I first saw TRON in the early 90s, on TV with my dad when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I remember feeling amazed at the setting. The idea of being sucked into a computer and live as a program reverberated me as I played a lot of video games. I still vividly remember the scene in which Jeff Bridges’ character Kevin Flynn flees from pursuers riding light cycles together with the eponymous TRON and how they later drink water to heal up. It would almost be another 10 years before I would watch TRON again.
In 2002 the DVD celebrating the 20th anniversary was released. Besides the movie it came with over 5 hours of bonus content and thus expanded what was commonly known regarding the movies troubled but also groundbreaking production. Since that DVD release I have remained a TRON fan. This solidified further with the release of the game TRON 2.0 in early, a semi-canon sequel before the of the official movie sequel TRON: Legacy bumped it to non-canon. On this page I want to give readers insights into the world of TRON, hopefully turn you into a fan as well.
TRON is directed by Steven Lisberger, based on a story written by Bonnie MacBird and himself. The idea for TRON began in 1976 when Steven saw a demo reel for MAGI, the first movie created using just computer generated imagery. That together with PONG became inspiration for TRON. After developing 30 second animation for TRON he was contacted by computer scientist Alan Kay who convinced him to actually computer generated imagery instead of just hand-animation. Bonnie used this as input for the story and included a character named Alan, she later on ended up marrying Alan Kay. However, the script was heavily edited, including by Disney and none of the dialogue of Bonnie MacBird remains. Steven Lisberger wanted to finance the movie independently and settled on the computer company Triple-I as one of the animators. At this stage Steven could count on about 4-5 million in financing, but he needed more so he contacted Disney. Disney were receptive after ordering another demo reel and so began the long process of creating TRON which would also include as set design Jean Giraud (Moebius) and industrial designer Syd Mead.
Cast & Crew
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A number of publications have been dedicated to TRON and its sequel TRON: Legacy. For the original movie most came out about the same time as the movie, notably The Art of TRON. Since then only one publication of note: The Making of TRON by William Kallay.
The Making of TRON is an in-depth look at the movies somewhat troubles production. Initially it divides it pages equally between Steven Lisberger’s attempt at getting into the special effects industry and Disney’s attempt at re-inventing itself after the death and retirements of its original founders (Walt and Roy Disney). The book describes how the match came to be, what technical developments were made to even produce computer generated imagery. Finally, how TRON, despite not being a major success transformed Disney and the movie industry.
The book is almost entirely based on lengthy interviews with the principal people involved with the movies production. As such there are times contradictory opinions, notably on time Disney contracted Lisberger to produce the movie. Script co-author Bonnie MacBird saw her draft rejected, and after a buy out also lost producer status, something that caused bitterness up to the interview.
The Making of TRON was published in 2011, after Legacy entered theaters, thus there are references to the sequel but this book mainly focuses on the 1982 original. What I only recently found out is that the book was completed using Kickstarter making it one of the earliest successes of the crowd-funding platform. While it is an excellent references source it could do with a reprint, hopefully one that is in color. With the 40th anniversary coming up, who knows!
To the left is the cover for The Making of TRON: How Tron Changed Visual Effects and Disney Forever. It features the solar sailer as designed by Syd Mead.
TRON has a very dedicated fan base, but like similar franchises it does ebb and flow. Below is a list of websites you may want to check out if you want to join the TRON community.
Tron-Sector: offers up to date news on the franchise including TRON 3 and TRON Ride.