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Tartakovsky, Genndy

Entry updated 22 January 2024. Tagged: TV, People.

(1970-    ) Russian-American director, scriptwriter, producer and animator whose family moved from the USSR to the US (via Italy) when he was seven. After studying at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), he briefly worked for Lapiz Azul Productions on Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1994) (see The Adventures of Batman and Robin). When Craig McCracken joined Hanna-Barbera he suggested his friends Tartakovsky and Rob Renzetti (see My Life as a Teenage Robot) also be employed: the trio would frequently work on each other's projects.

Tartakovsky's first series was Dexter's Laboratory (1996-2003) for Cartoon Network, following its appearance in their anthology series What a Cartoon!, and was based on an earlier CalArts film. The first two seasons and subsequent Television movie were very successful (winning three Annies), though he had little involvement with the show's revival a couple of years later. After working on The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005) as a Supervising Producer, he created Samurai Jack (2001-2004; 2017), which again proved popular, winning eight Emmys and six Annies. The initial run ended inconclusively, presumably because Tartakovsky was now hired by George Lucas to develop the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003-2005) series of shorts, which won three Emmys and an Annie.

This period reflected an animator's life of pilots that are not picked up, shelved projects, and miscellaneous jobs – for Tartakovsky this included some storyboarding for Iron Man 2 (2010). He also co-created and directed the animated television series Sym-Bionic Titan (2010-2011). Next, Tartakovsky directed the animated film Hotel Transylvania (2012) for Sony Pictures, about Dracula's (see Vampires) hotel for persecuted Monsters and his tribulations when his daughter falls for a human; he subsequently directed Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018; vt Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation), also co-writing the latter. Though the critical response was mainly lukewarm, the films were commercially very successful; the final movie, «Hotel Transylvania: Transformania» (due 2021; vt Hotel Transylvania 4) will not be directed by Tartakovsky, though he has co-written the screenplay. During this period he also worked on the final season of Samurai Jack, which was broadcast in 2017. He went on to create the impressive Primal (2019-2022), whilst in late 2020 it was announced that he would be creating the new adventure series Unicorn: Warriors Eternal (2023).

Influenced by Anime and Warner Bros. Cartoons, Tartakovsky's animation nevertheless has its own distinctive geometric style (a result of compensating for his initial lack of drawing skill). Of his most memorable shows – Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars and Primal – only the first is dialogue-heavy; indeed Samurai Jack has very long stretches without talking and in Primal nobody speaks until the tenth episode – and these are his two most important works. His series are action-packed, intelligent and rich in visual ideas and pleasures. [SP]

Genndy Tartakovsky

born Moscow: 17 January 1970


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