Genndy Tartakovsky put Cartoon Network originals on the map when he created Dexter’s Laboratory. It kicked started an entire era for the network as it transitioned from showing classic cartoons to debuting original programming of its own. This time is affectionately known as the Powerhouse Era for fans who hold the network’s time from 1998 to 2005 as Cartoon Network’s prime.
There are so many lists ranking the works of Tartakovsky we had to ask the creator himself how he would rank the shows that debuted on the channel.
When speaking with Tartakovsky about his latest animated feature Unicorn: Warriors Eternal, we asked which projects he holds near and dear to his heart.
“Well yeah, of course, Dexter is number one because it was the first, and it paved the way for everything that I’ve done ever since, right? Without Dexter, I don’t know where I would be,” he said admittingly. “What made the show for him the most was capturing the spirit of its titular character, as well as the authentic relationship between a little brother and an older sister.”And it’s still, like you’re saying, 25 years later, it’s still a part of the conversation to a degree. That’s the longevity of it; it’s pretty incredible.”
In second place, “Of course, Jack is number two because it let me do action,” he said immediately. After the success of Dexter and helping to direct the other big Cartoon Network project to debut in ’98, The Powerpuff Girls, he produced what some would call his magnum opus, his baby or passion project. “And the visual style, everything got elevated so much; it was the next level for my growth.”
Samurai Jack was initially released in 2001 on Cartoon Network for four seasons until it suddenly ended in 2004. Then it was revived for a fifth and final season over at Adult Swim on May 20, 2017. “I mean, the last season of Jack was great because it was an Adult Swim, so we could go deeper and harder on everything. And we created much more because back then, we weren’t even allowed to do episodic,” he told us.
“So each Jack story had to stand alone. We did one two-parter, but basically, the rest of it, they always said like, ‘Well, if we want to air it out of order, we can,’ and that sucks because you want it to be a journey that the character is growing and learning. And so when we got to do the last season, we were allowed to do it episodic, which now you can start Jack where he was and see him earn his way back to the way he was.”
He also addressed the reception to the controversial ending of the revival, which ended on a bittersweet note for the titular samurai.
“And obviously, the falling in love and having this tragic, bittersweet, good, bad ending. And that was always the idea. I know there’s a lot some criticism because everybody wanted a happy ending, but Jack is a samurai, and his plight in life isn’t about happiness. He had to right things, and there’s a sacrifice that comes with that. So I was always happy with that. […] I look back at it, it still stands up. We did some great work back then, and it launched the next thing, which was Primal.”
Rounding out his top 3 projects, his last inclusion was a bit of a shocker.
“And then for me, Primal would be, I mean, Primal is much more today and not back then. [But] Primal is now the extension of all those shows,” he said. “But Jack, obviously Jack and Dexter gave me everything, […] Jack really showed people that I could do action and this next level of artistry that we were able to do.”
Samurai Jack, Seasons 1-5, Streaming Now, HBO Max
Dexter’s Laboratory, Streaming Now, HBO Max
This story originally appeared on TV Insider