This charming and amusing science fiction classic was also the herald of things to come.
In a moment which is quickly becoming the distant past, a remarkable movie classic was born. I never get tired of watching this film and have seen it more times than I care to admit. One of my favorite things about the movie is how it captures the feeling of innocence, and the lack of cynicism that reflects the period that gave it birth, one of its most endearing qualities. I have to wonder if anyone knew at the time that it was fated to be the start of something big. That something is, of course, the first use of CGI in a movie. It’s easy to forget this film was the first to make use of the then developing technology of CGI and still stands as a remarkable, and adorable reminder of how far we have come in that regard in a relatively short time.
Most fans know the cyberpunk story of how computer genius Flynn (portrayed by Jeff Bridges) gets transported into the virtual “reality” called the grid. The world his opponent the Master Control program (the film’s villainous artificial intelligence) sends him to results in him having experiences that were at the time unlike any other. The world the movie depicts inside the computer is a unique one. There’s also another story about how this film came to be and became a landmark in the history of filmmaking. As usual, pure, dumb luck played a role.
From Wikipedia: “Development of Tron began in 1976 when writer/director Steven Lisberger became fascinated with the early video game Pong. He and producer Donald Kushner set up an animation studio to develop Tron with the intention of making it an animated film. Indeed, to promote the studio itself, Lisberger and his team created a 30-second animation featuring the first appearance of the eponymous character. Eventually, Lisberger decided to include live-action elements with both backlit and computer animation for the actual feature-length film. Various film studios had rejected the storyboards for the movie before the Walt Disney Studios agreed to finance and distribute Tron. There, the backlit animation combined with the computer animation and live action”.
A lot of fans, these days, have taken to bemoaning the overuse of CGI. Personally, I have less of a problem with it than that group of individuals. As a life-long fan of animation I welcomed and embraced this new era of technology that, when done well, blurs the line between reality and the imagination.
Tron remains one of my favorite modern classics, and sometimes it’s easy to forget it also represents a charming, and fun pioneering moment in movie history, that over thirty years later, is still worth watching again.