September 10, 2016
(ABC, YTV, ITV, Syndication, Cartoon Network, September 10, 1994-November 30, 2001)
Mainframe Entertainment, Alliance Communications (1994-98), Alliance Atlantis (1998-2001), BLT Productions (1994-95), ReBoot Productions, Zondag Entertainment, Claster Television, Limelight Productions
Ian James Corlett – Bob (season 3-4), Glitch Bob
Paul Dobson – Matrix (adult Enzo, season 3-4)
Stevie Vallance (as Louise Vallance) – Mouse (season 2-4), Rocky the Rabid Raccoon, Guardian Medic, various
Throughout the 20th Century, computers have greatly risen in prominence in society; from the room-sized technical units to the small watches people wear in the present (or, the nanochip inserted in your brain, depending on how far in the future your present might be when you read this). As computers began becoming necessities of daily life, they soon found their way into other areas like entertainment. Computer effects would replace practical ones in movies and TV, and soon be used to create entire sets and characters. Animation would move away from the ink and paint methodology, gradually incorporating computer-enhanced coloring, backgrounds and eventually becoming entirely animated on a computer.
But that’s jumping ahead a bit. Roll time back to 1985, when Dire Straits released their most commercially successful song: “Money for Nothing”. The song was about and inspired by writer and singer Mark Knopfler overhearing a blue collar guy in an appliance store commenting on how rich musicians get for not doing any real work. The song became notable again for its music video, which Knopfler was initially against until director Steve Barron, along with Knopfler’s girlfriend at the time, convinced him otherwise. The video used computer animation to highlight the lyrics of the song amidst footage of the band playing and was one of the first uses of computer animated human characters. Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair rendered the animated segments.
The video’s notoriety kept Pearson and Blair in work and also inspired them to create a completely computer animated cartoon. They were soon joined by John Grace and Phil Mitchell to become a creative collective known as “The Hub”. They continued to work on the idea as they waited for technology to reach a point that could adequately bring their vision to life. The Hub approached British comic book artist Ian Gibson to design the visuals and character appearances for the show. Brendan McCarthy would join the crew to refine Gibson’s work as the Executive Design Consultant.
When they completed the first full 3D character renders in 1991, the collective formed the company Mainframe Entertainment. Blair and Mitchell moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to produce the series and begin the arduous process of finding backers to fund it. Meanwhile, Pearson, who had come to the United States to work on Def Leppard’s music video for “Let’s Get Rocked”, circulated ReBoot around to attract a network. After a year, the team made a deal with ABC.
Producing the series was a massive undertaking for all involved. Never before had a 3D animation project of this size been attempted and all the software used to render it was completely new to all those involved. It took six weeks to produce a pair of half-hour shows. After a sufficient number of episodes were made, the series debuted on September 10, 1994 simultaneously on Canada’s YTV and ABC in the United States.
ReBoot took place inside a computer; specifically, in a sprawling metropolis known as Mainframe; named after both the company and the computer term (in fact, almost everything in the series got its name from something computer or programming related). The choice of setting allowed relatively primitive CGI to appear more state of the art. The city was largely populated by a citizenry known as Binomes. Binomes were small mechanical people who performed day-to-day tasks around town and came in two varieties: Ones, which resembled stacked cubes with a single eye, and Zeroes, which looked like spheres with appendages and faces.
Mainframe was also inhabited by Sprites, which resembled humanoids. Amongst Mainframe’s notable Sprites were Dot Matrix (Kathleen Barr), a highly-organized workaholic with numerous business interests around the city, particularly her diner; Dot’s impetuous younger brother Enzo (Jesse Moss, Matthew Sinclair, Christopher Gray & Danny McKinnon); Enzo’s dog Frisket; and Phong (Michael Donovan), the oldest Sprite in Mainframe and the city’s leader who resides in the Principal Office, the central operating center of the city. Those who wished an audience with Phong would first have to best him in a game of Pong.
Newly arrived to Mainframe was the series’ original protagonist: Bob (Michael Benyaer). Bob was a Guardian from the Super Computer, a massive operating system, sent to protect Mainframe from all threats both internal and external. Bob’s primary weapon was his Key Tool named Glitch. Glitch, worn on Bob’s wrist, was capable of becoming almost anything Bob needed to deal with a given situation. Although Bob primarily traveled around by Zip Board (a hover board comprised of two connected discs), he had a clunker of a car that refused to work more often than not. Bob’s improvisational attitude often put her at odds with Dot, which often overshadowed the romantic tension between them. Bob was initially going to be named “Chip”, but the producers decided they liked Bob better as it could stand for “Binary Object” or “Microsoft Bob”, and liked how Rowan Atkinson said the name on the show Black Adder.
Internal threats came primarily in the form of Mainframe’s resident viruses: siblings Megabyte (Tony Jay) and Hexadecimal (Shirley Milner). Megabyte’s greatest ambition was to conquer Mainframe, the Super Computer and beyond. Megabyte’s home was the sector called Giedi Prime, of which all the Binomes living there were now loyal to him. Megabyte’s primary henchmen were the robotic (and moronic) twins Hack (Phil Hayes & Scott McNeil) and Slash (Gary Chalk), who served as comedy relief. Some of the dialogue between Hack and Slash were improvised by the actors. Megabyte’s pet was a null named Nibbles, who turned out to be nullified version of Dot and Enzo’s father, Welman (Dale Wilson).
Hexadecimal, meanwhile, was Megabyte’s opposite. Where Megabyte held a dignified composure and sought control through order, Hexadecimal was prone to insane outbursts and thrived on chaos, causing computer programs to malfunction. Her face was a series of porcelain masks which exhibited different emotions. She could quickly swap between them as she spoke. Hexadecimal resided in Lost Angles just off the coast of Mainframe, the remnants of Mainframe’s sister city Twin City that had been destroyed during an experiment of Welman Matrix. Her only companion was the cat-like viral system interface named Scuzzy. He frequently served as her chief spy, recording events and playing them back for her.
The biggest external threat to Mainframe was when the unseen entity known as The User loaded a game into the system. A game would be announced by a suddenly dark and stormy sky and the System Voice (Barr) repeatedly saying “Warning, incoming game.” A purple energy-filled cube would then descend over a random part of the city and once it landed no one could get in or out until the game was over. Citizens caught inside would tap their icons and say “Reboot!” in order to become characters within the game. If not enough people are caught in the game, the game will fill itself with automated Game Sprites. If the citizens could win against The User, the System Voice would state “Game Over” and the cube would return from whence it came harmlessly. However, if The User managed to win, “Game Over, User Wins” would be announced and the entire sector would be destroyed. Any Sprites or Binomes caught inside would become nulls: small slug-like creatures who drained energy.
The other external threat were tears. Tears were balls of unstable energy that signaled system instability. Tears are essentially damage to the fabric of Cyber Space and can be stabilized to form portals to other areas. However, for the most part, they were unstable and could cause massive amounts of damage if ruptured. Guardian Key Tools had the ability to repair a tear once it was secured inside an energy holding field.
While the show was aired on ABC, the network’s Broadcast Standards and Practices censors asked for numerous changes to be made to the show in order to make it more “kid-friendly” in keeping with the overall tone of the network. At this time, BS&P gained notoriety for unceremoniously rejecting entire episodes of shows for the most innocuous of things. Amongst BS&P’s edicts were forbidding any kind of violence or guns (except in the one instance where Frisket wielded a bazooka, which was okay since he was, y’know, a dog); forbidding Bob to smash through a window as it was a kind of imitable behavior kids might try to duplicate; outlawing the depiction of the game hockey or utterance of the word as it was supposedly vulgar slang; preventing Dot from giving a sisterly kiss to her brother on his birthday as it suggested incest (which Pearson described as “one of the sickest things I’ve ever heard.”); disallowing episodes to end on cliff-hangers to prevent younger children from experiencing “traumatic tension”; and removing any trace of sexuality from Dot by giving her what the production dubbed “the monobreast”. Dan DiDio, executive story editor of the series as well as the executive director in charge of Saturday morning and after school specials for ABC, wrote the episode “Bad Bob” as a parody of the Mad Max series of movies and had the entire script rejected by BS&P.
These restrictions often left the production frustrated and they took it out in subtle ways during the show. For instance, Bob used a command called “BS&P” to teleport through a window; Enzo firing a gun that shot rubber life rafts and labeled with “BS&P approved”; a prog censor in “Talent Night” who objected to the content in the acts Dot wanted for Enzo’s birthday party; a group called “Small Town Binomes” with a hit song “BS’n’P”; and the eventual naming of Megabyte’s armada’s ships as ABCs. Animators would also hide expletive directed towards BS&P in binary code in the background. Since BS&P had no control of the content outside of the show itself, Mainframe put moderately sexy images of Dot on the trading cards by Fleer, had Bob playing hockey in a desktop image made available on Mainframe’s website, and instances of blatant violence and some sexual material in the Electronic Arts video game on PlayStation.
By the time of the series’ second season, ABC had been purchased by Disney. Disney planned to load up the network with all of their original programming and systematically cancelled everything else, regardless of how well it was doing in the ratings. Knowing that they would be cancelled by the end of the season, the producers decided to ignore the rules set by BS&P and start doing things how they wanted. As a result, the final two episodes of the season were a bit darker in tone and Hexadecimal actually said “damn” in the episode “Painted Windows”. By the end of the season, Enzo had become the new Guardian of Mainframe when Bob was sucked into a portal in the sky, inheriting Glitch who was partially destroyed by Megabyte. Two new characters were introduced: AndrAIa (Andrea Libman), a Game Sprite who befriended Enzo and used his icon in order to escape the game and remain with him; and Mouse (Stevie Vallance using a southern accent), a hacker program Bob once arrested who initially used her katana secretly for the side of good.
After leaving ABC, the producers planned to follow-up the season with a film called Terabyte Rising. However, this idea was scrapped and later recycled into parts of the fourth season. Instead, a third season went into production following a brief hiatus while Mainframe worked on the Beast Wars: Transformers series. Advances in technology allowed for an improvement in the animation quality, resulting in subtle details like eyelashes, shadows, better movements for Sprite characters as well as more Sprites in general. Without the strict guidelines of ABC, Mainframe was able to abandon the episodic format and focus on longer, more mature story arcs with a slightly darker tone. They were also able to render female Sprites in a more anatomically correct way, eliminating Dot’s “monobreast”.
Probably the greatest example of this creative shift was the third season opener, “To Mend and Defend.” The series had always employed a liberal use of pop culture references, and that episode was no different. The game featured in the episode was heavily influenced by Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, right down to The User’s character resembling the shotgun-wielding, chainsaw-handed protagonist Ash (Bruce Campbell). Dot’s rebooted form resembled Morticia Addams from The Addams Family television show, complete with a sample of the show’s theme, with elements of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Enzo’s rebooted form was that of Michael Jackson’s zombie state from the 1984 music video for “Thriller”; with the addition of an eyeball that refused to stay in its socket.
The third season aired in the United Kingdom on ITV a month before it would in Canada. The United States wouldn’t see an episode until the following year. For the first two seasons, the show opened with a narration from Bob explaining the basic premise of the show over clips from various episodes. From this season onward, the intro would be redone by whomever was the central character at that particular point in the arc; utilizing the same basic speech but modified for the person speaking. Notably, this season was the first to feature a variety of veteran writers; particularly those with a background in comics. Amongst them were Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Christy Marx and DiDio, who had joined Mainframe after his position was dissolved at ABC. Star Trek writer DC Fontana also contributed a script, as did Marvel Productions veteran Katherine Lawrence. Bob Buckley provided the series’ music.
Over the course of the season, further character development ensued. Enzo and AndrAIa ended up trapped in a game and rapidly aged to adulthood. Enzo took on the name Matrix (Paul Dobson) as a reflection of his more hardcore attitude shared with AndrAIa (Sharon Alexander), now his lover. Together they navigated the Web with the pirates under the command of Captain Gavin Capacitor (Long John Baldry) and surfer Ray Tracer (Donal Gibson) to search for Bob (now voiced by Ian James Corlett after Benyaer moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles and became unavailable for recording). Dot became Phong’s military Command.com, leading forces against Megabyte and Hexadecimal’s increased actions to accomplish their respective goals. Likewise, Megabyte and Hexadecimal’s evil tendencies were increased, reducing the kid-friendly comedic elements added to lessen their threat during the ABC years. To defeat the threat to Mainframe, Bob caused the system to crash so that The User would reboot it. As a result, all of Mainframe was restored to the way it was at the start of the season with the addition of a younger Enzo, created when the system failed to recognize Matrix’s icon that he had set to a different status.
The final season was again delayed due to Mainframe’s work on other shows. The plan was to produce a trilogy of films that could be broken up into twelve episodes, with a special 13th episode done in a musical style. However, a budget cut resulted in the plan being reduced to two movies and eight episodes with a plan to par down the syndicated versions and restore them completely for DVD releases.
The first movie was Daemon Rising, which dealt with the history of Mainframe and a Super Virus named Daemon (Colombe Demers) who was able to take complete control of the Guardians. The second, My Two Bobs, dealt with the appearance of a Second Bob (voiced again by Benyaer, which was jokingly referred to as even sounding like the real Bob) who turned out to be a mutated Megabyte with the ability to shapeshift into any entity whose code he sampled. The season first aired in their episode form on Cartoon Network in the United States and in their movie form in Canada. Without the planned third movie, the series ended on a cliffhanger with Megabyte having taken over the Principal Office and the wedding of Dot and Bob in limbo. The ending of the final episode was changed at the producers’ request in order to leave things open for an eventual conclusion.
During the show’s run, it received a wide array of merchandising along with the previously mentioned trading cards and video game. Irwin Toys was the principal manufacturer of ReBoot toys, including three series of 5” action figures, four 12” figures, vehicles, playsets (of which Kellogg’s released their own miniature versions), 3” figurines, interchangeable Binome figures, and a handheld LCD game. Skips Crisps gave away bendable figures of the main characters as part of a promotion in the UK. Golden Books released a coloring/activity book as well as an accompanying box of crayons, Hodder Children’s Books published four choose-your-own adventure type books called ReBoot Adventure Game that used a die to decide the outcome of events, and Boxtree Limited published two books directly adapting the first four episodes of the series with some stills, while Price Stern Sloan released three that made heavy use of stills with limited text. The latest book came in 2007, when Arcana Studios published The Art of ReBoot. Crown Games made a board game while American Game Caps printed a series of pogs with images from the episodes. Other items included a bed set, metal character pins, clothing, keychains, school supplies, toothbrushes, bubble bath, Halloween costumes, cups, lampshades and even coasters.
Several episode compilations were released on VHS beginning in 1994 by Polygram Video in the United States and 4Front overseas. The later seasons were released to both VHS and DVD by A.D. Vision beginning in 2000. In 2011, Shout! Factory released Seasons 1 & 2 and Seasons 3 & 4 before putting the whole thing together in The Definitive Mainframe Edition.
Fans of the series have often asked for the final resolution of the show; however, Blair has refused to divulge that information in the hopes he’ll one day get to present it. In 2004, Mainframe announced plans for a spin-off called Binomes following a family on a chip farm which would be aimed at a younger audience. However, nothing became of the series. That year, Blair and Pearson both left Mainframe to form a new studio, The Shop. In 2006, the Rainmaker Income Fund acquired Mainframe and renamed it Rainmaker Animation the following year.
Rainmaker took notice of the numerous fansites online about ReBoot and announced their intentions to keep the property alive. Partnered with the site Zeros 2 Heroes, Rainmaker launched a contest for fans to submit material for a chance to work on a ReBoot webcomic and to vote on the winning pitch. ReBoot: Arrival ended up winning the competition and was worked on by four fans, picking up from where the series left off. The webcomic, retitled Code of Honor, debuted on Zeros 2 Heroes on May 30, 2008 after being promoted by a countdown clock on the ReBoot site. The second installment of the comic was also preceded by a countdown, as was the conversion of the ReBoot site into the official fansite in 2009.
In 2008, Rainmaker announced a plan for a trilogy of theatrical ReBoot films. Jon Cooksey was named the writer of the first and a teaser for the film was released in 2009 on Rainmaker’s website, but by 2012 Rainmaker’s president and executive producer Michael Hefferon said the project was dead. However, in 2013, Rainmaker announced the development of a new series, The Guardian Code, to be produced under the restored Mainframe name, now Rainmaker’s television division. The show was picked-up for a 26-episode season order by Corus Entertainment.
“The Tearing” (9/10/94) – Bob and Dot have to stop Megabyte from using a game to go through a tear and infecting the Super Computer.
“Racing the Clock” (9/17/94) – Enzo and Dot have to save Bob from a dangerous delete command Megabyte tricked Enzo into delivering to Hexadecimal.
“The Quick & the Fed” (9/24/94) – Stopping Megabyte puts Bob in possession of a magnet that threatens Dot’s life.
“The Medusa Bug” (10/8/94) – Megabyte steals the Medusa bug from Hexadecimal, which threatens to turn all of Mainframe into stone.
“The Tiff” (11/19/94 US, 11/26/94 CAN) – Enzo tries to repair the rift between Bob and Dot.
“In the Belly of the Beast” (12/3/94) – Frisket swallows a command Megabyte wants—at any cost.
“The Crimson Binome” (12/10/94 CAN, 1/7/95 US) – Dot organizes the citizens into helping rescue Bob from software pirates.
“Enzo the Smart” (12/17/94 CAN, 2/11/95 US) – Enzo tries to make himself smarter, but ends up turning everyone in Mainframe into idiots.
“Wizard, Warriors and a Word from Our Sponsor” (12/24/94 CAN, 2/25/95 US) – Mike the TV ends up trapped in a game with Bob, Dot and Enzo.
“The Great Brain Robbery” (12/31/94 CAN, 3/18/95 US) – Megabyte hires hacker Mouse to enter Bob’s brain to get to the Super Computer, but Mouse ends up in Enzo’s instead.
“Talent Night” (1/7/95 CAN, 8/12/95 US) – Megabyte prepares an act for Enzo’s surprise talent show birthday party.
“Identity Crisis, Part 1” (1/14/95 CAN, 9/9/95 US) – Dot has to convince a sector to give her their PID codes in order to free them from Megabyte’s control.
“Identity Crisis, Part 2” (1/21/95 CAN, 9/16/95 US) – A betrayal affects Dot’s performance in a difficult game.
“Infected” (8/31/95 CAN, 9/23/95 US) – Megabyte infiltrates Mainframe’s core control chamber disguised as an upgrade and initiates a system-destroying command.
“High Code” (9/7/95 CAN, 9/30/95 US) – A Codemaster comes to Mainframe to challenge a legendary Codemaster, which turns out to be Old Man Pearson.
“When Games Collide” (9/10/95 CAN, 10/7/95 US) – Megabyte uses game energy to break into the archives, causing two games to merge and trapping himself.
“Bad Bob” (9/21/95 CAN, 10/14/95 US) – Megabyte’s attempt at Mainframe’s core energy causes a game to become corrupted and land right over the Principal Office.
“Painted Windows” (11/2/95 CAN, 11/4/95 US) – Hexadecimal uses the system’s paint program to cause havoc around Mainframe.
“AdrAla” (11/9/95 CAN, 11/11/95 US) – Enzo befriends a game sprite who created a back-up copy of herself on his icon so that she could remain when the game ended.
“Nullzilla” (12/16/95 US, 12/27/95 CAN) – A web creature infects Hexadecimal and thousands of nulls cover her to become a Nullzilla.
“Gigabyte” (12/23/95 US, 12/27/95 CAN) – The creature infects Megabyte and merges him with Hexadecimal to create an energy-absorbing virus called Gigabyte.
“Trust No One” (12/30/95 US, 1/25/96 US) – Phong hires CGI Special Agents Fax Modem and Data Nully to work with Bob and Mouse to find out why citizens are disappearing.
“Web World Wars” (2/1/96 CAN, 3/2/96 US) – Everyone readies for war when a portal to the Web appears over Mainframe.
“To Mend and Defend” (7/17/97 UK, 8/20/97 CAN) – Bob is gone and Enzo is now the Guardian, and his first day on the job involves dealing with Megabyte and Hexadecimal teaming-up.
“Between A Recoon & A Hard Place” (7/24/97 UK, 8/27/97 CAN) – Megabyte discredits Enzo as a Guardian, leading him and AndrAIa to win a game without Dot’s help.
“Firewall” (7/31/97 UK, 9/3/97 CAN) – Megabyte plans to infect Mainframe as Enzo begins to lose confidence in his abilities.
“Game Over” (8/7/97 UK, 9/10/97 CAN) – Megabyte and Hexadecimal are gone, leaving the citizens of Mainframe free to try and find Bob.
“Icons” (8/14/97 UK, 9/17/97 CAN) – Enzo, calling himself Matrix, and AndrAIa lose a game and have to find their way back to Mainframe.
“Where No Sprite Has Gone Before” (8/21/97 UK, 9/24/97 CAN) – Matrix, AndrAIa and Frisket arrive in a system inhabited by superheroes—one of which resembles Bob.
“Number 7” (10/1/97 CAN, 11/14/98 US) – Matrix, Frisket and AndrAIa make it back to Mainframe, but things seem just a bit off.
“The Episode With No Name” (10/8/97 CAN, 11/21/98 US) – Matrix and AndrAIa discover the Guardians have been infected by the supervirus Daemon.
“Return of the Crimson Binome” (10/15/97 CAN, 11/28/98 US) – Matrix and AndrAIa attempt to free the Captain Capacitor and his crew in order to use their help to return to Mainframe.
“The Edge of Beyond” (10/22/97 CAN, 12/5/98 US) – Matrix, AndrAIa and the pirates enter the Web and attempt to find Bob.
“Web Riders on the Storm” (10/29/97 CAN, 12/12/98 US) – Web Riders, beings living in the Web, attack the pirates.
“Mousetrap” (11/5/97 CAN, 12/19/98 US) – The pirates find Bob and begin their journey back to Mainframe, but the trip will be anything but easy.
“Megaframe” (1/3/98 CAN, 12/26/98 US) – The pirates discover Mainframe under the control of Megabyte.
“Showdown” (1/10/98 CAN, 1/2/99 US) – Hexadecimal takes Bob captive while the others launch an attack to free Mainframe from Megabyte.
“System Crash” (1/17/98 CAN, 5/5/99 US) – Bob tries to keep the system from crashing as User avatars from games past appear in the city and attack.
“End Prog” (1/24/98 CAN, 5/6/99 US) – The arrival of a game cube threatens to finish off Mainframe, but the User restores the system resetting almost everything back to how it was.
Season 4 (presented as two movies broken up for syndication):
“Daemon Rising” (10/19/01 US, 11/18/01 CAN) – Daemon has infected most of the net and sets her sights on Mainframe.
“Cross Nodes” (10/19/01 US, 11/18/01 CAN) – Daemon plans to capture Bob and use him to infect the rest of the net.
“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (10/26/01 US, 11/18/01) – Matrix and Mouse have to save AndrAIa from Daemon’s infection while Dot wants Hexadecimal to restore her father.
“Sacrifice” (11/2/01 US, 11/18/01 CAN) – Matrix, AndrAIa and Mouse are taken by Daemon, leaving Enzo Mainframe’s only hope.
My Two Bobs:
“My Two Bobs” (11/9/01 US, 11/25/01 CAN) – A second Bob appears in Mainframe, leaving Dot confused over which to marry.
“Life’s a Glitch” (11/16/01 US, 11/25/01 CAN) – Glitch-Bob plans to remove Glitch from himself in order to become normal again.
“Null-Bot of the Bride” (11/23/01 US, 11/25/01 CAN) – Dot decides to marry the new Bob, only to discover he’s really Megabyte in disguise.
“Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus” (11/25/01 CAN, 11/30/01 US) – Megabyte manages to take control of the Principal Office while the others attempt to track him down.