This TV on DVD Tuesday, here's a bit of history: ReBoot, the first completely computer-animated TV series, which aired on ABC from 1994-1996, and later on Cartoon Network from 1999-2001. Shout! Factory has now released season one and season two in one package, as well as a Definitive Mainframe Edition containing the entire series. Take a look at what's inside the four-disc season one and two set...
I have to admit that I'd heard of ReBoot in the 90's, but never sat down and watched it until I was writing this review. Having finally seen it, I think of it the same way I think of all the Saturday morning cartoons that I used to watch. It probably would have been a lot more fun when I was a kid than it is to me now, but it's not without its charms.
The adventures of Guardian Bob and his friends in the virtual world called Mainframe are certainly cute, and for the early 90's, the computer animation is pretty great. It's certainly a step above the other animation that was going on at the time, and there's no denying that it was groundbreaking, technologically speaking. And for a half-hour cartoon, it's one of the better ones I've seen, with no shortage of entertaining moments. I can see why it's got a fan base.
Here's where I run into a problem, though - and it's not just with this series, it's with a lot of the shows I remember from my youth. I've changed, but the programs haven't. Once the charm wears off, the simple narratives and uncomplicated characters can seem too simple, compared to what I'm now interested in. That doesn't at all mean the show still isn't good; it just means that what holds my interest has changed and evolved. That's how I feel with ReBoot; it's a good show, but after a few episodes, I was ready to move on.
Having said that, if you have kids of your own by now (or even if you know people who do and are in need of a gift, perhaps), I think they'd enjoy this show a lot. It's a solid entry into the huge field of children's programming, and probably went overlooked when it aired; it could use to be discovered again. I just think I've outgrown it, myself.
As is practically a requirement for a children's TV series, the packaging for ReBoot is predictably bright, fun and with plenty of pictures. You'll never have a problem locating this one on your shelf.
It's also simple: one cardboard box holding two plastic cases, two discs in each case. There is no insert (unless you count an ad for the Definitive Mainframe Edition and other Shout! releases), but the episode titles, air dates and brief synopses are on the back of each case. Very simple, and easy to use.
Presentation-wise, the set reflects the time of the show; it's a standard, full-screen presentation, with black bars on either side of your screen during episodes - but that's the only hint toward age that I caught while watching. The actual episodes themselves look bright and clean, unsurprising since obviously, CGI holds up a lot better than film. Likewise, the sound is great. This is a really nice presentation, aided by the different material, and any fan of the show will be pleased with it.
As far as the menus go, Shout! Factory has already noted one error in this DVD set. I'll let them explain it to you:
There is a text error on the navigation menu on Disc One of the ReBoot series. When navigating by episode, the second page of the Season One episode list says “Season Four” where it should read “Season One.” Rest assured, the content and images contained on that disc are, in fact, taken from Season One.
The Special Features
Unfortunately, there's only one special feature here - an audio commentary on episode 6, "In The Belly of the Beast," with producer Christopher Brough, designer/storyboard artist Blair Peters, and animator Zeke Norton. That's it.
This is where I get disappointed with this release. It's pretty clear that if you want decent bonus features, or even all of the episodes, you have to shell out the extra $45 for the Definitive Mainframe Edition, which contains more commentaries and some featurettes. (It's not currently available on Amazon, so you'll be paying SRP for it.) I have to question why Shout! even bothered to release this bare-bones set; unless you're someone who wants only the episodes, and then only half of them, it'd seem like a no-brainer to buy the bigger set - which, predictably, is more than double the cost. It feels like a way to force fans to spend the $70, which doesn't sit right with me, but I digress.
If you're only a casual fan and not that interested in the special features, though, this set is a fair one; it comes out to $1.08 an episode, cheaper than your regular iTunes standard-def download. It just depends on how much you love the show and if you want the special features.
The Bottom Line
I have to give this set an "avoid" for one reason - for anyone who has more than a passing interest in the show, the more expensive set is the only complete option here, as unfair as that might seem. Unless you're content with only the first two seasons and only one commentary track, this probably won't be enough for you.