Vancouver's Mainframe Entertainment

by Don Perro

Mainframers zap the animation industry with their pioneering spirit. © Mainframe Entertainment.

If you had to name some animation studios that were truly pioneers of the medium, which ones would you consider? Okay, besides Disney. There would be perhaps, companies such as the Fleischer Studio which brought an adult-oriented, urban atmosphere to its films; Warner Bros. which through the amazing genius of its directors -- Avery, Clampett and Jones (among others) -- perfected animation timing; and of course, United Productions of America, which is still a major influence on animation design, fifty years later.

But there are also contemporary pioneers, companies made up of people who strive to take animation to new heights; who see their role in the animation industry as one of learning and growth. Mainframe Entertainment, although their name may not be well known yet, can certainly be described as a pioneer in the field of computer animation. Unlike the more popular theatrical CG producers, Mainframe's territory has been 3D character animation for television and until recently, they were practically the only studio working in the field. They now have over three hundred employees working in their Canadian studio.

A Short History
Mainframe Entertainment's origins began in the mid-1980's in England when Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair animated the Dire Straits' video, "Money for Nothing." Although the animation was slow and robot-like and the characters were constructed of rudimentary shapes, this was cutting-edge stuff and gave many viewers their first look at 3D computer animation of characters.

Mainframe's key players. © Mainframe Entertainment.

Pearson and Blair, along with animator Phil Mitchell, began to dream of creating the world's first, fully computer animated television series. They looked around for a location where they could build their studio and decided that Vancouver, Canada, already a film and animation hub and close enough to L.A., would be ideal. In 1994, the first season of Reboot appeared on television screens in Canada and the U.S. and immediately captured the interest of a generation of young viewers. The first all-CGI television series preceded the first all-CGI feature-length film (Pixar's Toy Story) by a year.


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