Jul 11, 2012

Happy Initialization Day, Programs!

...or whatever you call it when a new program is created. Since derezzing is the end, would initialization or rezzing be the start of electronic life? Anyway! 30 years (and two days) ago, TRON was released in just under 1100 theaters in the US.


I don't remember seeing it in theaters but it's been a presence in my pop culture consciousness for a very long time. As a young geek, I got to experience Pong as a home video game console. A console that only played a single game with no cartridges, can you imagine?

It was around '82/'83 when I got my first computer, a TI-99/4a. 256k RAM, baby! I bought computer magazines so I could manually copy line upon line of BASIC code to play games. I learned about hexdecimal code and sprites so I could change the ships in a Space Invaders knockoff to look like ships from Star Wars. There was just something about computers that grabbed me at an early age. Not to mention, computers were the "it" thing in the '80s.

If you think about it, computers were to '80s cinema what the atom age was to '50s cinema...the next big thing that could destroy the world!

I never had any of the toys. Maybe I was just too into Star Wars collecting at the time. I remember seeing the ads for the Tron figures and lightcycles and wanting to get them but for whatever reason I never did. Maybe they were hard to find?

Image from Neato Coolville
I remember creating a Tron-inspired game that I played with a friend. It was similar to Disc Wars but the goal was to get a Frisbee past your opponent, and not hit them with it! Each player had a plastic tube that was used to deflect/stop the disc from going past them. I also remember trying to teach myself to throw a Frisbee like they do in the movie...not so much success there. It would be another year until Return of the Jedi's speederbikes became the pretend vehicle of choice when riding bikes, but until then it was lightcycles all the way!

And the video games! I was an Atari kid but there were few times when I wanted an Intellivision so I could play the Tron games. Never had the one cart released for Atari. I played the arcade games a lot. I remember getting out of middle school and going to the mall across the street to play the Tron game. There was a tiny room near the back entrance that was about 10' across but it was long enough that they had five or six games in there. One local arcade had the step-in version of Discs of Tron which was awesome.

Discs of Tron stand in video game cabinet
Bee-yoo-ti-ful!
Arcade games were often rotated out to make way for the latest and greatest. Soon, the last connection to Tron was gone and it moved on to that place in my brain that holds on to special things.

In 1994, ReBoot premiered on Saturday mornings and rezzed up memories from over 10 years ago. Ever since then, I'd always wondered why Tron was never made as an all CGI cartoon. In my mind, it was the perfect way to tell stories set in the same digital world. ReBoot ended in 2002 and still has a strong fan following today.

A 20th Anniversary edition of Tron was released on DVD in 2002. I devoured the special features which were previously only available on LaserDisc. New segments included peaks at the artwork for following year's PC game Tron 2.0. They also hinted at the possibilty of a true movie sequel. New Tron material after 20 years!

The PC game Tron 2.0, was considered to be a cannonical sequel until production for Tron: Legacy started. The game had a great story line although the hero was Alan's son instead of Flynn's. A series of four figures were released based on the game. There was a follow-up sequel done in comic book form called Tron: Ghost in the Machine, which is a sector of Tron lore I'd gladly reformat.

Tron 2 initial logo

The teaser trailer for TR2N was shown at Comic Con in 2008. It was a similar to the first Phantom Menace trailer: I had to find a bootleg version online and I watched it a whole lot!

I followed, and played along, with the Alternate Reality Game online. I won a few pins, a couple of postcard ads featuring Encom video games and an Encom employee photo ID badge complete with lanyard.

In October, our local AMC theater participated in a free 23 minute preview in IMAX 3D. There weren't a ton of people there but it what I saw got me even more excited for the premiere. Also, Marvel Comics released a two issue prequel titled Tron: Betrayal. It made a lot more sense after seeing the movie and having the proper context to place the new story.

I got the soundtrack when it was released and instantly fell in love with it. Daft Punk's melding of electronica and orchestra was just as unique as Wendy Carlos' original Tron score. It's a perfect album to put on to zone out or while working at a computer...which are not mutually exclusive. There was a remix album released a bit later and seemingly endless unlicensed  fan remixes.


Legacy opened on December 17th. My parents were taking us to DisneyWorld for Christmas that year and amdist the hubaballo of getting ready for a week long trip, I made my wife go with me before the trip because there was no way I was missing this in IMAX 3D! I loved the movie. I wish they'd been able to explore Tron a little more and it would've been great to see Cindy Morgan back.

Cindy Morgan Yori autograph

This year brings us Tron: Uprising. Finally an animated series! The show takes place prior to Legacy with Tron training a young program to take his place in the revolution. The show is scored by Joseph Trapanese who worked with Daft Punk for two years on the Legacy film score. Until I found this out, I had no idea it wasn't Daft Punk. I need a soundtrack from the show!

And that brings us up to right now. Word has it a new movie is being worked on but no details have come out yet. Maybe something will be revealed at Comic Con this week...

If you're still reading, I applaud you! I really didn't mean to go on at such length, this was really just going to be a Happy 30th. But as you can probably tell, Tron is one of my favorite movie franchises of all time. There's two Holy Grail's out there for me: the original board game and Kevin Flynn's White Identity Disc

1 comment:

  1. Loved me some Tron as a kid when i saw the movie back then. Never had the toys but played alot of the games on the Atari 2600 and in the arcades.

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