Thursday, 19 November 2009


While we're on the topic of cult TV shows, I'm going to move onto another forgotten gem, ReBoot, a Canadian animated series which ran for four years between 1994 and 2001. Set inside a computer where the principal characters were programs, sprites and viruses, had names like Dot Matrix and were subject to the godlike whim of "The User", who forced them to participate in games that could lead to their deletion, it was notable for being one of the very first productions to be entirely computer generated, predating the iconic Toy Story by a whole year.

Dot Matrix
Image © Rainmaker Entertainment

These days CGI is so ubiquitous that it's hard to imagine a world without it, so it's simply impossible to overstate the impact the show had when it first aired - at the time it seemed almost unbelievably innovative, groundbreaking and futuristic, even though the graphics, before they improved dramatically in the third season, were relatively clunky and already look preposterously dated.

One of the major reasons for ReBoot's success was that it was unafraid to outgrow its target audience. Although it remained ostensibly a "children's show" to the last, it grew progressively darker in tone, and some of the writing was decidedly near the knuckle; how the vicious anti-religious satire in "Daemon Rising", where the angelically beautiful super-virus Daemon subjugates skeptical sprites through the insidious, brainwashing power of "The Word", got past Broadcast Standards & Practices I'll never know.

Image © Rainmaker Entertainment

After many years off the air, ReBoot relaunched last year with an unprecedented and utterly innovative concept. On a new website built almost entirely from user-generated content, five stories were picked from fan submissions and were then voted on by the public; the winning team would go on to turn their story into a webcomic. My personal favourite was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the very darkest one, set 17 years in the future, where the heroine has been forced to marry the villain, who rules over the whole system, and their rebellious teenaged daughter discovers that the hero, now a homeless bum living in the city's streets, is her real father, and becomes a resistance fighter. Sadly, this one didn't win; the public went for the safe option instead, although the winning entry, the wonderfully titled "Paradigms Lost", was perfectly respectable. At the same time, it was announced that ReBoot was being turned into a trilogy of feature films for theatrical release, the first of which is due to hit cinemas next year.

This model of involving the fans deeply in the rebirth process of the show stands as an inspiration to me in my quest to revive The Dreamstone. When fans have a genuine emotional investment in the property, they are that much more likely to follow it through many incarnations. Some balk at the idea of a Dreamstone webcomic, CGI series or feature film, preferring instead to wallow in woolly, cosy nostalgia. To me, no idea is too outlandish, no option can be ruled out, in the service of ensuring that the property lives again.

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