I was researching TV shows created with SOFTIMAGE and remembered a 1990s kids show called Reboot, which I watch during my early childhood days. It was aired around the time the internet was just getting started and it was a good introduction to the world of slow dial-up modems (the ones that made those crackling noises), the web and technology.
ReBoot was a story about computer programs Dot, Bob and the evil villain Megabyte in the city of mainframe computer protecting the internet from various software virus infecting the system by Megabyte.
I found using animation to explain technology was a clever way to introduce what would become a norm for society using the internet, but back in the day TV was our entertainment.
Ahead of its time taking on Disney
Mainframe Entertainment was quite ahead of the curve trying to build their own animation pipeline with Softimage (All of the modeling and animation were done on SOFTIMAGE 3D) to produce full shows in weeks rather than years and on a regular basis. This was thanks to Silicon and Software plus they were not doing high end realistic renderings like toy story and could get away with the characters being a little plastic looking.
The graphics may be a bit dated by today’s modern standard, but this allowed Mainframe to render each show faster than Pixar. A 81 minute show made by Pixar took a few years but done in weeks by Mainframe Entertainment.
Of course this was a TV Show which had a faster turn around time. But still it looked rather ok for its time and was enjoyable to watch it’s all about the characters right.
The Studio went on to win various awards and even got a deal to produce transformers Beast Wars.
In order to hedge agiain Disney and the marketing juggernaut of the mouse, the team at Mainframe prepared to make an ecosystem of toys merchandise and videos games around the show.
“And for adults there was something too: pop culture references and computer terminology that flew straight over younger viewers’ heads, of course, but also the potential to profit from this strange new world. “If you study motion pictures and animation, obviously Disney is the first and last name you’ll hear,” ReBoot‘s producer Christopher Brough told the Vancouver Sunin 1996. His company, Mainframe, was preparing a “unilateral assault” against the animation giant, with “toys, video games, interactive products, all of it at once to create a brand recognition, a kind of marketing beachhead” that would use computer-generated shows like ReBoot to take Disney head-on.
Taking over Traditional Animation
Even though computers were starting to replace traditional 2D Animation it did help the medium and many others followed suit to make their own s hows thanks to falling Computer prices. Disney was at the time going through a 2D animated revival while toy story was getting started to be made. It seem Reboot was jumping the curve earlier before Disney would release toy story.
“The irony is that computers actually helped rather than hindered the more traditional forms of animation that Mainframe sought to supplant. “While CGI was storming ahead, so too was Flash, Claymation, old standard 2D, and even paper cut-outs programs,” said Dale Taylor, a programming executive at the Canadian television channel YTV who helped put ReBoot on air. Computers, too, made these mediums “cheaper, expendable, and far more efficient to get to market.”
Making an Animated film still hard but easier
Today if you want to make you own show it’s possible but it’s difficult and you may need a multi prong approach like launching into various mediums Vr comics tv shows web shows toys ride etc.
There was a hugh upfront cost to get the equipmment but now thanks to cheaper computers many new entrants entered the market.
In fact this caused an increase in competition to Mainframe at that time and they took on other jobs like making ride films or interactive projects.
Trying to appeal to a new generation
Today Reboot is getting rebooted with a new show but it was launched with mixed reactions. But something is a miss from the charm of the old show. While it was interesting and some say online that its like Code Lyoko even from the creators of the show.
In a podcast. Bay Raitt talked about new media having to compete with the old media. There is something timeless about old designs when done right and I feel that as a new creations, there is maybe a need to design for the present otherwise you are competing with old classics. Which made me think about reboots and rehashes of old things being irrelevant.
Even Alex Ross has something to say about retaining the old designs of his superhero charcters and not change too much…
I’ve always thought there’s a beautiful eloquence of having a connection to something that was designed 50, 60, 75 years ago, that is essentially undiluted. They don’t need to be over-altered for the sake of upcoming generations. They don’t have to be unified.
If you have to always make characters younger because, ‘well, young people won’t connect with older protagonists,’ well, that is such horseshit.
So like reboot would need to figure out how to appeal to a newer audience but maybe instead of reimagining we should invent new things to appeal the the current times.
It was hard to believe that Reebot saw the future of Computer Animation as a entertainment force but over shadowed by Pixar Toy Story. I think it was due to competition and the software getting cheaper and many entrants entered the market of making animated films.
Learning from Reboot
Making it with the tools available. Reboot built their animation pipeline with Softimage the 3d app of the day back then.
Have a strategy beyond just selling an animation to monetize. Meaning toys, books, making of’s, games etc.
Take on other jobs that can ustilise the technology to keep the company going. Shows do end someday.