“I come from the Net–through systems, peoples, and cities–to this place: MAINFRAME. My format: Guardian. To mend and defend–to defend my new found friends, their hopes and dreams, and to defend them from their enemies.”
Take a trip with me back in time. Before Toy Story, before Clone Wars, to 1994 and an ABC Saturday morning cartoon. Though, of course, ReBoot was so much more than a cartoon. If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware of how much I have come to love this series, which managed to survive cancellation once and ‘reboot’ in the form of two TV movies.
In the 90s I was a cable kid, so I missed out on the very first CGI television show. The only reason the title was familiar to me was that several years ago, on a rainy night up in Oakland, two of my dormmates and I sat around searching Limewire for the theme songs to TV shows we adored as children. ReBoot was Jennie’s contribution to the collection that would come to be known as ‘Insert for Childhood’ but it didn’t ring any bells for me at the time.
And I forgot all about it until it turned up on my desk at work, and I was tasked to QC the first six episodes.
It looked terrible. What had been ground-breaking animation at the time was laughable by today’s standards, and nearly all the characters were comprised of cubes or spheres. But once I got past the technological limitations, I discovered a show that was really remarkable in even its premise alone:
In a world known as Mainframe, inside a computer, creatures called sprites and binomes are frequently attacked by “incoming games,” purple cubes that descend on various parts of the city. Whoever happens to be there when the cube is dropped is immediately sucked into the game, and ends up battling the User. The catch is, if the sprites and binomes lose the game to the User, they’re nullified and everything in the cube’s radius is destroyed.
Basically, the show implies that every time you play a video/computer game and win, you kill a whole civilization. Pretty ballsy. I knew there was a reason I never got into games.
Fortunately, Guardian Bob and his pals are there to make sure the User doesn’t win. The world of Mainframe – and beyond – got progressively darker and more complex as the show went on and got out from under the thumb of the studio. There are countless homages that I’m sure went over the heads of children – everything from The X-Files to Evil Dead – which is part of what makes it a show anyone can enjoy. It’s also smart, and well-written, with some serialized arcs, unusual for an animated program. There are seriously creepy villains (Hexadecimal freaks me out!) and a good sense of humor – not to mention, several strong female characters.
The Definitive Mainframe Edition ReBoot 9-DVD set is available for pre-order on Shout!Factory’s website. I promise I’m not just recommending it because I worked on it – it’s really something unique and worthwhile.