Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Boy howdy, do I have some stuff to tell you folks.
I was lucky enough to get an invite to the set of TRON. It was a junket visit, which I usually don’t accept… the idea is what’s the point? If I’m in a group of 15 other online outlets the only thing I can give to you guys is a slight variation of the exact same story at the same time as other sites.
I took this visit for a number of reasons, the most important reason being my giant curiosity about this project. The trailer shown at Comic-Con ’08 blew my mind, the promise of the movie is huge, but Disney has kept the flick under the radar up until now. At the point of this visit they hadn’t confirmed half the cast and had released zero images, art or otherwise.
And I’m also a massive Tron nerd. I loved the movie growing up and find new things to love about it every time I rewatch it. I own a kick-ass Australian one-sheet for the original which prominently features Sark. That poster is framed and hangs in my bedroom. Here’s the art, though it’s a Spanish version of the poster:
So I took the trip, joining about 9 other outlets, including MTV, FirstShowing.net, IGN and ComingSoon, but apparently the big online press day was the day following my visit. The LatinoReviews and CHUDs, etc, so hopefully I’ll have something slightly different than most of the other sites.
My trip into Vancouver was stress-free and I arrived in plenty of time to get a full night’s sleep before the big day. Unfortunately for me BREWSTER’S MILLIONS started on some Canadian movie channel right as I was getting into bed and before I realized it I watched the whole thing and I was 6 hours away from my wake-up call. Richard Pryor and John Candy were worth it, though! I probably hadn’t watched that movie from beginning to end in 10 years. Such a good movie.
Disney’s sweaty man-God Andrew Runyon rounded us all together and piled us on the shuttle bound for the Canada Motion Picture Park, the same series of offices and studios that were used on WATCHMEN. To show you how long ago this was, we all started getting word from Twitter, txts and emails on the way to the studio that Michael Jackson had died.
The geek out started creeping up when we walked into the production offices marked TRON, in that awesome nostalgic TRON font.
We walked up a flight of stairs and the unit publicist said that when Zack Snyder was working there would always be a set of weights at the bottom of the stairs and one set at the top. Everyone going up and down was expected to carry them, an effort on Zack’s part to keep everybody fit during production.
When I entered the show room, walls lined with production art and live action stills, I could literally hear the Wendy Carlos TRON score playing in my head.
There was a character section immediately to my right as I entered the room, a series of photographs of all the main characters in costume, labeled with the character names.
Let’s start with the obvious:
Kevin Flynn, Jeff Bridges. There were two sets of photos, one set featuring Flynn in a black robe with white lining. He looked a little Jedi-ish with the hood up, but fairly normal with it down. Full head of hair, full beard.
The other set featured Flynn in a white Tron world suit. It’s not like the suit in the first movie, more textured with white light lines. He was barefoot in this outfit, like in the teaser. His jacket was removed in one still, his undershirt leaving his arms bare up to the shoulder.
The coolest part was a shot of him in this suit, back to the camera. There was a circular indentation on his back, lined with white light. This is obviously where his disk goes.
Right underneath Flynn was another familiar character, Clu… the Flynn program in the first film if you remember. Clu’s not a good guy this time out. I asked producer (Sean Bailey) about it. Is this the Clu from the first film gone bad a new character? He only grinned and said, “It’s Clu version 2.0.”
His outfit is sleek black with dark Orange lighted lines, helmet as sleek and obsidian as his outfit. Underneath he will be 1982 Flynn.
There’s a new character that is Flynn’s right hand man, a program called Rinzler, also shiny black, but he’s more slender with harsh yellow light lines. He wields two discs instead of one. We got a demonstration from prop master Jimmy Chow later in the visit and Rinzler’s disk literally splits in half, giving him two thinner weapons.
Some of the disks this time around have holes in the middle. Rinzler’s does… they look like those toys from the ‘80s… don’t remember what they’re called, but they were thin and red. Remember those or am I going crazy?
Other new characters include someone called Jarvis, Castor (played by FROST VS. NIXON’s Michael Sheen) with a light-cane, all white outfit and slicked back white hair, Sirens (female programs… in the production art they were mouthless, draped in clear overcoats and pale white with white light lines) and Black Guards, characters that are bulky and armored with translucent blue energy wings, positioned like that of a fly: two over the shoulder and two underneath each arm. Not sure what that’s for… a shield of some kind, maybe?
Waiting for us on the table were Viewmasters with the TRON logo on them. Held up to the light we could see 8 or 10 stereoscopic set photos, including one shot I tried to impress on the Disney people and producers would make a KILLER teaser poster.
It’s a shot of Garrett Hedlund playing Sam Flynn, Kevin Flynn’s son, and protagonist of the story. He’s in his Tron suit, lit up light blue, and standing in front of a strong blue light. The harsh light silhouettes him, leaving all his features and the detail of the suit in blackness. He’s kinda looking over his shoulder, the only thing you can see of the suit are the radiant light lines.
It’s a striking image: a hero’s pose.
This is a good time to talk about the suits. There are two color systems for the light lines. The baddies have harsh colors like oranges and yellows. The goodies have more mellow colors… whites, blues and greens.
Unlike the first film the majority of the suits aren’t white leotards, but more rubberized black. Seeing them hanging on clothes hangers in the wardrobe department it’s easy to see a Nolan’s Batman influence, but thankfully they don’t really look that when worn, with the lights illuminated. There are white suits, more like the first one, but it’s not the most common.
The lights are a new innovation, a type of flexible rubberized lamp that is somehow built using a sort of adapted silk screening process. Every suit has its own illumination for every shot. Because they’re shooting in 3-D it’s nearly impossible to add in the light as a digital effect in post.
They’re shooting 3-D with a Sony F35, but the opening of the movie, taking place in modern day real world 2010, will be 2-D, the 3-D not kicking in until we drop into the digital world of Tron. It’s a sort of WIZARD OF OZ moment when Sam Flynn drops into the TRON world in search of his missing father.
Apparently the flick opens in 1989 with Flynn being the super successful head of Encom. He had a child shortly after the events of the first film and reads a bedtime story to the now 7 year old before leaving for the night and disappearing off the face of the earth. The bedtime story is supposed to be an analogy to his work.
It’s a big media event… it’d be like if Bill Gates just disappeared one day. Encom tries to calm the worry over the company by saying it’s no big deal… Flynn was eccentric, so he probably just went on a sabbatical or something, right? A faction appears contradicting this, sure something is wrong. This group is led by one Mr. Alan Bradley, played by a returning Bruce Boxleitner.
Without a dad and, apparently, a dead mom, Sam grows up with his grandparents and even though he’s now legally the largest shareholder in Encom he doesn’t want any of it, living modestly in a shipping container reconstituted into a home on the river with a beautiful view of the city and Encome itself. The 2010 Encom building is the newly built Shangri La Hotel in Vancouver, by the way.
One day Alan comes to him with a bit of data he got off of an Encom computer (he still works there, but has been marginalized since Flynn’s disappearance) that might lead them to Kevin Flynn. Sam reluctantly goes on the search, which begins in Flynn’s Arcade, perfectly reconstructed from the previous film. I saw a 3-D still later in the visit of the arcade with dozens of vintage arcade games covered in plastic, with the TRON game under a bright neon sign declaring “FLYNN’S – HOME OF TRON.” It’s the original TRON arcade game we all grew up with, but in this world it’s an Encom game, not a Bally’s game. You’ve seen a great deal of Flynn’s Arcade in the trailer and it was just as striking in the still I saw.
That begins Sam’s descent down the rabbit’s hole.
Things you should know about this world, information gathered from Q&As with the producers, art director, the tour around the production art room and some bits snatched from private conversations with the team there:
– The digital Tron world is a creation of Flynn and is hosted on private 1989 servers, not connected to the internet.
– The producers described this digital world as the computer equivalent of the Galapagos Islands. The digital world has evolved on its own, with no outside influence since Flynn built it.
– The world is darker than the previous, with an obvious BLADE RUNNER influence, apt because the designer of Ridley Scott’s futurist world was Syd Mead who also designed much of the original TRON world.
– Syd Mead came in for a day to give his thoughts on what the design team has churned out thus far.
– There’s a stadium where games are played this time out, presided over by Clu.
– When talking to the producers they said they went into this sequel (which holds the record for most time passed between an original film and its sequel, with returning cast, we were told) with the mindset that there were 4 things they owed the fans: Lit suits, Jeff Bridges, light cycles and a feeling that this movie is something new just as the original was something no one had seen before.
– They made mention that Flynn and Clu square off at some point in the movie. I. Can’t. Wait. The Dude vs. Starman? Brilliant.
– Director Joseph Kosinski is a first time feature director, but you know his work from the GEARS OF WAR Mad World commercial and that great HALO 3 Starry Night commercial. He’s a graduate of Columbia with a degree in architecture, so the visual look of the film is extremely important to him.
– TRON: LEGACY is NOT a mo-cap production. They’re shooting 64 or 65 days with real sets. Obviously blue-screen plays a large role to help create the digital world of Tron, but a lot of real sets are not only built, but used throughout the film.
– Kosinski plans to vary up his shooting techniques throughout the production in order to never tip his hand on how the world is being presented to the audience. There will be motion capture for some scenes (lightcycles) and characters (but with the real actor’s faces filmed and put onto the CG character), but totally in-camera segments for others. Sometimes he’ll mix and match depending on what’s best for the scene.
– There is some exploration of the religious undertones of the original, ie The Users. This time I’m guessing Flynn himself is a deity since he is the creator of this world and inhabits it.
– Bit will not make an appearance, which makes me sad. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.
– The name of the company that created the shipping containers that Sam lives in at the beginning of the story is DUMONT (at least in the production art). Nice nod, eh?
– There will be new disk game played, but we weren’t told what they’d be. We did see some artwork from an arena which was just four hallways intersecting at a circular chamber.
– There’s a new Solar Sailor, which looks pretty much like the original, but with a purple color scheme and a thicker middle to hold more programs.
– Look for a vehicle called the Light Runner, a low-riding car built for speed, but that turns into a dune buggy type vehicle when off-road. It’s not a drastic change or a morphing thing… essentially the cab sits up a little higher and the wheels sprout ridges like a kleet.
– Another new vehicle was called Clu’s Throne Ship, dark black ship with Clu’s dark orange light scheme… think the basic shape of Luke’s landspeeder, but much larger and as an enclosed ship with glass ceilings. Also there was a little hammerhead-like shape instead of a rounded or pointed front. There was some beautiful artwork of Clu lounging on an obsidian throne in the ship, the world of TRON seen through the large windows above.
– The world of Tron is one big city and the more you get out of the city center you lose definition and symmetry, eventually falling off into the Sea of Simulation according to the production designer, Darren Gilford.
– Gilford also said there are a lot of soft-cornered hexagons built into the architecture of the world.
– There will be an interim lightcycle, bridging the first movie to the second. The riders are exposed in the 2010 Tron universe, something Steven Lisberger tried to do with the original, but the technology wasn’t there, so they had to dome it, apparently that dome being one of the most complicated effects for the computers to pull off back in the day. So between the old lightcycles and the new, rider-exposed cycles there is one that Flynn rides that is an amalgam of the two, with the newer design and look, but the dome of the original.
– The Recognizors are back and they have a loading system where programs can enter the “feet,” a sort of elevator-like enclosure, that takes them to the bridge. Other than a little more texture and definition they seem relatively unchanged.
– There will be a new video game released at the same time as the new TRON movie. The game developers (Disney’s in-house people) have been working closely with the designers of the movie to really make it a part of the movie experience.
I’ve been asked by the folks at Disney to break the report up into two pieces, one running now and one closer to release, so I figure this is a good spot to split them.
The second piece is the actual visit to the set, which was a real deal practical set (with a lot of bluescreen out the windows)… a club in the TRON world called End of Line Club run by Sheen’s program. Tron nerds’ ears perked up at that name, I bet.
This club featured cameos by Daft Punk (as DJs, naturally) and original director Steven Lisberger. I got to meet Lisberger, but not Daft Punk, sorry to say. Here’s a preview of that set:
In part two I’ll describe that set, what we saw filming and go over our interviews with Lisberger, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen and Garrett Hedlund. Oh, and I’ll tell you what it was like holding an original TRON disc. (Hint: It was forking awesome!)