Gennadiy Borisovich Tartakovsky (Russian: Геннадий Борисович Тартаковский, born January 17, 1970) is a Russian-born American animator, director and producer. He is best known for creating the Cartoon Network animated television series Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars and co-creating Sym-Bionic Titan. In 2011, Tartakovsky joined Sony Pictures Animation, where he directed his feature film debut, Hotel Transylvania, and is directing an animated film based on Popeye.
Although his Russian name Геннадий is normally transliterated as Gennady or Gennadiy, he changed its spelling to Genndy after moving from Russia to the US.
Tartakovsky was born January 17, 1970, in Moscow to Jewish parents. His father, Boris, worked as a dentist for government officials and the Soviet Union national ice hockey team. His mother, Miriam, was an assistant principal at a school. He also has a brother, Alexander, who is two years older and currently a computer consultant in Chicago. Before coming to the United States, his family first moved to Italy, where he lived next to a German family. There, Tartakovsky says he was first drawn to art, inspired by a neighbor's daughter. Tartakovsky later commented, "I remember, I was horrible at it. For the life of me, I couldn't draw a circle."
Tartakovsky's family moved to the United States when he was seven due to concerns about the effect of anti-Semitism on their children's lives. The family originally settled in Columbus, Ohio and later moved to Chicago. He was greatly influenced by the comics he found there; his first purchase was an issue of the Super Friends. Tartakovsky began attending Chicago's Eugene Field Elementary School in the third grade. School was hard for him because he felt that everyone recognized him as a foreigner. He went on to attend Chicago's prestigious Lane Technical College Prep High School, and says he never felt he fit in until he was a sophomore there. When he was 16, his father died of a heart attack. He felt that his father was very strict and was an old-fashioned man, but Genndy's relationship with his father was very special to him. After the death of his father, Genndy and his family moved to government-funded housing, and he began working while still attending high school.
To satisfy his ambitious family, Tartakovsky tried to take an advertising class, because they were encouraging him to be a businessman. However, he signed up late and had little choice over his classes. He was assigned to take an animation class, and this led to his study of film at Columbia College Chicago before moving to Los Angeles to study animation at the California Institute of the Arts (with his friend Rob Renzetti) and there he also met Craig McCracken. At CalArts, Tartakovsky directed and animated two student films, one of which became the basis for Dexter's Laboratory. Reportedly, after two years at CalArts, Tartakovsky got a job in Spain on Batman: The Animated Series and The Critic. There, "he learned the trials of TV animation, labor intensive and cranking it out". While he was in Spain, his mother died of cancer.
Craig McCracken acquired an art director job at Hanna-Barbera for the show 2 Stupid Dogs and recommended hiring Robert Renzetti and Tartakovsky as well. This was a major turning point in Tartakovsky's career. Hanna-Barbera let Tartakovsky, McCracken, Renzetti, and Paul Rudish work in a trailer in the parking lot of the studio, and there, Tartakovsky started creating his best-known works. Dexter's Laboratory grew out of a student film with the same title that he produced while at the California Institute of the Arts. Tartakovsky also co-wrote and pencilled the 25th issue of the Dexter's Laboratory comic book series, titled "Stubble Trouble". Additionally, he helped produce The Powerpuff Girls and has directed many episodes, serving as the animation director for The Powerpuff Girls Movie. All three projects were nominated repeatedly for Emmy Awards, with Samurai Jack finally winning "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour)" in 2004 – the same year he would win in the category for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming One Hour or More) for Star Wars: Clone Wars.
Star Wars creator George Lucas hired Tartakovsky to direct Star Wars: Clone Wars, a successful animated microseries taking place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The series won three Emmy awards: two for "Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming One Hour or More)" in 2004 and 2005, and another for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation" (for background designer Justin Thompson in 2005). Tartakovsky is not involved in the follow-up series, and has no plans to work on future Star Wars projects.
Genndy served as animation director on the 2006 pilot episode of Korgoth of Barbaria, which aired on Adult Swim but was not picked up as a series. He was made creative president of The Orphanage's Orphanage Animation Studios and was the director for a sequel to The Dark Crystal, but he was eventually replaced by Michael and Peter Spierig. In February 2012, the production of the film was indefinitely suspended. He also directed a series of anti-smoking advertisements, one for Nicorette in 2006 and two for Niquitin in 2008. He created a short in 2009 entitled Maruined for Cartoon Network's Cartoonstitute program, which has yet to be officially aired or otherwise released.
In 2009, it was announced that Tartakovsky would write and direct a Samurai Jack film from Fred Seibert's Frederator Studios, and J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions. In June 2012, Tartakovsky said that he had a story to conclude the series, but the project had been shelved after J. J. Abrams moved on to direct Star Trek. In 2010, he created storyboards for Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2. Tartakovsky's last TV series for Cartoon Network, Sym-Bionic Titan, aired between 2010 and 2011. He had hoped to expand on the initial 20 episodes but it was not renewed beyond its first season. On April 7, 2011 an animated prologue by Tartakovsky for the horror movie Priest premiered online. In early 2011, Tartakovsky moved to Sony Pictures Animation, where he made his feature film directing debut with Hotel Transylvania (2012). Following up on his feature film debut, Hotel Transylvania, Tartakovsky is set to direct a 3-D computer animated feature film based on Popeye for Sony Pictures Animation. In July 2012, he also signed a long-term deal with Sony to develop and direct his own original projects. His first original project is currently titled Can You Imagine? and will be produced by Michelle Murdocca. It's described as a "fantastic journey through one boy’s imagination".
In June 2012, Sony Pictures Animation announced that Tartakovsky was slated to direct a computer-animated Popeye feature film. On September 18, 2014, Tartakovsky revealed an "animation test" footage, about which he said, "It's just something that kind of represents what we want to do. I couldn't be more excited by how it turned out." In March 2015, Tartakovsky announced that despite the well-received test footage, he was no longer working on the project, and would instead direct Can You Imagine?.