Hardly a film is made today without the extensive use of computer generated imagery. The practice is so commonplace that most moviegoers take such wizardry for granted. Back in the late 70s, however, things were still done the old fashioned way, until a Hollywood animator named Steven Lisberger took notice of the skyrocketing video game industry and decided to bring these artificially concocted environments to the big screen. The result was the 1982 Disney Film, Tron. From a storytelling perspective, Tron wasn’t exactly a masterpiece. Its influence on the future of movie-making, however, was profound.

Jeff Bridges landed the starring role in Tron, playing Kevin Flynn, an engineer for ENCOM who designs video game software. Unfortunately, another engineer named Ed Dillinger swipes his creative ideas, slaps his own name on them, and reaps substantial rewards. Meanwhile, a dejected Flynn leaves the corporate world to become a lowly video arcade owner, while sharpening his hacking skills so he can uncover proof of Dillinger’s technological piracy. He enlists the help of his former love interest Lora and her computer geek boyfriend Alan, a fellow ENCOM engineer, to break into the company’s mainframe, where they soon discover that Dillinger has far more ambitious and nefarious plans that involve the Kremlin and the Pentagon via his self-designed Master Control Program (MCP).

The group’s plans are thwarted when the MCP uses a laser to break down Flynn’s molecular structure, thereby sucking him into an artificial world within the computer, where the MCP and its second in command, a being named Sark (Dillinger’s digital alter-ego) rule supreme. Flynn is forced to battle an array of computerized foes but finds an ally in TRON (Bruce Boxleitner), a security program written by Alan. Together, they must find a way to defeat Sark and the MPC if Flynn ever hopes to return to the real world.

Upon its theatrical release, Tron‘s stunning graphics earned significant praise from a number of film critics, who were less than kind when it came to the plot. The movie did manage a couple of Oscar nominations for costume design and sound editing, and won the coveted award for Technological Achievement. But despite the accolades, audiences gave Tron a lukewarm reception at the time.

In the years that followed, however, Tron developed a cult following and spawned a plethora of video games, comic books and an animated television series. Disney even incorporated some of the special effects into the popular (but ill-fated) Peoplemover attraction at Disneyland. And, almost thirty years after the original film came out, a sequel called Tron: Legacy was released in 2010, with Bridges and Boxleitner reprising their roles and Steven Lisberger returning to the director’s chair.

The ambitious film received mixed reviews, but performed respectfully at the box office, earning $400 million worldwide when all was said and done. It is important to remember, however, that the sequel benefited greatly from computer-generated wizardry that was inconceivable in the 80s. These technological advancements were achieved, in part, thanks to the futuristic vision that brought the original Tron to the big screen in the first place.

If you’ve always held a fond place in your heart for this groundbreaking science fiction film from the 80s, we hope you’ll share all of your Tron memories with us in our comments section below.

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