Disney‘s futuristic adventure celebrates its 38th anniversary… End Of Line!
This may be hard to believe, but Disney’s Tron turns thirty-eight this year. The visually immersive and futuristic adventure helped turn Jeff Bridges into a household name and highlighted the ethical dangers of humanity creating artificial intelligence. The flick reveals how artificial intelligence becomes sentient and assumes control of a corporation’s internal computer system. However, in its hubris, the Master Control program sabotages itself when it consumes one of its human programmers and transforms him into a digital representation of himself. Once inside the system, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) begins an insurrection which will eventually see the downfall of the Master Control program and the liberation of “The Grid”.
The origins of the movie were heavily influenced by animator Steven Lisberger’s first introduction to Pong, which inspired him to animate a feature-length movie utilizing the same stylized computer-generated imagery combined with live-action performances and backlit animation. The results were breathtaking, however, most major studios passed on the project until Disney stepped up and agreed to finance the movie and distribute it around the world.
Tron was released in the United States on July 9, 1982, and was a moderate success at the box office. Surprisingly, the critical reception was overwhelmingly positive and the movie was highlighted for its groundbreaking visual effects and cast performances. At the time of its release, the movie amassed a worldwide gross of $50 million – Disney’s most lucrative return on a live-action property for five years and also saw the benefit of $70 million in wholesale merchandising sales. Despite the impressive haul and the positive reviews, the movie was viewed as a financial failure which resulted in Disney writing off some of its $17 million budgets.
Aside from its bold cutting edge visual effects, Tron benefitted from a sublime score from pioneer electronic musician Wendy Carlos. Carlos was renowned for her main title composition for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and her expertise with analog and digital synthesizers made her the perfect choice to bring the digital realm of “The Grid” to life. Completing the futuristic design was sound designer Frank Serafine. Serafine has received acclaim for his work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 and his impressive style was instrumental in building the fabric of Tron’s world as we know it.
In a bizarre twist, at the time of its release, Tron‘s incredible visual effects were overlooked by the Academy due to the movie using computers to generate animated backgrounds and landscapes – an oversight that would be rectified in 1994 when the film was awarded the Oscar for Technical Achievement. Of course, in today’s market, visual effects are dominated by computer-generated effects which have become a mainstay in our cinematic experience. Sadly, that wasn’t the case back in 1982 and Tron was robbed of the recognition it deserved.
The cultural influences of Tron and its contribution to the cinematic landscape cannot be overstated. The film was ahead of its time and delivered a breathtaking adventure that is perfectly suited to enjoy on a wet Sunday afternoon. It is pure escapism at its best and clocking in at just over 90 minutes – it never outstays its welcome. But if that isn’t enough to entice you into pressing play – the sequel Tron: Legacy takes the concept and dials it to eleven. Featuring mesmerizing visual effects and a suitably impressive score from Daft Punk this sequel ducks the trend and proves that sequels can be just as impressive as the originator. Even though Tron celebrates its thirty-eighth birthday this year – the mileage certainly doesn’t show and the movie is just as fun and visually immersive now as it was in 1982.
Happy birthday, Tron. End of line…
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force and babbles frequently!