Category Archives: Tron

Still featuring a light cycle battle from Tron, a film by Disney 2010

Remembering Cinema Futurist Syd Mead

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 

Syd Mead, Moebius and Peter Lloyd, art designers for Tron, a video game themed movie by Disney

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

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.

Still of lightcycles in battle from Tron, a video game themed movie from Disney 1982

Tron lightcycles from original film, 1982

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.

A drawing by Syd Mead for Tron, a video game themed movie by Disney 1982

Syd Mead concept drawing of Tank interior

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.

You can read my coverage of Tron and see many of Mead’s designs for it here on my site:

Concept art of lightcycle from Tron, a video game themed movie by Disney

Original Syd Mead lightcycle design, with driver who becomes part of the vehicle

Still of lightcycles in battle from Tron, a video game themed movie from Disney 1982

Tron Lightcycles Come to Life at Shanghai Disneyland

Tron was a 1982 film by Disney that promised to take the growing public interest in personal computers and video games and create a huge box-office and merchandising bonanza around the topic. It didn’t. Some products based on Tron were released in the run-up to its release, stuff like a handheld electronic game by Tomy, some home video games through a licensing agreement with Mattel… the most successful was Midway’s Tron arcade game, which ended up grossing more in quarters than the movie did at the theatres. Tron fizzling at the box-office upon release put a damper on the enthusiasm with which the film had been made.

Twenty-eight years later came the sequel, Tron Legacy. A masterly made continuation, Legacy ramped up the visuals and action to new hieghts, while making the story less about the technology and more about a personal story of father and son. But even as it diverged from the original, it still hit the important beats one expects from a Tron film, and this included an updating of the iconic lightcycles. And now the Shanghai Disneyland Resort has brought the Legacy lightcycles into the real world with a fast-paced and awesomely themed indoor/outdoor rollercoaster ride, where guests mount their cycle and power through neon tunnels and a twisting outside section. 

We might have been robbed of a second Tron sequel, but at least there’s some place on Earth where we can finally enter the Grid and race for gaming supremacy. Following is a video of the ride, called the TRON Lightcycle Power Run, in action:


Jeff Bridges and Steven Lisberger on the set of Tron, a video game themed movie by Disney 1982

Greetings, Programs! A Look at Tron

Tron is a movie that either turns people on or off, like the digital gates inside computer chips. Written by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird and directed by Lisberger, it made an attempt to take viewers on a journey into the inner world of computer circuitry.  It was released in the summer of 1982, and among various visual marvels was the first feature film to extensively use computer generated imagery (CGI).

Still of lightcycles in battle from Tron, a video game themed movie from Disney 1982

Light Cycles race in the grid in Tron


It tells the story of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a computer hacker who sits in a room over his video game arcade, trying to hack into the main computer at Encom, his former employer. He hopes to pull out of their system information that proves that some popular games of his were stolen by co-worker Ed Dillinger (David Warner), who then passed them off as his own and was subsequently kicked up the corporate ladder. With the help of friends and current Encom employees Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan), Flynn infiltrates the company and attempts to pull the data. During the process, the Master Control Program zaps Flynn with a laser and flings him into the computer world, where he must fight for his life on the gaming grid and interact with the computer program equivalents of his friends.

Still of Yori and Tron from Tron, a video game themed film by Disney 1982

Yori and Tron in a clutch


Having Disney somewhat over a barrel at the time due to their waning animation department, as well as the poor performances of their live-action fare, Lisberger and the producers had carte-blanche to call in heavy hitters to help design the film; no less than three cutting-edge computer animation houses were used to produce the 15 minutes of fully-rendered CGI in Tron. Syd Mead and Jean “Moebius” Giraud were also drafted to help create the world of Tron and its computer denizens. The film might have an impenetrable story, but at least it looks marvelous.

Looks only get you so far, though. Tron ultimately disappointed at the box office, but you can’t completely fault the film; Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial juggernaut sucked all of the oxygen out of theatres that summer of 1982, asphyxiating such other noble genre efforts as Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Tron has definitely generated a cult status for itself over the intervening years, however, and at the very least served as a proving ground for the burgeoning field of feature film computer animation.

To pull more information on the history of Tron out of the Encom servers, slip past the MCP and access the Dot Eaters article here.


Still of the MPC from Tron, a video game themed film by Disney 1982

Sign from Flynn's arcade featured in the video game themed movie Tron

The Verge Offers a Lament to the Lost Arcade

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.

Tron’s Legacy Continues

Coming through the I/O Tower is word that Tron: Legacy, the 2010 sequel to Disney’s groundbreaking 1982 movie Tron, is itself getting a follow-up.

Legacy created a lot of buzz during its release two years ago, managed to pull in over US$400 million dollars world-wide, and spun-off an animated series titled Tron: Uprising, which airs on the Disney XD television network.  It’s little wonder that Disney wants to continue plumbing the Tron universe.  Legacy director Joseph Kosinski has been tapped for the sequel, with Jesse Wigutow in negotiations to write the script.

I liked Legacy when it came out in theatres.  I saw it in 3D, and the movie was shot with 3D equipment as opposed to converted to the format after the fact, and it looked spectacular.  In addition, the story was a bit more fleshed out than the original.  Here’s hoping Tron 3.0 continues the upward cycle.

For more information on Tron and other video game movies that mattered, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

via The Hollywood Reporter

Two New Gallery Additions

Submitted for approval, two new video game ad images for the gallery. One isn’t exactly an ad, but an homage to Space Invaders and the impact it had on society in the form of a Mad Magazine cover. The video games related article inside imagines games based on real life, such as “The Maddening ‘Subway Rush Hour’ Game where you try to stuff as many people as you can into a NYC subway train, and “The Nauseating ‘Big City Doggie-Do’ Game”, where you try to cross the street without stepping into a pile. Yeech!

The second entry is a colourful ad for two TRON video games for the Atari 2600. Both TRON Deadly Discs and Adventures of TRON were released for the system by Mattel through their M Network label, which the company used to publish games on platforms outside of their own Intellivision console.  For more info on the TRON movie and the games licensed from it, consult your local Dot Eaters article here.

Here’s handy links to the two images:

The Visual Cortex: Covering TRON

Today this surfaces in the Cortex: a scan of the July, 1982 cover of Electronic Games magazine.

EG was the premiere video game magazine of its time.  I remember strolling into the drug store with my mom and spotting the second issue of EG on the rack in 1981.  It bothered me forever more that I missed that first issue.  EG was published from 1981 to 1985, the year its name was changed to Computer Entertainment in order weather the big video game crash and focus more on the burgeoning computer game market.  EG helped form video game journalism, and its influence lives on through the myriad of print and online coverage of the scene that exist today.
The feature story here is, of course, the release of Disney’s video game extravaganza TRON, which promised to transport the audience into the inner-world of these new fangled computer boxes.  The hype for TRON was pretty intense, and helped seal the fate of the movie as a curious social artifact when ticket sales were considerably less than expected.  The movie itself is fun, but muddled and disjointed.  You can read the history of it, and two other seminal video game films from the early 80’s, in my TDE article here.
EG was also the reason I stubbornly always called them “videogames”, before Google’s search algorithm convinced me the combined term never caught on, and would punish me in search rankings if I used it.

Without further ado, the July, 1982 cover of EG:

Poster for Tron Legacy, a film by Disney 2010

Continuing Legacy

Watched Tron: Legacy for a second time last night, with friends.  Everyone agreed it was a good movie, that like its predecessor has a lot to say above making a lot of noise, looking good, and selling toys.

While the original Tron strived to create a religious allegory out of the world of computers, its sequel creates a parallel between the quest for digital perfection and Nazi puritanism.    Flynn attempts to create the perfect system, but in the end realizes that his son represents his greatest creation.

And yes, it’s easy on the eyes, to boot.

Tron logo


After 13 years online, I guess it’s time to put up a blog on TDE. It will be a repository of my thoughts, with a focus on site updates and other happenings with classic gaming and gaming in particular. For this 1st entry, I will call your attention to the first major article I’ve published in awhile.

It is a retrospective of three video game focused movies from the early 80’s, the three that really shaped me as a gamer: Tron, The Last Starfighter and WarGames. It’s an epically sized article that took about five or so months to research and write. So, if you have some time on your hands, please check it out:

Three Video Game Movies That Mattered