In July, Canadian prodco Mainframe reported its best fiscal year ever. The company raked in profits of US$1.5 million–a 300% increase over the previous year–and channeled that extra cash into developing new programs like Gatecrasher, Betty Boop and Whiteblack the Penguin. At the same time, new CEO Lou Novak announced that the company would undergo some internal repositioning and that Ian Pearson, the CEO Novak had replaced, would become the chief creative officer.
Cut to two months later: The repositioning didn’t seem to have worked. Novak and Pearson had both stepped down; Brett Gannon, based in Vancouver, had taken on the mantle of president and COO; and L.A.-based Mark Fleischer (of Fleischer Studios, Mainframe’s Betty Boop partner) had become president of Mainframe U.S.A.
So despite coming off a financially successful 2000, all appearances suggested serious internal problems. The most pressing ailment seemed to be that Mainframe had lost its guiding creative force in Pearson and its chief consumer products expert in Novak. However, Brett Gannon explains that Novak will serve as a part-time consultant and continue to guide consumer products’ activities, along with merch veteran Joy Tashjian of the Joy Tashjian Marketing Group, the agency managing Mainframe’s properties. As for Pearson, Gannon says he simply has no interest in the day-to-day management of the business, preferring to function in a completely creative capacity. He’s still attached to specific projects as executive producer (ReBoot and Betty Boop) and remains on Mainframe’s board of directors. ‘To the outside world,’ Gannon admits, ‘Ian was viewed as the creative godfather of Mainframe. But we have 300 people and some very good inside talent, not to mention total access to Ian’s creative abilities–he only lives 15 minutes away.’
The creative direction, Gannon stresses, remains strong because of that inside talent, most of whom Pearson trained himself. ‘You can’t put out as much CGI as we have with just one person,’ Gannon points out. Fleischer adds that many of the properties Mainframe is developing, including the recently announced Tony Hawk CGI series, come with a fair bit of the creative work already done. He also notes that senior VP of creative affairs Dan Didio plays a huge role in the creative process. ‘He was Ian’s right-hand man for many years, and he directs the recruitment of creative talent,’ says Gannon.