|Formerly||Mainframe Entertainment (1991–2006)|
Rainmaker Entertainment (2007–2016)
Rainmaker / Mainframe Studios (2016–2020)
|Michael Hefferon, President|
|Products||Television, Motion pictures, home video|
Number of employees
|Parent||Independent (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 currently owned by Wow Unlimited Media and based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company previously operated as Rainmaker Entertainment from 2007 to 2016, after it was acquired by Rainmaker Income Fund (the parent company of Rainmaker Digital Effects); and Rainmaker Studios from 2016 to 2020, with the "Mainframe" name eventually repurposed for Rainmaker's television production division from 2013 to 2020.
Mainframe is best known for producing one of the first CGI-animated TV series, ReBoot; the Transformers spin-off TV series, Beast Wars: Transformers and Beast Machines: Transformers; and for producing the majority of the entries in the Barbie film series for Mattel.
As Mainframe Entertainment
Founded in 1991 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.
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%.
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%. Christopher Brough served as the Chief Executive Officer, Pearson as President, Blair as Director of Operations and Mitchell as Vice President Operations. 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.
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. 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. The films were intended to be stereoscopic, 3D feature length releases, though none of the three saw completion.
In fiscal 1999, the company reported a $17 million loss. 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. 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. Despite the success, the company faced a major management shakeup that year. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. The next month Rainmaker announced it would acquire the remaining 38% of Mainframe. On January 30, 2007 Mainframe was renamed to Rainmaker Animation. Later that year, Rainmaker sold its visual effects and post production divisions to Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, leaving only the animation business.
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. The purchase was called off after Rainmaker and Xing Xing were unable to finalize the sale by September 14, 2012.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Later that year, Rainmaker acquired American-based Frederator Networks and announced that they have consolidated its divisions (including Frederator Studios) under its new holding company WOW! Unlimited Media Inc. (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.
As Mainframe Studios
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. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainframe Studios initiated remote work measures for its employees.
In 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 YouTube personality Guava Juice. The following August, Mainframe announced that it would open a virtual studio in Toronto, Ontario, building upon the remote work experience it gained earlier.
|as Mainframe Entertainment|
Cartoon Network (Toonami)
|Alliance Communications (seasons 1–3)
Shaw Communications (season 3)
|Beast Wars: Transformers||1996–1999||Syndication
|Based on the Hasbro toyline. Sequel to The Transformers.|
|Based on the War Planets toyline from Trendmasters|
|Based on a toyline.|
|Beast Machines: Transformers||1999–2000||Fox Kids
|Hasbro||Based on the Hasbro toyline.|
|Based on the Hasbro toyline.|
|Heavy Gear: The Animated Series||2001–2002||Syndication||Paradox Entertainment
Dream Pod 9
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
Sony Pictures Television
|Based on the characters by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.|
|Zixx||2005–2009||YTV||The Nightingale Company
|Season 2 and 3 only. Originally produced as Mainframe Entertainment, then Rainmaker 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 Series 3.|
|ReBoot: The Guardian Code||2018||Netflix
|ReBoot 1 Productions Inc.||Reimagined series based on ReBoot.|
|Spy Kids: Mission Critical||2018||Netflix||Dimension Television||Based on the Spy Kids franchise.|
|Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures||2018–2020||Mattel Creations||Based on the Mattel toyline. First Barbie TV series from Mainframe Studios.|
|The Octonauts||2019–present||CBeebies||Silvergate Media||Season 5–8.|
|Madagascar: A Little Wild||2020–present||Hulu
|DreamWorks Animation Television|||
|The Guava Juice Show||2021||YouTube||Studio71|||
|Team Zenko Go||2022–present||Netflix||DreamWorks Animation Television|||
Man of Action Entertainment
|Made by Maddie||Unaired||Nickelodeon||Silvergate Media|||
|Escape from Planet Earth||February 15, 2013|
|Ratchet & Clank||April 29, 2016|
|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.|
|Barbie as the Island Princess||September 18, 2007||The first film under the name of Rainmaker Animation.|
|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|
|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|
|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 name of Rainmaker Entertainment.|
|Barbie: Dolphin Magic||September 17, 2017||Released on Netflix|
The first film under the Rainmaker Studios label.
|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|
|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|
- 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (video game trailer)
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Pre-rendered cut scenes)
- Ghost Hunter Dax
- Good Boy! (CG effects)
- Harriet the Spy
- Legion of 5
- Luna, Chip & Inkie in The Festival of Wishes
- The Outer Limits (1995-2001) (CG effects)
- 2003 MTV Movie Awards
- 2006 MTV Movie Awards
- Prototype (video game trailer)
- WET (video game trailer)
- Ratchet & Clank: Life of Pie (2021)
- Ready2Robot (web-series)
- Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007) (CG effects)
- "Rainmaker Entertainment Names Michael Hefferon President". Deadline. November 14, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- "WOW!'S Mainframe Studios Establishes Eastern Canadian Presence with New Toronto-Based Virtual Studio". Wow Unlimited Media (Press release). Vancouver. GlobeNewswire. August 16, 2021.
- Bakel, Rogier Van (March 1, 1997). "Before Toy Story there was ... ReBoot". Wired. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- "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.
- "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Completes Initial Public Offering". Mainframe Entertainment. June 17, 1997. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "Mainframe Entertainment Corporate". Mainframe Entertainment. Archived from the original on October 13, 1999. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "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.
- "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.
- Olsen, Eric (March 3, 1999). "Imax in Mainframe's picture". Variety. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
- "Mainframe travels with IMAX". Animation World Network. September 25, 1998. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
- "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Announces Fiscal 1999 Year End Results". Mainframe Entertainment. July 26, 1999. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. Announces Fiscal 2000 Results". July 5, 2000. Archived from the original on August 16, 2000. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
- "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.
- Johnson, Debra (June 6, 2001). "Mainframe ceo steps down to take creative role". C21 Media. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
- "Mainframe's internal shuffle explained". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. November 1, 2001. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
- Townson, Don (February 26, 2003). "Mainframe taps Mischel". Variety. Penske Media. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- "Indies Gain Ground In DVD Marketplace". Billboard. Vol. 114, no. 31. Nielsen Business Media. August 3, 2002. p. 63.
- Edwards, Ian (September 1, 2003). "Mainframe's revenue drops 34% in '03". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
- Edwards, Ian (September 29, 2003). "Mainframe sells majority ownership". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Kuzmyk, Jenn (June 13, 2003). "UK pick-up for new Mainframe toon". C21 Media. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- Dillon, Mark (February 14, 2005). "Spinning towards feature film FX". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- Godfrey, Leigh (January 7, 2003). "Mainframe Lands At NATPE With Two New Properties". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- Ball, Ryan (August 28, 2003). "Silver Lining, Mainframe Make Big Plans for Small and Friends". Animation Magazine. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- DeMott, Rick (March 11, 2004). "MIP-TV News: Mainframe Sails into MIP-TV with Popeye and Others". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- Demott, Rick (September 21, 2004). "Mainframe & Protocol Team On Live-Action Harriet The Spy". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "Thunderbird Films Inks Deal with Mainframe Entertainment on ZIXX" (Press release). Vancouver: Thunderbird Films. January 9, 2005. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "Mainframe Animates MTV Movie Awards". Animation Magazine. May 21, 2003. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
- "Mainframe goes after creative services work". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. November 1, 2005. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "Mainframe Ent. Scores 2006 MTV Movie Awards Animation". Animation World Network. May 25, 2006. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
- "Rainmaker to Acquire Mainframe Entertainment, a World Leader in CG Animation; Acquisition Will Create Canada's Largest Animation and Visual Effects Company" (Press release). Vancouver: Rainmaker Income Fund. July 20, 2006. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
- Beiks, Ilona (August 7, 2006). "Rainmaker looks to rule CG with Mainframe pickup". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "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.
- "Rainmaker Announces New Animation Division" (Press release). Vancouver: Rainmaker Entertainment. January 30, 2007. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- "Rainmaker sells to Deluxe". Playback. Brunico Communications. November 29, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
- Brodsky, Katherine (June 27, 2012). "China's Xing Xing takes on Rainmaker". Variety. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- Vlessing, Etan (September 17, 2012). "Canadian Animation Studio Ditches Takeover by China's Xing Xing Digital". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- Wolfe, Jennifer (October 7, 2013). "Rainmaker Launches TV Division". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
- McLean, Tom (April 6, 2014). "Mainframe to Animate HIT's New 'Bob' Series". Animation Magazine. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
- "Rainmaker Entertainment Provides Financial Update With Respect to Ratchet & Clank Domestic Release". Marketwired. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
- Amidi, Amid (May 9, 2016). "'Ratchet & Clank"s Dreadful Second Weekend Raises Questions About 'Sly Cooper' Feature". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- Paul, Jonathan (September 21, 2016). "The indie animated features battleground". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- "Rainmaker exits Sly Cooper movie". ToonBarn. December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
- Wolfe, Jennifer (October 26, 2016). "Rainmaker Entertainment Acquires Frederator, Rebranding As WOW!". Animation World Network. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- Milligan, Mercedes (September 11, 2019). "Knowledge Network's 'Luna, Chip & Inkie' Star in Musical Special". Animation Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
- Mainframe Studios: Returning to Our Roots, March 16, 2020
- Milligan, Mercedes (April 28, 2020). "WOW!'s Rainmaker Consolidates Under Mainframe Studios Banner". Animation Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
- Milligan, Mercedes (April 8, 2020). "How Future-Proof Planning Enabled Mainframe Studios Pivot to WFH". Animation Magazine.
- "Mainframe Expands into 2D Series Production". Wow Unlimited Media (Press release). Vancouver. GlobeNewswire. June 24, 2021. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
- Pinto, Jordan (March 24, 2017). "Wow! Unlimited inks deal with Weinstein Co, Netflix". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- "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.
- Madagascar: A Little Wild - Mainframe Studios
- Morgan, Stephanie (February 14, 2022). "The Guava Juice Show Review". Common Sense Media. Archived from the original on April 29, 2022. Retrieved April 28, 2022.
- Milligan, Mercedes (February 17, 2022). "Trailer: DreamWorks' 'Team Zenko Go' Takes Good Deeds to the Extreme on Netflix". Animation Magazine. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
- "Scholastic Ent. & Mainframe Team for Chilling Animated Series 'JumpScare'". 29 September 2020.
- MAINFRAME ENTERTAINMENT AND THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY TEAM UP FOR CG ANIMATED THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
- "Work - Ghostbusters". Rainmaker. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
- Vancouver Sun - Vancouver-based Rainmaker Animation strikes movie deal Archived March 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- "Mainframe Adds Superhero Feel to 2003 MTV Movie Awards". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
- Ball, Ryan (2006-05-24). "Mainframe Animates MTV Movie Awards". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
- Kim, Matt (February 12, 2021). "New Ratchet and Clank Animated Short Is Unrelated to PS5's Rift Apart". IGN. Retrieved February 13, 2021.