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Tron film poster
|Directed by||Steven Lisberger|
|Produced by||Donald Kushner|
|Music by||Wendy Carlos (score)|
|Editing by||Jeff Gourson|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Release date(s)||United States:|
July 9, 1982
|Running time||96 minutes|
|Gross revenue||$33,000,000 (US)|
|Followed by||Tron Legacy|
Tron is a 1982 American action science fiction film by Walt Disney Pictures. It stars Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn (and his program counterpart inside the electronic world, Clu), Bruce Boxleitner as Tron and his User Alan Bradley, Cindy Morgan as Yori and Dr. Lora Baines, and Dan Shor as Ram. David Warner plays all three main antagonists: the program Sark, his User Ed Dillinger, and the voice of the Master Control Program. It was written and directed by Steven Lisberger. Tron has a distinctive visual style, as it was one of the first films from a major studio to use computer graphics extensively.
Kevin Flynn is a young and gifted software engineer who works for the software corporation ENCOM, creating several video games on the company's mainframe after hours, aiming to start his own game company. However, another programmer, Ed Dillinger, locks Flynn out of the system and presents Flynn's work as his own. Dillinger earns himself a series of executive promotions, while Flynn is relegated to working at a video game arcade, featuring the games that he created. Flynn tries to hack into the ENCOM mainframe to find evidence of Dillinger's wrongdoing, but his program, Clu, is caught and defeated by the Master Control Program (MCP).
The MCP, with Dillinger's authorization, shuts down access to the security group Flynn is using, inadvertently locking out another ENCOM employee, Alan Bradley. Alan goes to speak to Dillinger and reveals that he was working on a security program, Tron, which would monitor communications between the MCP and the outside world. After Alan leaves, the MCP confronts Dillinger about this, stating that it cannot afford to have programs monitoring it. It reveals its intention to break into the Pentagon and other military mainframes, claiming it can run things "900 to 1200 times better than any human." When Dillinger attempts to assert his authority, the MCP essentially blackmails him into complying with its wishes.
Meanwhile, Alan and his girlfriend, Dr. Lora Baines, warn Flynn that he has been noticed, but Flynn instead convinces them to sneak him into ENCOM's laser laboratory, where he can forge access to a different security group. Lora, who has been developing a method of digitizing real objects into the computer, sets Flynn down at her terminal in the laser lab, where a laser is pointed directly at the terminal. As Flynn attempts to break into the system, he is confronted by the MCP, who takes control of the laser and suddenly digitizes Flynn into the ENCOM mainframe. Flynn finds himself standing in the digital world, where Programs resemble their human creators, the Users.
Flynn is taken first to a holding pit, where he meets the Program Ram, and then is taken with a number of other Programs to meet Sark, a program that resembles Dillinger. Sark then informs everyone that they can either renounce their belief in the Users and join the MCP, or they will be forced to play games that result in their eventual elimination. Sark in fact knows that Flynn is a User and not a Program but though he immediately has misgivings of harming a User he is forced into compliance by the MCP. Flynn eventually meets Tron (Alan's program), and he, Tron and Ram escape from the Light Cycle arena into the system, prompting Sark to send out his forces in pursuit. Eventually, a tank fires at the group, killing Ram and separating Flynn and Tron. While continuing to follow Tron, Flynn gradually discovers that as a User he possesses god-like powers within the computer dimension, enabling him to manipulate its 'physical' laws at will.
Tron makes his way to an input-output tower, where he receives instructions from Alan on how to destroy the MCP. He then makes a getaway aboard a Solar Sailer simulation with the help of Yori (Lora's program), and is reunited with Flynn, disguised as one of Sark's forces. At this point, Flynn reveals that he is actually a User. Sark's ship then collides with the Solar Sailer, capturing Flynn and Yori. While Tron is believed to have been destroyed in the collision, he in fact escapes aboard Sark's shuttle. Sark de-rezzes his command ship, but Flynn manages to keep it and Yori alive, and he pilots the ship toward the MCP.
The MCP has gathered a number of Programs and tells them that they will become a part of it. Sensing Tron's presence nearby, the MCP sends Sark out to investigate, resulting in a battle between Sark and Tron. Tron gains the upper hand and severely damages Sark, prompting the MCP to transfer its functions to its commander and causing him to grow to enormous size. Tron begins attacking the MCP directly, but his attacks are blocked by a shield. Flynn then jumps into the MCP's cone to distract it long enough for Tron to throw his disc into the core. This destroys both MCP and Sark and frees the system, and Flynn is sent back to the terminal in ENCOM's laser lab, where a nearby printer is printing the evidence he needs to prove Dillinger's wrongdoing.
Dillinger comes into work the next morning to find the MCP non-functional and the same evidence displayed on his screen. Flynn later becomes the new CEO of ENCOM.
- Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn/Clu
- Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley/Tron
- David Warner as Ed Dillinger/Sark/Master Control Program (voice)
- Cindy Morgan as Dr. Lora Baines/Yori
- Barnard Hughes as Dr. Walter Gibbs/Dumont
- Dan Shor as Ram
- Peter Jurasik as Crom
The inspiration for Tron occurred in 1976 when Steve Lisberger, then an animator of drawings with his own studio, looked at a sample reel from a computer firm called MAGI and saw Pong for the first time. He was immediately fascinated by video games and wanted to do a film incorporating them. According to Lisberger, "I realized that there were these techniques that would be very suitable for bringing video games and computer visuals to the screen. And that was the moment that the whole concept flashed across my mind". He was frustrated by the clique-ish nature of computers and video games and wanted to create a film that would open this world up to everyone. Lisberger and his business partner Donald Kushner moved to the West Coast in 1977 and set up an animation studio to develop Tron. They borrowed against the anticipated profits of their 90-minute animated television special Animalympics to develop storyboards for Tron with the notion of making an animated film.
The film was then conceived to be predominantly an animated film with live-action sequences acting as book ends. The rest would involve a combination of computer generated visuals and back-lit animation. Lisberger planned to finance the movie independently by approaching several computer companies but had little success. However, one company, Information International, Inc., was receptive. He met with Richard Taylor, a representative, and they began talking about using live-action photography with back-lit animation in such a way that it could be integrated with computer graphics. At this point, Lisberger already had a script written and the film entirely storyboarded with some computer animation tests completed. He had spent approximately $300,000 developing Tron and had also secured $4–5 million in private backing before reaching a standstill. Lisberger and Kushner took their storyboards and samples of computer-generated films to Warner Bros., MGM and Columbia Pictures—all of whom turned them down. In 1980, they decided to take the idea to Disney, which was interested in producing more daring productions at the time. However, Disney executives were uncertain about giving $10–12 million to a first-time producer and director using techniques which, in most cases, had never been attempted. The studio agreed to finance a test reel which involved a flying disc champion throwing a rough prototype of the discs used in the film. It was a chance to mix live-action footage with back-lit animation and computer generated visuals. It impressed the executives at Disney and they agreed to back the film. The script was subsequently re-written and re-storyboarded with the studio's input. At the time, Disney rarely hired outsiders to make films for them and Kushner found that he and his group were given a less than warm welcome because "we tackled the nerve center—the animation department. They saw us as the germ from outside. We tried to enlist several Disney animators but none came. Disney is a closed group. . . ."
Three designers were brought in to create the look of the computer world. Renowned French comic book artist Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) was the main set and costume designer for the movie. Most of the vehicle designs (including Sark's aircraft carrier, the light cycles, the tank and the solar sailer) were created by industrial designer Syd Mead, of Blade Runner fame. Peter Lloyd, a high-tech commercial artist, designed the environments. However, these jobs often overlapped with Giraud working on the solar sailer and Mead designing terrain, sets and the film's logo. The original Program character design was inspired by the main Lisberger Studios logo, a glowing body builder hurling two discs.
To create the computer animation sequences of Tron, Disney turned to the four leading computer graphics firms of the day: Information International Inc. of Culver City, California, who owned the Super Foonly F-1 (the fastest PDP-10 ever made and the only one of its kind); MAGI of Elmsford, New York; Robert Abel and Associates of California; and Digital Effects of New York City. Bill Kovacs worked on this movie while working for Robert Abel before going on to found Wavefront Technologies. Tron was one of the first movies to make extensive use of any form of computer animation, and is celebrated as a milestone in the computer animation industry. However, the film contains less computer-generated imagery than is generally supposed: Only fifteen to twenty minutes of actual animation were used, mostly scenes that use vehicles such as light-cycles, tanks and ships. Because the technology to combine computer animation and live action did not exist at the time, these sequences were intercut with the filmed characters.
Most of the scenes, backgrounds and visual effects in the film were created using more traditional techniques and a unique process known as "backlit animation". In this process, live-action scenes inside the computer world were filmed in black-and-white on an entirely black set, printed on large format high-contrast film, then colorized with photographic and rotoscopic techniques to give them a "technological" feel. With multiple layers of high-contrast, large format positives and negatives, this process required truckloads of sheet film and a workload even greater than that of a conventional cel-animated feature. In addition, the varying quality and age of the film layers caused differing brightness levels for the backlit effects from frame to frame, explaining why glowing outlines and circuit traces tended to flicker in the original film. Due to its difficulty and cost, this process would never be repeated for another feature film.
Sound design and creation for the film was put into the hands of Frank Serafine, who cut his teeth on Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. Tron was a 1983 Academy Awards nominee for Best Sound.
More than 500 people were involved in the post-production work, including 200 inker and hand-painters in Taiwan.
This film features parts of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — the multi-story ENCOM laser bay was the target area for the SHIVA solid state multi-beamed laser. Also, the stairway that Alan, Lora, and Flynn use to get to Alan's office is the stairway in Building 451 near the entrance to the main machine room. The cubicle scenes were shot in another room of the lab. Tron is the only movie to have scenes filmed inside this lab.
The original script called for "good" programs to be colored yellow and "evil" programs (those loyal to Sark and the MCP) to be colored blue. Partway into production, this coloring scheme was changed to blue for good and red for evil, but some scenes were produced using the original coloring scheme: Clu, who drives a tank, has yellow circuit lines, and all of Sark's tank commanders are blue (but appear green in some presentations). Also, the light-cycle sequence shows the heroes driving yellow (Flynn), orange (Tron) and red (Ram) cycles, while Sark's troops drive blue cycles; similarly, Clu's tank is red, while tanks driven by crews loyal to Sark are blue.
Budgeting the production was difficult because they were constantly breaking new ground as they progressed with additional challenges, like an impending Directors Guild of America strike and a fixed release date. Disney predicted at least $400 million in domestic sales of merchandise, including an arcade game by Bally Midway and three Mattel Intellivision home video games.
The soundtrack for Tron was written by pioneer electronic musician Wendy Carlos, who is best known for her album Switched-On Bach and for the soundtracks to many films, including A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. The music, which was the first collaboration between Carlos and her partner Annemarie Franklin, featured a mix of an analog Moog synthesizer and GDS digital synthesizer (complex additive and phase modulation synthesis), along with non-electronic pieces performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (hired at the insistence of Disney, which was concerned that Carlos might not be able to complete her score on time). Two additional musical tracks were provided by the band Journey after British band Supertramp pulled out of the project.
Shortly after Tron's theatrical release, Carlos said in an interview that she was not happy with the use of the orchestra, saying that her music, with its variable time signatures, was too difficult to perform in the time they were allotted. She would end up replacing portions of the orchestral performances with GDS performances.
The soundtrack album was released on record and tape by CBS Records in 1982. It was re-released on CD in January, 2002 by Walt Disney Records. Some of the film's music can also be heard in its companion arcade game.
For years, the soundtrack was unavailable on CD, originally due to a dispute between Carlos and CBS Records. Carlos later discovered that the original master tapes had deteriorated to the point where attempting to play them could destroy both the tapes and the playback machine. Carlos used a technique called tape baking (in which the tapes were literally baked in an oven to harden the glue holding the magnetic tape together) to repair the tapes so she could transfer them to digital masters.
Light cycles are fictional vehicles designed by Syd Mead for the simulated world of the Tron universe. These futuristic two-wheeled vehicles resemble motorcycles and create walls of colored light. The vehicles were primarily used in a competition between humanoid computer programs, similar to an old computer game sometimes known as "Surround" or "Dominos". Players are in constant motion on a playfield, creating a wall of light behind them as they move. If players hit a wall, they are out of the game; the last player in the game wins. Since the original display in Tron, there have been numerous adaptations, as well as references in popular culture.
A light cycle toy, in red and yellow versions, was produced by TOMY as part of the merchandising for the Tron film, along with action figures scaled to fit inside the toy cycles. Bootleg versions of TOMY's design were produced by other toy manufacturers that came in a wide variety of colors, including blue and silver, but were noticeably smaller than the TOMY-produced toy, too small in fact to accommodate one of the TOMY action figures.
Tron was released on July 9, 1982 in 1,091 theaters grossing USD $4.8 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $33 million in North America, moderately successful considering its $17 million budget.
Critical reviews were mixed; review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes lists 68% positive reviews of the film, based on 37 reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars and described the film as "a dazzling movie from Walt Disney in which computers have been used to make themselves romantic and glamorous. Here's a technological sound-and-light show that is sensational and brainy, stylish, and fun". However, near the end of his review, he noted (in a positive tone), "This is an almost wholly technological movie. Although it's populated by actors who are engaging (Bridges, Cindy Morgan) or sinister (Warner), it is not really a movie about human nature. Like [the last two Star Wars films], but much more so, this movie is a machine to dazzle and delight us". Ebert was so convinced that this film had not been given its due credit by both critics and audiences that he decided to close his first annual Overlooked Film Festival with a showing of Tron.
On the other hand, Variety disliked the film and said in its review, "Tron is loaded with visual delights but falls way short of the mark in story and viewer involvement. Screenwriter-director Steven Lisberger has adequately marshaled a huge force of technicians to deliver the dazzle, but even kids (and specifically computer game geeks) will have a difficult time getting hooked on the situations". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin criticized the film's visual effects: "They're loud, bright and empty, and they're all this movie has to offer". The Washington Post's Gary Arnold wrote, "Fascinating as they are as discrete sequences, the computer-animated episodes don't build dramatically. They remain a miscellaneous form of abstract spectacle". In his review for the Globe and Mail, Jay Scott wrote, "It's got momentum and it's got marvels, but it's without heart; it's a visionary technological achievement without vision".
In the year it was released, the Motion Picture Academy refused to nominate Tron for special effects because "they said we 'cheated' when we used computers which, in the light of what happened, is just mind-boggling". The film did, however, earn Oscar nominations in the categories of Best Costume Design and Best Sound. In 1997, Ken Perlin of the Mathematical Applications Group, Inc. won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for his invention of Perlin noise for Tron.
A novelization of Tron was released in 1982, written by American science fiction novelist Brian Daley. It included eight pages of color photographs from the movie. Also that year, Disney Senior Staff Publicist Michael Bonnifer authored a book entitled The Art of Tron which covered aspects of the pre-production and post-production aspects of Tron.
In 2003, 88 MPH solicited a mini-series titled Tron 2.0: Derezzed. This comic was canceled before any issues were released.
In 2005, Slave Labor Graphics announced its six-issue limited series comic, Tron: The Ghost in the Machine. The first issue was released in April 2006, the second issue in November of the same year. The comic book is set 6 months after the events of Tron 2.0, when Jet Bradley, now emotionally scarred and distrustful of technology, returns to the computer world against his will. The comic book is written by Landry Walker and Eric Jones, with art in the first two issues by Louie De Martinis. The artist on the third issue is Mike Shoykhet.
The comic from Slave Labor Graphics opens with a detailed history of the Tron universe, providing this previously unseen background on the events that allowed Ed Dillinger and the MCP to rise to power:
In the early 1970s a small engineering company called ENCOM introduced a revolutionary type of software designed to direct and streamline the transfer of data between networked machines. Ed Dillinger, the lead programmer on this project, realized the enormous potential of his team's creation and secretly encoded a secondary function to be activated upon installation: to copy the sub-routines of other programs and absorb their functions. This alteration allowed Dillinger to appropriate research and claim it as his own, and he rose quickly through ENCOM’s corporate ranks. This was the beginning of the Master Control Program.
Since video games play a central role in the film, many video games based on Tron have been produced over the years. Atari, Inc. had plans to develop a real Space Paranoids game, but this was canceled due to the video game crash of 1983, along with arcade adaptations of Superman III and The Last Starfighter. In 1982, Midway Games released the Tron arcade game, which consisted of four mini-games based on sequences in the movie. This game earned more than the film's initial release. In 1983, Midway released Discs of Tron, a sequel that focused on disc combat. Mattel Electronics released three separate Tron games (unrelated to the arcade game) for the Intellivision game console in 1982: Tron: Deadly Discs, Tron Maze-A-Tron, and Tron: Solar Sailer. Deadly Discs was later ported to the Atari 2600 (along with an original Tron game for that platform, Adventures of Tron), and a version also appeared for the short-lived Aquarius home computer. A special joystick resembling the Tron arcade game joystick was also created as a free giveaway in a special pack that included both Atari 2600 Tron video games.
Tron 2.0, a PC game sequel released for Windows and Macintosh, was released on August 26, 2003. In this first person shooter game, the player takes the part of Alan Bradley's son Jet, who is pulled into the computer world to fight a computer virus. A separate version of this game, called Tron 2.0 Killer App, is available for the Xbox, and features new multiplayer modes. In the Game Boy Advance version of Tron 2.0 Killer App, Tron and a Light Cycle program named Mercury (first seen in Tron 2.0 for the PC) fight their way through the ENCOM computer to stop a virus called The Corruptor. The game includes light cycle, battle tank, and recognizer battle modes, several security-related minigames, and the arcade games Tron and Discs of Tron. While the game is only minimally connected to the PC game, one of the 100 unlockable chips shows a picture of Jet Bradley.
Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2), by Disney/Square Enix, features a world named "Space Paranoids" (after one of Flynn's games in the film) that is set in the world of Tron. Tetsuya Nomura, director of the Kingdom Hearts series, stated in an interview that Tron was the first Disney movie to be suggested for use in the game. He got his inspiration after seeing a game designer working on Tron 2.0 Killer App on a computer during a visit to Disney in the United States. Bruce Boxleitner reprises his role as Tron in the English version, while Sark and the MCP are voiced by Corey Burton.
Virtual Magic Kingdom
VMK, an online multiplayer game owned by Disney, had a room based on Tron, with Recognizers and the MCP in the background. There were also multiple furniture items in VMK based on Tron, such as Lightcycle Chairs, Tank Chairs,and a Tron Arcade Game Cabinet. It also featured the Red Tron suit (Sark) and Blue Tron Suit. VMK is closed as of May 21, 2008.
In 2009, 42 Entertainment released eight, real-life Space Paranoids arcade machines during the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. They were placed in a recreated Flynn's Arcade near the convention center. The object of the game is to go through the levels and to achieve as many points as possible by destroying Recognizers. The total number of points a person can achieve is 999,000 pts,which is a reference to the score Flynn got in the movie, and is a record currently held by the gamer, FLN. You use a pilot-like joystick and a ball to move the turret and tank.
A tie-in video game based upon Tron Legacy, titled Tron Evolution, is set for release in winter 2010. Teaser trailers were released in November 2009, with a longer trailer airing during the Spike Video Game Awards on December 12 2009..
On January 12, 2005, it was announced that Disney hired screenwriters Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal to write a sequel to Tron. As of 2007, director Joseph Kosinski was in final negotiations to develop and direct Tron, described as "the next chapter" of the 1982 film, with Lisberger co-producing. Filming began in Vancouver, British Columbia in April 2009. During the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, the title of the sequel was revealed to be Tron Legacy.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tron (film)|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Tron|
- Tron at the Internet Movie Database
- Tron at Rotten Tomatoes
- Tron at Box Office Mojo
- Article about the CGI in Tron