts to watch the tragedies that befell them. Having lost a daughter of her own who had fallen off a cliff, Lula saves the pair from the other witches, sacrificing herself by stalling the head witch to help them escape. Fang and Spear mourn the loss of their savior before continuing into the jungle. In the afterlife, Lula reunites with her daughter.|
|9||"The Night Feeder"||Genndy Tartakovsky||Darrick Bachman & Tartakovsky||October 25, 2020||0.355|
|Spear and Fang find the mangled remains of a Smilodon, killed by a mysterious invisible creature. While Spear wants to investigate it, Fang refuses to let him. The next night, the mysterious creature slaughters a herd of Anchiceratops nearby. Hearing the carnage, Spear tries to interfere, but Fang refuses to let him go anywhere near the area. The next day, Spear and Fang hear bizarre screeching while braving a powerful storm. Later that night, the same unknown creature attacks the duo, forcing them to flee into a misty forest. The mystery creature catches up to them and they struggle against the unseen foe, but Fang manages to wound it. As the antagonistic beast emits earsplitting shrieks, Spear learns of its weakness to light. Using sparks from his weapon, Spear, with Fang's help, creates a ring of fire to trap the unseen monster, which is briefly revealed to be a Baryonyx/Therizinosaurus-like theropod, and they ultimately kill it.|
|10||"Slave of the Scorpion"||David Krentz||Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman, Krentz & Genndy Tartakovsky||November 1, 2020||0.348|
|While fishing, Spear and Fang encounter a mysterious bald cavewoman bound by a wooden collar and metal armlets and branded with a scorpion tattoo on the back of her head. She is fleeing from a pliosaur, which Spear kills. The duo are intrigued by her and she herself takes an interest in them, following them as they travel. The woman showcases her aptitude for cooking and archery, and every night Spear witnesses her praying to the moon. Spear and Fang free her from her restraints and she introduces herself as Mira. Through a combination of her native language and sand drawings, Mira tells Spear that her people were enslaved by invaders, and she was the only one to escape. The trio sets up camp in a cave and Mira reveals she prays to the moon as a means of praying for her family's safety. The next morning, Mira is kidnapped by a group of Ape-Men. Spear and Fang go after Mira only to find the Ape-Men killed by arrows, as well as strange footprints in the dirt. They follow them to a boat leaving with Mira onboard and the sail marked with the same scorpion brand on Mira's head. The two can only watch as she is taken away, with Spear speaking for the first time by quoting Mira's name.|
The first season premiered on October 8, 2019, with episodes from the first half of the season airing daily from the premiere date. An episode from the second half was shown during Adult Swim's April Fools' Day 2020 run. Adult Swim announced on their Twitter that the second half would start airing on October 4, 2020.
The entire first season of Primal was broadcast during Thanksgiving weekend on Adult Swim's Toonami programming block for the first time on November 29, 2020. The marathon commemorated the launch of the series on the HBO Max streaming service.
The first season will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 1, 2021 by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Initial reception for Primal was highly positive; much praise was given to the art and animation, the use of storytelling with no dialogue, and the balancing of the show's interpretation of violence and beauty. In a review from IndieWire, Steve Greene wrote "Primal is a piece of elemental storytelling that finds some real emotional depth without either of its protagonists uttering a single word of dialogue", ultimately giving the series an "A-". On Rotten Tomatoes the show has an approval rating of 100% based on reviews from 20 critics. The site's critical consensus states: "Epic in every sense, Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal is a stunning feat of visual storytelling".
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation||Stephen DeStefano (character designer) (for "A Cold Death")||Won|||
|Genndy Tartakovsky (storyboard artist) (for "Spear and Fang")||Won|
|Scott Wills (art director) (for "Spear and Fang")||Won|
|Annie Awards||Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production||Primal||Won|||
|Outstanding Achievement for Directing in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production||Genndy Tartakovsky (for "Plague of Madness")||Won|
|Saturn Awards||Best Animated Series on Television||Primal||Pending|||