LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When it comes to the convergence of video games and Hollywood, Tron was the first example of Hollywood getting it right. And in many ways, Hollywood hasn’t learned from this perfect marriage of game and film. At least, most of Hollywood.
Although the original Tron movie didn’t have a blockbuster theatrical run in 1982, the arcade game that was designed by Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn in the movie became a hit in the real world. That game makes a return in the new 3D sequel, “Tron: Legacy,” which earned about $44 million during its chart-topping debut weekend at the North American box office.
Walt Disney Co., which has explored previous Tron sequels in the video game space with titles like Tron 2.0: Killer App, has invested heavily in its latest convergence project. Disney Interactive Studios enlisted two developers to create a pair of video games that do more than just allow mainstream audiences and fanboys to jump on a light cycle or pilot a light jet.
“Tron: Legacy” director Joe Kosinski and producers Steve Lisberger and Sean Bailey worked closely with Disney and developers Propaganda Games (Tron: Evolution) and N-Space (Tron: Evolution — Battle Grids) to create these games that bridge the 28 years between the two films and delve deeper into the mythology that’s only touched upon in the new 3D film.
“I like the fact that the games in some ways are a visual and a narrative test bed for Hollywood, where some of the more far-out ideas can be experimented with on a somewhat smaller scale than having to ratchet them all the way up to a film like ‘Tron: Legacy,’” said Lisberger. “I think that’s a good relationship between games and films.”
Tron: Evolution — Battle Grids for Wii offers a different story line that is set closer to the Tron of 1982, which is a more colorful world than the darker universe of Tron: Evolution and “Tron: Legacy.” The gameplay focuses on the action that takes place on the Grid with light cycles, tanks, and other vehicles and is aimed at the more mainstream Nintendo audience.
Tron: Evolution, which is available for all other game platforms, features the voice acting and likeness of Olivia Wilde as Quorra, James Frain as Jarvis, and Bruce Boxleitner as Tron. The game begins in 1990 and chronicles the progression of the computer world from the utopia that Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn envisioned to the dystopia that is the setting of “Tron: Legacy.”
“When you watch the movie you will see flashbacks of a young Sam Flynn around this time and the game shares a couple of those scenes,” said Jeremy Miller, character art director at Propaganda Games on Tron: Evolution. “By playing the games, fans will learn out a lot of interesting back story, including the fall of the ISOs — a race of programs that play a major role in the Tron mythology.”
Players take on the role of a program created by Flynn, operating just under Tron, assigned to resolve a problem that’s occurring in the system. Gameplay involves both on-foot exploration and light cycle action. Bailey said that gamers will be able to get quality time playing with all of the vehicles that are shown in the new film, as well as learn more about the back story of the key characters.
“I had done all this work on Quorra’s back story while we were shooting ‘Tron: Legacy,’ and when they said the videogame would take place in between the first Tron film and ‘Legacy,’ I realized I was going to be able to use so much of the research I did on her past to create this younger version of her.”
Tron: Evolution offers an online multiplayer component for players to take part in the “games” from the film. And the PlayStation 3 version of the game is playable in stereoscopic 3D.
“I think games like Tron: Legacy have a great opportunity to use 3D technology to create a much more immersive experience for the consumer,” said Bob Iger, president and CEO, the Walt Disney Company. “When you use new technology to make something that is more compelling for the consumer, then they want more of it. They want to watch it more, play it more, and buy it more.”
Kosinski, who played the original Tron game at the arcade, believes 3D games like Tron: Evolution will help pave the way for Blu-ray 3D adoption in the home.
“You can already play Blu-ray 3D and 3D games on PlayStation 3, so games are a great way to get the technology into the home,” said Kosinski. “Games and movies are very different experiences and it’s great to have one leverage the other into the home theater environment. I think there’s room for both and I can’t wait to play the Tron game in 3D myself.”
The world of Tron has always been intertwined with the video game world. Bridges played a video game designer and owner of Flynn’s arcade in the first film. Bridges has watched video games become a mainstream form of entertainment and was an active participant during the arcade age.
“I remember playing the original Pong 35 years ago when that first came out on the set of Rancho Deluxe,” said Bridges. “Harry Dean Stanton and I would play that game every night at the local bar. I also played the arcade games that we had on the set of Tron like Space Invaders, Asteroids and Pac-Man. Then seeing the Tron game later on at real arcades was something else. It’s amazing how far games and technology have come since then.”
With the new video games out and the 3D film preparing for its global launch, Disney is already thinking about what’s next for Tron.
“We’ve talked about a sequel and we have some beginning thoughts, but we didn’t hold anything back for this film,” said Bailey. “It’s really hard to make a good movie, and we put everything we had into this one.”
“I think Tron has the potential to become a real franchise,” said Iger. “Right now the focus is on launching a great movie and a great video game, and then hoping that the people out there agree with us. If they do, we have the ability as a company to basically turn something that’s successful in one medium or two into a true franchise. And we’re fully prepared to do that with Tron.”
With no arcades around these days, fans can jump onto the Grid and engage in online light cycle action, partake in the new discs of Tron, and explore the rich mythology of the film universe on any gaming platform.