Saturday Morning Cartoons: ReBoot

This article originally ran on The Two-Headed Nerd Comicast site on June 8th, 2013. Give them a clicky click. 

Settling on your Saturday morning TV schedule took a little bit of time and planning. Hard decisions needed to be made when two shows you really liked aired at the same time. Some timeslots were empty, allowing for discovery. This is how I found ReBoot on ABC way back in 1994.

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ReBoot was really ahead of its time. Like, way ahead of its time. Created by Gavin Blair, Ian Pearson, Phil Mitchell, and John Grace, the show had its conception as early as the 1980s. Always intended to be a 3D animated show, it wasn’t until 1990 when technology advanced enough for animation tests to begin, achieving its final look in 1991. Animators at Mainframe Entertainment and BLT Productions were pioneering 3D animation, as this was the first television show to use CGI. From there, it took 3 more years until the show premiered, allowing them to produce enough episodes.

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The creators smartly chose the setting as the inside of a computer, the system of Mainframe. This was mostly because of technology contraints at the time, allowing for blocky models and stiff animations, and not calling to attention the animation limitations. Mainframe was essentially the inside of some nebulous “User’s” gaming PC. Inhabitants of the city were mostly binomes, creatures that were either 1s or 0s. Along with binomes, there were a few Sprites, which were human looking and the main characters of the series.

Dot Matrix ran the city and took care of her younger brother Enzo. Guardian Bob was tasked “to mend and defend” Mainframe from internal and external threats. All the characters on the show have a slightly computer pun-ish name, save for Bob. Always struck me as odd. Turned out the team liked the way Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) said the name on Blackadder.

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Along with keeping twin viruses Megabyte (voiced by Tony Jay!) and Hexadecimal in check, Bob’s main task was to defend the system from games. Whenever the user played a game, a giant hazy black and purple cube descended from the sky, landing on and blocking off a section of the city. Bob raced to get in every game, as he had the best chance of defeating the User. If the User won, the section of city was destroyed, and the inhabitants were nullified. Games were all generic in nature; a fantasy RPG, Formula 1 racer, Track and Field, etc.

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ReBoot aired on ABC in the U.S. from ’94 – ’96 before being cancelled when ABC was purchased by Disney. At the time, this didn’t seem like a big loss. The show had fairly self-contained episodes. Even though with its unique premise, when the second season rolled around, I tuned out. The last four episodes of season 2 started to change things up by having a continuing plot. The show started introducing the concept of the web, which Bob was thrown into by Megabyte at the end of the season. That’s were things ended for many of us in the states.

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The show aired a third season in Canada via syndication through ’97 -’98. Many like myself didn’t know the show continued. Remember kids, the internet hadn’t reached omniscience yet. In 1999, Cartoon Network began airing ReBoot on Toonami (I can’t tell you how much I loved Toonami. Seriously). U.S. viewers finally got to see the crazy third season.

Enzo tried taking over for Bob as guardian of Mainframe. He, his girlfriend AndrAIa (she was an A.I. yo!), and his dog Frisket lost a game. To survive, they changed their icons to game sprite mode, and rode the game out of Mainframe. Everyone thought he was dead. Due to accelerated game time, the three grew up rapidly. Enzo was now grown and hardened Snake Plissken look-a-like. It was freaking badass. Ashamed of who he was, he went by his last name, Matrix (this was pre-Keanu). The three scoured the net in search of Bob, and a way home.

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Season 3 resolved many of the current conflicts while sparking some interesting ideas. Season 4 was conceived as 3 DVD movies, broken up into 4 episodes each for syndication. Only two of the movies were produced and aired. The show famously ends on a cliffhanger. Creator Gavin Blair refuses to release any information about the finale, incase Rainmaker (formerly Mainframe Entertainment) wanted to produce a conclusion.

In 2007, Rainmaker announced plans to create a new trilogy of films that never materialized. During 2007 and 2008, a pitch was chosen from a fan via their website and was produced into webcomics, including taking feedback from fans. Entitled ReBoot: Arrival, the comic can still be found on their site, ReBoot.com.

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Strangely, the show had many problems with network censorship. Dot, though not sexualized to begin with, was too curvy. Her breasts needed to be less curvy, and formed into a uni-boob. Season 3, while having an increase in production value all around, rectified this. Oddest of all, a scene where Dot gave her little brother a kiss on the cheek for good luck was cut due to potentially promoting incest. In response, much profanity was inserted into the binary 1s and 0s scrolling in the backgrounds.

EA developed and published a game based on the show for the PSOne in 1996. The less said about it, the better. All four seasons can be purchased on DVD, with seasons 1 and 2 streaming on Netflix (season 2, episode 7 – Nullzilla is when it gets good).

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I honestly didn’t care for the show much during season 1 and 2, but season 3 was really good (from what I remember). Remembering that nostalgia is a fickle mistress, I could easily recommend season 3, while mostly skimming over 1 – 2, and avoiding 4 if you can’t handle not having resolution.

What kind of name is Bob the Guardian? Did you catch this on ABC or Toonami? Comment below!

“Alphanumeric!”

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