‘Tron’ creator: ‘We employed arcane, dark cinema voodoo’ in 1982

Dec. 06, 2010 | 1:52 p.m.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: On Dec. 17, the Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor 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 is directed by Joseph Kosinski and stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. We’re counting down to the release date and today’s post is a snapshot memory from “Tron” creator Steven Lisberger.

tron 1982 Tron creator: We employed arcane, dark cinema voodoo in 1982

1982 poster for "Tron" (Disney)

Steven Lisberger, the writer and director of the 1982 film “Tron,” is something of a prophet figure in the realm of computer animation for feature films as well as in digital-era frontier iconography. But even this longtime digital soul said he longed for some of the old analog charm and creaky satisfaction of Reagan-era moviemaking amid the sleek hard-drive creation of “Tron: Legacy.”

“I do miss the bucket of paintbrushes in the sink and the smell of cedar pencils —  I know, I know, I’m becoming the parody of the old man,” said Lisberger, who is a producer on the new film and worked closely with director Joseph Kosinski and producer Sean Bailey. “Look, Joe and Sean were doing all of this cutting-edge — and I know Joe would have liked even more computing power and servers — but they really have no idea how funky the first film was in comparison to the making of this film. It was unbelievable how interactive and real-time this process has been compared to the original. We employed arcane, dark cinema voodoo, that’s what the making of the first film was.”

He added: “We were conjuring something out of the void. We were flying by instruments but we hadn’t built the instruments yet. What sustained us, actually, was the belief in the collective of the artistic talent on the film. That made a difference. And it made a difference that we were at Disney, where that was still the lore. It’s easy to look at the original film and see what the movie isn’t, but at the time, I was determined to put these big themes on a movie about video games and mainframe IBM computers. At the time, that was pretty outlandish.”

— Geoff Boucher

More in: Movies, Disney, Tron


5 Responses to ‘Tron’ creator: ‘We employed arcane, dark cinema voodoo’ in 1982

  1. Smallfish says:

    The trailer made me smile. For a second I was a kid going to a Summer matinee and begging Pop for more quarters. Then I looked over and saw my 2 kids light up… this time around, the geeks are buying the ticket! All hail the "Dude."

  2. Joe Machos says:

    1982's TRON is the ghost in the machine. Defined Cyberspace when the PC had yet to really move
    into the home and the Mac was still two years away for Ridley to throw the hammer down. That July
    in '82 I only had the opportunity to see it once on the big screen (Unlike my 7 times in '77 for Star Wars)
    But more than any other film (Tucker: The Man and His Dream and Citizen Kane round out my top 3)
    TRON maintains a special place in my heart and mind. Wonderfully cast, clever and cheesy dialog – Only Cindy Morgan could pull off the 'Shall we dance?' line without making it cliche'. A severely sexy Disney chick, if there ever was one. May TRON Legacy re-open the wormhole to all things TRON!

  3. Bemused says:

    Wow, way to go Hollywood! You've clearly exhausted big-screen classics to remake and small-screen series to "elevate" to big-screen status. Clearly all that's left is to dredge up past failures in the hope that the original film's marginal cult following has somehow procreated and multiplied.

    At least the studio had the good sense to keep the notoriously arrogant Lisberger in a hands-off, chiefly ceremonial role on the "Tron" sequel. After this one makes the fast trip to the discount DVD bin at Walmart, he can return to touring the Sci-Fi convention circuit, exhorting to half-empty Holiday Inn ballrooms about what a visionary he was in '82, then returning to his room and wondering what happened to his career.

  4. Fabrisse says:

    I saw this movie with my sister when it first came out. I turned to her and said, "We've seen the future of movies."

    I loved the original. I'm excited to see the new one, and I hope it's as thrilling — and maybe a little cheesy — as its eminent predecessor.

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