‘Mainframe is finding that it’s bringing a gaming attitude to TV series, and TV production values to video games,’ says Dan DiDio, VP of creative affairs at Vancouver, Canada-based Mainframe Entertainment. DiDio’s company is at the forefront of tying new entertainment series into electronic gaming, designing both aspects of the project from the beginning.
‘What we’re trying to do is not only create a television show in the computer, but to use our digital assets to animate the series and take that database and transfer it over into the gaming, so that we are developing simultaneously both a video game and a TV series.’
Mainframe was a pioneer in bringing 3-D computer graphics to series TV with the debut of Reboot on ABC four years ago. Now the animation producer sees the convergence of the two media as a natural course of events. ‘With the introduction of PlayStation 2 and X-Box from Microsoft, we are finding that the characters we animate in a series are transferable to the game itself,’ says DiDio. ‘We can save a lot of money working with the game companies because the characters are already built for the show. And we are saving a lot of time, so that the game and series can debut concurrently with each other.’
DiDio likes working with game companies because their mutual input can create a more entertaining product. ‘With the games becoming more complex, more animation content is being added to the package. Not just gaming animation, but story content. This is not something game people are not proficient in, it’s just not their forte. But it’s ours. So we feel not only do we bring a database to the table, we also bring storytelling.’
Part of Mainframe’s strategy is to place itself in a key position early on to meet all of a property’s animation requirements. ‘We look to see if we can acquire the interactive rights-and if we can acquire them, we work in conjunction with a gaming company so we can fast-track the game so it will be out the same time the show is on the air.’
Currently in production are: Action Man, co-produced with Hasbro, airing on Fox Kids; Heavy Gear for Sony, to begin airing on BKN in January 2001; the DTV feature Casper’s Haunted Christmas for Harvey Entertainment; and two Reboot movies for YTV and Cartoon Network.