Why the Groundbreaking “Tron” Scared Hollywood – Ultimate Classic Rock | Start Classified

Tron marked a pivotal shift in the ever-changing landscape of filmmaking—although pundits didn’t realize it at the time.

“Everybody was doing backlit animation in the ’70s, you know. It was this disco look,” filmmaker/writer/director Steven Lisberger told Den of Geek, “and we were like, ‘What if we had this character , which would be a neon line ?’ That was our Tron warrior – Tron for electronic – and what happened was, I saw [the video game] pongand I said, well, that’s the arena for him.”

Lisberger directed the 1980 animated TV movie Animalympicsand he began working on a plot for at the same time Tron. The basic premise would follow a computer programmer drawn into a video game world.

“A lot of studios turned us down,” said producer Donald Kushner, Lisberger’s business partner diversity. The only studio that showed interest was Disney. “People don’t remember what Disney Studios was like back then,” Lisberger added. “It was a sleepy, forgotten studio.”

Disney grappled with an identity crisis in the late ’70s and early ’80s, a far cry from the powerhouse studio it would become. Animated family films such as The rescuers (1978) and The fox and the dog (1981) continued to make profits, but Disney had mixed results with live-action films. The cat from space (1978), Unknown flying nerd (1979) and Midnight Madness (1980) were box office hits. The few live-action hits the studio had – such as Herbie the love bug Film series – aimed at a youthful audience. One adult-oriented hit eluded them.

“People have this misconception that in Disney’s heyday they were so sure of where they were going, but they weren’t,” Lisberger told Den of Geek. Tron “was very experimental and I think there was enough of that ethos in the studio – but Tom Wilhite, who greenlit the film, he was 29 years old, had just become head of the studio and I was 29 years old. And Tom said to me years later, ‘It’s a good thing I didn’t know, because if I had, I couldn’t have done it.’”

Watch the trailer for ‘Tron’

The focus, said animator Bill Kroyer diversitywas on “don’t do anything Walt didn’t do”. They used to say, ‘We do what we do best,’ which was a cover-up to say, ‘We don’t want to do anything we haven’t already done.'”

Tron was markedly different from anything Disney – or anyone else – had done. Live action and animation techniques were mixed together for the project. Perhaps most notably, the film incorporated CGI in a way that had never been seen in film up to that point.

“It’s inconceivable now that people are thinking about how we actually did the CG,” Lisberger said diversity. “There was no movement; Computers could only produce single images. There was no way to put it digitally on film, so you actually set a film camera in front of a computer screen and filmed it frame by frame. Some of these frames took hours to generate.”

Revolutionary effects were used to bring Tron to live. Some, such as light sources on the actor’s costumes or black and white negative film, were extensions of already established techniques. However, many others were invented specifically for this Tron.

“We didn’t conceive the film to take advantage of existing technology,” said Kroyer, who served as computer vision choreographer Tron. “We came up with the film and then we said, ‘We think we can make the technology the way we’re going to make the film.’ It’s literally this metaphor of successful people jumping off the cliff and spreading their wings on the way down.”

For many of the people who work on it Tron, the journey into new technological realms was exhilarating. Jeff Bridges, who starred in the film as programmer Kevin Flynn, even admitted he took on the role because of Tron‘s bold ambition. “It had never been done before,” he said diversity. “That’s why I was fascinated.”

Check out the “Tron” light cycle scene

Not everyone was on board. In particular, the members of Disney’s old-school animation guards were unsettled by the use of technology.

“What they were never comfortable with was using computer animation,” Lisberger told Den of Geek. “It was the devil then. I can’t tell you how scared people were of computers back then.”

Released July 9, 1982, Tron received generally positive reviews. That Seattle Times praised its “flashy originality” and called it “a computer age Alice in Wonderland.” Meanwhile, the Chronicle of San Francisco described the film as “an eye opener in every sense of the word”.

Others claimed Tron valued style over substance. “Where was it written that we agreed to sacrifice character, subtlety, a well-told story, a clear plot, and even – God help us – humor to accommodate a burst of new effects, no matter how revolutionary? ” asked Los Angeles Times Critic Sheila Benson.

“Walt Disney Studios, the same factory that spent years specializing in making the most whimsical and humane expressions of the human imagination, has joined the parade of machines with a film that glorifies and supports the video game craze that has swept America,” added Scott Sublet added that Washington Times.

Despite his revolutionary way of filmmaking, Tron was overshadowed at the box office. The summer of ’82 featured several massive commercial hits, including Rocky III, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and poltergeist. The biggest movie of the year ET the extraterrestrial, grossed $360 million at the domestic box office. In comparison, Tron earned only $33 million.

“The thing that was in the air was that it wasn’t enough that the film was doing business or that they were even paying for themselves,” Lisberger said diversity. “What happened was ET came out and it raised the bar.”

Watch ‘Tron”s Climatic Final Battle

Tron received two Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Sound, but was shockingly left out in the Best Visual Effects category. “The academy thought we cheated with computers,” Lisberger told SFGate.

decades later, Tron seems to have finally gotten his guilt. The film enjoyed cult status for many years before returning to the mainstream with its 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy. Thanks largely to its groundbreaking visual techniques, the original film is now considered a seminal release.

“It’s hard to overstate how scared people were of computers and technology, especially Hollywood,” Lisberger said diversity. “The threat that Tron it was shown that computers would somehow interfere with filmmaking and that they would interfere with our lives.

Of course, in hindsight, the groundbreaking film opened the door for generations of CGI-layered films. John Lasseter, formerly Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, put it more simply: “None Tronthere would be none toy story.”

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