Genndy Tartakovsky on Unicorn: Warriors Eternal’s Mythology, Love Triangles, & His 15-Year Journey to Get It Made

TV Features Unicorn: Warriors Eternal
Genndy Tartakovsky on Unicorn: Warriors Eternal’s Mythology, Love Triangles, & His 15-Year Journey to Get It Made

Genndy Tartakovsky’s long-gestating animated series, Unicorn: Warriors Eternal, finally made its debut at midnight on Adult Swim with two episodes, “The Awakening Parts I and II.” A time-jumping mystery with a unique mythology, the series introduces audiences to the Magic Order, a trio of reincarnating beings who exist to fight a recurring evil throughout the ages. As needed, the cosmic monk Seng, Elred the elf and sorceress Melinda are summoned to overtake new bodies throughout time by Copernicus, their steampunk styled robotic protector. But in 1890’s London, something goes very wrong with Melinda’s latest reawakening when her era’s host, Emma, rejects the takeover and all hell breaks loose.

In Part II of our Paste Magazine conversation with Tartakovsky, we dig into the specifics of Unicorn: Warriors Eternal’s development, the complex storytelling of the series and his hopes for the show’s longevity.

Note: This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

[Note: Spoilers below for the series premiere of Unicorn: Warriors Eternal]


Paste: Unicorn: Warriors Eternal is an idea you’ve been developing for 15-years. Did its origin come from a visual that came to you or was it born around the narrative of this group of immortal heroes saving the world throughout time?

Tartakovsky: It started off as usual with anything that I do, a visual image. It was a version of the team fighting a spectral train on fire. I wanted everything to be more magic themed, and so that was the beginning. As I started to develop it further through the years, it was really a metaphor for becoming teenagers. Having teenagers, you realize once they hit 13 or 14, it’s like a switch goes off, and they’re different people, right? So, it started out as the Industrial Revolution versus magic, and it grew to the duality of who we are. And it became much more about the characters, which I love because it made it that much more interesting. Especially with the character of Emma, because she’s obviously struggling the most with it. And that became the goal of it, for me. From that, it really was the wedding scene in the first episode, as one of the first things that I imagined, and I just wanted to see that.

Paste: A lot of Season 5 of Samurai Jack and the majority of Primal were action-focused with minimal dialogue. Unicorn has a very meaty story that involves reincarnation gone wrong, the astral plane, supernatural beings showing up in 1890’s London, and potentially the end of the world. Did you write this season more traditionally with your long-time writing partner Darrick Bachman?

Tartakovsky: Yeah, for sure. The story is so complicated. We needed to know the ending, so we sat down and we broke it down into the 10-episodes, like we usually do. Even with Primal, it was the same thing. We usually break it down, so we know what we’re doing. Usually, [the story] pretty much stays the same. And certainly with Unicorn, it had to stay the same. But for Unicorn, we wrote scripts because it was just too complex to do all that dialogue and to track everything. We broke it down, then Darrick started writing. Then I would adjust and then he would adjust. Then, I would start storyboarding. Because we had such a small team, it was easy to track it so that if I had an idea when I was boarding, I could call him like, “Hey, what about this?” He would give me his opinion and that was the gestation of it. But yeah, it’s basically a two-man writing crew.

Paste: Something you get to fully explore in this series is a real love story, specifically a love triangle with Emma / Melinda, Eldred, and Winston. Talk to me about being able to embrace that as a core aspect of this series, which is a new avenue for you.

Tartakovsky: The last season of Jack was about love. But I wanted to do it like Love Story. I wanted you to really feel the tragedy. It’s hard to do, especially in animation. In live action, we have our faces and you know how people feel if it’s a good actor who can emote easily. In animation, it’s all fabricated in the drawings. So, how do you do that? The same thing applies here in really trying to get that love triangle, with the humor and the frustration. It was one of the things that came out later that was going to be the driving force of the character development. It was the most fun thing. And where you see where it’s going later on with Winston, it’s going to be great. We knew if we could get that right, it would feel really good. And yeah, we really didn’t do it in Sym-Bionic Titans. We didn’t want Lance and Ilana to be in love, so we kept it very clear. In this one, it was for sure. I want to do a love triangle. I want all the drama and the complexity because Emma doesn’t remember [her past as Melinda].

Paste: Unicorn has one heck of a cliffhanger at the end of Episode 5. Will this air in blocks like Primal or straight through? And did you plan the mythology for multiple seasons?

Tartakovsky: It’s 10-episodes straight through. Five feels like it could be a season break, but it’s not. It continues right into six. And definitely, when we started, we intended it to be multiple seasons. The most complex thing about animation is that I might want it to be more episodes, but if it’s not successful, there’s not gonna be more. So, we’re putting ourselves out there. It happened with Titans, where we were just getting into the depths of the climax of all the stories, and we got canceled. We’re rolling the dice on this, too, in that it definitely wants to continue. We’ll see what happens. It’s crazy right now that nobody [in animation] is planning out multiple seasons. When I started, it was a completely different situation. Hopefully, once Unicorn airs, it becomes a huge success and then everybody will support it.

Unicorn: Warriors Eternal premieres with two episodes May 4th at midnight on Adult Swim and the next day on HBO Max. New episodes will debut weekly on Fridays, with encores on Adult Swim and Toonami. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal: The Complete Second Season is available now on Blu-ray & DVD.

Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe, The Story of Marvel Studios and the newly released The Art of Avatar: The Way of Water. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett or Instagram @TaraDBen.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin