While extensively covering Disney’s 1982 computer-world movie Tron, I referenced futurist Syd Mead quite a bit. He left an indelible mark on that film and many other seminal SF works like Blade Runner. He passed away yesterday at age 86
On Tron, Mead’s specialty in future-cool hardware was put to good use, designing the tanks and villain Sark’s huge floating carrier, along with the eye-catching TRON title font. But his most iconic design for the film, that ranks up there with the flying spinner car from Blade Runner, were the lightcycles. Still recognizable as motorcycles, but sleek, imposing and merging man and machine, they are a design that has lived on in the imagination far past when the lights came up in the theatres.
Tron director Steven Lisberger (in black) meets with his art design staff: Syd Mead (centre, wearing tie), camera right of him is Moebius, next to him is Peter Lloyd
Rendered as CGI creations in Tron by effects house MAGI via their Synthavision process, the lightcycles had to be scaled back a bit from Mead’s vision. He did get to have the full look of the vehicles realized in the sequel, Tron Legacy. The biggest difference between the two is how the rider truly becomes a part of the cycle in Legacy, other than just being a driver inside it.
Tron lightcycles from original film, 1982
Mead also worked directly in the video game industry, including designing the vehicles in the 1995 Sega Saturn game Cyber Speedway. I think it’s fair to say the extended garage of our possible future wouldn’t look nearly as cool if not for the startling design work of Syd Mead. His practical but far-flung vision will be missed. RIP.
Syd Mead concept drawing of Tank interior
You can read my coverage of Tron and see many of Mead’s designs for it here on my site: http://bit.ly/2Z1CK8J
Original Syd Mead lightcycle design, with driver who becomes part of the vehicle
The Gashlycrumb Tinies is an infamous 1963 book written and illustrated by Edward Gorey. In it 26 children, each one with a name that starts with the next letter of the alphabet, die from various causes, all put to rhyme.
Over at brentalfloss, they have adapted Gorey’s work as the Game Over Tinies, where various video game characters meet their demise in similar fashion. It is a masterfully done tribute to both the original work and the dangerous lives of video game characters. Here’s a sample:
The Verge has published a wonderfully written and presented paean to the video arcade on their website, titled “For Amusement Only: the life and death of the American arcade”.
For me, thoughts of the dark, stuffy and endlessly bloopy and bleepy arcades of my youth are akin to an older generation thinking about drive-in restaurants with roller-skating waitresses, or sock hops. It was a vibrant social scene that has all but gone extinct, although modern movements like Barcades are perhaps heralding a comeback for the idea of a place to gather and belly up to arcade game cabinets.
The Verge offers a thorough and thoroughly engaging history of the video arcade, one that should not be missed.
Back online. Gleaned from the news, it looks like the blackout protest is an initial success, with SOPA delayed for retooling and the White House coming out against it as it currently stands. Its demise is no certain thing right now, though, so the pressure must continue against U.S. lawmakers. Here’s hoping they do right by the American people.
The site will be going down shortly, a bit premature but in support of the Jan 18 Internet blackout, protesting the railroading of the PIPA and SOPA laws through the U.S. congress. These laws, supposedly created to curtail piracy and copyright infringement, pass unprecedented and unreasonable powers to authorities to shut down websites and seize IPs merely on the accusation of piracy or the linking to what is conceived to be such. They are too broad and dangerous, and their loose language will have a chilling effect on innovation and free speech on the web.
A brilliant article over at gamerswithjobs.com, about the perils of gaming while trying to responsibly raise kids. I doubt any gamer with children can’t read something in this story that doesn’t mirror their own anguish at wanting to play games when the parasites, er I mean darling kids, demand attention.
An interesting retro video game-themed anti-smoking ad. Supposedly from thetruth.com, an anti-smoking campaign that takes an abstract approach on the subject.
Anyone who has played the first two Bioshock games knows that the partially destroyed, underwater city that they are set in, called Rapture by its founder Andrew Ryan, is a big draw of the series. So gamers were jazzed that a film based in this fallen world, helmed by serious director Gore Verbinski, was in the pipeline. But even though Verbinski helmed the first three of the phenomenally successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies, he apparently doesn’t have enough clout to get the Bioshock movie made, in a way that he sees fit for the source material.
Comingsoon.net has an interview with Verbinski, who jumped ship from the Bioshock project two years ago, where he states that the reason for his departure is that he could not raise financing to do the film with an R rating. The combination of a dark vision and the high price tag of creating Rapture evidently sunk the project.
It’s a sad tale, because with all the crap movie adaptations of vaunted video games we get nowadays, the Verbinski Bioshock project looked like it had all the makings of a classic movie of a very special video game. You could also look at the silver lining: at least Verbinski refused to water down the material to meet a PG rating. Current development of the Bioshock movie is unknown.