REDDIT AMA RECAP: Genndy Tartakovsky

Recently in a Reddit AMA, Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Primal, Hotel Transylvania, Sym Bionic Titan, and the original Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, talks about his newest work for Cartoon Network is Unicorn: Warriors Eternal along with sharing his inspirations, voice directing experience, and the desire to keep doing animated shows with compelling characters and depth…

On how he got his start in animation.

How did I get my start? My school project gave me my start.

On his favorite show to work on.

Dexter’s Lab. We were all young, we didn’t know what we were doing. It was our first show and it was so fun and it started everything.

On the inspiration behind the series.

What inspired me? I guess wanting to do something with magic since I’ve done a lot of other stuff already in my career. I wanted to focus more on world-building and really to do something that’s cartooney but emotional and dramatic.

On how many episodes Season 1 will consist of and if a Rumored episode will be 40 mins long.

It will consist of 10 episodes, as for the 7th episode, it will be special and was too big to fit into one.

On voice-directing, and casting unknown actors for Unicorn: Warriors Eternal

I wanted to use new voices. I loved all the voices I had in the past but I wanted something new. And because the show took place in London I wanted an all-UK cast so we just did auditions. The voice directing was pretty effortless because everyone was a great actor. The only weird thing about it was it was all remote because it was COVID and everyone was in the UK.

On whether or not Copernicus communicates with sounds. was a deliberate choice in the script, and what he wants to say.

Yeah – we have the general idea in the script of what he’s trying to say.

On his favorite aspects of Unicorn so far.

I love the cartooney-ness, the action, and the drama.

On the inspiration behind the love triangle (or love pentagon?) between Melinda/Edred/Winston?

The drama! It makes for such interesting character dynamics and fun; everything changes with each episode.

On the number of times Melinda and the others have been reincarnated. are there any notable figures their souls have been transferred into?

They’ve been reincarnated many times. Probably more than 10, perhaps. Melinda was Joan of Arc for a bit.

On the age of the current unicorn hosts (Emma, Dimitri, and Alfie)?

Alfie is about 12, Emma is 18, and Edrid is 20

On the early concepts or ideas for the three main heroes and the spirits that lived inside them?

Melina was always the first, and Copernicus was always there. Alfie was a Chinese monk. Edred started as a Scottish Warrior.

On how it evolved from his original idea into the show now.

The original idea was much more focused on the fight between magic and technology. Through the development, it organically became more about the characters and how they deal with their newly awoken selves.

On how he manages and organizes his thoughts when creating a fictional universe.

I usually start small. I kind of work inside out. So I’ll have an idea for a character or a situation and then I start building a world around them that is necessary to facilitate all the stories and action that needs to happen. Really the thing I’ve learned the most in my 30 years f doing stuff is, it’s all about the characters. I try to get them right, then everything else is stacked on top of it.

On his thoughts regarding the use of his characters being used for the Multiversus video game.

The goal is to create worlds and characters that exist in those worlds. It’s difficult to create a new world from scratch, and so from my old man thinking – mixing those worlds is the opposite of what I’m trying to do, usually.

On whether he prefers to work on plot-driven shows or more episodic ones.

I prefer when I try to do things that are first in character. What I mean by that is it’s all about the character development and the character that I created.

On whether or not Samurai Jack’s definitive ending was inspired by Gurren Lagann’s bittersweet ending and if he made the videogame knowing it would expand upon it.

No, and No.

On the possibility of directing a 2D animated theatrical movie.

Well, I am directing a 2D-rated R animated comedy for the theaters. If it’s successful, hopefully, I’ll get to do more.

On whether or not he’d be involved with or direct a live-action movie.

I got a chance to work on Iron Man 2, and that was fun. I think if the right project came around I would consider it but sometimes I feel like I’m just starting in animation and there is so much more I want to do. Truly animation is my love.

On how he felt when Sym Bionic Titan got canceled.

Angry, depressed, frustrated. I haven’t failed much in my career and this one I took really hard.

On the possibility of Adult Swim reviving Sym Bionic Titan in conjunction with Primal and Unicorn Warriors.

I think to make more Symbolic TItans episodes there needs to be a swell of support that forces the network to realize they have to make it. I don’t have an exact number – but it’s gotta be big.

On whether or not he’ll ever finish Sym-Bionic Titan and what inspired him to create it.

I hope to one day. The inspiration was giant robots, John Hughes comedies, and mixing those two.

On if he worries about the future of animation given the rise of A.I. Art.

The whole fun of working is to generate the writing and the art and the ideas. If I have someone else do it, especially a computer, what’s the fun in that? It’s like if you like to play basketball you don’t ask someone else to shoot the shot for you while you stand on the sidelines.

On the possibility whether or not his Star Wars: clone wars series could’ve been longer.

We did 2 seasons of Clone Wars and it was a lot to do. By the end, I feel like we did say what we needed to say and then we were done. At that time was actually when I started to develop Unicorn as my next project.

On his fondest memories when he had worked with the late great Mako. (The voice of Aku from Samurai Jack)

Mako was incredible. He was such an amazing dramatic actor. The most fun we would have was when Aku was doing some weird comedic dialog. There’s a scene where Jack and Aku are arguing if Jack knows the directions to get to where they’re going to meet and fight. And hearing Mako do that was amazing. He was always into it, never questioning it – even if it was weird or silly. He was all in.

On the hobbies and subjects he spends his time on and how to they inform his creative process.

I play golf to escape my creative process, I need an escape, I need time off, and I need to breathe! Really what informs my creative process is actually other people and experiences that I’ve had. When you meet an interesting personality, they inspire you to create a character like that. There’s nothing more cartooney than real-life people.

On the challenges, Genndy has faced in producing Unicorn.

The biggest challenge was the scope and scale of how much we had to do and execute a complex mystery-type story. And still have enough time for all the fun. I just put in as much work as I could and hopefully, it would be enough.

On the tools, he uses during the animation process.

We use TV Paint, and boy if I had that on any of my previous shows that would have made my life so much easier. I used to spend every Thursday night staying up the night at Dexter’s Lab just relabeling and renaming folders properly – so it wouldn’t be confusing.

On whether or not he has a concept or idea, that he might consider to be too difficult to create.

Sure – many things are too difficult, and I try to stay away from it. Having worked as an animated and storyboard artist, I try to be sensitive to how difficult I make something.

On animation companies replicating art styles in other projects. (Rick and Morty are used as an example due to other shows such as (Inside Job, Hoops, Solar Opposites, and Star Trek: Lower Decks replicating its aesthetic.)

I think when something comes into extremely popular culture, it is the most natural thing that other people copy to try to recreate it. I don’t necessarily follow that thinking as I want each project to stand out on its own, but certainly through history when you have something that works everyone tries to recreate it.

On who’s idea was it, the debate as to which character designs and sketches to show off, and the inspiration behind the designs.

It was my idea to just show off the amazing character design of Stephen DeStefano. I just picked my favorites. As for the design inspiration, it’s a mix of Osamu Tezuka and Fleischer (studios).

On the inspiration to also incorporate Fleischer-like designs and if he grew up watching classic anime.

I’ve always been a fan, but in actuality, I got a chance to watch an Astro Boy script. I bought all the Astro Boy comics so I could re-read them, and I forgot how much I loved that style. So I started to incorporate that drawing style into my style, and when I started to develop Unicorn it started to come out. Osamu Tezuka is a huge influence. I grew up with most of the stuff from the 60s and 70s – Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets. Those shows had a lot of influence on my work.

On the use of “Popeye styled” character designs for Unicorn Warriors: Eternal.

My favorite thing is cartooney characters with heightened emotions and drama. Cartooney characters we can get a bigger range of acting. It all started with the scene in snow white – when the dwarves were crying when she passed away.

On the expectations of where he’d like his shows to air when he finally gets them greenlit?

It’s extremely difficult to sell a show. So when you do sell it, I trust the people who buy it that have an idea of where to place it. Im not a programmer, I don’t know the ins and outs of television programming. I hope the people that have that job do – my job is to make the best and most entertaining show that I can.

On his goal for this series.

The goal is to create as many seasons as possible, but your first season has to be a home run to get more. I’m fully committed to making multiple seasons but we have to see if the audience is as well.

On his advice for young animators trying to get in the industry And the hope, he can take away from his new Unicorm characters. And the goal he has in mind for creating a show.

Make stuff. Make films, make drawings, just make things. As for what I hope people take away from it, The love and interest of the characters. My goal is always to create lasting characters. And the goal is for it to be seen by as many people and create a show that’s as popular as Spongebob or Rick and Morty. I want as many people to watch it and love it as possible. And I want it to be real as if the characters are alive. Even though they’re drawn.

And finally, whether or not he purposefully designs his shows to have a proper ending.

I usually have an ending in mind for the initial 10-episode arc that we start with. Then because I don’t know if there will be more or not as we get more seasons I start to see if there is an ending or where I want to take it.

Unicorn: Warriors Eternal premieres new episodes every Friday at Midnight on Adult Swim.