ReBoot is a Canadian CGI-animated action-adventure cartoon series that originally aired from 1994 to 2001. It was produced by Vancouver-based production company Mainframe Entertainment, Alliance Communications, BLT Productions and created by Gavin Blair, Ian Pearson, Phil Mitchell and John Grace, with the visuals designed by Brendan McCarthy after an initial attempt by Ian Gibson.
It was the first half-hour, completely computer-animated TV series.
Reruns of the first three seasons can be seen in Canada on Teletoon Retro, and the first two seasons are available on Netflix’s streaming service in the US.
The first season of ReBoot was highly episodic, with each installment being a self-contained episode (except for the two part finale). Most of the episodes established characters, locations, and story elements, such as the gigantic game cubes. When The User loads a game, a game cube drops on a random location in Mainframe, sealing it off from the rest of the system and turning it into a gamescape. Bob frequently enters the games, reboots to become a game character, and fights the User’s character to save the sector. If the User wins a game, the sector the cube fell in is destroyed, and the sprites and binomes who were caught within are turned into energy-draining, worm-like parasites called nulls. Within the series it is never clear if there is a “cure” or reversal for degrading to a null. When this happens, they are said to be “nullified.” The season also established the characters Hexadecimal and Megabyte who were viruses, and were primary antagonists in most of the episodes in the season.
The second season was initially as episodic as the first but later featured an extended story arc that began with the season’s seventh episode, Nullzilla. The arc revealed that Hexadecimal and Megabyte are siblings, and introduced an external threat to Mainframe: the Web. A creature from the Web entered Mainframe from Hexadecimal’s looking glass (which was shattered by Mike the TV), bonding with her. Mainframe’s nulls reacted spontaneously and covered her to form a monster dubbed Nullzilla, which was defeated and neutralized by the protectors of Mainframe. The Web creature located Megabyte, took him over and forced him to merge with Hexadecimal, forming a next-gen super-virus called Gigabyte. Gigabyte was eventually neutralized as well, but the Web creature escaped into the bowels of Mainframe, where it began stealing energy to stay alive and grow. Mouse, a mercenary and old friend of Bob’s, helped to find the Web Creature, but was almost destroyed by a bomb set by the person she was working for, Turbo. Bob took the bomb a safe distance away so that nobody would be harmed. The explosion created a “tear” (an unstable energy-based anomaly) which the Web creature used to create a portal to the Web. The protectors of Mainframe had to team up with Megabyte and Hexadecimal to close the portal. The defacto army consisted of the CPU police force for Mainframe with a weapon named “The Hardware”, a large cannon designed to close a gate to the Web via a blast of energy. A frenzy ensues to kill each Web creature before it breaches the gate and gathers more of its kind in retaliation. In the midst of the chaos, Megabyte betrays the alliance, crushing Bob’s keytool, Glitch, and sending him into the Web portal before closing it.
The show’s third season exhibited a marked improvement in modelling and animation quality due to the advancement of Mainframe Entertainment’s software capabilities during the time between seasons. Subtle details, such as eyelashes and shadows, as well as generally more lifelike sprite characters, were among several visual improvements. In addition, the show shifted their target audience to children aged 12 and older, resulting in a darker and more mature storyline. After severing ties with ABC following the second season, the show actually reached a greater number of households through syndication.
The season started with Enzo, freshly upgraded into a Guardian candidate by Bob during the Web incursion, defending Mainframe from Megabyte and Hexadecimal, with Dot and AndrAIa at his side. When Enzo entered a game he could not win, he, AndrAIa, and Frisket changed their icons to game sprite mode and rode the game out of Mainframe. The accelerated game time matured Enzo and AndrAIa far faster than the denizens of Mainframe. The following episodes follow adult versions of Enzo and AndrAIa as they travel from system to system in search of Mainframe. The older Enzo adopts the name “Matrix” (previously his and Dot’s surname), carrying the aptly named weapon “Gun” and Bob’s damaged Glitch. The time spent in games and away from Mainframe has hardened both Matrix and AndrAIa; Matrix has developed a pathological hatred of Megabyte, and has grown into an overly muscled, shoot-first-ask-question-later hero, while AndrAIa has turned into a calm and level-headed warrior. Matrix and AndrAIa are also shown to have developed a romantic relationship by this time. As the season progresses, Matrix and AndrAIa are reunited with Bob and the crew of the Saucy Mare and returned to Mainframe, which has been almost completely destroyed by Megabyte and his forces during their time away. The group reunites with Dot and the resistance, then heads to the Principal Office for a final battle with Megabyte. Megabyte is defeated by Matrix, but not before Megabyte’s handiwork causes the system to crash. All final problems in Mainframe were dealt with by The User restarting the system, setting everything right and restoring everything as it was again for our heroes, with one major exception: younger and older Enzo now exist simultaneously, as Matrix’s icon was still set to “Game Sprite” mode. Because of this mishap, he was not recognized properly by the system when it rebooted, so it created a replacement of his younger self.
After the end of the third season, two TV movies were produced in 2001: Daemon Rising, which addressed the problem the Guardians were facing in season three, and My Two Bobs, which brings back a very corroded and mutated Megabyte in a cliffhanger ending. The two movies, broken up into eight episodes in its U.S. run on Cartoon Network’s Toonami, revealed much of Mainframe’s history, including the formation of Lost Angles, Bob’s arrival in the system, and the origin of Megabyte and Hexadecimal.
Initial plans for the fourth season included three films broken into 12 episodes, followed by a 13th musical-special episode, although the final five were never produced, prompting the series to end with a cliff-hanger.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: