Due this December in time for the holiday movie season, Tron: Legacy is the long-awaited (very long-awaited for many) sequel to the Disney 1982 computer game-inspired movie Tron. At Comic-Con in San Diego, the cast and production crew spoke to the press and thousands of fans who were offered a preview of the anticipated 3D release. Through the convention, the light cycle on the exhibit floor was packed with photo-snapping fans.
Those on hand for the press included Jeff Bridges — Kevin Flynn from the first film — Bruce Boxleitner — the original Alan Bradley/Tron (who’s become quite the sci-fi star thanks to Babylon 5) — and also franchise newcomers Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Michael Sheen, Legacy director Joe Kosinski, original Tron director Steven Lisberger, and the new film’s producers and writers as well. Each chimed in on various topical questions about the movie. The sequel has been talked about for years but until recently just didn’t seem to be in the cards.
“I heard rumors that there was going to be a sequel for many years, maybe 20 years, and I kind of gave up on it,” said Bridges. “Then, all of a sudden, this script shows up and Disney had it on its back-burners. They weren’t satisfied with the script and they waited. I was so happy they did because we got a good script, and they waited to find the right guy to be at the helm, and with Joe, they found the right guy. To have an architect at the helm of this one is terrific. He was up to date with all the modern techniques with special effects, and he’s terrific with actors.
“Also, just like the first one, it tickled the kid in me to be sucked inside a computer, and you can play with all the new toys that we had available to us. To be involved with something so cutting-edge was very exciting,” said Bridges.
Boxleitner was surprised as well that the film was happening, but ready for what he saw as a challenge. “Working with Jeff again, finding out where these characters went after all these years — that’s what intrigued me,” he said. “I had no idea Alan Bradley would become such a lost soul. It was such a great take on these characters, it seemed so absolutely real. I was thrilled.”
Sheen and Wilde shared memories of the original film, which has now captivated several generations.
“I was 11 and I was absolutely blown away. Both futuristic but historical. It had something weird…I think it was called C…G…?,” Sheen said.
“It came out two years before I was born,” said Wilde. “But it was part of the culture. It was a cool retro thing, part of the zeitgeist. It was always cool, and now we’ve made it cooler.”
Hedlund has never seen the original movie until 2003 and said he watched it on a laptop, commenting the movie “played so well,” though it was more than two decades old, and film effects through computer and other technology has come so far.
“The work that Steven did with Mobius is just phenomenal design work,” said Kosinski. “I come from a design background and I feel like the original design work is so strong, vibrant. It transcends time. We were assembling people from the automotive industry, architects, outside the design work, evolving the design work, making it more photo-realistic. I wanted it to feel like we went in the computer and shot it.”
Kosinski also said the 3D cameras for shoots were the same system James Cameron near-created for Avatar. He called Tron: Legacy a “true-3D” movie with two cameras used to film each scene.
Orginal Tron director Lisberger sees the film as a convergence of a story about what could happen with technology while employing technology to tell that story.
“Technology is all about bringing people together, and now there’s a sense that technology may have a dark side that keeps us from connecting with each other,” he said. “This film examines that problem.”
“You’ll find out soon that the look of Tron is unique; it’s one of the strongest things about it. It’s moved on to the next generation,” said Lisberger. It’s a founding myth for an entire generation. It’s almost like it’s been held back, but now, when it’s come back, you feel the energy we missed in the last 25 years.
The first film broke new ground that impacted films that followed up to today.
“On the first film, it felt like we were doing 3D. We came from the world of 2D animation and the light-cycles and the grid, and it was the first time we realized we have to render all this stuff in the computer in 3D,” said Lisberger. “That was the beginning of 3D back then.”
The cast was giddy about the effects, especially those light-up outfits which Boxleitner called “spandex tights with magic markers.”
“It was totally revolutionary,” Wilde said. “We were wearing electro-luminescent suits. The suits changed the way every department worked on the film; it changed how we were lit. We got excited every time the suits came on.”
Hedlund added that it involved training as well. “They do a cyber-scan — create a suit of every curve in your body,” he explained. “It fit like a glove.”
Not all the characters from the first Tron appear in the sequel. Kosinski said that decision was based on serving the tale they wanted to tell.
“Our story is a father/son story — Sam Flynn and his father who disappeared,” he said. “When you make a movie, you have to make difficult choices with what you want to focus on, and with this story, we focused on Sam and Kevin Flynn and the instrumental role of Tron/Alan Bradley. A character played by Cindy Morgan is in the Tron universe but not in this particular story”
Writer Eddy Kitsis agreed it’s a father/son tale, while writer Adam Horowitz talked about the collaborative process from script to storyboards to effects.
“We come from TV so we’re used to sitting around a table thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…?’” said Horowitz. “My favorite thing was when we were talking about the disc games, and Joe called us and said, ‘undulating platforms’ and he sent over the coolest art.”
Producer Sean Baile said that a reboot was never really a direction that was considered, and the original Tron was always a jump-off point.
“I think one of the things, when we made the decision to make a stand-alone sequel, [was] we would accept that the events of the original occurred,” he said. “We mapped the mythology between 1982 and 2010. It gave us all the intervening years. There was lots of history and back-story. That comes across in the ARG and viral. Also coming along with other formats, like the video game and publishing…”
The soundtrack was also an essential element created by the acclaimed and innovative Daft Punk. Kosinski began working with the band prior to an effects test piece.
“We discussed their passion for Tron, how it was an inspiration. We talked about it for a long time and got started on the music very early,” he said. “We were doing music before we were even shooting. We worked on it for two years; they’re in the studio now putting the finishing touches on their score — an incredible blend of electronic music and orchestral music. It blends sound design and music in a new way. It’s so tied to the film because we developed them together.”
When asked about the eventual Blu-ray releases of the original Tron and the new film, Bailey said that, while no date release date is set, “we’re certainly looking to do something special,” and for Legacy, “we’ll have some very cool materials on it. We’ll take a hard look at 3D at that point. As forward leaning as we can.”
Sheen, still full of quips, said, “Then, ‘Tron on Ice,’ to which Bridges fired back with a grin, “There was a Tron on ice.”