Ya know each time millions of fans the world over swoon to theaters to absorb the latest Pixar or DreamWorks CG animated film, do you ever stop to wonder just how many of them bother to ponder the slow road of evolution that makes the medium even possible?
Truthfully the process hasn’t exactly been a step-by-step chain of evolution like those cave-man to modern man paintings you find in a science museum so much as it’s been a result of imaginative people with a vision asking the question, “How are we going to make this happen?”
Regardless of which of these success stories you choose to accept as the origin of modern CGI animation, there is no denying that the children’s television show ReBoot was a pioneer in the process and arguably the grand-daddy of much of the computer generated imagery we collectively take for granted these days.
Undisputedly, it was the first ever completely computer-animated CG series having begun broadcasting in 1994 (and running until 2001). I remember being vaguely aware of the show’s ambitious nature even in the time it debuted but sadly had little consciousness to devote to Saturday morning cartoons at that phase of partying until sunrise on Friday nights.
However, when Shout! Factory announced it would (finally) release a DVD box set containing seasons 1 & 2 on March 1, 2011 (digitally remastered for the first time ever), you better believe I preordered to atone for all the mistakes made during the show’s broadcast debut.
Spanning four discs (a pair of thin packs in an outer cardboard slipcase) this set features all 23 episodes from the first and second seasons, along with special commentary by producer Christopher Brough, designer and storyboard artist Blair Peters and animator Zeke Norton.
Set in the inner world of a computer system known by its inhabitants as Mainframe, ReBoot essentially told the tale of video gaming from the computer chip’s perspective. Games would arrive into a sector in the form of a massive purple cube and any information within the region at that time (even character sprites) would be automatically assimilated into the program. While the user may be in it for kicks and giggles, the characters in the game are faced with playing for survival for losing a game results in the annihilation of all the data in that sector (yes even including our heroes).
We follow the exploits of a blue-skinned fella named Bob, who happens to be a Guardian (essentially an anti-virus program if you will), business-owner Dot Matrix and her younger brother ENZO. On the other side of the coin are Megabyte and Hexadecimal, viruses bent on corrupting as much data as possible. Essentially our heroes are caught in endless conflict between bad data within their own world and the threat of deletion that comes from ours (and to think, you thought computers had it easy).
As is so often the case with any series, the first season of ReBoot is a bit rough and spends its time introducing characters, locations, and plot points. It is highly episodic, with each installment being a self-contained episode (exception: the two-part season finale).
The second season seems much more polished visually and starts out just as episodic as the first but turns into an extended story arc that began with the season's seventh episode, Nullzilla that carries it right on through to its conclusion.
Having run for 6-seasons, ReBoot is one of few shows out there that actually had its characters “age” as there are progressive threads later on that change many long-standing relationships (but since we’re essentially looking at only the first 2 seasons here, don’t spend too much time on such concerns).
Personally, I really expected to find some rough visuals and primitive CG work considering the age of this show but it’s still quite watchable, even by today’s visually demanding set. Because the program was literally on the cusp of technology all throughout it’s run, each season tends to look ever-more polished, with improved texturing and more life-like animations.
I think what may actually be every bit as impressive as the show’s pioneering the use of CG for animated entertainment is just how forward thinking the writing actually is. I mean considering the show’s inceptions can be traced back to the mid-1980s, it is astonishing how many predictions of things like video game physics, anti-virus measures and even the very idea of an “Internet” are spot on here. Additionally the writing is quite clever for those with a bit of computer knowledge, referencing endless nuances to the digital world through an earthen-like society.
Also worth mentioning is the included commentary track by the show’s creative teams. The wealth of information contained within is truly astonishing. These guys were literally inventing the process as they went along, landing funding at the proverbial 11th hour time after time just to make the next week’s deadline. The only trouble is that it seems to cut out early (with a half-hour to go). I have tried to listen to the track in its entirety on multiple DVD players, leading me to suspect the problem is with the DVD’s authoring. Truly a shame that it end prematurely as it is one of very few commentaries I found myself absolutely absorbed in.
In all it’s very easy to recommend this DVD box set to anyone interested in the earliest roots of the phenomenon that is computer generated animation, anyone with an appreciation for some good old fashioned children’s television with enough clever humor to appeal to adults and children alike, and to anyone who may have missed the landmark the first time around do to having been introduced to college life just then.
There is a single caveat however: No sooner has this set been released has Shout! Factory announced plans for REBOOT: THE DEFINITIVE MAINFRAME EDITION Complete Series DVD box containing over 18-hours of content, including the entire animated series and a bounty of extras, spanning 9-DVDs! It is also said to contain a special 24-page collectible book and a limited-edition lenticular collectors card of Dot’s Diner. Slated for a June 28th release, this one will retail for only slightly higher than this 2-season collection (and of course will contain these seasons as well). Aside from impatience, there is very little reason to not simply hold off and buy the whole thing. The rest of us will just have to contend with owning the first 2 seasons in duplicate.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing. … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.