Mainframe Studios
Formerly
  • Mainframe Entertainment (1993–2007)
  • Rainmaker Entertainment (2007–2016)
  • Rainmaker Studios (2016–2020)
TypeDivision
IndustryComputer animation
Founded1993; 29 years ago (1993)
Founders
  • Christopher Brough
  • Ian Pearson
  • Phil Mitchell
  • Gavin Blair
  • John Grace
Headquarters,
Key people
Michael Hefferon (President)[1]
Products
OwnerWOW! Unlimited Media Inc.
Number of employees
>650 (2021)[2]
Parent

Mainframe Studios is a Canadian computer animation company owned by Wow Unlimited Media and based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Founded in 1993 as Mainframe Entertainment Inc. by Christopher Brough, Ian Pearson, Phil Mitchell, Gavin Blair and John Grace, the company established itself as a leading contributor to the introduction of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in animation, film and television.

The company previously operated as a subsidiary of Starz Inc. (at the time a division of IDT Corporation) between 2003 and 2007. Local post production firm, Rainmaker Income Fund, acquired a majority stake in the company, initially rebranding it in the process as Rainmaker Animation and would fold into it in 2008, permanently rebranding it as Rainmaker Entertainment. Rainmaker would revive the "Mainframe Entertainment" name for its then-newly-created division meant for television production. On 25 October 2016, the company announced a triple acquisition and merger of Frederator Networks and Erzin-Hirsh Entertainment to create the holding company, WOW! Unlimited Media, and rebrand a second time to Rainmaker Studios. In 2020, the company would rebrand a third and final time to Mainframe Studios to return to their "Mainframe Entertainment" name roots.

The company is best known for the production of the first fully computer-animated television series, ReBoot, Beast Wars, a reimagined relaunch of Transformers from Hasbro and since 2001, in partnership with American toy company, Mattel, the majority of films which later expanded into other audiovisual media to create a multimedia franchise for its flagship fashion doll property, Barbie.

History

As Mainframe Entertainment

The company was established in 1993 as Mainframe Entertainment Inc. by Christopher Brough, a noted Los Angeles-based animation producer and a British animation team known as "The Hub" – Gavin Blair, Ian Pearson, Phil Mitchell and John Grace. They 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 follow-up, 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 became the CEO, Pearson the president, Blair as director of operations and Mitchell as Blair's assistant/vice.[6] In its first year on the stock exchange, Mainframe posted an $11 million loss despite producing hit multi-award-winning computer-animated shows during this period.[7]

Mainframe opened its American division in Los Angeles on 17 April 1998 to be led by Dan DiDio and oversee content development, production and local distribution.[8] DiDio previously worked with Mainframe through his stint as executive director of children's programming at ABC.

After having earlier produced two ReBoot themed rides for the company, the IMAX Corporation made a $16 million investment in the company in 1999, 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]

At the end of the 1999 fiscal year, 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

Rainmaker logo used from 2007 to 2017
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 20 July 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 mixed reviews from critics but was a success at the box office, grossing around $75 million worldwide. On 7 October that same year, Rainmaker launched a television production division and revived the "Mainframe Entertainment" brand for its title, starting with a CG-animated incarnation of Bob the Builder.[37][38]

Rainmaker released its second theatrical feature film, Ratchet & Clank based on the video game series of the same name by Insomniac Games, in the first quarter of 2016 to financial failure. This poor reception to the film caused Rainmaker to take a $10 million impairment charge on their investment in the production[39] and 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 on 25 October, Rainmaker announced their intent to acquire and merge Erzin-Hirsh Entertainment and American-based Frederator Networks (and its main division, Frederator Studios) and consolidate them under its then-new holding company, WOW! Unlimited Media Inc.[43] (TSX:WOW.A). At that time, the company changed the names of its home-base divisions to Rainmaker Studios and Mainframe Studios. Since the reorganization, the company has been heavily involved in television production animating ReBoot: The Guardian Code, a live-action/CGI-animated re-imagining of the ReBoot brand, Barbie: Dreamhouse Adventures, the first-ever full-length TV series in the "Barbie" media franchise and Spy Kids: Mission Critical, the animated reboot/spin-off of the Spy Kids (franchise) in 2018. In 2019, the studio released its first traditionally-animated production, a pilot based on Knowledge Network mascots made in Toon Boom Harmony.[44]

As Mainframe Studios

On 16 March 2020, the studio announced it would be rebranding as Mainframe Studios and consolidate Rainmaker Studios under the "Mainframe" branding and fully returning the studio to their original "Mainframe" name.[45][46] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainframe Studios initiated remote work measures for its employees.[47]

On 24 June 2021, the company confirmed that it would develop a 2D-animation pipeline in support of its first production in the medium, an animated series inspired by a YouTube personality known as "Guava Juice".[48] The following August, Mainframe announced that it would open a virtual studio in Toronto in the east of the country, building upon its earlier remote work experience.[2]

Productions list

Television series/shows

Title Years Network Co-production with Notes
as Mainframe Entertainment
ReBoot 1994–2001
Beast Wars: Transformers 1996–1999
  • Hasbro
  • Alliance Communications
  • Claster Television
  • BLT Productions
Based on the Hasbro toyline and the sequel to The Transformers.
Shadow Raiders 1998–1999
  • YTV
  • Alliance Atlantis
Based on the War Planets toyline from Trendmasters
Weird-Ohs 1999–2002 Based on a toyline.
Beast Machines: Transformers 1999–2000 Hasbro Studios Based on the Hasbro toyline.
Action Man 2000–01 Based on the Hasbro toyline.
Heavy Gear: The Animated Series 2001–2002 Syndication Based on the video game published by Dream Pod 9 and 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 Based on the characters by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Zixx 2005–2009 YTV
Season 2 and 3 only. Originally produced as Mainframe Entertainment, then Rainmaker Animation/Entertainment in the final season.
as Mainframe Studios
Bob the Builder (2015) 2015–2017 Channel 5 HiT Entertainment/Mattel Creations Series 1 and 2 only. Produced as Mainframe Studios. DHX Media took over for the final series.
ReBoot: The Guardian Code 2018 ReBoot 1 Productions Inc. Reimagined series based on ReBoot.
Spy Kids: Mission Critical 2018 Netflix Dimension Television Based on the Spy Kids franchise.[49]
Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures 2018–2020 Mattel Television First-ever TV series based on the Barbie toyline by Mattel.
The Octonauts 2019–present CBeebies Silvergate Media Season 5–8.[50]
Madagascar: A Little Wild 2020–2022 DreamWorks Animation Television [50][51]
The Guava Juice Show 2021 YouTube Studio71 [48][52]
Barbie: It Takes Two 2022 Netflix Mattel Television The TV serial follow-up to the 2021 film, Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams and the second TV series based on the Barbie toyline by Mattel.[53][54]
Team Zenko Go 2022–present Netflix DreamWorks Animation Television [55]
JumpScare TBA TBA [56]
Made by Maddie Unaired Nickelodeon Silvergate Media [50]

Films/Movies

Features/Cinematic/Theatrical:

Title Release Date Note
Escape from Planet Earth February 15, 2013
Ratchet & Clank April 29, 2016 Based on the eponymous video game series by Insomniac Games.

Television:

Title Release Date Notes
as Mainframe Entertainment
Scary Godmother October 26, 2003
Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy November 9, 2004
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – Ignition January 8, 2005
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – The Speed of Silence March 19, 2005
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – Breaking Point June 25, 2005
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers – The Ultimate Race October 1, 2005
Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy October 25, 2005
as Rainmaker Studios
Barbie: Dolphin Magic September 17, 2017 Debuted on YTV in Canada before its release in the United States on Netflix a day later. The only "Barbie" film under the Rainmaker Studios banner.
Elliot the Littlest Reindeer November 30, 2018 Produced in collaboration with Awesometown Entertainment.
as Mainframe Studios
Barbie: Princess Adventure September 1, 2020 Released on Netflix
The first film under the unified Mainframe Studios name.
Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday April 16, 2021 Released on Netflix
Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams September 1, 2021 Released on Netflix
Barbie: Mermaid Power September 1, 2022 Released on Netflix

Direct-to-video (DTV):

Title Release Date Notes
as Mainframe Entertainment
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
Max Steel: Forces of Nature 2005
Barbie: Fairytopia March 8, 2005
Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever June 17, 2005
Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus September 20, 2005
Max Steel: Countdown 2006
Arthur's Missing Pal 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 13, 2007 The last film under the name of Mainframe Entertainment.
as Rainmaker Animation
Barbie as the Island Princess September 18, 2007 The only "Barbie" film under the name of Rainmaker Animation.
Max Steel: Dark Rival October 2007
as Rainmaker Entertainment
Barbie: Mariposa & Her Butterfly Fairy Friends February 26, 2008 First production under the "Rainmaker Entertainment" name following the merger with and the fold-up of Rainmaker Digital Effects.
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[57]
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 2, 2010
Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale September 14, 2010
Max Steel vs. The Toxic Legion 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 February 27, 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 February 15, 2014
Barbie and the Secret Door August 7, 2014
Barbie in Princess Power February 26, 2015
Barbie in Rock 'N Royals August 13, 2015
Barbie: Spy Squad January 15, 2016 The last production under the "Mattel Playground Productions" division of Mattel before its fold-up into Mattel Creations.
Barbie and Her Sisters In A Puppy Chase October 18, 2016 Additional animation and post-production.
Barbie: Video Game Hero January 31, 2017 The last film under the "Rainmaker Entertainment" banner.

Other credits

References

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