‘Tron: Legacy’: Digital decor brings cool pulse to production design

Dec. 18, 2010 | 1:38 p.m.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: The new Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor a commercial success but somehow still echoes in pop culture as an early signpost of the digital era’s glowing frontier. “Tron” is remembered more for its ideas and images (and its namesake video game) than for its story or characters, and that is a challenge presented to this new film, which stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Today, David Keeps writes about the glowing production design of the film…

tron room1 Tron: Legacy: Digital decor brings cool pulse to production design

Room in "Tron" Legacy" (Walt Disney Co.)

They had me at the trailer. For weeks now, the previews for “Tron: Legacy” have offered a striking look at what digital-age decor could look like. Though the film, which opens this weekend, unfolds in a virtual landscape know as the Grid, it also features the midcentury childhood home of hero Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and a modern house made from shipping containers where Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) lives. The most dazzling interior by far, however, is the Safehouse,  a glowing hideout at the edge of the “Tron” universe.

tron room Tron: Legacy: Digital decor brings cool pulse to production design

Sleek designs in "Tron: Legacy" (Walt Disney Co.)

Production designer Darren Gilford described the Safehouse by e-mail as “a hideout of Flynn’s own design. The vibe of the space is a calm, serene self-imposed prison where Flynn has resolved to spend the rest of his digital life.”  That is, of course, until Flynn’s son Sam is Tron-sported into this digital world and uses the Safehouse as his secret lair. The space is furnished with timeless designs including the Barcelona chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the 670 lounge and ottoman by Charles and Ray Eames, and the Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni, which are accented by updated versions of 18th century French antiques.

These recognizable design elements are inspired by Flynn’s distant memories of the real world, Gilford said. “Because Flynn is originally human, and he has the ability to create his own exiled environment, we chose these familiar furnishings to showcase his personal aesthetic.”  Look closely, he added, and you’ll notice that these classic elements have been “tweaked into the ‘Tron’ design language.”

Almost everything in the Safehouse glows. The main floor is composed of 6-by-6-foot illuminated glass panels set on a massive steel structure conceived by supervising art director Kevin Ishioka and construction coordinator Jan Kobylka. Each panel was rigged so its up-lighting could be controlled independently. The Rococo-style furniture by set decorator Lin MacDonald was constructed from acrylic that took weeks to make using computer-run milling machines…

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

— David Keeps

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