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Twenty Five Years of Tron 156

the_quiet_angeleno writes "I have an article in today's Summer Film Preview issue of Los Angeles CityBeat on Disney's sci-fi classic Tron, which is celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year. The piece includes a discussion with Richard Taylor, one of Tron's visual effects supervisors on the film's groundbreaking effects, as well as director Steven Lisberger, on how the narrative incorporates the Jungian concept of individuation. Here's a sample: 'Visual Effects Society member Gene Kozicki, of the L.A.-based visual effects house Rhythm & Hues, believes Tron's legacy was in moving computer-generated visuals into the realm of storytelling. "Research into this type of imagery had been going on for over 15 years, but it was more scientific in nature," Kozicki says, "Once artists began to share their ideas and treat the computer as a tool, it moved away from strict research and towards an art form."
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Twenty Five Years of Tron

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  • Tron! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:10PM (#19277415)
    That move changed my life! Up until then I wanted to be a stormtrooper. After seeing Tron I wanted to be a light cycle driver. I ended up being a shift manager at a flour mill. Wee. NoonooNOO noonooNOOnooNOO-nooo...
  • Storytelling? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tinrobot ( 314936 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:15PM (#19277453)
    Tron's legacy was in moving computer-generated visuals into the realm of storytelling.

    Sadly, there was not a lot of compelling storytelling in that movie. The script was pretty bad, as was much of the acting (my opinion of course)

    Tron opened against ET, and it bombed at the box office. Some people say that Tron's failure at the box office set back CG animation by 10 years. Most studios back then saw the technology as expensive and not worth the investment. Only after CG got it's feet wet in commercials and broadcast in the 80's did the movie studios embrace it again.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sadly, there was not a lot of compelling storytelling in that movie. The script was pretty bad, as was much of the acting

      That didn't stop it from gaining a cult following, several computer games, and this article. You can criticize the movie all you want, but the people who made it are already more famous and influential than you will ever be. They must have done *something* right.
    • Not that Tron was CG.
      • Re:Storytelling? (Score:5, Informative)

        by MS-06FZ ( 832329 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @08:16PM (#19278121) Homepage Journal

        Not that Tron was CG.
        No, it wasn't CG. A lot of it was live-action, filmed on physical sets, with rotoscoping techniques for the "glow" on characters and objects.

        But it featured CG... The entire lightcycle sequence, for instance - well, not counting shots of the characters or the interiors of the vehicles...
        • I think it's appropriate to link to Ken Perlin's [] site.
        • What I love about Tron (well, one of the many things) is that some of the defining effects weren't CG at all. The glowing costumes were done using vaseline, and the fizzle of the CG world was an artefact of mixing up the film canisters. Talk about turning a potentially movie-wrecking fuck-up around.
    • Sure, it had to compete with E.T, which destroyed it at the box office. However, "Tron" did not fail - it cost $17,000,000 to produce, and it made $33,000,000 domestically. Don't try to blame "Tron" on the reluctance of Hollywood to try new technology.
      • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Friday May 25, 2007 @10:28PM (#19279103) Homepage Journal
        Speaking of Hollywood reluctance, I wonder what ever happened to the Tron sequel? A few years ago, Disney was in a buzz about how the new Tron movie was coming out soon. They even made the Tron 2.0 game to ride the promotion wave. Yet nothing ever appeared, and the very idea of a sequel seems to have vanished into the ether.

        To be blunt: What happened?
    • by befletch ( 42204 )

      Speaking of Tron and ET... John Williams was the composer for ET, Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and just about every other movie I can remember the theme song to. I've often wondered how things would have turned out if he composed the theme for Tron and someone else did Star Wars. Seriously, check out his movie credits:

      John Williams []

      Nuts to storytelling. Would it have been so easy to accept that terrible Star Wars dialog without the awesome theme music to carry things along?

      • Walter/Wendy Carlos did the music for Tron. Same person that did the Beethoven electronica for Clockwork Orange. Definitely not a John Williams, But excellent in in his/her/it's own right.

      • I'll submit James Earl Jones as carrying the movie. The actor voicing MCP tried hard, and came up with a close second. Together they created the "Voice of Evil" sound.

        However, Star Wars was also full of flashy exploding stuff... which all science fans know wouldn't actually make any of those sounds. Would it have carried so well if all those battles were silent? Also, I think the storyline of Tron, however clunkily rendered, was far more advanced for its time and the audience simply didn't have the tech bac
    • Last Starfighter (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tony ( 765 ) * on Friday May 25, 2007 @09:54PM (#19278899) Journal
      There were other movies with tons of CG not long after, like The Last Starfighter. Most of them had poor scripts as well. TRON didn't set the CG industry back 10 years; it was 10 years ahead of its time.

      And, it *was* expensive. Unless you were after the CG look of the time, there was no reason to use CG.
    • by smchris ( 464899 )
      Thank God you said it first.

      To be kind, I think maybe it's a generational thing. It was Disney after all. It really is a kid's movie and I was too old at the release to connect with it. Nothing inherently bad about that either way.
    • I think your timeline is off... Tron came out in 82 (same year as Star Trek II, which also featured some CGI). The Last Starfighter was in 84 and the The Abyss was only 7 years after Tron. There was obviously a lot of advances in CGI between Tron and The Abyss. It was only 11 years between Tron and Jurassic Park.
      • same year as Star Trek II, which also featured some CGI

        It featured Common Gateway Interface? That seems rather unusual.

        There was obviously a lot of advances in CGI between Tron and The Abyss.

        Perhaps there were, but I'm still trying to work out what Common Gateway Interface has to do with making movies.

    • Saying it introduced something "into the realm of storytelling" isn't the same as ranking the story itself with Hemmingway. Everything Stephen King has ever written is garbage, but the man clearly operates "in the realm of storytelling."

      Back then the technology WAS very expensive, not worth the investment -- as well as limited and very complex.

      The movie was pretty much an experiment, first and foremost.
  • Honour it! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:16PM (#19277471)
    With some ARMAGETRON! [] (linux pkgs and sourcecode incl)
    • Armagetron and GLTron are both great fun, but honestly neither one holds a candle to the actual TRON 2.0 game. It's a completely different caliber. Granted, it's not open source and as far as I know it's only available for Windows and Mac OS X, but if you're really fanatical about light cycles the game is worth it just for that mode alone (to say nothing of the superb FPS and disc combat arena modes).

      If you can find a copy it's absolutely worth picking up, even at full retail. However, any retailer that has
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:16PM (#19277481)
    For a long time, I carried around a logic probe in my tool kit. I didn't need one for my work...I just liked grabbing it and shouting in my best David Warner voice, "Bring in the logic probe!". ^_^

    I also said "Greetings, programs!" way more often than I should have...
  • by bobo mahoney ( 1098593 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:17PM (#19277497) Homepage
    Tron's special effects have influenced in more than just movies. Just take a look at case mods and riced out cars sporting neon to see just how much people liked Tron.
  • beta of the Matrix..

    • If Tron was The Matrix's beta, then Matrix Revolutions was like SWG's NGE.
    • Arguably Tron was the first Cyberpunk movie, ever. Beat out Blade Runner if my memory serves me right. Also the short story in which the term "Cyberpunk" was coined was written in 1980 but published in '83.

      Tron was the first movie to ponder the concept of life inside a computer or a computer network. Even though Tron's worldview was more the black-and-white traditional superhero/space opera good-vs.-evil worldview rather than the more nuanced, shaded, and shady world of what we now know as Cyberpunk, it pos
  • We're getting tons of festivities, all together: towel day, Star Wars tuned 30, now tron. I say we declare may Nerd Pride Month.
  • I remember seeing this [] at the /. firehose a while ago but it never made the front page.

    Was it a joke or something?

  • We just had an article on 30 years of Star Wars, a movie saga that started with some of the most sophisticated computer generated effects ever seen in its time. And it didn't rely on them like a crutch like this.. other movie.

    Now, a movie that came 5 years later is being touted as one that opened the doors to computer generated effects as art and a compelling storytelling platform. Someone's not blowing their own horn I hope?

    And, seriously, a movie that sucked hard compared to A New Hope.

    Mod me down, but
    • the premise behind Tron was no more believable (less, to me) than a mysterious "force" that permeates the universe that can be bent to human will with enough effort and skill -- and definitely not as cool.

      Two words: Midichlorians.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The effects in the (original) Star Wars movies weren't done with computers, as hard as you might find that to believe these days. Effects like lasers and exploding Death Stars were done with the magic of matte painting, detailed model work, fancy pyrotechnics, and most importantly, the optical printer, which is a fancy term for a souped-up mechanical movie camera hooked up to a mechanical movie projector.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vrmlguy ( 120854 )
      Unfortunately, Star Wars didn't use any computer generated effects. The original version was done the old fashioned way, with models and latex. A few years later, Lucas decided that CGI was the way of the future, so he took a hunk of his profits and started a little company to design and manufacture CGI hardware. They did a lot of the effects for Wrath of Khan, among other things, but they never did as well as Lucas had hoped so he sold them to a recently fired billionaire looking for a new business to r
  • It's telling when the DVD commentary focuses almost entirely on the special effects, and only rarely even mentions the acting or the story. Don't get me wrong, I love the movie, my kids love it, I loved the "Tron 2.0" game they made, but... well... Shakespeare it wasn't.

    The funny thing was it didn't win an Oscar for special effects that year because the Academy felt they had "cheated" by using computers. (Of course, the computers were so slow they had to plan every shot out in detail because 'rerendering' would have taken too much time. And they communicated the data over the phone... by reading the numbers out loud.) Interesting to see how attitudes have changed.

  • Tron's Real Legacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LOTHAR, of the Hill ( 14645 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:43PM (#19277777)
    Is being the first movie to be ruined by relying on CGI special effects to carry a movie.

    The script was dull, and acting was horrible. That was the first time I ever walked out of a movie theater wanting my money back.
  • Two of the greatest IT quotes to live by come from Tron:

    "On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy."

    "I shouldn't have written all of those tank programs."
  • by EWAdams ( 953502 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @07:47PM (#19277831) Homepage
    Tron included the first inter... inter... inter-I-can't-even-decide-what-to-call it kiss between a man and a computer program. OK, she looked like a woman in a goofy blue suit, and the man was Bruce Boxleitner, I believe, but I was stumped for a reason why HE should want to kiss software, and even more stumped for a reason why IT would want to kiss him back. In all my years programmer, I never once kissed my code, whether on-screen, printout, or punched cards. And if I had, I think Jung would have suggested I be locked up for failing to conform to any known archetype.

    As for which is the dumber movie about computers, I'd say it's a toss-up between Tron and The Matrix. At least Tron had attractive special effects and wasn't so goddamned pretentious.

    • Huh? The human in the computer is Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges. Bruce Boxleitner plays two different characters: Alan Bradley, a computer programmer, and Tron, a program he wrote. They're not the same; part of the idea of the movie is that programs bear a resemblance to their creators. Also I suppose it made it convenient in that they could get several of the actors (Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan, David Warner, Barnard Hughes) to double up on roles.
      • Well, Yori did put the moves on Tron at the end of the movie.
        • Then there's that love scene with Tron and Yori that was cut from the film but which is on the 20th Anniversary DVD. That took place slightly after Tron found her to begin with, though.
    • Kind of like Riker kissing a hologram that was generated by software on ST:TNG? Oh but what nice holograms she has!
    • I often ponder deeply how the narrative incorporates the Jungian concept of individuation.

      I think it all stems from my secret desire for my motherboard.

      • I think it all stems from my secret desire for my motherboard.
        I guess my secret desires are the reason they took away my daughterboard
  • Seems like every other movie that comes out these days is a remake or spin off of an old idea, I'd think Tron would fall right in line. It would be very similar to the most recent "King Kong" remake, as the original was considered a revolution in special effects for its time much as Tron was in its time.

    It would probably be complete slop if they did it, but I would go see it out of curiosity.
  • Troff (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Ep0xi ( 1093943 )
    Dad used to love that movie, it were our common motor to computing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Let us not forget the TV "spinoff" of Tron ... Automan [].
    Where Glen A. Larson (what show didn't he make during the 70s/80s?) took the idea of Tron and ran with it for 12 episodes.
    Where every episode involved a car chase in which Automan eluded the bad guys because he could make 90* turns and they couldn't.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @08:39PM (#19278329)
    Twenty-five years? I'm a dyed-in-the-wool science-fiction fan, have a substantial collection of sci-fi-books, have watched thousands of science fiction movies ... but twenty-five minutes of Tron was too much. Not that Tron even vaguely resembled science-fiction, any more than Star Wars did.
  • It's ironic that for all that it was a milestone in the development of CGI in movies, the way things are getting more and more screwed up in America, years from now no-one will be able to watch it anymore.

    I read an article recently at [] - the department of Homeland Security has classified Tron as "sensitive" because some locations were filmed at a nuclear research facility, and they're worried about 25 year old nuclear secrets being revealed. They're appare
  • Tron is my favourite movie of all time. It is mistakingly labeled sci-fi, but really it's total fantasy. Sure the actors are stiff, the plot is by the numbers and downright silly, but the world created by Steven Lisburger and company really has not been equaled in 25 years. Tron is by far the most labor intensive special effects movie EVER made (pre-digital). Every frame in the computer world had to be processed at least five separate times, with all of the elements. Tron did not set back computer anim
  • by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @10:41PM (#19279173) Homepage
    25 years "Of" Tron? No, "since" Tron.

    It's not like Tron has been in your face, except for the odd past-pop-cultural reference over the decades.

    OB Simpsons Ref:

    Homer: Uh... it's like... did anyone see the movie 'Tron'?

    Hibbert: No.

    Lisa: No.

    Marge: No.

    Wiggum: No.

    Bart: No.

    Patty: No.

    Wiggum: No.

    Ned: No.

    Selma: No.

    Frink: No.

    Lovejoy: No.

    Wiggum: Yes. I mean... um, I mean, no. No, heh.
  • by awfar ( 211405 ) on Friday May 25, 2007 @10:53PM (#19279227)
    So many here say so, but I cannot see their point, as well as how anyone can compare it with anything else at the time; what has Star Wars to do with it, at all?

    As many, I was there and it was clearly groundbreaking. I distinctly remember that I had not been moved by imagery like that since I was little and saw my first Harryhausen or later 2001. Not from the script, which was Disney, but the imagery and immense scale, especially the light cycle race and the tank chase.

    Sitting in a theater on opening weekend, huge screen and high quality audio, its few minutes of CGI and music, it was clearly a demonstration of things to come.
  • If you compare Tron's computer graphics with the computer graphics we have in movies today, they seem crude, yes, but surely if the designers back then had wanted to, they could have made all the shots as complex and slick as what you can do today.

    The problem is that if they had tried that with the hardware they had then, the movie would still be rendering today and would probably not appear in cinemas until all of its actors were retired.

    See, software HASN'T changed that much in the intervening time; you s
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mshurpik ( 198339 )
      Tron was layered about 20 times per shot; it wasn't so much digital as the ultimate analog movie.
    • by ettlz ( 639203 )

      If you compare Tron's computer graphics with the computer graphics we have in movies today, they seem crude, yes, but surely if the designers back then had wanted to, they could have made all the shots as complex and slick as what you can do today.
      Modern CG is all about photorealism. The imagery in Tron was not --- after all, it was meant to be a visualisation of an address space --- hence the blocky, Phong-shaded look.
  • by ed1park ( 100777 ) <> on Friday May 25, 2007 @11:32PM (#19279473)
    I was watching Caddy Shack in HDDVD, and found out that Cindy Morgan, the hot babe, was also the girl in TRON. And she's a regular geek!

    "I wanted to go to Illinois Institute of Technology and become an Engineer, but when I went to open house it was all guys. I kind of got scared. I was a little freaked out. I got over that obviously. I was a geek." []

    *sigh* :)
  • Does it really count as "25 years of Tron" when you forget about Tron entirely for 5, 10 years at a time, then think of Tron for about 5-7 minutes, then forget for another 5, 10 years or so, until the next 90 seconds, and so on, over 25 years? Kinda like spending months rendering 30 seconds of CGI.
  • by Torodung ( 31985 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:11AM (#19280175) Journal
    Tron was not a good movie. Not even close. But man was it groundbreaking. It's up there on my list of favorites with "Dark Star," John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon's collaboration that is a clear precursor to O'Bannon's "Alien."

    I heartily recommend that all Slashdot nerds get copies of *both* (VCI released Dark Star on DVD, both original and theatrical versions). They're both like watching a long, slow inside shaggy dog joke.

    What memories. "Computers are for USERS." Was that concept prophetic or what?

  • Tron is the reason I have 100k a year job today with no college. I saw Tron when I was 11 years old. Tron and Wargames are what made me want learn about computers and to this very day I love working with them.

    So was it a bad movie? Maybe, but I don't care. It influenced my life in a positive way so greatly that it will alway occupy a place of honor and respect with me.
  • I don't know about anyone else here... well, I probably do... but I loved Tron when I was a kid. Hell, I was 9 when it came out in the US (I lived in the UK, so it was a year or so later that I saw it). I remember being blown away by the visuals, and really getting a kick out of the movie. I also remember going home and loading up a game on my ZX Spectrum and all of a sudden the concepts of programs "living" inside the computer as active entities really clicked with me. The religious overtones of the "user"
  • I used to use TRON and TROFF all the time on my old TRS-80. Ah, the memories... line numbers filling the screen like a field of wildflowers.

    But it seems like the poor C64 users never had a chance [] to share my joy. Just the 128, and the rare C16 and Plus/4 had TRON and TROFF.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith