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The Visionaries
First released in 1982, the original "TRON” was Walt Disney Studios' groundbreaking high-tech film from visionary writer/director Steven Lisberger, who went on to become a producer on "TRON: Legacy.” "TRON” pioneered the use of computer graphics, virtual sets and backlit effects. Its unique blend of 70mm live action, CG, and hand-drawn animation was a major motion-picture studio first. As a result, "TRON” became a cult classic that has remained firmly in the currents of popular culture for more than 25 years and is now cherished as a defining moment for effects movies.

Today's exciting technological advances led to some exhilarating possibilities in visualizing a "TRON” stand-alone follow-up film that would play to present-day audiences. With Generation XBOX hooked into the Internet, phones that are tiny computers and everyone playing games wirelessly, the world we live in was only dreamt of when "TRON” was made. Steven Lisberger was instrumental in trying to get "TRON: Legacy” off the ground. "We started discussions at Disney about ten years ago...I've seen numerous Disney executives go from black hair to grey in those years, and the film itself has changed over the years and gone through many different phases. When it emerged more recently, I think there was a sense that the right group of people somehow had now all arrived at the right spots. We explored some roads before this, but after a while we realized they really didn't resonate with the times. But this storyline did.”

Producer Sean Bailey, who was then president of Idealogy, Inc., takes up the story, revealing that he and his team were brought on board to speed up development around four years ago. "Disney had played around with a couple of drafts written in the '90s and couldn't find something they were satisfied with, so they brought us on to see what we could do. We were honestly just developing, coming up with ideas and meeting with writers.”

As the movie was bubbling along in early development, a lucky break saw co-producer Justin Springer discovering director Joseph Kosinski's test reel almost by accident. Despite Kosinski's lack of movie experience, his talent was clearly proven in his unique visionary approach as a commercial director on campaigns such as "Halo,” "Gears of War” and Nike.

Armed with a degree in architecture from Columbia University, Kosinski has a flair for design and aesthetics as well as a comfort level with digital technology that comes through in his work. "The whole way we make movies is changing, and I'm convinced Joe [Kosinski] is one of the leaders of that revolution,” says Bailey.

Sean Bailey recalls the early days with first-time director Joseph Kosinski. "I met Joe and was immediately struck by his vision, his story sense and his confidence. We then went into the studio and talked about how we wanted to advance the process. The confidence Joe inspired is what got us to that first VFX test.”

Kosinski, Bailey and the rest of the team convinced the Disney executives to authorize a proof-of-concept test, which was a short film showing what today's technology could do with the iconic elements of the "TRON” digital world, such as Lightcycles and disc battles. The result was an amazing piece of footage that wowed the crowd at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, and the filmmakers got approval to start work on the film itself.

The electronically produced music also was re-imagined, thanks to Daft Punk, the visionary pioneers of the art form. From their first single release in 1993, the combined talents of DJs Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter were hailed as a new breed of house innovators. Daft Punk's sound is a brazen, dance floor-oriented blend of progressive house, funk, electro and techno. Following their brilliant debut in 1997 (Homework), the duo went on to release two more studio albums (Discovery—2001, Human after All—2005) and two live albums (Alive 1997, Alive 2007).

When Joseph Kosinski came on board to helm "TRON: Legacy,” he heard that Daft Punk, whose art form and style were influenced by the original "TRON,” were interested in the project. A pancake breakfast in Hollywood soon followed, where the three talked about Kosinski's vision for the film.

The three artists found themselves on the same creative page and began working on the score very early on in the filmmaking process. The score took shape over the course of three years and is a unique combination of orchestra, electronic and granular sounds.

The duo worked closely with the filmmakers not only on the score, but on the sound design too, especially the moments where sound design and room tones bleed into cues. It was a very sophisticated musical approach—a layering blend that occasionally blurs the line between music and sound design in a very interesting way. "We've got over 100 minutes of music in this movie. And it's so tied to the visuals because we had it so early, I just can't imagine this film without it,” says Kosinski.

All the newest technology gives "TRON: Legacy” its cutting-edge look and feel, since the filmmakers had far fewer limitations for what computers can achieve. But even with the obvious visual advantages, the filmmakers have striven to keep the spirit of Lisberger's dream intact.

To pull that off, the movie gathers together some of the most sophisticated filmmaking technology available today, including even more advanced cameras than those used on "Avatar,” a blend of computer graphics and practical sets. With that technology put in the hands of talented, creative designers and visionary filmmakers, above and below the line, "TRON: Legacy” showcases cutting-edge design and astounding visual effects enhanced by the latest stereoscopic (3D) technology. The film blends live action and photorealistic computer animation in ways only dreamed of in the past. As producer Jeffrey Silver says, "It seemed obvious that ‘TRON,' being the groundbreaking film that it was in the '80s, had to be followed with a film equally as groundbreaking in the 21st century. If we were going to do ‘TRON: Legacy' right, we would have to push the envelope. And we did.”

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