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Mainframe Entertainment

What do Tony Hawk, Spider-Man, and Barbie have in common? The answer isn’t a punchline about skateboards and Web slinging. Rather, the trio have all graced the computers of Mainframe Entertainment.

What do Tony Hawk, Spider-Man, and Barbie have in common? The answer isn’t a punchline about skateboards and Web slinging. Rather, the trio have all graced the computers of Mainframe Entertainment, a Vancouver-based company with a major Los Angeles office. The company produces computer animation for television and direct-to-videos, and is dipping its toes into CGI for feature films. The company’s CFO, George Lawton, talks about Hot Wheels, project development, and the perfect job.

How did Mainframe Entertainment get started?

The company was started back in the early 90’s, when it was unheard of to produce a CGI TV series. The founders of Mainframe set out to prove everyone wrong, and did so with the release of the first season of ReBoot. Since then, the company has produced over 200 half-hours of television and three direct-to-videos/DVDs, and won many prestigious awards.

The company is currently in production of the third feature length Barbie movie, Barbie of Swan Lake, as well as a series of half hour videos/DVDs celebrating the 35th anniversary of Mattel’s Hot Wheels property. We’re also doing a television special based on the successful comic series Scary Godmother, and 13 episodes of the new Spider-Man television series.

What got you personally interested in the work?

I have a love for computers and cartoons and CGI seemed like the best way to satisfy both interests. In addition, the potential to generate so many different revenue streams from one property really interested me. Furthermore, CGI has so many different applications including TV, video, feature films, interactive games, and the Internet that the possibilities seemed endless.

How do you stay on the cutting edge, when the animation business seems to move so fast in terms of technical innovation?

We are still in the entertainment business and that means that it’s the story that counts; animation is just a medium to tell that story. We continually review new innovations within the business and implement the ones that make sense for us. As you know, the cost of hardware has been significantly reduced over the last ten years and there have been significant increases in processing power over the same period. Mainframe continually updates its technology to remain competitive while still giving the audience what it wants.

How do you decide what to develop next?

We have a team that reviews all properties, whether internally developed or brought us to from the outside, and each property is evaluated for its potential in all possible markets. Only those properties that have a potential in all markets are taken to the next step. It is our belief that both the Tony Hawk property and Alien Legion have incredible potential in all markets and that is why we have decided to develop these two for television.

What kinds of interactive media projects are you working on?

We are just beginning to get into the interactive market and have worked on a couple of projects for external gaming companies. We are planning to get more involved in this area, since it’s such an exciting business and there is tremendous overlap between what we do and what gaming companies do.

What do you like best about what you do?

The entertainment business is very exciting and dynamic, which is what I enjoy. Combining this with computers, my other love, seems to me to be the perfect job.

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