Tron came true: 40th anniversary special with Donald Kushner
It’s been four decades since Tron hit our screens; a film that revolutionised the history of computer animation, and continues to dazzle audiences of all ages to this day.
Here, reflecting on the success of the movie on its 40th birthday, Tron producer Donald Kushner talks about the iconic film, provides his thoughts on the metaverse and NFTs, and introduces us all to his new project - Cryptosaurs.
Donald, over to you…
On Tron, the 40th anniversary, and what’s next…
Well, Tron came true! It’s exactly what we envisioned; that the personal computer would overtake the mainframe computer. Games and intellectual property would become engines of wealth in a global creator community, and we’d see a battle between centralized and decentralized control of intellectual property. Between an ownership economy and a creator economy.
The 40th anniversary of Tron arrives at a good time because it’s kind of the birth of the metaverse.
We’ve seen Facebook change its name to Meta, Microsoft has purchased a video game company, and I think that Animoca have made tremendous strides, so we’re very happy to be partnering with them on Cryptosaurs, because they understand this open source technology, and where the creative community can go. It’s very exciting.
On the birth of Cryptosaurs
We spent a lot of time researching ideas before Cryptosaurs. For example, we spent time looking at the existing markets, what people liked, and several early-stage projects in the gaming and entertainment space.
With Cryptosaurs, we wanted to provide quantum storytelling complete with the real estate and the characters.
Our team is excellent as well, and one part of it, our media background, provides the foundation for our focus on story and characters.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Hal Finney (the first recipient of Bitcoin and rumoured to be Satoshi Nakomoto, the creator of Bitcoin) worked on Tron’s Atari game, and Yat Siu, the founder of Animoca, also worked at Atari when he was 13 years old. So there was research, hard work, and with it, plenty of links from the past that helped us forge the future.
Cryptosaurs is Tron in the metaverse.
On why they went with the dinosaur idea
It’s very symbolic and was kind of an organic process. For a start, I think that dinosaurs are in the collective consciousness of us all, and a good way to look to the future, is to consider the past.
We tried to reimagine the dinosaurs in the sense that they became extinct, and that they’ve now come back to show mankind how we can all learn from them, including how to survive on planet earth.
We started working with John Scheele, whose father was a palaeontologist and ran a museum – John had actually started going out on digs from the age of five!
We then started thinking about creating a virtual studio using animation tools where people could create animation all over the world, which was then followed by a script, and quite quickly after that, got involved with the metaverse and gaming.
To start with, the source of all life is an egg, so we decided to begin with an organic egg drop, and this egg is going to turn into a dinosaur - but I think you’ll hear more about that in due course. I don’t want to give too much away too quickly.
On the metaverse, Web3 and NFTs
The metaverse and Web3 will have a huge say going forward. In fact, I think they could quite easily re-arrange business relationships as we know them – from royalties, to production, and distribution.
Aside from this, there will always be a thirst for content and community engagement, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if we saw characters and ideas bouncing between worlds.
Don’t forget that what we can do in the “TikTok generation” will only improve, get better, be quicker and more agile. Work that you used to be able to conduct in a couple of months, can now be transformed inside two days.
And, the big brands are already there aren’t they? They’re living in the metaverse already – and they have to be.
They’re building communities in the metaverse, both to advertise, and market their products, so the relationships will be multi-directional.
NFTs? Well they might even help us deal with some of the issues around things like logistics, economic development, and documentation of the creator community, through smart contracts. Which is all the more reason for the DAOs to be making decisions about the virtues or vices of different NFTs.
TRON 40TH ANNIVERSARY QUIZ
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Tron, who better to test fans of all ages than Mike Bonifer,
Disney senior publicist on Tron, and author of The Art of Tron.
1. What was the name of the videogame Jeff Bridges played on the Tron film set prior to performing a scene set in cyberspace?
d) Donkey Kong
ANSWER: b). Battlezone. Bridges called playing the game right before performing a scene “getting in the ‘Zone.” He would sometimes keep the crew and the rest of the cast waiting for several minutes while he got there.
2. Which of these video games was stolen from Bridges’ character, Flynn, by his employer, ENCOM, and its malicious Master Control Program?
b) Zoid Master
c) Top Dog
d) Space Paranoids
e) Jupiter Moon
ANSWER: d). Space Paranoids. The other two games Flynn accuses the MCP of stealing from him are Matrix Blaster and Vice Squad.
3. Which real-world Alan was the inspiration for Bruce Boxleitner’s computer scientist character in Tron, Alan Bradley?
a) Alan Kay
b) Alan Turing
c) Alan Watts
d) Alan Alexander (A .A.) Milne
e) Alan Moore
ANSWER: a). Alan Kay is a renowned computer scientist, best known for his development of object-oriented programming and the Graphical User Interface (GUI). He was a technical advisor on the early development of Tron.
4. How many layers of photography were required to produce scenes set in Tron’s glowing computer world?
ANSWER: According to Tron animation cameraperson, Glenn Campbell, it was 19. The circuitry, faces and environments were all photographed in black-and-white live action on a large-format 70mm VistaVision film. Every frame was blown up to 12”x 20” cels and then re-photographed with animation cameras using color filters and backlight to producer Tron’s glowing digital world.
5. The film’s co-director of Visual Effects, Richard Taylor, predicted the film would do what?
a) Melt the naugahyde off the Laz-E Boys of Middle America
b) Serve the animation industry its future lunch
c) Drive demand for high-speed personal computers
d) Win the Academy Award for Visual Effects
e) Knock the hat off Dr. Seuss’s cat
ANSWER: a). Taylor was also frequently quoted as saying “Tron will remind people of something they’ve never seen before.”
6. Which director of a hit Disney animated feature film married a scene supervisor on Tron?
a) Chris Buck (Frozen)
b) John Musker (Little Mermaid)
c) Byron Howard (Tangled)
d) Jennifer Lee (Frozen)
e) Woolie Reitherman (The Jungle Book)
ANSWER: a). Chris Buck met Shelley Hinton, who, as a scene supervisor on Tron had an office in the Disney Animation building, where Chris also worked at that time. Chris and Shelley got married seven years later, in 1989.
7. A scene that got completed, then cut from the film took place where?
a) The game grid
b) Aboard the solar sailer
c) In Yori’s apartment
d) Inside the Master Control Program
e) In one of Mickey Mouse’s virtual ears
ANSWER: c). A love scene between Tron and Yori in a swanky cyber high-rise with a view of the I/O Tower was one of three scenes completed or partially-completed and cut from the film before its release.
8. Which of these well-known animation series did NOT (as far as we know) feature a homage to Tron?
a) Family Guy
b) Bob’s Burgers
c) The Simpsons
e) South Park
ANSWER: b). Of the titles listed, only Bob’s Burgers has not, as far as we know, featured a homage to Tron.
9. What did Jeff Bridges do to help him decide whether or not to take the role of Flynn?
a) Asked his actor brother, Beau Bridges, to read the Tron script
b) Played Space Invaders for an entire day on his Atari 2600 video game console
c) Played rock/paper/scissors with the film’s producer, Donald Kushner
d) Consulted the I Ching, a Chinese book of wisdom
e)Flipped a coin
10. What role did Tron director Steven Lisberger play in a cameo appearance in Tron: Legacy?
a) Light cycle mechanic
c) Flynn’s therapist
d) Solar sailer pilot
e) Video game character
ANSWER: b). In his cameo role, Lisberger portrays a drink-serving program named Shaddix in the End of the Line Club.
11. What is the name of Tron Producer Donald Kushner's new metaverse project, which he announced on the 40th anniversary of the original metaverse movie?
a) Dino World
b) Jurassic future
d) Tron remembered
ANSWER: c) Cryptosaurs
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