"The spellbinding animation of ReBoot ... evokes a lush world of dense color
and three dimensional movement."
The Los Angeles Times
"Cyber Spunk! Computer animation powers ABC's dazzling ReBoot ... a medium
I usually find stiff and cold but ReBoot is warm and gorgeous. Check it out."
"ReBoot is a real cyberkick ... a visually captivating combination of
computer graphics, software lingo and ping-zing action ... ReBoot will pull
the upset of the season."
Dallas Morning News
"ReBoot is unlike any other program, with dazzling shifts of perspective in
a futuristic landscape and technicolor characters that look almost real."
US News & World Report
"Best New Cartoon ... It's amazing to think this art is machine made."
TV Guide (USA)
"Clever PC (that's personal computer) oriented lingo and a sleekly
futuristic look along with downloads of action will grab the kids ..."
New York Vue Magazine, New York Daily News
"Computer-literate kids will find ReBoot stimulating, for the show's
dialogue is chock full of high tech talk. Others will be captivated by the
"Move over Power Rangers; here's ReBoot!"
"Sharp as a laser printer images ... the next big hit with kids."
Orange County Register
[This is an excerpt from pages 38-41; the rest of the article covers pages 37-43.]
Some months ago, I happened to run on the TV during the Saturday morning kiddie-cartoon blitz, and found my eyes glued to computer-animated images that looked and moved like nothing I'd seen before. The half-hour show, I discovered, went by the name of ReBoot, and it takes place inside a computer, in and about a multilayered city called Mainframe. The three principal ReBooters are Bob, a blue-skinned, chrome-haired Guardian program who recently modemed in from the Super Computer's Port Authority; green-skinned and black-haired Dot Matrix, the entrepreneurial proprietor of a Fifties diner located on Baudway; and Enzo, Dot's little brother, and upgraded incarnation of Dennis the Menace. Mainframe and its environs are populated by data sprites like Dot and Enzo, binomes, viruses, and a variety of other colorful computer species. It's icing on the cake that ReBoot is what it's about: The characters who inhabit Mainframe actually exist only as digital information in a computer. They come to life, i.e., become visible, when a user downloads data onto digital tape.
What originally caught my eye that Saturday morning was the unique look of Reboot's world: simultaneously flat and hyperdimensional, richly lit yet shadowless. Its palette simmers with saturated, primary shades, but every color is oddly opaque, as though composed of deep surface with no substance. This is a believably nonorganic environment, expressed in metallic, plasticine, and energy forms. Every frame of the world's first 100 percent digital TV series is intellegently busy, designed in deep-focus planes of action or suggestive land- or cityscapes. The "camera" -- our POV -- shoots from highly inventive angles or defines great spaces with swoops, cranes, and pans of Krubrikian assurance. The overall visual style of this half-hour "cartoon" far surpasses the directorial abilities of many contemporary nonanimated-feature filmmakers: the tribe of Brits (Gavin Blair, John Grace, Phil Mitchell, Ian Pearson, et all.) who require three weeks to meticulously render a single episode of ReBoot out of computer-generated images and 3-D animation might have turned cyberdud Johnny Mnemonic into the kind of hi-tech, kick-ass Hong Konger the original William Gibson short story hinted at.
But digital razzle-dazzle and cutting edge technology can't beat ReBoot's best resource: those folks know how to tell a story. The dramatic spines are familiar -- there are, as Willa Cather once wisely observed, "only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." But those spines are apt to take very different postures in the unclocked, seasonless environment. A story will lay down interesting tracks: Enzo wants to start up a delivery service business so as to emulate his successful sister; or a tiff erupts between the sometimes anal-retentive Dot and Bob, spontaneous, always ready to ride. Then, suddenly, an incoming game-cube, roiling with electric-pink current, descends from the sky onto a sector of Mainframe, and the narrative instantaneously morphs into a brand-new, astonishing context, with "rebooted" roles, rules, and goals. It's The User, legend has it, who inputs these games from his/her pleasure. Like the tales and quests that intersected everyday goings-on at King Arthur's court, these narrative challenges are critical. If The User wins, that sector of Mainframe where the game set down goes offline, and its inhabitants are nullified. Further, whatever crisis arose pregame often finds high-risk resolution on a Formula One racecar track, in a Dungeon Deep, or on Starship Alcatraz -- each gameworld a marvel of exhilarating action and hyperreality.
ReBoot banks on viewers who've been around the pop- and cybercult block a few tiems. But it's not afraid to draw on some mythic firepower that, although lacking brand-name familiarity, is fueled by back-brain memory.
Sometimes the stories are jeux d'esprit, satisfying funny excursions such as "The Crimsom Binome": Mainframe binomes in bowlers and spats stroll along a Victorian boardwalk, passing the Punchcard and Querty puppet show, taking the "air". Out of a bright blue sky, with a faint pattern of computer-circuitry showing through, Captain Capacitor and his colorful pirate crew attack, stealing as much software as binomes can carry. A one-eyed stack of three cubes (a "one"), Capacitor is Captain Hook with copper-wire locks and beard, and a pegleg. Flanked by an ever-present accoutant-binome (a billiard-ball "zero") who provides a running commentary on their current profit margin, Capacitor mixes traditional pirate lingo with computer jargon -- "Shiver me templates!" But he's outgunned -- more precisely, seduced -- by Dot's rat-a-tat salvo of spreadsheet smarts.
"The Crimson Binome" subliminally touts entrepreneurial acumen over petty thievery, amid other felicities. There's a visually breathtaking sequence when the pirate's mutant ship, a graceful combination of old-fashioned corsair and cybercraft, casts off by projecting free-standing sails and then warping, Enterprise-style, out over a Technicolor-blue ocean shot through with electric-pink whorls. And one savors the weirdly telling fictional dislocation when Dot, her sleet boat under attack by the pirates, suddenly glowers into the "camera" to paraphrase Ahab: "They task me and I shall have them!"
"Wizards, Warriors, and a Word from Our Sponsors" hinges on the nuisance quotient of Mike the TV, who can't be turned off because his remote ran away. As Bob contemplates tubecide, he, Dot, Enzo, and Mike are rebooted into a Dungeon Deep game where the Guardian is demoted to a one-eyed thief armed only with a butterknife. It's Bob's chattering TV, gussied up in horned Viking helmet, shield, and sword, "who" must act as warrior. As the group fights its way through the hopeless river of eternal imprisonment, the vicious pit of total oblivion, and endlessly replicating knights, Mike spews nonstop Ginsu-knife commercials, running sports commentary, inane talkshow gab, numbing soap-opera chitchat. The key to the game is "All in one, one in all," and even in this hilarious spoof there's a genuinely disturbing -- visually and thematically -- take on identity and role-playing.
At journey's end, each of the characters must battle his or her double, literally mirror images, to achieve the chalice and win the game. These doubles are blank-eyed, sharp-toothed zombies, without an iota of cuteness. The flavor here is of Night of the Living Dead or Invasion of the Body Snatchers; the paradox is that the "humans" we identify with in this nasty skirmish with unsouled doppelgängers are themselves no more than electronic data.
On its richly mythological side, ReBoot offers a User who's less a benevolent deity than kin to Thomas Hardy's "purblind Doomsters," a gaming god who plays his creations to death for fun. His game-loving "double" within the computer is Phong, a spidery gold-metal guru. Mainframe's original COMMAND.COM once upon a time, now a kind of executive doorman for the new COMMAND.COM. (This last may be a cover to encourage free will and initiative among Mainframers; though he often pleads impotence in crisis, some suspect Phong is still running the show.) An ancient, levitating "python," Bob's mentor sports a flat reptilian head with spectaled Asian eyes and a delicate pharaonic beard. In order to access advice from this Yoda-Wizard of Oz-Delphic Oracle, the supplicant must win at Pong (Puck-Oriented Nonlinear Game), to which Phong is hopelessly addicted.
Bob's format is "to mend and defend the hopes and dreams of his newfound friends." Still, in the heroic tradition he yearns to lean the truth about the Super Computer's higher power, using his mastery of the games to get closer to The User. The Guardian has a dark double who also dreams of getting up to Super Computer heaven. This is Megabyte, an Mephistophelean virus created by a mischievous hacker, and his function is ... to grow. A heavy-metal superwarrior with a gigantized Dick Tracy jaw, green eyes dotted by red irises, and back-swept, metal wings bracketing his armoured visage, he also boasts a velvet voice recalling George Sanders at his smarmiest, with just a hint of Darth Vader thrown in for intimidation. Scheming for lebensraum, this fallen angel resides in a tower called the Tor and commands legions of goose-stepping binomes. (The grandeur of Megabyte's plans for consuming everything is undercut by the character of his ineffectual binome-minions, Slash and Hack, ludicrous little devils who yammer away at each other nonstop and get blown to bits at every turn.)
Megabyte's plots run to bombs that contain delete commands; ripe for action-figure deification, he's rarely a subtle satan. But Hexadecimal, red queen of the island-city of Lost Angles, is out of older, more potent myth. Impossibly voluptuous, she wears a crest of red spines, a rigidly outstanding cape, a body-hugging catsuit, and thigh-high black boots. Changing her chalk-white masks -- punctuated by her neon-green eyes and blood-red mouth -- to reflect her moods, this inflexible dominatrix is programmed to breed chaos. Toward that end, the genuinely nightmarish Hexadecimal is assisted by Nulls -- data sprites offlined into creepy energy-eaters that haunt Mainframe's lower depths -- and a Scuzzy (SCSI = Small Computer System Interface), a round binome with whiskers and other feline features. Scuzzy's a spy, replaying scenes for his mistress's pleasure on a screen in a top of its dome.
With her familiar, links to the underworld, and hexed program, Hexadecimal is clearly a clone of Hecate -- ancient fertility godess, Queen of Hades, and protectress of witches. She's an incomplete Siva, wired only for destruct mode; regenerative balance is supplied by Dot Matrix, who lives for order and profit, her very names derives from "womb" and "mother." (In the Starship Alcatraz game, Dot reboots into a two-CPU-packin' Terminator à la Sigourney Weaver in Aliens a movie that pitted two "mothers," angel and demon, against each other.)
In one of the best ReBoots, Hexadecimal creates a "Medusa Bug," a virus code that spreads like a killing tide, graying and turning Mainframe and its populace to stone. Only Bob survives to convince this primal female she's crashed the very playground that's her hedge against terminal boredom. As do a number of ReBoot's apocalyptic episodes, the Medusa's offlining of the world has visual and emotional bite: as baby-toting binomes and Bob's "family" go dead before our eyes, the effect generates far more frisson than many of the flesh-and-blood turkey-shoots that dominate big-budget Hollywood action films these days. (In a behind-the-scenes documentary, one of the technognomes who "renders" ReBoot chuckled over the show's scary parts, quoting possible provenance: "Many's the Dr. Who that was watched from behind the couch ... .")
Never simply a Saturday morning kid-sitter, ReBoot's a remarkably sophisticated achievement, the kind of witty, smart fund you'd be pleased to have any child enjoy and enlightened by -- not to mention those adults who have burned out on the hi-tech, low-brow "cartoons" that dominate the 'plexes. The show's creators may be master manipulators of animation curves and complex mathematical equations -- ReBoot's flesh -- but their success ultimately derives from the high-octane fictions that move their data bits -- and us.
[The rest of the article talks about storytelling, CD-ROMs, and the VR.5 TV series.]
But this season promises more than just quantity. There's a sense of excitement buzzing through the industry. People are getting jazzed about animation again and it's showing.
First, the time has come to stop using the term "Saturday Morning" as a perjorative. Things are starting to cook at the daytime divisions of the three participating networks: ABC, CBS and Fox (as with the prior season, NBC stands for "Not Broadcasting Cartoons").
The first tangible strike came last February, when Fox premiered Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego. Offering a slick, multi-media look that combined cel animation, CGI and live animation, Carmen's premiere had to be postponed from last fall's line-up because of the prep work.
"It really took us a long time to gear up and do the research," notes Robby London, vice president of creative affairs for DIC, which produces the show. "We have more research in that show than anything I've ever worked on in my life." To ensure geographic and educational accuracy, the series employs a travel writer, a linguistics consultant and educational consultants from L.A. Schools and University of California, Los Angeles. Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego has received an Emmy nomination for its trouble.
For its part, ABC started drawing battle lines against animated complacency two years ago by committing to Bump in the Night, a stop-motion show with CGI inserts, and ReBoot, the first all-CGI, fully animated series -- neither of which came in with a toy or marketing deal. The risks turned out to be greater for ReBoot...
"Because it is so technologically new, we're having problems with the software," says Jenny Trinas, president of Children's Entertainment for ABC. "However," she adds, "we will be on the air."
Computer technology is being used for animation or effects in several new shows across the channel spectrum (including Battletech, Phantom 2040, The Marvel Action Hour and Pigasso's Place). But even among those which continue to use the traditional methods, things are clearly evolving.
On Saturday morning and elsewhere, toons are breaking out of the six-to-eleven age requirement and actively seeking cross-over viewing among teens and adults. (This might be best termed "The Nick Effect.") The season's buzz-words through the industry are "hipper," "cooler," "edgier," "female-oriented" and "cross-over".
Action-adventure shows, which count for half of all new animated series, are introducing more complexity, sophistication and -- dare we say it? -- maturity into their characters and storylines (check out Skeleton Warriors and Gargoyles.) This may reflect the influence of comic books on animation, both as a source of material (The Tick, WildC.A.T.s and MTV's The Maxx) and style.
In the realm of kid-range and Saturday morning comedy show, more and more producers are turning (or returning) to the notion of two 11-minute shorts to fill up a half-hour, rather than one long story. While there are good marketing reasons for such as practice (shorts are easier to sell to European television), most studio execs are citing creative rationales.
"It's a good length to tell stories, you can get enough characters and not get bogged down," points out Geraldine Clarke, producer of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
What can be better than a hot animation season? Maybe on the prospect of an even more exciting one in 1995. But until next year, toonheads everywhere are invited on a guilt-free binge of their favorite entertainment. To put it another way: Toon In, Turn On and Pig Out!
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