Monday, July 16, 2012

A Reel 30

“Now for some real user power.”

1982 was a banner year for movies, with many significant films in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. This month marks the 30th anniversary of Disney’s TRON
TRON was a film ahead of its time in 1982, and remains one of Disney’s most underrated and underappreciated films. Inspired by the video game Pong as early as 1976, the film was the very first to include live-action elements with computer animation. This made TRON the first computer-generated film long before CGI became so common, and before computers become so commonplace in our everyday lives.

TRON began as a special-effects reel in search of a story. With such a high concept, director Steven Lisberger went with the simplest and most relate-able stores; Get Dorothy Home. Settling on a simple plot of a computer programmer who gets zapped into a digital world and must fight his way out, the simplicity of it all grounded the film and kept the then-dazzling visuals from taking things over. The cast, which included Jeff Bridges and David Warner, brought even more believeabiltiy to the fantastic world by successfully acting against things and environments that did not exist on set. Today’s directors and actors could learn a lot from TRON before diving into their virtual environments.
TRON went on to receive critical acclaim and would eventually become a cult favorite. John Lasseter of Pixar fame would often say that without TRON, there would not have a TOY STORY. The film would go on to inspire its own franchise in the form of books, animated TV series, and of course…video games. But the lasting legacy of TRON is not what it did in 1982, but what it didn’t do…

In the year it was released, the Motion Picture Academy refused to nominate TRON for Best Special Effects, because the thought was the filmmakers “cheated” by using computers. Thirty years later, the same battle rages on today in the same Visual Effects arena. As more and more films utilize motion-capture technology (RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, AVATAR, THE HOBBIT), the argument over actors who are wearing “digital masks” deserving Oscars for acting comes up nearly every year, with the Academy not yet coming around to the concept. Those voting for the Oscars could stand to learn a thing or two from that little Disney movie that was inspired by the simplest of all games.

"How are you going to run the universe if you can't answer a few unsolvable problems?"

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