USA 1982, 96 mins
Director: Steven Lisberger

A contemporary review
The much-publicised gimmick that sets Tron apart in the current science-fiction wave is that much of its geography and hardware was created by computer and, unlike the miniatures of Star Wars or the elaborate sets for Alien, required no physical existence whatever for filming purposes. One suspects that the film’s appearance actually results from a remarkable combination of animated skills intended to look as though it was all done by computer, but even in today’s computer-conscious milieu (where every schoolchild seems unnervingly fluent in Basic), the average spectator is unlikely to spot the joins. With constructs and vehicles by Syd Mead (Blade Runner), costumes and armour by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud (of Heavy Metal magazine), matte paintings by Harrison Ellenshaw (of The Black Hole and The Empire Strikes Back), and Lisberger’s own design abilities (as established in Animalympics), the visual possibilities of an electronic micro-society are fascinatingly suggested, and it seems irrelevant to question whether the intricate luminous strips on the uniforms were added later or whether the face of the evil MCP was faked up by anything other than standard Disney futurism. With its merciless, angular geometry, its unbounded arena of competition, and its savage, simple code of destruction, the world of Tron enjoyably echoes the habitual massacres of the video ritual.

One might still complain that it promises rather more than it delivers. While nobody would require complexities of characterisation from a video game, and the film duly delivers amiably uninteresting humanoids in a conventional good-versus-bad predicament, the bleak, featureless game grid quickly sets a tone more of parsimony than simplicity. The inventive barrage of assailants that forms a deafening part of any video struggle is limited in Tron to a few tanks and floating giant claws. The film’s happiest encounter is with the racing light-cycles, hurtling across the infinite grid leaving walls of colour as they go; the scene is superbly shot and orchestrated, and nothing afterwards can quite match it for excitement. There are glimpses of what appears to be the computer’s up-market area with some exotic costumes, and of delightful but unexplained green insects. There’s even a pretty but not particularly meaningful transformation scene as the MCP’s ‘curse’ is lifted. The David-and-Goliath stuff of the finale is good, macabre melodrama (a jolly touch is the wound that ‘bleeds’ nuts and bolts and circuitry), but the outcome has great inevitability ­– it’s no novelty to see David Warner demolished – and the clean-cut Bruce Boxleitner makes a startlingly antiseptic winner.

For those who would have favoured less spectacle and more substance, the saving grace of Tron is its humour. Lisberger’s script carries a mocking edge that trims away most of the pretensions and just leaves the fun, dulled occasionally by the cast’s heavyweight delivery. A nod to The Day the Earth Stood Still goes cheerfully by, there is a pleasing moment as munching Pac-Men appear on the villain’s battle chart, and the use of standard computer imagery provides some splendid menace and invective. ‘You worn-out excuse for an old programme!’ snarls Sark at one of his victims, only to be reduced in turn to quaking terror when the Master Control suggests icily that he might prefer to work in a pocket calculator. Almost thrown away to avoid overemphasis is the philosophy of the video-game participants, who are kept on the go at the whim of the Users who programme them: ‘You just keep doing what it looks like you’re supposed to be doing’. And that’s how it is for the Users too, of course. With his closing shot, Lisberger gives us a magnificent panorama of the real city, a gigantic grid on which we can see ourselves, should we feel so inclined, as Units engaged in our own hectic confrontations, hoping that somebody somewhere is pushing the right buttons.
Philip Strick, Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1982

Directed by: Brian Larsen
Producer: David Lally
Writer: Brian Larsen
Camera: Farhez Rayani
Lighting: Matthew Silas
Editor: Nicole Vanderneut
Original Music by: Barney Jones
Sound Designer: Justin Pearson

USA 2019
8 mins

Director: Steven Lisberger
©/Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Executive Producer: Ron Miller
Producer: Donald Kushner
Associate Producer: Harrison Ellenshaw
Production Executive: Thomas L. Wilhite
Unit Production Manager: Ralph Sariego
Studio Production Manager: Ted Schilz
Post-production Managers: David V. Lester, Stephen McEveety
Assistant Directors: Lorin B. Salob, Lisa Marmon
Screenplay: Steven Lisberger
Story: Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird
Director of Photography: Bruce Logan
Camera Operators: Ron Vargas, Gregg Heschong, Rexford Metz
Background Plate Photography: Dave Iwerks, Bernie Gagliano, Gene Larmon
Animation Compositing Photography Supervisor: Jim Pickel
Visual Effects Concepts: Steven Lisberger
Visual Effects Supervisors: Richard Taylor, Harrison Ellenshaw
Visual Effects Technical Supervisor: John Scheele
Visual Effects Scene Co-ordinators: Deena Burkett, Michael Gibson, John Grower, Peter Blinn, Don Button, Clint Clover, Linda D. Stokes, Craig Newman, Jim Keating, Kerry Colonna
Matte Production Supervisor: Arnie Wong
Mechanical Special Effects: R.J. Spetter
Computer Effects Supervisor: Richard Taylor
Computer image Choreography: Bill Kroyer, Jerry W. Rees
Magi Synthavision Technology Concepts: Philip Mittelman
Transition to Electronic World/Main Title: Robert Abel & Associates
Digital Effects/Computer Images: Digital Effects, Judson
Airbrush Supervisor: Greg Battes
Sample Art Supervisor: Stephanie Burt
Animator: Tim Burton *
Effects Animation Supervisor: Lee Dyer
Editor: Jeff Gourson
Production Designer: Dean Edward Mitzner
Art Directors: John Mansbridge, Al Roelofs
Set Director: Roger Shook
Electronic Conceptual Design: Jean ‘Moëbius’ Giraud, Richard Taylor
Electronic World Conceptual Artists: Syd Mead, Jean ‘Moëbius’ Giraud, Peter Lloyd
Costumes: Elois Jenssen, Rosanna Norton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Jack Sandeen
Men’s Wardrobe: Lorry Richter
Women’s Wardrobe: Nedra Rosemond-Watt
Make-up Supervisor: Robert J. Schiffer
Make-up: Gary Liddiard
Opticals: Bob Broughton
Music/Music Synthesizer Performances: Wendy Carlos
Music Directors: Richard Bowden, Douglas Gamley
Music Performed by: Los Angeles Orchestra
Orchestrations: Jorge Calandrelli
Music Supervisor: Michael Fremer
Music Recording: John Mosley
Sound Design Supervisor: Michael Fremer
Sound Recording: Jim La Rue
Sound Department Supervisor: Bob Hathaway
Sound Re-recording: Michael Minkler, Bob Minkler, Lee Minkler, Lion’s Gate Sound
Supervising Sound Editor: Gordon Ecker Jr
Sound Editor/Sound Effects Editors: Anthony Milch, Randy Kelley, Marvin Walowitz, Vince Melandri
Sound Effects Design/Synthesis: Frank Serafine, Serafine FX Studios
Foley Editor: Michael Wilhoit
Stunt Co-ordinator: Richard E. Butler Jr.
Computer Systems/Software Development: Dave Inglish, Mark Kimbell, Dave Barnett, Marty Prager, Bill Tondreau, Cinetron
Pre-production Concept: John Norton, Roger Allers, Chris Lane, Peter Mueller

Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn/Clu)
Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/Tron)
David Warner (Ed Dillinger/Sark)
Cindy Morgan (Lora/Yori)
Barnard Hughes (Dr Walter Gibbs/Dumont)
Dan Shor (Ram)
Peter Jurasik (Crom)
Tony Stephano (Peter/Sark’s lieutenant)
Craig Chudy (1st warrior)
Vince Deadrick (2nd warrior)
Sam Schatz (expert disk warrior)
Jackson Bostwick (head guard)
David Cass (factory guard)
Gerald Burns (1st guard)
Bob Neill (2nd guard)
Ted White (3rd guard)
Mark Stewart (4th guard)
Michael Sax (5th guard)
Tony Brubaker (6th guard)
Charles Picerni (tank commander)
Pierre Vuilleumier (1st tank gunner)
Erik Cord (2nd tank gunner)
Loyd Catlett (1st conscript/video game cowboy)
Michael J. Dudikoff Ii (2nd conscript)
Richard Bruce Friedman (video game player)
Rick Feck, John Kenworthy
(boys in video game arcade)

USA 1982©
96 mins

* Uncredited

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

Disney’s Silly Symphonies
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