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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » ReBoot: The Definitive Mainframe Edition
ReBoot: The Definitive Mainframe Edition
Shout Factory // Unrated // June 28, 2011
List Price: $69.99 [Buy now and save at Shoutfactorystore]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted April 7, 2011 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Series:

ReBoot is perhaps best known as the first computer-animated television program (it even holds a world record for that accomplishment). In today's digital age of computers existing virtually everywhere (with even cell-phones being capable of multi-tasking in countless ways) it seems hard to even imagine there being a time before computer animation was popular and even a norm of the medium. Yet that is exactly what this series represents -something that actually helped to push the envelope for the medium and pave the way for future computer-animation works. ReBoot truly is one of the most ambitious television programs to ever be created.

Imagine the world of Tron (which was perhaps a major influence on the show): there is a world found within computers where programs behave as people and have various roles within the system. Inside of this expansive universe (known as the 'Mainframe') are our primary characters: Bob, Dot, and Enzo. Bob is the Guardian of Mainframe and came from the Net to protect the place and people (or programs) inhabiting it. Dot and Enzo exist as brother and sister, with Dot running a restaurant (Dot's Diner), and Enzo being the younger kid brother who always gets into some kind of trouble. These are the heroes who live within Mainframe. There are also countless programs with smaller shapes known as the Binomes. These inhabitants of mainframe would make for a pretty peaceful and welcoming place. The computer is also host to a couple of evil-doer viruses known as Megabyte and Hexadecimal. Bob must fight them to defend the system. Megabyte (most especially) always seems to be determined to wreck total havoc and gain control over the system so that it can be molded into his devious vision. A complication constantly seems to arise for the system when games enter into their universe in the form of purple cubes that fall down as if loading up for 'play' with voice-over always signaling their arrival with 'Warning: Incoming Game'. Bob must enter these games to play against 'the user' -- an unknown entity who will destroy part of Mainframe if the games are won by causing damage to the area where the cube had fallen.


Seasons 1 and 2 were the introduction to the universe and seemed to serve mostly as a way to explore the characters and world than as a way to help develop ongoing storylines. These earlier episodes focused primarily on 'episodic' stories that don't necessarily correlate entirely with each other much at all. The characters stay true to the development of these personalities but the individual episodes are not really laid out in any way that would make the audience feel required to watch things in order to see any kind of ongoing elements in the narrative. Indeed, it wasn't actually until the end of the second season that storylines began to take some serious precedence with multiple episodes blending the story together in a way that made the show grow more compelling and downright exciting.

When Season 3 finally arrived it was a whole new "game" altogether. The ongoing storylines then became crucial to enjoying the series and the entire depth of the show became more expansive and serious in tone. It is actually quite interesting to witness the softer and kid-friendly side of the series transform into a significantly darker and more adult-natured series. Characters continued to become better fleshed out, yet it was the serial storytelling of the show that truly made the last two seasons so memorable and important to the history of ReBoot.

The final season was originally broadcast as two made-for-TV movies and then they were later divided into episodes. To my dismay, Shout Factory has only included the episodic version of Season 4. These television versions still work well and it makes sense to view them as episodes given the rest of the series broadcast that way. However, an option to choose between the two versions would have been nice. The final batch of episodes was perhaps even more adventurous than Season 3 as the action and drama elements became even more astounding. The downside to this aspect was undoubtedly the fact that the series ended up concluding with a huge cliff-hanger that would have surely been concluded had another season been produced. The rights to the series went to Rainmaker Entertainment a few years ago and while the studio has hinted at the possibility of a ReBoot film nothing has actually happened yet to make this become a reality. There has also been little to no word on whether or not the original creators and writers/directors would be involved with the project. It would seem rather pointless to make a ReBoot film if it was done without the loving care and approval of the original team that made this series the success it has been and will always be in the minds of devoted fans everywhere. 


ReBoot was always one of my favorite television series growing up. It really didn't matter if it was animated or live-action: This was one of the purest gems of exhilarating television to grace my small television screen and it was with much anticipation that I constantly looked forward to seeing where the show would take me next. It never failed to ignite imagination in myself. The main characters are relatable, likeable, and the supporting characters were charming (Phong - an old wise leader of the system - was always especially enjoyable for me). The villains also seemed to be real threats to the characters and never felt as though they had been watered down for marketability to young children. The voice-acting was superb, and that element brought me into the realm of believing in these fictional beings each episode. The animation was also stunning at the time. While the animation behind ReBoot may show some of it's age today (especially in comparison to the latest computer-animated films by Pixar or DreamWorks) things still hold up remarkably well considering when the show was made. Another aspect of this series that has always worked for me is how it references both games and movies in several episodes throughout the show. Some of these moments were noticeable when I was younger but I must admit to noticing these aspects more frequently now that I am older. I know for a fact that I missed The X-Files references originally (and Gillian Anderson actually guest-starred in that particular episode). Evil Dead 2 was spoofed somewhat in an episode in Season 3 - something that is definitely aiming towards an older audience and not towards children.

I must admit to being slightly worried that my time spent revisiting this series would lead to me seeing a show that didn't hold up over time. Those mild fears of mine were unnecessary. All of the charm that I remembered has remained just as vital and relevant today as it did when I was a young boy addicted to this program. ReBoot will still appeal to video-gamers, animation enthusiasts, and kids (even for those of you who only remain as such at heart).

The DVD:


Video:

This is a tricky release to try and examine video wise. There has been a lot of fan discussion and debate on the internet already regarding the quality of the set. On a basic examination of the video from re-watching the series I'd have to say that I was ultimately reasonably satisfied by the presentation myself but then again I hadn't seen the show in many years. The issue seems to be that the frame rate (fps) is not presented in the same way in which the show was actually intended. The difference will be perceived as relatively minimal to most viewers but it does slow down the video presentation slightly and is worth pointing out. ReBoot has a couple of other issues with the video worth noting - aliasing and artifacts, both of which are frequently apparent throughout viewing the entire series. The good news regarding these transfers is that the series strong color scheme seems well maintained and the show looks similar to how I remember it looking. It certainly doesn't look much worse than I expected it too. While I was hoping for a flawless video transfer this release simply fails to deliver on that expectation. The entire series is presented in the original aspect ratio (OAR) the series creators intended. The first three seasons are presented in 1:33:1 full frame and the final season (which was previously released as two films) was presented in 1:85:1 and breaks the films down into an episodic presentation (for the record -- the film versions are not included on this "Definitive" release). 


Audio:

The audio presentation isn't perfect for ReBoot either and it comes as a disappointment overall. The 2.0 stereo tracks are adequate for the most part - certainly listenable and mostly enjoyable with reproducing the sound of the show in a way that closely mirrors how I remembered hearing it. Alas, there are a few things that need to be pointed out about the presentation that reflect poorly on the release. The biggest issue is that with the frames per second (fps) speed being somewhat off in regards to the video it affected the audio portion as well. Occasionally, the audio quality does seem to be slightly warbled. It isn't noticeable very often but it also seems to indicate that there is a slight pitch problem on the release and this will disappoint those who have greater levels of sensitivity to these issues. These pitch issues were rarely noticeable for me but viewers who have seen the episodes more recently (prior to seeing the show with this set) will have a higher chance of noticing it on occasion. This issue was apparently present on Anchor Bay's original pressing of S4 years ago. I never owned that release so a direct comparison isn't possible. What I do know is that it seems unlikely that Shout Factory will attempt to resolve the PQ/AQ issues present on this set as they don't seem to be noticeable enough as to be a huge distraction for most viewers. There is yet another issue I have with the audio on this set. It is also aggravating to discover that the 5.1 surround sound mix included for season 4 of Reboot when it was originally released on DVD has not been included. The final season of the show is thereby only available with 2.0 audio. Ultimately, while the audio for each season does a decent enough job of servicing the series this presentation never manages to be as faithful or engaging as a sound mix and it may not entirely represent what some fans may have desired.

Extras:

The extras included on this set are all enjoyable and well appreciated. The set presents a rather nifty 20 page booklet with includes an introductory message from Kristin Kennedy (DVD Co-producer), a listing of the series creators and voice cast, mini character bios, an episode guide for each season, fan art selected by Brendan McCarthy (the series original production designer), and it sprinkles some nice pictures from the show throughout. This may not be an entirely comprehensive booklet but it adds a nice element to the set that is going to please a lot of fans. The first run of the set also included a lenticular postcard of inside of Dot's Diner (with Bob, Dot, Enzo, Frisket, Mike the TV, and Cecil). This will not be available for future orders of the set and was only included with pre-orders from Shout Factory's own website but it does make a nice addition. Looking inside of the box holding the series (which houses the two individual sets of "Seasons 1 & 2" and "Seasons 3 & 4", there is a slim-case disc entitled 'Bonus Features' which includes three great (if relatively short) extras.

Fast Forward: The Making of ReBoot is a 23 minute long special that takes viewers inside of the offices where Reboot was made to get brief interviews with various individuals who helped to make the series a reality. It was very nice to get to see these interviews and I enjoyed the comical tone of a lot of the questions. However, I wouldn't really claim this extra as being all that comprehensive. Anyone looking to find a truly detailed feature covering the making of the series will feel let down by this to at least some degree. 

Looking Back At ReBoot With Co-Creator Gavin Blair proves to be much more informative, and is exactly the kind of extra that fans will want to see if they seek more details behind the show's creative process. This 30 minute special interview has Blair providing a lot of behind the scenes background stories that will be sure to entertain fans and also inform everyone of some of the noteworthy moments and people involved in creating the show's history. Some interesting factoids learned include how many years were spent developing the series, a bit about the financial difficulties in getting launched as a series, how long it took the entire production crew to finish making the very first episode, and why the series lacked a lot of ongoing storyline elements during the earlier seasons. The only downside I see to this extra is that I would have willingly listened to Gavin Blair talk about the series for a few hours and 30 minutes feels a bit too brief for a series that I love as much as this one.

Rounding out the extras on the exclusive bonus features disc (which is only available inside of the 'Definitive Mainframe' edition and is not available by purchasing the individual sets) is a short seven minute long look at the original character animation model for the series. This is all rare footage that I believe hasn't surfaced before the release of the set and it gives a historical look and perspective on the development of the show by simply showing fans the early animation designs. Getting to see this test footage was a nice way to finish the disc.

Commentaries are also included on this release (and these are found on the individual sets).  The "Seasons 1 & 2" set includes commentary on three episodes with Producer Christopher Brough, Designer/Storyboard Artist Blair peters, and Director/Animator Zeke Norton. Early copies of the release seemed to have an issue with the audio commentaries -- and the copy I received to review from Shout Factory seems to reflect that. I only had access to about 23 minutes of commentary in total which didn't make a lot of sense. I assume that I received the defective disc and that the retail version will be fixed. (I will update this information if I receive a corrected disc to confirm this information.) The "Seasons 3 & 4" set also includes commentary. The participants for that set are Michael Benyaer (voice of 'Bob'), Ian James Corlett (voice of 'Glitch Bob'), and Voice Director/Voice Actor Michael Donovan ('Mike the TV', 'Phong'). These commentaries had no issues for me when I was listening to then, and the tracks are very entertaining and cover a decent amount of ground considering the fact only three episodes are used for these contributions. The included commentaries round out all the extras for the complete series release of ReBoot.

Final Thoughts:

ReBoot wasn't only the first computer-animated program ever made - it was one of the best animated series to ever grace television screens. This delightfully inventive series should be able to satisfy newcomers and longtime fans alike with this complete series box-set release. While the controversial PQ/AQ and somewhat disappointing number of supplements fails to make the set as "Definitive" as the packaging would want fans to believe this is still a great value if purchased at a reasonable price-point. I enjoyed the series as much today as I did back when I watched the show faithfully as it aired on television. It's essential animation. While this release does not live up to every high expectation, ReBoot is such an excellent show that I still feel this is worth a strong consideration. Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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