Back in the early 90's I had fond memories of rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning, turning on the TV, and just vegging for a while. While there were lots of shows on my watch list, one I remembered fondly was ReBoot. Now, 17 years later, a DVD collection of the first two seasons has been released. Does that sense of nostalgia pay off? Or is this one show that was better left to memory.
ReBoot was originally released in 1994 and was produced by Mainframe Entertainment. The show lasted for four seasons and wound up with 47 episodes when all was said and done. The series was landmarked in its efforts for using computer generated imagery, and from the ground up the show was completely CGI. Back in 1994 the series was rather high end for its use of 3D production. It was the first of its kind and was at the apex of a new generation of TV shows animated entirely on computers. Things have come a long way since 1994, and man, let me tell you that ReBoot definitely shows its technological age.
The series takes place in the fictional computer system known as Mainframe. There exists a full community of sprites, pixels, and piece of CPU information that take on human characteristics. Mainframe is broken down into sections and there's a thriving community at work in each. While life is mostly peaceful there are a couple things that disrupt that sense of tranquility. For starters there's a powerful being known as the User who downloads games that the inhabitants have to win in order to survive. There are also two viruses known as Megabyte and Hexadecimal who cause a lot or problems.
Luckily for the people of Mainframe, they have Bob. Otherwise known as Guardian #452, Bob is the hero who defeats the User's games and stands up to the viruses whenever they hatch some new scheme or another. Bob is joined by his friends Dot and Enzo and the show primarily focuses on the adventures of the trio as they stand up to Megabyte and Hexadecimal.
In terms of concept, ReBoot is totally fresh, even to this day. The world of Mainframe is a fascinating place and the characters are, for the most part, fully realized and maintain rich relationships throughout the series. With that being said, the show was highly episodic and predictable, and it was patterned after Saturday morning cartoons of the day. The good guys almost always won, serious moments were broken up with levity, and at the end of the day the material was kept as simple as possible to bring in a younger audience.
With 23 episodes presented here, the first two seasons really see the growth of the series. The earlier portions in the first season are quite episodic and one gets the sense that the producers were testing the waters as far as what they could do from a production, and a storytelling, standpoint. There's a bit of a formulaic start to the program as one problem or another affect Mainframe, and it's up to Bob to step in and save the day with help from his trusty sidekicks.
Around the midpoint of the first season and mostly through the second the show really comes into its own. As each character gets fleshed out ReBoot gets quite dramatic and heavy for the intended audience. A change in the makeup of the villains in the program and a big move towards the end of the second season left me far more impressed than the early stages.
ReBoot was groundbreaking in many regards and to this day it remains entertaining and fresh. As long as you can look past the PlayStation One era artwork you'll find a program that's rewarding and long-lasting. Sure it's mostly for kids, but the show gets into some darker territory in the second season. This collection is totally worth picking up, especially if you got a kick out of the show when it aired.
ReBoot hits DVD with its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. As you might imagine, with the age of the technology at work here you have to take the picture quality with a grain of salt. Things just aren't as sharp as one would hope, there's some compression artifacts, and a bit of interlacing here and there. It's hard to tell what's a result of the transfer and what's a byproduct of the production, but the series looks about as good as it ever has, which is to say it's bright and unique.
For its audio presentation ReBoot comes with English 2.0 stereo. The track performs about as well as one would expect. Sound effects, dialogue, and the soundtrack are all front-centric and relatively flat. The quality of the sound is fine with solid clarity and definition, but the track does show its age.
For bonus features there's really only one, but it's a great inclusion. The first three episodes here contain one long audio commentary recorded exclusively for this release. The track features animator/director Zeke Norton, producer Chris Brough, and designer/storyboard artist Blair Peters. The commentary includes a nice examination of the early moments of the show as well as the ultimate vision and how it was received. This is totally worth checking out once you're done watching the first two seasons.
It's always fun to go back to shows you remember watching when you were younger, and ReBoot was a nice trip back in time. The series was every bit as entertaining as I remembered, though the quality of the production is definitely dated. This DVD is a bit on the average side in terms of presentation, but simply having the show is a treat within itself. The included commentary is also a nice bonus and anyone with fond memories of the show will want to give it a listen. Consider this collection recommended.