But I’m not here to give Pixar a blowjob (though if anybody wants one, meet me ’round back). A lot of you probably think Toy Story was the firts full-length CG…thing. You’re wrong. Hang your head in shame. Today, we’re gonna talk about a much-beloved Canadian CG animation studio, Mainframe Entertainment.
Mainframe’s first TV series, Americans may vaguely recall, was ReBoot. And boy oh boy was it awesome. So the basic plot revolved around a bunch of characters with weird skin who lived inside a computer, known as Mainframe because ego. The basic concept for the series had been around since the mid-80s, but computer animation was, at the time, extremely shitty, so work wasn’t begun in earnest until 1990, finally getting on the air in ’94.
Anyway, the show was about the Guardian, Bob (the blue mafucka up there with the fabulous abs) and his friends fighting to protect the system from Megabyte and Hexidecimal, a brother-sister pair of viruses hell bent on taking over the computer. Megabyte’s the one in the back who looks like he was voiced by Tony Fucking Jay, and Hex is the one next to him who looks like an art student. Oh, and the big blue and red guys are their minions, Hack and Slash. They are probably three IQ points away from being legally handicapped.
The other characters, from left to right, are AndrAIa, a sprite rescued from a game; Enzo, an annoying green twerp; Frisket, a dog who likes to hump Bob; Dot, Enzo’s sister and Bob’s love interest who runs a diner; Phong, the system administrator who looks like an Asian dustbin on wheels; and Mouse, a sword-wielding hacker I had a crush on when I was five. Shut up.
But Megabyte, Megabyte is awesome. How many computer viruses get to do this?
So, on top of an epic rocking from a virus probably picked up off a free porn site, Bob and his homesprites have to contend with the whims of The User, who I guess is a human who, well, uses the damn computer. The citizens of Mainframe pretty much worship The User as a god, but this is a vengeful god, and his wrath comes in the form of games.
See, when the user wants to play a game, a large purple cube descends over a sector of the city, and anyone caught inside will have to reboot (there it is) as one of the game’s enemies.
Bob & pals usually try to get to a game cube before it lands, since everyone else is an incompetent buffoon, and they really are the only chance they have to beat the User.
So what happens if they screw up and the User beats the game? A FUCKING HOLOCAUST THAT’S WHAT. The User wins, the sector of the system that was under the cube becomes a bombed-out ghetto, and anyone caught inside becomes a mindless null.
Yeah, you out there, PC gamers. When you win a game you are condemning hundreds of citizens to existence as thoughtless. blind, fluorescent chunks of computer poop. You are tearing families apart, leaving the other sprites and binomes behind to mourn the loss of their loved ones. This is why we play games on a console. you spawn of Hitler.
Towards the end of Season 2, the show began a much darker story arc than anything that had come before. A mysterious creature was on the loose in Mainframe and people were disappearing. Phong calls in two CGI agents, Fax Modem, and Data Nully to help track down the monster.
Anyway, turns out the monster is a Web creature, feeding off Mainframe’s citizens and looking for a way back to the Web.
The web portal is torn open, and it threatens to spew a shitton more of those eldritch monstrosities into the city, so the good people of Mainframe forge an alliance with Megabyte to defend the system.
Which he promptly breaks, throwing Bob into the Web, and leaving the system without a guardian.
So right about now (the funk soul bruvva), ABC, who aired the series in the US, threw up their hands and said, no, Canada, fuck you, you can’t put this kind of horrible shit into a children’s cartoon. Mainframe basically told ABC to go shit in their hat, and that was the last episode ever aired in the States day-and-date with the Canadian broadcast.
Afterward, the show kind of went away for a while, and when it game back, it was a dark, fucked up, and angry version of itself. With no American network wringing its hands over the content, Mainframe went a little fucking crazy.
With no proper guardian, the viruses were slowly but surely taking over the system. Before Bob was sent into the Internet, he granted Enzo guardian powers, but, shit, Enzo’s a bitch.
Sure enough, after a disastrous attempt at putting a firewall in place, Enzo loses a game. He and AndrAIa perform some fuckery with their programming and instead of being turned into nulls, they leave with the game, vanishing into the net. Yay time-skips.
The show’s focus changes to the two of them traveling through the net, looking for Bob, and trying to find a way home.
And from there, the series just got darker and darker, even after they find Bob and return to Mainframe with the help of some internet pirates.
While they’ve been gone, Megabyte has completely taken over, and even after an epic, and pretty damn violent battle, the system is so corrupt the user has to shut it down. Yeah.
Luckily for our heroes, this is the one day a year when the User is not feeling like a malevolent shitbag, and performs a system restore.
The series went away again for a couple years, and Lil Katie thought that was it. The story was over, right? I guess Mainframe must’ve realized they had no other money-making shows on the air by that point and ReBoot was again brought back for a limited 8 episode fourth season. and was even picked up in America by Cartoon Network. And it kind of sucked. The jokes were a little forced, and the plot didn’t make a lot of sense. This is largely due to trying to marry the more comedic, episodic tone of the first two seasons with the darker arc-heavy action of the third, and failing miserably.
The first half of the season revolved around fighting a super duper evil virus that was tracking down and mindwiping Guardians into serving her, known as Daemon, who presumably got bored mounting .ISOs. To be fair, the beginnings of this story were hinted at back in Season 3.
The second half reveals that Megabyte was basically only pretending to be nice, to the surprise of absolutely no one, and pulls off a convoluted Batman Gambit to retake the system.
And then it ends.
Just like that. No resolution.
Well, except some online comics no one reads.
Despite the disappointing ending, ReBoot was one of my very favourite cartoons when I was a kid, and even now there’s a lot to like. Clever computer puns, parental bonus humour, amusingly dated references to 90s pop culture, and even the animation is stylized enough that it holds up okay.
So, those of you with nostalgia goggles, don’t be afraid of going back, especially if you’re an American fan who didn’t get to see the latter half of the the show. and even if you’ve never heard of ReBoot, it’s worth checking out.
Part 2 of our series on Mainframe Entertainment goes up Tuesday. Beast Wars, motherfuckers! Be there.
Keyboard Banged by Kate Reilly