Source: Walt Disney Pictures
From Walt Disney Pictures comes “TRON: Legacy,” a high-tech adventure set in a digital world that is unlike anything ever captured on the big screen. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “TRON: Legacy” stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner,James Frain, Beau Garrett and Michael Sheen and is produced by Sean Bailey, Jeffrey Silver and Steven Lisberger, with Donald Kushner serving as executive producer, and Justin Springer and Steve Gaub co-producing. The “TRON: Legacy” screenplay was written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz; story by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal; based on characters created by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird.
Presented in Disney Digital 3D™, Real D 3D and IMAX® 3D and scored by Grammy® Awardwinning electronic music duo Daft Punk, “TRON: Legacy” features cutting-edge, state-of-theart technology, effects and set design that bring to life an epic adventure coursing across a digital grid that is as fascinating and wondrous as it is beyond imagination.
At the epicenter of the adventure is a father-son story that resonates as much on the Grid as it does in the real world: Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father, Kevin Flynn (Oscar® and Golden Globe® winner Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world’s leading tech visionary. When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn’s Arcade—a signal that could only come from his father—he finds himself pulled into a digital grid where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-or-death journey across a visually stunning digital landscape created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced, with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.
First released in 1982, the original “TRON” was Walt Disney Studios’ groundbreaking high-tech film from visionary writer/director Steven Lisberger, who went on to become a producer on “TRON: Legacy.” “TRON” pioneered the use of computer graphics, virtual sets and backlit effects. Its unique blend of 70mm live action, CG, and hand-drawn animation was a major motion-picture studio first. As a result, “TRON” became a cult classic that has remained firmly in the currents of popular culture for more than 25 years and is now cherished as a defining moment for effects movies.
Today’s exciting technological advances led to some exhilarating possibilities in visualizing a “TRON” stand-alone follow-up film that would play to present-day audiences. With Generation XBOX hooked into the Internet, phones that are tiny computers and everyone playing games wirelessly, the world we live in was only dreamt of when “TRON” was made.
Steven Lisberger was instrumental in trying to get “TRON: Legacy” off the ground. “We started discussions at Disney about ten years ago...I’ve seen numerous Disney executives go from black hair to grey in those years, and the film itself has changed over the years and gone through many different phases. When it emerged more recently, I think there was a sense that the right group of people somehow had now all arrived at the right spots. We explored some roads before this, but after a while we realized they really didn’t resonate with the times. But this storyline did.”
Producer Sean Bailey, who was then president of Idealogy, Inc., takes up the story, revealing that he and his team were brought on board to speed up development around four years ago. “Disney had played around with a couple of drafts written in the ’90s and couldn’t find something they were satisfied with, so they brought us on to see what we could do. We were honestly just developing, coming up with ideas and meeting with writers.”
As the movie was bubbling along in early development, a lucky break saw co-producer Justin Springer discovering director Joseph Kosinski’s test reel almost by accident. Despite Kosinski’s lack of movie experience, his talent was clearly proven in his unique visionary approach as a commercial director on campaigns such as “Halo,” “Gears of War” and Nike.
Armed with a degree in architecture from Columbia University, Kosinski has a flair for design and aesthetics as well as a comfort level with digital technology that comes through in his work. “The whole way we make movies is changing, and I’m convinced Joe [Kosinski] is one of the leaders of that revolution,” says Bailey.
Sean Bailey recalls the early days with first-time director Joseph Kosinski.
“I met Joe and was immediately struck by his vision, his story sense and his confidence. We then went into the studio and talked about how we wanted to advance the process. The confidence Joe inspired is what gotus to that first VFX test.”
Kosinski, Bailey and the rest of the team convinced the Disney executives to authorize a proof-of-concept test, which was a short film showing what today’s technology could do with the iconic elements of the “TRON” digital world, such as Lightcycles and disc battles.
The result was an amazing piece of footage that wowed the crowd at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, and the filmmakers got approval to start work on the film itself.
In 1982, when Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) made it out of the Grid alive and back in control of Encom, the company he founded with his longtime friend and associate, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), everyone assumed Kevin would be content with developing and producing popular games.
On the surface of things, that appeared so: Kevin married, had a son, Sam, and settled into fatherhood while he and Alan grew Encom into a video game powerhouse. But unbeknownst to outsiders, Kevin was still experimenting with teleportation, making frequent visits back to the Grid from the privacy of his secret lab hidden beneath Flynn’s Arcade.
Then one day Kevin simply vanished, and Sam was left alone with no father and no answers.
And twenty years later, “TRON: Legacy” begins.
When a pager signal draws the now-adult Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to Flynn’s Arcade and he is transported to the Grid where his father has been trapped for 20 years, he begins a journey that will change his life—and the life of his long-absent father.
“It was very important to us, amidst all this visual spectacle, to focus on a father/son story; this is about a boy who’s lost his dad, who’s now grown up and, as a man, he has scarring from that. Then, he learns that his father’s disappearance may not have been all that he thought, and there’s a chance for them to rebuild their relationship,” says producer Sean Bailey. “Our goal is to make sure we’re serving our story the best way we can. And the visuals, the effects, the music, the performances and the style all support that,” he adds.
The estrangement and rediscovery between father and son is the story’s emotional entry point. “You’re coming into this spectacular domain and you need someone to experience it through. That’s how we approached developing Sam’s character. You’re discovering the Grid through Sam’s eyes, and you’ll also discover Flynn through Sam,” says Adam Horowitz, who co-wrote the screenplay with Edward Kitsis (story by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal, based on characters by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird).
Steven Lisberger feels that it is important to have a story that is as significant as all the technical aspects that go into the film. “I care about story and characters as much as I do the visuals. The story aspect of Flynn still being alive and the father-son story is really compelling in ‘TRON: Legacy.’ It will resonate with the fan base, but if someone hasn’t seen the first film, it doesn’t matter—the story will work for him or her too,” he says.
Jeff Bridges, who reprises his role of Kevin Flynn from the original “TRON,” comments, “One of the underlying elements of the story is technology. It’s so exciting to realize all the things that you can do. But what’s happening with technology is that it is developing so fast that we haven’t really developed any ethics to go along with it, or knowledge of what some of the ramifications of this technology will be. So that’s also a theme that ‘TRON: Legacy’ deals with.”
Joseph Kosinski is very clear in defining his approach to the making of “TRON: Legacy”: “My goal was to really make it feel real. I wanted it to feel like we took motion picture cameras into the world of TRON and shot it. So I wanted to build as many sets as possible. I wanted the materials to be real materials: glass, concrete, steel, so it had this kind of visceral quality to it.”
To achieve the exciting, iconic look for “TRON: Legacy,” Kosinski gathered around him artists from diverse disciplines. “We pulled people from the world of architecture, from automotive design, people who have never worked in movies before. We flew people in from all over the world,” says Kosinski.
Kosinski and his team knew they would be pushing the boundaries of what current effects technology can achieve to make “Legacy” in the spirit of “TRON.” The result is a complicated blend of techniques, from blue screen to 3D cameras, that Kosinski and his team have melded together for the film. Kosinski explains, “I’m going more on instinct rather than experience, but a lot of the technology we’re using is stuff I’ve used bits and pieces of in commercials. However, this is the first time we’re using it simultaneously at this scale.”
According to Bailey, though, the driving force is still the plot. “We took every technology at its most cutting edge at the moment in time, but I always think it’s not just technology for technology’s sake, but as we do some twists in the movie, it enables us to write in a whole new way. I think we will be the first movie that has an actor squaring off against himself in two very different generations. I hope we will surprise the audience not just in an, ‘oh that’s a cool, glorious effect’ way, but also in an, ‘oh I never saw that coming’ way.”
In addition to the technological complexities of “TRON: Legacy,” it is also produced in 3D. As Bailey comments, “3D is definitely a challenge technically; the cameras are bigger and heavier and there are a lot of extra variables that you have to take into account, so it definitely slows the process down. But I think it’s a great reason to go to the movies because it’s an experience that you just can’t recreate on an iPhone or your laptop or at home.”
“It was important for me that this be a true 3D movie,” says Kosinski. “There are a lot of movies out there right now that are being converted from 2D after the fact. But with the environments we’ve created—the fact that we’re trying to get atmosphere and these long, distant vistas—we just can’t do it any other way than shoot it with real 3D cameras.”
Kosinski continues, “It is a lot more work to shoot in 3D; the VFX are being finished in 3D, which is also a challenge. Having to create separate imagery for both eyes makes it that much more work.”
For shooting “TRON: Legacy” in 3D, the filmmakers employed the newest generation of camera, built specifically for them, and used a 3D technique that is a combination of technologies—completely digital motion-capture of a character and the live-action camera system.