Genndy Tartakovsky Takes on Giant Robots
Genndy Tartakovsky is best known for creating two of the seminal shows in Cartoon Network's history, Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack. He was born Moscow, Russia and at a young age moved from there to Italy then the United States. He got his first taste of animation at Columbia College Chicago, which led to him coming to California to study at CalArts. At CalArts, he created a short that spawned the Dexter's series. In addition to the shows he created, he was a director on other landmark Cartoon Network projects The Powerpuff Girls and Star Wars: Clone Wars.
After a flirtation with live-action, having developed the Dark Crystal sequel and storyboarded on Iron Man 2, he has now returned to the world of animation with the new series, Sym-Bionic Titan. There's just something about kids driving giant robots, isn't there? I had a chance to chat with Genndy Tartakovsky about just that and more.
Rick DeMott: What was the inspiration for the new show?
Genndy Tartakovsky: Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets. We wanted to do a version of those ourselves. I started messing around with this idea for a show about a robot, but he's disguised as a human in high school. So you put something with no emotion into the most highly intense emotional situation and see what comes out of it. So that was beginnings of it.
RD: What drew you to that mecha-style of anime?
GT: I think from my childhood always loving that idea of a kid in a giant robot. It's always been a theme we've played around with that's empowering. And it's super cool to see big giant robots fight. It's a lot of fun. It's always been something that's been with me. When we did Samurai Jack, I just loved samurais since I was a kid. It's just something that you fall in love with.
RD: What did you bring from your experience on the other series to this new project?
GT: Everything. I've been doing cartoons since I was 24 and now I'm 40. (laughs) So it's 16 years of doing TV shows. I think we brought everything to it. The humor. The action. The way we do the production. It's just the all out experience cumulating to the new show.
RD: I found the relationship between the main characters Lance and Ilana very interesting. I read somewhere else that an influence on the relationship was Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky. Can you comment more on that relationship?
GT: Yeah I think in Laputa it was one of my favorite things done in animation as far as the two characters' relationship where it was a boy and a girl, but there was so much camaraderie and a friendship there without going into the romance. There was something so heartfelt and sincere about the relationship that it was something that I always strived for. Sometimes it's more difficult to build a friendship than a love relationship. Love is easier in a way, because you can always go toward the attraction part. But to have friends be real friends and show them friendly and nice to each other is more complex and that's what inspired me from Castle in the Sky.
RD: The characters are aliens trying to blend into Sherman, Illinois, as an immigrant from Moscow to Chicago, did that influence that part of the story?