‘Tron: Legacy’ ramps up to light speed for December release
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Jay West is a devoted fan and student of the 1982 film ‘Tron,’ and he has written a series of guest columns on the viral marketing for the film’s sequel, ‘Tron: Legacy,’ due in December. Following up on the film’s highly anticipated presentation at Comic-Con International 2010, West recounts Comi-Tron’s invasion of San Diego and continues to unlock secrets as the movie nears.
Castor: ‘Change the scheme ... ! Alter the mood ... ! Electrify the boys and girls if you’d be so kind.’ -- Michael Sheen as Castor in the upcoming ‘Tron: Legacy’ film
Disney returned to the recently held Comic-Con International in San Diego with a huge promotional presence for their ‘Tron: Legacy’ movie, due Dec. 17 (a ‘takeover’ dubbed Comi-Tron by the studio), showcasing this upcoming sequel to the original 1982 ‘Tron’ film with a star-studded panel in the convention’s massive Hall H that included seven minutes of first-look 3-D footage from the film. This, along with the premiere of a new trailer for the film, wowed the audience.
A video reel showcasing the impact of ‘Tron’ on pop culture also was shown during the Hall H panel. It included homages reflected in various TV series, such as ‘30 Rock,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Robot Chicken,’ ‘Family Guy’ and ‘South Park,’ as well as touching on the film’s influences on music and featuring the French DJ duo of Daft Punk, composers of the ‘Tron: Legacy’ soundtrack -- as mentioned prior in my ongoing ‘Tron’ coverage. You can watch the reel in the video below:
In the convention’s exhibitors hall, ‘Tron: Legacy’ was the theme of a dramatic booth that featured a large-scale recognizer and lightcycle (both iconic ‘Tron’ vehicles), along with previews of tie-in merchandise, such as the full line of action figures, vehicles, electronics and video games inspired by the movie. Attendees also were able to purchase exclusive Comic-Con ‘Tron’ merchandise at this booth: a 1,500 limited-edition vintage-style ‘Tron’ figures -- featuring ‘Tron’ in his classic pose of reaching up for his disc (these figures also came in ‘Tron’ arcade-game-style boxes) and 3,000 limited-edition diecast Sam Flynn lightcycles. No surprise, both editions sold out quickly...
One of the most eagerly anticipated elements of Comi-Tron was what lay in store for the next phase of the ongoing ‘Flynn Lives’ ARG (alternate reality game), which has been pulling players into the film’s universe for more than a year now. At the same time that the Hall H panel with the filmmakers and actors occurred, the previously mentioned online countdown clock (above) ran out, revealing new puzzles. A ‘power button’ and two links then appeared, and the spheres surrounding the digits of the clock could then be rotated. After solving each puzzle provided by way of the links -- combining a series of computer codes with a variety of images from the ‘Tron: Legacy’ movie in a specific order and then rotating the countdown spheres accordingly -- each player then could log on to their ‘Flynn Lives’ account and receive a new ARG accomplishment ‘badge’ -- which then provided a link to the new trailer -- the same trailer that premiered at the Hall H presentation.
Once the Hall H panel concluded, a scavenger hunt occurred via tweets sent out to players citing various temporary locations in the Gaslamp Quarter area of San Diego (adjacent to Comic-Con) where participants could get their photo taken with strategically placed ‘Flynn Lives’ posters. There were six rounds in total, each with a different image of a ‘Tron’ vehicle or element that appeared on each round’s poster: a yellow lightcycle, a red lightcycle, a ‘no’ bit, a ‘neutral’ bit, a ‘yes’ bit, a recognizer and a tank. After having your picture taken with a corresponding poster, you had to check in with a nearby ARG ‘agent’ and show him or her that picture and your ID. Each successful player was then given a mini replica ‘Tron: Legacy’ disc that had a 2GB trans flash memory card (which contained the new trailer), as well as two wristbands for entry into an exclusive first-return foray into Flynn’s Arcade at 10 o’clock that night.
The re-creation of the setting of Flynn’s Arcade from the original ‘Tron’ and the upcoming ‘Tron: Legacy’ movies was considered by many to be the highlight of last year’s Comic-Con, so when it was announced by way of the ongoing ‘Flynn Lives’ ARG in the few weeks prior to Comic-Con that Flynn’s Arcade would return, the Internet was abuzz with fan excitement at being able to revisit Flynn’s ... and anticipation for what possible new reveals might be encountered.
I attended the opening night of this limited return engagement, and from the outside, all looked almost identical to last year’s setup. However, upon entering the actual arcade, instead of being met, as before, with an array of lights, sounds and music created by the several arcade machines and neon signs, all was eerily quiet. The arcade games were positioned just as they had been at last year’s event, but each was tarped with clear plastic amid the dimly lighted set -- replicating how Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) encounters Flynn’s Arcade in the upcoming ‘Tron: Legacy’.
Suddenly, a sound akin to a lever being flipped in an electrical switch box reverberated through the room. Lights flashed on, and Journey’s classic song ‘Separate Ways’ pumped through loudspeakers -- then the sound of electrical surges took over as the lights flickered, including the ‘Home of Tron’ neon sign perched high above an original 1982 Bally/Midway ‘Tron’ arcade game at the back of the arcade.
Then, as with last year’s event, the ‘Tron’ arcade game was pulled away on an axis door by a nearby ‘arcade employee’ -- and a concealed darkened hallway was revealed, with new Daft Punk ‘Tron: Legacy’ music emanating from within.
After making a couple of turns around the hallway’s corners, one then encounters Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) secret laboratory, looking nearly identical to its appearance in ‘Tron: Legacy.’ The lab was filled with a variety of electronic gadgets and tools, including Flynn’s high-tech desk with a built-in monitor, an homage to Ed Dillinger’s (David Warner) desk in the original ‘Tron’. Other ‘Tron’ Easter eggs/homages displayed in Flynn’s lab included: an MCP (master control program) pen/pencil holder (the MCP was the villain who ruled the computer world in the original ‘Tron’ movie), a couple of ‘70s-era Atari 2600 video-game paddle controllers and a Shiva laser, the device which transports Kevin and Sam Flynn into the computer world in the ‘Tron’ movies.
The electronics and lighting in Flynn’s lab then began to hum and flicker -- and the Shiva laser ‘shot out’ a beam, (sort of) transporting onlookers into the computer world. Another doorway was opened, and participants encountered a ray of green light at the end of a long, cavernous hallway. This was akin to walking into the light, and just as the green light enveloped one upon nearing it, another passageway was revealed, a portal similar to one you might encounter in the queue at Disneyland’s Space Mountain.
Near the end of the hallway, pulsating music and lights welcomed all into an expansive, futuristic domain. Resembling a state-of-the-art dance club, this highly stylized arena showcased an array of mobile track lighting, illuminated flooring, two bar areas and panoramic LED backdrops displaying highly stylized graphics and montage imagery and sounds from ‘Tron: Legacy.’ This setup was a re-creation of a ‘Tron Legacy’ set: the End of Line Club.
In addition to the awestruck visitors entering and then mingling in this setting, sleekly costumed young men and women, a la ‘programs’ from the ‘Legacy’ film, walked among the crowd, posing for photos, with some unsheathing and handling their ‘identity discs’ (another element of the ‘Tron’ world). A life-size Sam Flynn statue (in warrior garb) stood as if on guard in one section of the club, and windowed grottoes displaying upcoming ‘Tron: Legacy’ merchandise were located adjacent to one of the bar areas.
Jason Bentley, the music supervisor on ‘Tron: Legacy’ (also the music supervisor on the ‘Matrix’ films and DJ of sets at Coachella as well as elite industry Oscar parties and underground dance clubs), spun an eclectic mix of high-energy tunes that added to the futuristic, engaging atmosphere. Bentley was located center stage, behind the main bar and directly in front of the largest LED screen.
Various people from ‘Tron’ and ‘Tron: Legacy’ were in attendance at the club over the course of the first couple of nights, including ‘Legacy’ director Joe Kosinski; Steven Lisberger, writer-director of the original ‘Tron’ and writer-producer on the sequel; Sean Bailey, Disney’s president of production and ‘Legacy’ producer; Jeff Bridges, Kevin Flynn; Bruce Boxleitner, Alan Bradley/Tron; Cindy Morgan, Lora Baines/Yori; and Beau Garrett, Siren Jem in ‘Tron: Legacy.’
During my time at the club, I had a rare chance to chat with Alex Lieu, the chief creative officer for 42 Entertainment, whose company, along with Disney, had been the creative force in producing the highly popular alternate reality game for ‘Tron: Legacy.’ Alex previously was the creative architect behind the ‘Why So Serious?’ ARG for ‘The Dark Knight.’
Asked about the approach he took in creating unique and innovative events such as the one for ‘Tron: Legacy’ at Comic-Con, Lieu had this to share:
‘Authenticity is key. All of the neon signs in Flynn’s Arcade, like ‘Space Paranoids,’ ‘Matrix Blaster,’ ‘Vice Squad,’ the ‘Tron’ symbols etc. were from the set of ‘Tron: Legacy.’ In fact, we had them shipped to us straight from Vancouver as soon as they were done filming them. ‘Also, every prop you saw in Flynn’s lab came straight from the movie: Flynn’s desk and bulletin board on the wall, the giant Encom Servers flanking it, the Shiva laser, bookshelf and books – all 100% from ‘Tron: Legacy.’ ‘For the End of Line Club, very little was saved from filming, so we worked very, very closely with the filmmaking team to painstakingly re-create it to provide the most immersive experience possible. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard everyone worked to make this a reality, especially Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment’s president and CEO -- without her it wouldn’t have ever happened. ‘We didn’t just want people thinking about how cool the sets were; we wanted them to feel as if they were actually there. It’s all about blurring the lines of reality. Our goal was to have the audience actually step into the movie and follow in Sam’s footsteps as he makes his way through Flynn’s Arcade and ultimately is digitized onto the grid. It’s a dream that every fan of the original ‘Tron’ has had since they first saw it, including me, and for new audiences, it’s an incredible surprise that sets up the new film. Once you decide to go that far, then you have to go all the way.’
Players of the ‘Flynn Lives’ ARG were able to continue playing the game while in the club, by taking hexagon-shaped decoders/coasters and aligning the rocket-shaped opening with key symbols throughout the club. Each of the decoders and key symbols had a partial sequence of numbers and words that were inscribed on each of the three edges (double-sided for the coasters). Once you lined them up properly, six codes became evident. From there, you could input the codes at HelloFlynn.com, revealing more files from Flynn’s server. Here are those codes: POREKD23J12J, BU7YREKD3HD5, ESOR830SYROB, FRU784JKK1E5, TURK741O34KE, URTFOCD23JP6.
The coaster also contained a phone number, (888) 542-0847 -- a faux number to the End of Line Club. When you call it, you hear the following message: ‘Greetings, program, and welcome to the End of Line Club, representing the total synthesis of rhythm, circuitry and escape. Nowhere else on the grid can you interface with such fascinating and picturesque digital specimens as those you will find among our clientele. Goodbye.’
Back in Flynn’s Arcade, visitors could play classic arcade games such as Donkey Kong, Defender, Robotron, Space Invaders -- plus Space Paranoids, which until last year’s Comic-Con Flynn’s Arcade event was just a fictional game from the original ‘Tron.’ A demo of the upcoming Tron: Evolution video game for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii also was playable on plasma screens set up on one side of the arcade. Evolution will be released December 7th. For more, see my previous article here.
Hero Complex readers can have their own front-row seat to Flynn’s Arcade, Flynn’s Secret Laboratory, and the End of Line Club by viewing a 10-minute video I put together of the events.
* Special note: During one sequence in my video footage, I included audio from the ‘Tron: Legacy’ Hall H panel -- where the 6,500-plus people in attendance were recorded shouting, ‘Rinzler!’ ‘Disc Wars!’ and ‘Derezz!’ for inclusion in the audio of the ‘Tron: Legacy’ movie.
The Comi-Tron events and promotions produced at this year’s Comic-Con surpassed the bar set at last year’s convention, which was no easy feat.
This is movie promotion at its finest -- engaging, innovative and exciting -- giving the classic ‘Tron’ movie its due and heralding the arrival of its highly anticipated sequel, which many have waited several years to see.
Look for an upcoming article with video footage of an exclusive chat I had with Garrett Hedlund about working on ‘Tron: Legacy’ and what it was like for him to receive a one-of-a-kind action figure of himself as Sam Flynn!
Also, there are rumors that Flynn’s Arcade and the End of Line Club may be reappearing in December for a month-long promotional celebration of ‘Tron: Legacy’ at Disney’s California Adventure. Keep checking back at the Hero Complex for my continuing guest-contributor coverage on the ‘Tron: Legacy’ ARG and film ramp-up.
-- Jay West
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Photos, from top: The cast and filmmakers of ‘Tron: Legacy,’ from left, Bruce Boxleitner (Tron), Michael Sheen (Castor), Olivia Wilde (Quorra), Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn), Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn), Joe Kosinski (director), Steven Lisberger (writer-director of the original ‘Tron’ and writer-producer on ‘Tron: Legacy’), Sean Bailey (Disney’s president of production and producer of ‘Tron: Legacy’) at Comic-Con. Credit: Jay West. ‘Flynn Lives’ ARG zero countdown clock. Credit: Walt Disney Co. Flynn’s Arcade, with ‘Tron’ film stills. Credits: Jay West and Walt Disney Co. Flynn’s secret laboratory, with ‘Tron’ film stills. Credits: Jay West and Walt Disney Co. Flynn’s secret laboratory with laser, inset. Credit: Jay West. ‘Tron Legacy’ action figures, the first ever to feature impulse light projection technology. Credit: Business Wire. ‘Tron: Legacy’ director Joe Kosinski with ‘computer programs’ at the End of Line Club ARG event at Comic-Con. Credit: Walt Disney Co.