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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.20:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • 3 Deleted scenes
  • 2 Teaser trailer
  • 4 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Steven Lisberger, Donald Kushner, Harrison Ellenshaw, Richard Taylor
  • 15 Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Storyboards
  • Documentaries - The Making of Tron

Tron: 20th Anniversary CE

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 92 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Start Program...

There aren't many films that can claim to be as visually unique as Tron. At the time of its release it was the most groundbreaking piece of cinema, at least visually, to come out of Hollywood in a long, long time. But with the use of computer animation now a standard in even the most basic films and television programs, it's easy to become jaded with the technique. However, one journey back in time with this 1982 classic provides a fascinating refresher course on just how revolutionary this method would prove to be.

With the exception of apparently the entire cast of The Simpsons, for the two of you out there that don't know what Tron is about, here's the lowdown. Ever since Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) was cheated out of a job and recognition for his brilliant programming skills by Encom executive Ed Dillinger (David Warner), he has been desperately trying to access the company's MCP (Master Control Program) to retrieve the evidence. After hitting wall after wall, Flynn decides to break into Encom with the help of his ex-employee friends and hack into the MCP at the source. Whilst accessing the system from an isolated terminal located near the company's brand new matter transfer laser, the MCP uses the laser as a defence mechanism and transfers Flynn into the computer world. Here he is held captive and forced to play dangerous video games until such time as he dies playing. But with the help of Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), Yori (Cindy Morgan) and Ram (Dan Shor), three programs desperately awaiting communication from their real world users, Flynn fights against the system in order to bring down the corrupt MCP and bring Ed Dillinger to justice.

"They're gonna' make you play video games!"

The idea for Tron came primarily from one man, Steven Lisberger. His animation studio at the time spent most of its time creating commercials and shorts just for fun, but when Lisberger started taking an interest in video games and the potential of computers, a creative spark turned into a raging fire. An electronic character (nicknamed 'Tron') he had produced and sold to rock stations as a commercial soon evolved into the idea for a film entirely based in the electronic world. Lisberger pitched the idea to many studios, but soon found himself at the bottom of his preference list, Disney. At the time, Disney wasn't too popular. Their constant barrage of Herbie movies and the like seemed as far away from Lisberger's vision as possible. But to Lisberger's extreme susprise, Disney were more than enthusiastic about it. Never ones to shy away from new animation techniques, Disney had been keeping a keen eye on the potential of computer animation and this was just the kind of opportunity the studio needed to pull themselves out of their creative rut.

So, Tron went into production with full backing from Disney, but it wasn't until the special effects stage that the studio realised what they had gotten themselves into. Excitement over the breakthrough computer-generated effects was one thing, but since that only made up roughly 15 minutes of actual film time, the rest of the process was concentrated on complex backlighting techniques. This stage was so intensive that it was taking almost a month to complete one full minute of film. On top of this, it was later discovered that frequent cutting and pasting of the film stock was resulting in exposure glitches. Regardless, Lisberger and his team championed on, shipping cells off to Taiwan to expedite the process and inserting sound and visual effects to make the faults look like electronic glitches inside the MCP.

Finally, Lisberger's vision was complete, but unfortunately for Disney, who had almost everything riding on the shoulders of this project, Tron did not perform as they had hoped. A large part of this can be attributed to a little Steven Spielberg film about an alien who liked to point, but the rest just didn't add up. People were raving about it, but when the film only delivered a profit of US$16 million, Disney were visibly disappointed, pulled their weight from behind the project and went into yet another period of rethinking their vision. Perhaps it had something to do with the general public's misconception of what computers meant as a tool within the world of film, or even a general ignorance of the imminent boom of the computer industry.

Despite the film's meagre box-office takings, Tron went on to become one of the most significant cult favourites of its time. Even 20 years later its visual style is instantly recognisable, and its techno-tale of good versus evil remains a truly memorable fantasy outing. Equal parts Logan's Run, THX 1138 and Star Wars, Tron comes from an era when science-fiction was still cool - and even though some of the film's story elements are quite clunky in parts, it's almost Fantasia-esque excecution retains a nostalgic value that is near priceless.

And what of the film's exaggerated vision of the computer world? By today's standards, it seems that Tron was even more prophetic than Disney, or even its creators, could have ever imagined when one considers the introduction of viruses, Trojan horses, continual advances in gaming immersion and even the concept of 'big brother' watchdogs in the digital world.

  Video
Contract

With this 20th anniversary edition, viewers are blessed with a version of Tron that looks as good as it ever did on the big screen.

This DVD transfer presents Tron as close as possible to its original theatrical pressing in an anamorphic ratio of 2.20:1. Of course, the most important element of the film is its use of colour, and it is in this area that this presentation truly shines. From the abundance of magnificent neon highlights to the cold grey and pastel background and structural elements, Tron is quite the visual feast on DVD - retaining a vibrancy that was almost completely lost on VHS. Sharpness is also at admirable levels throughout the feature, especially considering not only the age of the film, but also the sheer amount of composite images that can be found in any given frame. In fact, there were so many individual photographic elements used in creating Tron that it would have been impossible to mask them all at the time.

True it is that Tron scrubs up magnificently on DVD, however it's certainly not without its share of problems. 'Glitches' that resulted due to the complicated nature of the effects process are even more noticeable on DVD as they would have been on any other format. Likewise, there are still quite a few film artefacts present, but these can mostly be attributed to either age, or the frequent handling of the cells during the film's production. Some fairly heavy grain is noticeable during the opening live action sequences, and then again in some of the low-light scenes, however the generally impressive level of detail more than makes up for this.

With much of Tron's visual representation of cyberspace adhering to a fairly strict geometric design, aliasing becomes something of an unavoidable by-product. Thus, it is unfortunately quite frequent and very noticeable to trained eyes throughout the feature. Still, this never really detracts from the overall viewing experience, and the exemplary shadow detail and relative lack of noise present in the transfer go a long way towards masking this.

All together, despite some fairly minor problems (of which most were inherent in the print anyway), Buena Vista have produced an extremely satisfying remaster for Tron. It is the kind of treatment everybody looks forward to having in their favourites when they finally make their way onto DVD.

  Audio
Contract

Alright, now this is how we want our classics to sound! Presented in a magnificent Dolby Digital 5.1 remaster, Tron on DVD is now as immersive aurally as it is visually.

The evidence is clear as soon as the ever-memorable credit sequence begins to roll and we are already privy to some lovely surround effects. This quality continues for much of the feature too, treating the viewer to rear effects, side effects and extreme directionality during some of the more action packed sequences. Even the subwoofer gets a great workout, dropping in with perfect timing and effect, yet never overdoing it to the point of ridiculousness.

Despite some obvious ADR problems inherent in the footage, dialogue throughout the feature is clear and problem free. Conversely, it was great to finally understand some of the lines that were almost completely obscured on the VHS versions I rented as a young lad.

Of course, Tron just wouldn't be complete without Wendy Carlos and her weapon of choice, the synthesiser. Oh, how it has aged over the years, but with anything else in place it just wouldn't be Tron. Thankfully, the score scrubs up beautifully here, and in surround, adds the final layer of immersion so that there is no escape until it's over.

  Extras
Contract

The 20th anniversary DVD edition of Tron comes as a two-disc set, with the second disc stuffed to the brim with supplemental features.

Disc 1:

Audio Commentary - With director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, assistant producer and visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw and visual effects supervisor Richard Taylor. First and foremost, this is a technical commentary. Anyone wishing to hear tales from the set or even a basic idea of how Lisberger's vision for Tron came about should look elsewhere, as these subjects are only touched on here. Nevertheless, it is a highly informative commentary.

Disc 2:

The Making of Tron - The virtual meat in the digital burger that is disc two. This 90-minute documentary is a lovingly assembled package that contains the perfect mix of information and entertainment. There is a wealth of data covering the making of the film, from concept and execution, right through to completion. Interviews with the cast and crew make up most of the programme, however there is also a great deal of behind the scenes photographs and archival footage. It's definitely worth watching, if only for Jeff Bridges discussing the dance belt he had to wear in order to hide his package, or Bruce Boxleitner recalling his first impressions on seeing the costumes. "Where are the pants? No, I'm serious... where are the pants?"

Development - This section deals with some of the earliest concepts for Tron and is divided into the following.

Featurettes - Early Development of Tron, Early Lisberger Studios Animation, Early Video Tests and a somewhat amusing segment from an early '80s TV programme entitled Computers are People Too. If you thought design jobs were made up of the young and the hip, even back in the '80s, then these business shirt-clad geeks will swiftly correct that image.

Gallery - Early Concept Art and Background Concepts. A gallery of around 30 images that demonstrate the evolution of the concept.

Digital Imagery - This section demonstrates the painstaking and revolutionary techniques that went into the creation of Tron. It is divided into five short featurettes; Backlight Animation, Digital Imagery in Tron, "Beyond Tron" - a summation of MAGI's (Mathematic Application Group Inc.) contributions to the computer animation elements of the film - and two sections (Role of Triple I, Triple I Demo) dedicated to the other major contributor to Tron's computer animation, Triple I.

Music - Though Wendy Carlos was commissioned to create the entire soundtrack, a couple of sections were eventually removed and replaced with alternative pieces. Here we have the two deleted sections with Carlos's soundtrack in place:

Light Cycle Sequence with Alternative Music Takes - The original intention was to have a soundtrack backing to this sequence, and while there's certainly nothing wrong with the composition, it must be said that the tension is much greater with the piece removed as it is in the film.

End Credits with Original Carlos Music - Originally intended to play over the end credits sequence, this piece was removed and replaced with a second contribution from Journey.

Publicity - Various marketing materials used to promote the film in both public and private sectors. This section is divided into the following:

Trailers - A collection of six trailers, four of which are standard '80s full screen affairs. They aren't really in the greatest condition, but this is to be expected. The final two, entitled NATO and Work in Progress were used to promote the film to private sections of the industry. NATO (North American Theater Owners organisation) is a five-minute reel that was created as a trial for theatre owners, so that they could get a general understanding of what the film was about and how it would look on the big screen. Work in Progress is another test reel of sorts, although some of the footage within is still rough and without special effects.

Photo Galleries - Two separate galleries covering production and publicity, with 87 and 37 images respectively. Check out the merchandising gallery and dig that funky crew jacket!

Deleted Scenes - A collection of three scenes excised from the film, plus an introduction from director Steven Lisberger. The first two concern a love scene between Tron and Yori. It is quite a beautiful scene in terms of backlighting effects (some of the most impressive in the whole film), but its removal from the film was very wise. The final deleted scene is a text prologue that explains the world of Tron. It's a bit of a no-brainer really, but one should take into account the public's naivety towards computers at the time. Still, it was left out for U.S. release, but was included on various international theatrical and home video versions. Good to see the Americans were still thinking of the little people, even back then.

Design - Absolutely the most important element of Tron. This section consists primarily of numerous galleries covering individual character designs, vehicle designs and miscellaneous background designs. All in all there is a massive amount of imagery to wade through here. There are also a couple of short featurettes. The first is an introduction from Steven Lisberger to the section, describing how, ultimately, it was his fascination with video games that was his inspiration. The second showcases the animation used for the game Space Paranoids featured in the film. Oh, to return to the age of the vector, when games like Battlezone were king!

Storyboarding - If you don't know what a storyboard is by this stage, then you've obviously never even looked under an extras menu. This section is divided into several storyboard galleries plus a collection of short featurettes covering the process. A mullti-angle storyboard to film comparison of the entire lightcycle sequence is also available.

The only complaint with this second disc is that it is perhaps a little too heavy on the technical aspects of the film, which in turn might limit the appeal of some of these features to that specific audience.

  Overall  
Contract

Anyone who was eagerly aniticpating the Region 4 release of Tron will not be disappointed with this 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition. The film is simply a blast to revisit and the video and audio quality here should far surpass most expectations. But that's just the beginning, with a second DVD almost overflowing with quality extra material, this becomes a title worth owning and worth treasuring.

...End of Line.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Anyone who's been eagerly aniticpating the Region 4 release of Tron will not be disappointed with this 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition."
    - Ben Pollock
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Omni SL-P2000KD
    • TV:
          Palsonic 71cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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