The Primevals is a film that began production in the 1990s and took over thirty years to complete. Originally conceived by stop-motion animator and visual effects wizard David Allen, the film went into a state of limbo when Allen, who also served as its writer and director, passed away in 1999. Chris Endicott, an associate of Allen, and Full Moon Features CEO and founder Charles Band completed the film for a 2023 release.

Allen had an incredible visual effects career that spanned from 1970 to 1996 and includes the likes of The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Stuff, Young Sherlock Holmes, Willow, Ghostbusters II, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Puppet Master 1-5, and Bride of Re-Animator.

The incredibly awesome snake civilization from the stop-motion animated The Primevals. Image property of Full Moon Features.

Endicott worked with David Allen Productions starting with Puppet Master II in 1990. As a character animator, Endicott’s work includes some of the most recognizable films of the 2000s such as The Polar Express, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Spider-Man 3, I Am Legend, Green Lantern, Deadpool, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.

Co-written by visual effects artist Randall William — who, much like Allen himself, only has one other feature film credit to his name apart from The Primevals — the film opens when a dead yeti is discovered somewhere in the Himalayas. Upon its retrieval and showing to the public, we learn that the yeti was scientifically altered and ‘Frankensteined’ in a way that is believed to be some sort of controlled mutation. A group of human explorers go forth on an expedition to retrieve a live specimen; encountering aliens instead, and totally forgetting about bringing back the yeti.

The acting in the film is dreadful; outrageously and laughably bad. It’s on Xena: Warrior Princess or original Power Rangers levels of bad. Since the film was originally conceived in the 1990s, this makes sense, but its cast also features a plethora of actors you probably haven’t seen before, and will likely never see again.

Juliet Mills plays lead scientist Claire Collier and she is doing this horrendous accent that is noticeably forced throughout the film. The Primevals also rips off well known films and franchises such as King Kong, Jurassic Park, and Planet of the Apes. There’s a character in the film, Rondo Montana (Leon Russom), who is a blatant rip off of Indiana Jones.

A snake person operates a laser in the stop-motion animated The Primevals. Image property of Full Moon Features.

A weird running gag where every task seems to be saved or pushed to the next day is also a present throughout the film. It makes sense at first since they arrive somewhere late at night and intend to wait until someone may be around in the morning, but this concept happens at least three or four other times during the day when it seems like there would be no better opportunity. “We’re hot on the trail of this yeti and are finally catching up to it, but it’s getting late so we better set up camp.”

Stop-motion animation was and always been the drawing factor of The Primevals. Originally described as a tribute to the work of Ray Harryhausen (Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts), almost the entirety of the animation in The Primevals is seen in the last 20-or-so minutes of its runtime. There’s the opening with the yeti that dies and a brief shot of another yeti later on — all of the good stuff is otherwise near the end of the film.

The yeti battles the snake people in the stop-motion animated The Primevals. Image property of Full Moon Features.

The aliens in the film have evolved over the years and now have a more snake-like appearance — resembling the look of Cobra Commander’s snake form in the animated G.I. Joe: The Movie from 1987. The surviving Yeti in the film is thrown into a gladiator arena with the human expedition surrounded by reptilian onlookers. The aliens use a giant laser shot directly into the brain of the yeti to appease it. The fight between the yeti and the snake people, as well as their slithery behavior, are the highlights of The Primevals.

A snake person operates a giant laser in the stop-motion animated The Primevals. Image property of Full Moon Features.

The Primevals is a production that could best be described as painfully ’90s. The acting is unbearable and the writing, when it isn’t ripping off other films, tries to make a simple premise complicated but somehow fails at every opportunity. But if you’re a fan of animation and stop-motion, then those sequences are absolutely worth enduring the torture.

The compositing between live-action and the animation looks so well-done as it looks like the digital evolution of what Ray Harryhausen accomplished with his career for decades.

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Fantasia Film Festival 2023 'The Primevals' Review - Stop-Motion Animation 30 Years In The Making
  • The stop-motion animation is so fluid and very well-done.
  • The “better wait until tomorrow” gag is as funny as it is annoying.
  • The acting is atrocious.
  • The writing is just as bad.
  • Everything feels terribly dated.
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