Steven Lisberger

Steven Lisberger answers questions about TRON: Legacy

I am on a high from a TRON: Legacy watching and cannot wait for TR3N. Today’s interview is with the great and powerful Steven Lisberger, the TRONfather. Enjoy and remember to pick your copy TRON: LEGACY. It is well worth your time and money.

How long did it take to get the green light for TRON: Legacy?

We started discussions at Disney about 11 years ago, but there have been rumors of a sequel for much longer than that. Over the years, I’ve seen numerous Disney executives go from black hair to grey – and the sequel itself has changed and gone through many different phases. When the idea finally emerged as TRON: Legacy, I think there was a sense that the right group of people had now all arrived at the project. We were also really happy with the story. Everything clicked together perfectly.

How important is the story to a highly visual project like TRON: Legacy?

I care about the story and the characters as much as I care about the visuals. The story aspect of Flynn still being alive, and the father-son story is really compelling in TRON: Legacy. It resonates with the fan base, but it works on different levels because it doesn’t matter if someone hasn’t seen the first film. The story works for newcomers to the TRON world, too.

As the writer and director of the original movie, how did it feel to see a new TRON world come to life?

One of the most amazing things about this project is the way that the colors are different, the costumes are different and the music is different – but you still know it’s the world of TRON. The director, Joseph Kosinski, had a good handle on using the underlying aesthetic of TRON to make this new world. It feels like it’s grown up, but you still recognize the young person it was before.

How has the audience changed since the original movie?

The audience now expects to be overwhelmed in a number of categories. They want visuals, they want music, they want an emotional story and they want it all to be cutting edge. If you want to pursue cinema on this level, you have to put a check in every one of those boxes. However, I like to think that we’ve done that with TRON: Legacy.

What do you think of the music of TRON: Legacy?

I think the music is great. Daft Punk brings soul and spirit to the movie. The music they’ve created is beautiful. You know what? I think Joe’s relationship with Daft Punk is a little bit similar to the relationship I had with [French comic book artist] Moebius on the first movie. Moebius opened the bandwidth of the original movie for me and he made a much larger contribution than people realized. I think that’s the same for Daft Punk and TRON: Legacy.

What’s the greatest lesson you learned during the making of TRON: Legacy?

The greatest thing I learned though this experience was the notion that the original movie inspired people like [TRON: Legacy director] Joseph Kosinski, [producer] Sean Bailey and musicians like Daft Punk. It’s a great feeling to have your work embraced. It also feels great that all these years later, the inspiration has come full circle.

How much control did you have over the direction of TRON: Legacy?

I don’t use the term ‘control’. My position was to try and inspire the new TRON team. I was on board so that there was some trajectory from the past into the future. I’m glad it worked out that the next generation embraced what I did 28 years ago and I think it’s much better that they’re making it their own. I tried to make suggestions, but I didn’t give orders – and that’s a role that I really enjoyed. To be honest, I think we were all happy in the roles that we took for the new film. In some ways, I was happier in this role than in the directorial role.

When you created the original TRON movie, did you have any idea that it was going to become such an iconic film?

Yes and no. The film we ended up with clearly exceeded our expectations, but the reaction to the original movie seemed somewhat disappointing when it was first released. Over the years, I’ve looked at it objectively and I realized it was inevitable that the audience would react this way.

Why is that?

Being a ‘60s idealist, I thought there would be more embracing of the new and avant-garde with TRON. However, people didn’t expect the avant-garde to come from Disney. It’s interesting because one of the old-timers at Disney explained that working on the experimental original film felt a lot closer to what it used to feel like when Walt was in the building. It was highly experimental. That’s what Walt was all about.


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3 thoughts on “Steven Lisberger answers questions about TRON: Legacy

  1. Tim says:

    I’m really surprised you liked Legacy. I grew up with Tron, loved the pop culture impact it had, and am a big fan of Daft Punk. But “Tron: Legacy” was dreadful IMHO. I went with five other people who felt the same way. And shouldn’t have.

  2. You are not the first person to say that Tim. It was actually a lot to process the first time I saw it. I never thought I would see another TRON movie ever. So while I found the movie flawed, I guess my reaction was that this is all gravy.

    While I certainly did not approve of everything in the film, but I didn’t find it dreadful.

  3. PixelOz says:

    I agree with the Retroist in that while I don’t like some things about the second movie I have a lot of respect for the artwork in it too, I do like it a lot anyway.

    I like both movies but I like the first one better because I think that the artwork style of the movie looks more unique so it will always have a special place in my heart. Syd Mead’s and Moebious artwork with that electronics style was just amazing and timeless in my opinion.

    But despite that I don’t think that the new movie artwork is bad, it is just different and in many ways and in some things it surpasses the original but the limitations of the original technology have to be taken into account here too.

    If you look at the original artwork by Syd Mead for example you will see that it was originally intended to be more detailed and elaborate but the software and hardware technology of the time demanded it to be simplified and yet what they came up with was still amazing cause it looks a bit more like that semi-abstract modern artwork that you see today in some desktop wallpapers.

    I think that in a way that gave the original movie a great and special style that was sort of like looking at SydMead’s artwork through a special filter or art technique or interpretation that distinguishes some artists in a very positive way.

    And even if they were able to create more detail back there I’m pretty sure that the movie would have been very beautiful anyway and who knows maybe even challenge the artwork in the new one.

    One has to remember that not only technology has evolved in all these years, digital artwork overall (2D, 3D or otherwise) has evolved and changed in style too. Fads and styles change. The futuristic artwork of Syd Mead and Moebious can be compared to modern futuristic artwork but one has to remember that all this has evolved and changed through the years so their style is somewhat different and yet despite that a lot of their artwork can still stand the test of time with ease cause after all that is why it is such a great futuristic artwork and this is a testament to their talent.

    So like I said I like the original movie better but I still respect the artwork of the new one a lot and I also like it in a different way.

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