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All right. It’s been 28 years since the original TRON movie hit the big screen. I’ve been intentionally steering clear of any current TRON: Legacy info so as not to run across any spoilers before it opens in theaters this Friday.

Hopefully, everyone’s familiar with the original storyline, but I’ll keep the next two minutes fairly free of spoilers anyway, just in case there’s anyone out there who’s still 20 or thirty years behind on their movie watching.

One aspect of the original movie that can be confusing are the pairings between the movie’s analog humans and their digital counterparts.

The leading role, played by Jeff Bridges – does anyone remember his characters’ names? Kevin Flynn and Clu.

Alan Bradley’s digital counterpart? Tron.

Ed Dilliger? Double cast as both Sark and the Master Control Program.

Lora? Yori.

and Dr. Walter Gibbs? Dumont.

You all now know that Jeff Bridges landed the role of Kevin Flynn aka Clu for the first movie, but did you know that Deborah Harry was among the actresses screen tested for the role of Lora, or that Peter O’Toole was approached to play the role of Dillinger/Sark, but became extremely interested in the role of Tron, instead? He suddenly *lost* interest when he found out that the majority of the acting would take place in front of a black screen and that the digital effects would be added later. In fact, many Disney animators refused to work on the film due to fears that computers would replace the skilled pen and ink animators.

The live action footage inside the world of computers was originally shot in black and white, then colorized in post-production with photographic and rotoscopic techniques. Originally, the good programs were going to have glowing yellow circuitry and the bad programs would glow blue. This was changed before the movie’s release, though if you pay attention to the tank scenes, you’ll notice that some of the original coloring remained in the movie.

Flashes also appear randomly throughout the film. This was due to a mistake in production and emulsion ordering, but was incorporated into the film by adding corresponding sound effects to make the bright bursts of color appear to be part of the computer world.

At the time, the computers used in post-production could overlay a digital image onto the film, but lacked the ability to programatically manipulate the images’ position. Animators had to determine the coordinates for the graphic for each frame, and manually key them in. It took 600 coordinates to yield 4 seconds of film showing a light cycle. To aid in this, and to give the computer world a more concrete feel, the film makers nailed the cameras to the floor, stating that the camera was so locked off that “it wouldn’t move even if hit by a car”. Not a budge.

Other lengths were taken to ensure the proper feel for the film: Jeff Bridge’s costome includes a yoga-like piece worn over the standard Tron unisex body suit. This was done to hide Bridge’s Bulge, making the film more child-friendly.

Moving on from things you won’t see, to things you may have missed:

There are a number of Easter Eggs in the original movie. When Tron and Flynn are in the Solar Sailor, an outline of Mickey Mouse can be seen in the landscape below.

In the scene immediately following the Light Cycle chase, the arcade character Pac Man is shown on Sark’s map and sound effects from the 80s classic can be heard in the background.

Video Games were ever-present on the set during filming. Bridges would often buy himself enough time to finish a game by claiming that he was preparing for the next scene.

There’s also a hearty helping of real world computer terms in the movie:

The Master Control Program uses the phrase “end of line” to terminate conversations with Dillinger. The programs call the programmers “Users”, the dot-like thing that answers yes or no is named “Bit”. Clu, also played by Jeff Bridges, is also the name of a computer programming language developed at MIT between 1974 and 1975. And though the name Tron was originally plucked from the word electronic, there’s no denying the overlap with the BASIC debugging command TRace ON.

The computer program that helps Tron communicate with his user is named for Allen B Dumont, inventor of the first monitor in 1920. I’m going to start calling mine a montitor in his honor…

And the character Alan Bradley was named after the Alan-Bradley line of Factory Automation Equipment made by Rockwell Automation. (Just to illustrate how far *they* go back, they have a *two* letter domain name, ab.com.)

Fiction met reality in many exterior shots. The futuristic Lawrence Livermore Laboratory outside Oakland, California, stood in for the exterior of the Encom facilities. At one point, the lead actress, Cindy Morgan, had to be decontaminated after stepping into a radioactive substance that had spilled outside the facility’s entrance. The Encom programmer cubicles were actual programmer cubes at the Disney Studio and the role of Flynn’s Arcade was played by the historic Hull Building at the Northwest corner of Washington Blvd and Watseka Ave in Culver City, California.

Despite it’s current cult status, the film was a financial failure; Disney did not attempt another live subject film for another ten years. The Tron *videogame* actually outgrossed the movie, one quarter at a time. We’ll see how the new movie, TRON: Legacy, opening this Friday, fares, but for now, that’s it for your Tron-tastic 0100 0001 0001 and that’s that for BarretTime.

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