Primal: Dino Perfection with a Side of Man (“Spear and Fang” S1:E1)

In the week ahead you will hear a lot about this series. You will hear about its stylish artwork which will remind viewers familiar with Tartakovsky’s work on Samurai Jack.

You will undoubtedly hear about the intensely emotional and expressive face of the series lead character, “Mama Green” a raptor-like dinosaur whose dedicated defense of her offspring against a clearly superior foe was inspired.

There are surely going to be the pundits who will tell us about how dinosaurs and humans didn’t exist at the same time, that in point of fact, it was the extinction of the dinosaurs which lead to the possibility of humanity’s rising in the world.

Don’t be that person, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Please.

What can I say that won’t be said by some rag trying to get your eyes on their content? Will they take the tact they knew Tartakovsky’s work would one day lead to the impossible fusion that is the dinosaur-laden scream-fest that is Primal?

Yeah, everybody can predict miracles after the fact. Tartakovsky’s string of successful programming includes my favorites: Dexter’s Laboratory, the Powerpuff Girls, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and that perfect fusion of magic and technology, past and future, spiritual journey with a surreal adventure that is the legendary Samurai Jack.

Fusion is a Tartakovsky’s theme in his work. Yes, this is my unique take, you probably won’t see anywhere else (but if you do, they are likely to be a discerning publication like this one.)

Tartakovsky’s never better than when he’s fusing ideas together. Dexter’s Laboratory is the fusion of boy genius with an evil genius of an older, smarter, more ruthless sister, Didi. You realize she knew what she was doing every time she pressed a button, right?

His Powerpuff Girls fused superpowers and the sensibilities of little girls together into an incorruptible force for good and so much sisterly drama. So much mayhem, so little time.

His magnum opus to fusion and dynamic tension is Samurai Jack, arguably his best work until my favorite, Symbionic Titan which gave us a giant friken robot combined of three smaller robots, driven by two teenagers and one artificial intelligence trying to navigate an alien world, being hunted by the instigators of a coup, two teenage hormones, and the horror of the high school experience. Symbionic Titan was everything. Giant robots, human drama, and a creative effort which bordered on superhuman.

All of these experiences and many others have lead to this unlikeliest of fusions: Man and Dinosaur. It had to happen. It was a blessing that it was in the hands of a creative madman such a gift has befallen humanity.

In Primal we meet Spear. Since there is no dialogue, we assume his name is based on his spectacular use of his singular weapon, a long spear. Spear’s appearance is of a nomadic hunter-gatherer on a world filled with colorful, fast moving, dinosaurs of all types.

This is long before the Age of Man. Thunder-lizards dominate the air, water and land and we are on the menu. Our adventure in the first episode has us meet our protagonists and discover what brings man and dinosaur together in a fusion deadlier than anything on the planet.


The art and sound for this first episode was top notch. I could feel the hot jungle miasma, the need to remain vigilant, the feeling of being threatened with only a second’s notice. Biting insects and natural sounds are outdone by the vocalizations of the dinosaurs.

Not to be outdone by dino-sound, Spear, lacking language, required you pay attention to his facial expressions which are a highlight of the storyboarding. Spear has a range of opportunities to express himself and more than one left me with a chill.

What can I say that won’t be said somewhere else?

Why aren’t you burning down your house, turning your back on the civilized world, using a spear like a boss, finding your own dino-companion and returning to nature in a life and death struggle to find yourself? Primal made me want to. My wife put out the fire, screaming dinosaurs aren’t real. The next four nights promise to be amazing.

Primal, by Genndy Tartakovsky, appearing on Cartoon Network.

Rated 10 of 10. Sheer perfection.

Thaddeus Howze
Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.