Mainframe Studios

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Mainframe Studios
Formerly
Mainframe Entertainment (1991–2007)
Rainmaker Entertainment (2007–2016)
Rainmaker / Mainframe Studios (2016–2020)
Subsidiary
IndustryComputer animation
Founded1991; 29 years ago (1991)
FoundersIan Pearson
Phil Mitchell
Gavin Blair
John Grace
Headquarters,
Key people
Michael Hefferon, President[1]
ProductsTelevision, Motion pictures, home video
Number of employees
>400 (2020)[2]
ParentIndependent (1991–2003, 2008–2016)
Starz Distribution (2003-2007)
Rainmaker Income Fund (2007–2008)
WOW! Unlimited Media Inc. (2016–present)

Mainframe Studios (Originally known as Mainframe Entertainment Inc.) is a Canadian computer animation and design company founded in 1991. They are owned by WOW! Unlimited Media Inc. and based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company previously operated as Rainmaker Entertainment from 2007 to 2016, and Rainmaker Studios from 2016 to 2020, with the "Mainframe" branding eventually repurposed for company's television production division from 2013 to 2020.

Mainframe is best known for producing the first CGI-animated TV series, ReBoot; the Transformers sequels, Beast Wars: Transformers and Beast Machines: Transformers; and for producing the majority of the entries in the Barbie film series for Mattel.

History[edit]

As Mainframe Entertainment[edit]

Founded in 1993 as Mainframe Entertainment, the studio was started by Christopher Brough, a noted LA-based animation producer and the British animator group known as 'The Hub' - Gavin Blair, Ian Pearson and Phil Mitchell. The group were looking to create ReBoot, the first fully computer-animated television series, after having used the technology to produce music videos like Money for Nothing and Let's Get Rocked. Due to the cost of shipping equipment back home, advantageous tax credits and proximity to Los Angeles, the company set up shop in Vancouver, Canada.[3]

In 1994, ReBoot launched on ABC in the United States and YTV in Canada. The series intermittently ran for four seasons with production ending in 2001. The company's second project was produced for American toy company Hasbro. Beast Wars (known in Canada as Beasties), a relaunch of the Transformers brand, debuted in 1996 and concluded in 1999. A followup, Beast Machines was produced between 1999 and 2000. Both ReBoot and Beast Wars were produced with Alliance Communications, who had taken a 50% ownership of Mainframe. In 1996, Mainframe paid $17 million to reduce Alliance's share to 15%.[4]

Mainframe became a publicly traded company with a listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange on June 17, 1997. In conjunction with the public offering, Alliance sold 700,000 shares in the company, lowering their ownership to 7.8%.[5] Christopher Brough served as the Chief Executive Officer, Pearson as President, Blair as Director of Operations and Mitchell as Vice President Operations.[6] In its first year on the stock exchange, Mainframe posted an $11 million loss - despite producing hit multi award winning computer animated series during this period.[7]

On April 17, 1998, the Mainframe USA office opened in Los Angeles. Headed by Dan DiDio, the division was created to oversee development, production and U.S. distribution.[8] DiDio previously worked with Mainframe through his stint as ABC's executive director of children's programming.

After having earlier produced two ReBoot themed rides for the company, the IMAX Corporation made a $16 million investment in Mainframe in 1999. This partnership, which gave IMAX roughly 30% ownership of Mainframe, included the creation of a new joint venture meant to facilitate the creation of animated films based on Gulliver's Travels and Pied Piper, with a third project titled Pandora’s Box.[9] The films were intended to be stereoscopic, 3D feature length releases, though none of the three saw completion.[10]

In fiscal 1999, the company reported a $17 million loss.[11] Thanks to episode deliveries for Beast Machines, Beast Wars, Shadow Raiders and Weird-Oh's the company posted its first profit of $1.4 million in fiscal 2000.[12] Buoyed by Heavy Gear, Action Man and their first direct-to-video film, Casper's Haunted Christmas, Mainframe posted another profit of $2.4 million for fiscal 2001.[13] Despite the success, the company faced a major management shakeup that year.[14][15][16] Pearson had stepped down as president in June and left the company shortly after, with fellow co-founders Blair and Mitchell also leaving in 2002 and 2005, respectively.

In 2001, American toy maker Mattel partnered with Mainframe to produce Barbie in the Nutcracker. The direct-to-video feature sold more than 3.4 million units in its first year.[17] The success of the release led to a longstanding relationship between Mattel and the animation studio. Mainframe (and its successors) would later produce the majority of the franchise's direct-to-video films, as well as a television series.

Following financial losses of $18.9 million and $7.5 million in fiscal 2002 and 2003, the American IDT Corporation announced it would purchase 56% of Mainframe for $14 million on September 16, 2003.[18][19] After the cancellation of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that same year, the company moved away from producing television series. While a number of projects were announced they ultimately did not see fruition, including a pre-school oriented ReBoot spinoff called Binomes as well as Mainframe's first live-action production, an adaptation of Harriet the Spy.[20][21][22][23][24][25] In 2005, the company acquired the distribution rights to the live-action/CGI-animated television series Zixx. Mainframe also provided animation for the show's second and third seasons in conjunction with Thunderbird Films.[26] The bulk of the company's work now consisted of direct-to-video projects and television specials.

After producing the visuals for the 2003 MTV Movie Awards, Mainframe started a creative services division to produce video game animation, graphic design, motion graphics, titling, show opening sequences and branding in 2005.[27][28] This branch of the company worked on a number of projects, including cut-scenes for Prototype, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and Ghostbusters: The Video Game, as well as the 2006 MTV Movie Awards.[29]

As Rainmaker[edit]

Rainmaker logo used from 2007 to 2017

Finding itself under new ownership, IDT sold its 62% stake in Mainframe to Vancouver-based post-production firm Rainmaker Income Fund on July 20, 2006 for $13.8 million.[30][31] The next month Rainmaker announced it would acquire the remaining 38% of Mainframe.[32] On January 30, 2007 Mainframe was renamed to Rainmaker Animation.[33] Later that year, Rainmaker sold its visual effects and post production divisions to Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, leaving only the animation business.[34]

In June 2012, Chinese animation studio Xing Xing Digital announced its intent to purchase Rainmaker, with the company willing to pay off Rainmaker's $7 million debt.[35] The purchase was called off after Rainmaker and Xing Xing were unable to finalize the sale by September 14, 2012.[36]

In 2013, Rainmaker completed its first theatrical feature film, Escape from Planet Earth. Directed by Cal Brunker, it received negative reviews from critics and grossed $75 million worldwide. In October, the Mainframe Entertainment brand was revived as the name of the company's television division, starting with a CG-animated incarnation of Bob the Builder.[37][38]

Rainmaker released its second theatrical feature, Ratchet & Clank, in 2016. Based on the video game series of the same name, the film was a financial failure, causing Rainmaker to take a $10 million impairment charge on their investment in the production.[39] The poor reception to the film was later cited as the reason the company abandoned plans to adapt the Sly Cooper video game franchise into a theatrical film.[40][41][42]

Later that year, Rainmaker acquired American-based Frederator Networks, Inc. and announced that they have consolidated its divisions (including Frederator Studios) under its new holding company WOW! Unlimited Media Inc.[43] (TSX:WOW.A). At that time, the company changed the names of its Vancouver divisions to Rainmaker Studios and Mainframe Studios. Since the reorganization, the company has greatly expanded its television output. In 2018, Mainframe produced ReBoot: The Guardian Code, a live-action/CGI-animated re-imagining of the ReBoot property, alongside Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures and Spy Kids: Mission Critical. In 2019, the studio released its first 2D animated production, a pilot based on Knowledge Network mascots made in Harmony.[44]

As Mainframe Studios[edit]

On March 16, 2020, the studio announced it would be rebranding as Mainframe Studios, consolidating Rainmaker Studios under the "Mainframe" branding and fully returning the studio to their original name.[45][46]

Productions[edit]

Television series[edit]

Title Years Network Co-production with Notes
as Mainframe Entertainment
ReBoot 1994–2001 YTV
ABC
Syndication
Cartoon Network (Toonami)
Alliance Communications (seasons 1–3)
Shaw Communications (season 3)
BLT Productions
ReBoot Productions
Claster Television
Zondag Productions
Beast Wars: Transformers 1996–1999 Syndication
YTV
Hasbro
Alliance Communications
Claster Television
BLT Productions
Based on the Hasbro toyline. Sequel to The Transformers.
Shadow Raiders 1998–1999 YTV
Syndication
YTV
Alliance Atlantis
Based on the War Planets toyline from Trendmasters
Weird-Oh's 1999–2002 Fox Family
YTV
Decode Entertainment
EM.TV
Based on a toyline.
Beast Machines: Transformers 1999–2000 Fox Kids
YTV
Hasbro Based on the Hasbro toyline.
Action Man 2000–02 Hasbro
Saban Entertainment
Based on the Hasbro toyline.
Heavy Gear: The Animated Series 2001–2002 Syndication Paradox Entertainment
Dream Pod 9
Adelaide Productions
Columbia TriStar Television
Based on the video game published by Dream Pod 9 licensed by Paradox Entertainment.
Max Steel Cartoon Network Adelaide Productions
Columbia TriStar Television
Season 3 only. Based on the Mattel toyline.
Spider-Man: The New Animated Series 2003 MTV Marvel Entertainment
Adelaide Productions
Sony Pictures Television
Based on the characters by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Zixx 2005–2009 YTV The Nightingale Company
Thunderbird Entertainment
Season 2 and 3 only. Originally produced as Mainframe Entertainment, then Rainmaker in the final season.
as Mainframe Studios
Bob the Builder (2015 TV series) 2015–2017 Channel 5 N/A Series 19 and 20 only. Produced as Mainframe Entertainment (later Mainframe Studios). DHX Media took over series 21 onward.
ReBoot: The Guardian Code 2018 Netflix
YTV
ReBoot 1 Productions Inc. Reimagined series based on ReBoot.
Spy Kids: Mission Critical[47] 2018 Netflix Dimension Television Based on the Spy Kids franchise.
Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures 2018–present Mattel Creations Based on the Mattel toyline. First Barbie TV series from Mainframe Studios.
The Octonauts 2019–present CBeebies Silvergate Media Season 5–8.[48]
JumpScare TBA TBA Scholastic Entertainment
Man of Action Entertainment
[49]
Made by Maddie Unaired Nickelodeon Silvergate Media [48]

Films[edit]

Theatrical films:

Title Release Date Note
Escape from Planet Earth February 15, 2013
Ratchet & Clank April 29, 2016

Direct-to-Video film:

Title Release Date Notes
as Mainframe
Casper's Haunted Christmas October 31, 2000
Barbie in the Nutcracker October 23, 2001
Barbie as Rapunzel October 1, 2002
Hot Wheels: World Race 2003
Barbie of Swan Lake September 30, 2003
Max Steel: Endangered Species 2004
Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper September 28, 2004
Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot October 5, 2004
Max Steel: Forces of Nature 2005
Barbie: Fairytopia March 8, 2005
Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever September 6, 2005 produced in collaboration with DIC Entertainment
Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus September 30, 2005
Max Steel: Countdown 2006
Arthur's Missing Pal 2006
Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild February 21, 2006
Barbie: Mermaidia March 14, 2006
Tony Hawk in Boom Boom Sabotage September 12, 2006
Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses September 19, 2006
Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow March 24, 2007
as Rainmaker
Barbie as the Island Princess September 18, 2007
Max Steel: Dark Rival October 2007
Barbie: Mariposa & Her Butterfly Fairy Friends February 26, 2008
Barbie & the Diamond Castle September 9, 2008
Max Steel: Bio Crisis October 2008
Barbie in A Christmas Carol November 4, 2008
The Nutty Professor November 25, 2008 Co-production with The Weinstein Company[50]
Max Steel vs. The Mutant Menace 2009
Barbie: Thumbelina March 17, 2009
Barbie and the Three Musketeers September 15, 2009
Barbie in A Mermaid Tale March 9, 2010
Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale September 14, 2010
Max Steel vs. The Toxic Legion November 15, 2010
Barbie: A Fairy Secret March 15, 2011
Max Steel: Makino's Revenge 2011
Barbie: Princess Charm School September 13, 2011
Barbie in A Mermaid Tale 2 March 6, 2012
Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar September 11, 2012
Max Steel: Monstrous Alliance 2012
Barbie: Mariposa & The Fairy Princess August 27, 2013
Barbie: The Pearl Princess March 11, 2014
Barbie and the Secret Door September 16, 2014
Barbie in Princess Power March 4, 2015
Barbie in Rock 'N Royals August 13, 2015
Barbie: Spy Squad January 15, 2016
Open Season: Scared Silly March 8, 2016 produced for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.[51]
Barbie and Her Sisters In A Puppy Chase October 18, 2016 Additional animation and post-production.
Barbie: Video Game Hero January 17, 2017 The last film under the name of Rainmaker Entertainment
Surf's Up 2: WaveMania January 17, 2017 produced in collaboration with Sony Pictures Animation and WWE Studios.
Bob The Builder: Mega Machines The Movie April 22, 2017 Produced in collaboration with Mattel Creations.
Barbie: Dolphin Magic September 17, 2017 Released on Netflix
The first film under the current name of Rainmaker Studios
Elliot the Littlest Reindeer November 30, 2018 Produced in collaboration with Awesometown Entertainment

TV Movies:

Title Release Date Notes
Scary Godmother October 26, 2003 TV movie
Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy November 9, 2004 TV movie
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – Ignition January 8, 2005 TV movie
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – The Speed of Silence March 19, 2005 TV movie
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – Breaking Point June 25, 2005 TV movie
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – The Ultimate Race October 1, 2005 TV movie
Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy October 25, 2005 TV movie

Other Credits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rainmaker Entertainment Names Michael Hefferon President". Deadline. November 14, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  2. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (April 8, 2020). "How Future-Proof Planning Enabled Mainframe Studios Pivot to WFH". Animation Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  3. ^ Bakel, Rogier Van (March 1, 1997). "Before Toy Story there was ... ReBoot". Wired. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  4. ^ "Vancouver-Based Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Reduces Alliance Communication Corporation's Interest in Firm". September 23, 1996. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  5. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Completes Initial Public Offering". Mainframe Entertainment. June 17, 1997. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  6. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment Corporate". Mainframe Entertainment. Archived from the original on October 13, 1999. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  7. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Announces Fiscal 1998 Year End Results". Mainframe Entertainment. July 24, 1998. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  8. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Appoints L.A.-based Creative V.P." Mainframe Entertainment. April 17, 1998. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Olsen, Eric (March 3, 1999). "Imax in Mainframe's picture". Variety. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  10. ^ "Mainframe travels with IMAX". Animation World Network. September 25, 1998. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
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  12. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Announces Fiscal 2000 Results". July 5, 2000. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  13. ^ "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Announces Best Year Ever for Fiscal 2001". Mainframe Entertainment. July 9, 2001. Archived from the original on July 20, 2001. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  14. ^ Johnson, Debra (June 6, 2001). "Mainframe ceo steps down to take creative role". C21 Media. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  15. ^ "Mainframe's internal shuffle explained". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. November 1, 2001. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  16. ^ Townson, Don (February 26, 2003). "Mainframe taps Mischel". Variety. Penske Media. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  17. ^ "Indies Gain Ground In DVD Marketplace". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 114 (31): 63. August 3, 2002.
  18. ^ Edwards, Ian (September 1, 2003). "Mainframe's revenue drops 34% in '03". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
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  22. ^ Godfrey, Leigh (January 7, 2003). "Mainframe Lands At NATPE With Two New Properties". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  23. ^ Ball, Ryan (August 28, 2003). "Silver Lining, Mainframe Make Big Plans for Small and Friends". Animation Magazine. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  24. ^ DeMott, Rick (March 11, 2004). "MIP-TV News: Mainframe Sails into MIP-TV with Popeye and Others". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  25. ^ Demott, Rick (September 21, 2004). "Mainframe & Protocol Team On Live-Action Harriet The Spy". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
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  29. ^ "Mainframe Ent. Scores 2006 MTV Movie Awards Animation". Animation World Network. May 25, 2006. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
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  31. ^ Beiks, Ilona (August 7, 2006). "Rainmaker looks to rule CG with Mainframe pickup". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  32. ^ "Rainmaker and Mainframe Enter Into Agreement for Rainmaker to Acquire Balance of Mainframe Shares" (Press release). Vancouver: Rainmaker Income Fund. August 30, 2006. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
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  34. ^ "Rainmaker sells to Deluxe". Playback. Brunico Communications. November 29, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  35. ^ Brodsky, Katherine (June 27, 2012). "China's Xing Xing takes on Rainmaker". Variety. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  36. ^ Vlessing, Etan (September 17, 2012). "Canadian Animation Studio Ditches Takeover by China's Xing Xing Digital". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  37. ^ Wolfe, Jennifer (October 7, 2013). "Rainmaker Launches TV Division". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
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  39. ^ "Rainmaker Entertainment Provides Financial Update With Respect to Ratchet & Clank Domestic Release". Marketwired. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
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  43. ^ Wolfe, Jennifer (October 26, 2016). "Rainmaker Entertainment Acquires Frederator, Rebranding As WOW!". Animation World Network. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  44. ^ a b Milligan, Mercedes (September 11, 2019). "Knowledge Network's 'Luna, Chip & Inkie' Star in Musical Special". Animation Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  45. ^ Mainframe Studios: Returning to Our Roots, March 16, 2020
  46. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (April 28, 2020). "WOW!'s Rainmaker Consolidates Under Mainframe Studios Banner". Animation Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  47. ^ Pinto, Jordan (March 24, 2017). "Wow! Unlimited inks deal with Weinstein Co, Netflix". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  48. ^ a b "WOW Unlimited Media Announces Financial Results for the First Quarter of 2020". Wow Unlimited Media (Press release). Vancouver. GlobeNewswire. May 28, 2020. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  49. ^ https://www.animationmagazine.net/tv/scholastic-ent-mainframe-team-for-chilling-animated-series-jumpscare/
  50. ^ MAINFRAME ENTERTAINMENT AND THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY TEAM UP FOR CG ANIMATED THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
  51. ^ "'Open Season: Scared Silly' Lands on Retail March 8". Animation World Network. February 19, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  52. ^ "Work - Ghostbusters". Rainmaker. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
  53. ^ Vancouver Sun - Vancouver-based Rainmaker Animation strikes movie deal Archived March 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  54. ^ "Mainframe Adds Superhero Feel to 2003 MTV Movie Awards". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  55. ^ Ball, Ryan (2006-05-24). "Mainframe Animates MTV Movie Awards". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-29.

External links[edit]