The film was disqualified from receiving an Academy Award nomination for special effects, because the Academy felt at the time that using computers was "cheating".
To inspire the actors, arcade games were placed on the production sets and could be played during downtime. Jeff Bridges apparently was the most adept at the games and found it hard to tear himself away from a game to shoot a scene.
Although the film was an initial failure, the arcade video games based on it proved to be a tremendous hit and actually out-grossed the film.
The "pulsing" flicker in some scenes in the computer world were the accidental result of a mix up during production. Each B&W 65mm frame of the film was printed on 20"x16" Kodalith high contrast film as high contrast positives which were then used to print as high contrast negatives. These positives and negatives were then colorized and used in the film. The Kodalith was produced by Kodak in the necessary size as a special order and the film boxes numbered in order of each batch produced so that there was a consistent film speed if used in order. However, this was misunderstood by the Tron crew and they were used in any random order which resulted in some frames being brighter/darker than others and resulted in the flickers as the film speed varied. Once this was found out, the film was used in order of production to minimize the effect, but in the end the producers actually added in more flickers and "zinger" sounds to represent the computer world glitching as Steven Lisberger described it. However, he digitally removed them from the 2011 Blu-ray release as they were not in his original vision of the film and he believed they detracted from the quality.
Disneyland guests can play "Space Paranoids" in a Tomorrowland souvenir store, in the back near the Space Mountain exit. The game currently sits next to a "Tron" arcade game, and near several "Fix-It Felix Jr." arcade games. "FLN" holds all of the high scores.
Jeff Bridges produced too much of a bulge in the crotch area in his computer outfit, so he was forced to wear a dance belt to conceal it.
Many Disney animators refused to work on this movie because they feared that computers would put them out of business. In fact, 22 years later Disney closed its hand-drawn animation studio in favor of CGI animation. Hand-drawn animation was ultimately resumed at Disney at the behest of new creative director John Lasseter, also head of Pixar- ironically a computer animation company.
Composer Wendy Carlos' score for the film was unavailable on CD for many years due to the severe degradation of the original analogue master tapes. By the time of the film's 20th Anniversary, techniques had been developed which allowed the tapes to be temporarily restored to a playable condition for digital re-mastering.
In the initial scenes with Flynn at the arcade, he is playing a game he invented called Space Paranoids. The game he is playing bears remarkable resemblance to 3-D graphics game engines, which would not be invented for ten more years.
While computer animation was used in several scenes, the technology did not exist for a shot to contain both live actors and computer animation. Live-action shots were combined with hand-drawn animation. Strong editing, such as with the light cycle chase, created an apparently seamless blend of actors and computer animation.
TRON is also a debugging command in the BASIC programming language, meaning "TRace ON". However, Steven Lisberger has stated in interviews that he took the name from the word "electronic", and did not know about the BASIC command until later.
The scenes in the computer world were produced using "backlit" animation and computer generated imagery. The actors performances in the computer world were captured on B&W Kodak XX film using 65mm Super Panavision 70 cameras and each frame was printed on high contrast Kodalith sheet film as a positive and then subsequently a negative. These had colored light shone through then onto color film to produce the characteristic "glowing" and required a separate exposure and film layer for each character detail, object etc. which produced each frame in Tron when every layer was combined, with some having 16 layers or more. As cameraman, the negative passed 26 times through the camera eye adding many matte layers to add a single filtered color to the film each pass. The cell sandwiches were quite thick and difficult to flatten under the animation stand platen glass.The CGI scenes, by Abel and Assoc., were outputted from CRT's onto horizontally running 35mm Vistavision and these layers combined with those from the live action. In the "real world", performances were captured on standard color negative 65mm film and some were shot on 35mm and "blown up" to 65mm.
Flynn's program is named "Clu". It was originally thought that CLU was named after an old programming language. It was revealed in Tron:Legacy that the name CLU was actually an acronym for "Codified Likeness Utility" (mentioned by Sam in the first few minutes of Tron:Legacy).
The state-of-the-art computer used for the film's key special effects had only 2MB of memory and 330MB of storage.
Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn / Clu) and Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley / Tron) are the only actors to appear in both TRON (1982) and Tron (2010).
Wendy Carlos' score was recorded using the same Moog modular synthesizer used for her groundbreaking "Switched-On Bach" LP in 1968, as well as her previous film scores for "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining". Also used was Carlos' then-cutting edge GDS digital synthesizer, as well as the live London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Tron soundtrack, therefore, at the time represented a hybrid of three generations of music production: past (live orchestra), present (analog synthesis), and future (digital synthesis).
The programmers' cubicles at Encom were shot using the actual programmers' cubicles at The Walt Disney Company's Information Technology group. A matte painting was used to expand the area to a size more appropriate to a software company.
The DVD commentary notes that there is almost no camera movement whatsoever in any of the shots of the electronic world with live-action characters in them. They brought in a camera and tripod with metal batwings attached, and literally nailed the camera to the floor; the camera was so locked off that "it wouldn't move even if hit by a car". The few shots with live-action characters which actually have camera movement (about a dozen shots in all) involve simple graphics or animation, such as one-color backlighting.
Co-writer Bonnie MacBird first studied computer programming with paper and pencil in the 1960s during junior high school. While attending Stanford she made punch cards for use on a PDP-11 minicomputer at night when students were allowed access, and played a rudimentary version of Pong with lights on the computer's control board. Before joining Steven Lisberger's company, MacBird worked as a mid-level story executive at Universal Studios where she tried unsuccessfully to get their story department to put their records in a database. It was MacBird's suggestion to Lisberger that they get computer pioneer Alan Kay as a consultant on the film they were developing. MacBird sent versions of the script via acoustic coupler to Xerox Palo Alto Research Center where Kay helped her edit them on the company's early version of a personal computer called the Alto. MacBird believes this makes her the first screenwriter to edit a screenplay on a computer, but chose the closest approximation to industry standard Courier font available so the studio would think it was typewritten. The character of Alan Bradley was based in part on Kay, and, along with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, the lab in the film was based on Kay's lab at Xerox PARC. Kay and MacBird married in 1983.
The original plan was to have the circuit lines of the "good" programs glow yellow, and the "bad" programs would have blue circuit lines. At one point, this was changed to where good programs are blue, and evil ones are red. Some of the original coloring remains, mostly in tank programs (Clu has yellow lines on his uniform, and all of Sark's tank commanders are pale green). But Flynn takes on this greenish tint after he crashes the recognizer and gets knocked out, shortly after he gets up he returns to the normal blue. This is also seen some shots in the original theatrical trailer, Master Control appears blue in one shot and in many shots of the main characters they appear yellow.
The ENCOM laser bay was real. It was actually the target bay for the twenty-beam SHIVA solid-state laser facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It was used for nuclear fusion research in the late seventies and early eighties, and was capable of delivering up to 28 trillion watts of power on target.
During the ENCOM exterior shooting (where the giant door was), there had been radioactive spillage near the shoot. Cindy Morgan even stepped in a contaminated area and had to have her shoes decontaminated.
All the live action that occurred inside the computer was filmed in black and white, and colorized later with photographic and rotoscopic techniques.
Pac-Man makes a graphical and audible cameo on Sark's control screen just after the light cycles escape the game grid.
Due to the poor return at the box office, following this film and its predecessor The Black Hole (1979), Disney Studios did not make another live subject film for ten years.
According to Hollywood Treasure: Comic Con-Quest (2010), Cindy Morgan traded her Yori costume for a Lexus.
Publicity materials stated that the reclusive French comic artist, Jean "Moebius" Giraud, came to Los Angeles to work on the project for three months beginning in early 1981, providing costume and character design sketches. With very few guidelines limiting his imagination, conceptual artist Peter Lloyd created postcard-sized sketches of scenes and landscapes to be approved and later rendered into full color production drawings. Computers then translated the two-dimensional art into three-dimensional images, which were scanned by a device that produced conventional film. All live-action sequences with the actors were shot around Los Angeles and at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Livermore, CA, on black and white film and individually "painted" with color, highlights, and shadows. The process of "backlighting" involved transferring the film image to high-contrast "Kodaliths." The clear portions were then back lit with a colored light and rephotographed. The "electronic world" was filmed on sound stages at Walt Disney Studios, where the actors interacted with minimalistic black sets and props. Tron had a total of 1,100 special effects shots, 800 of which involved actors. The computer-generated environments entirely replaced the use of miniatures and matte paintings; instead, each frame was exposed anywhere from twelve to forty-five times. The high-resolution video screens contained twenty-four million pixels, each with a specific color and brightness. Publicity materials noted that Magi used a Perkin Elmer System 3240 and a Celco CFR 4000 computer projector, while Triple I used a Foonley F-I. Each frame of animation required 5-75 million calculations.
Although now regarded as a special effects milestone, in truth only about 20 minutes of TRON (1982) consists of its highly influential animation techniques.
The portable gaming device that Flynn briefly plays while Alan and Lora are talking to him in his room above the arcade is a Coleco Electronic Quarterback.
HIDDEN MICKEY: At 1:12:26 in the "solar sailer" sequence , you'll see, for a brief moment, the silhouette of Mickey Mouse on the ground made to look like part of the terrain.
Originally released in the summer of 1982, the abysmal return at the box office caused it to be re-released in February 1983, which produced even worse results.
In the scene when Sark strikes the programme he is talking with to the floor, the Pac Man "gubbed" sound is used.
The building featured as "Flynn's" is in reality the historic Hull Building at the Northwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Watseka Avenue in Culver City, California. The street sign for Watseka Avenue can be seen when Lora and Alan step inside "Flynn's" to warn him about Dillinger. As of 2010, the location portrayed as "Flynn's" was occupied by a restaurant.
Sound effects designer and synthesizer Frank Serafine achieved the unique soundtrack by processing various everyday noises through a Fairlight CMI digital synthesizer at different speeds. For example, the slowed-down purr of Lisberger's pet cat became the "Master Control Program" rumble, screeching monkeys were used to simulate the throwing noise of the "Identity Discs," and virtual explosions were created by popping firecrackers inside a warehouse. The "Solar Sailer" was the modified sound of a Goodyear blimp.
Flynn's personal computer, which he uses to interact with CLU and hack into the ENCOM mainframe, is an Apple III (///) desktop computer with a monochrome green-on-black monitor.
In total, 569 people worked on the film.
In this film produced by the Walt Disney Company, Dr. Walter Gibbs started what became a huge company from his garage. In real life, Walt Disney did this.
Those are actual Frisbees that the characters throw around within the game grid.
Peter O'Toole was approached to play Dillinger/Sark, but after reading the script he became very interested in playing Tron.
"Gort, Klaatu barada nikto" is seen written on the wall of Alan's cubicle. This is a phrase from 1951's sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and was used to prevent disaster and also in Army Of Darkness this phrase was read before Ash chose The Necronimican. He said it incorrectly, bringing forth the Army Of Darkness.
The video game "Space Invaders" is a major influence behind the film.
The British rock group Supertramp was to contribute to the movie's soundtrack but was unable to due to previous obligations.
Principal photography began April 20, 1981, a week later than anticipated, in Los Angeles and completed in July 1981. Post-production were completed by spring 1982.
Steven Lisberger and his producing partner Donald Kushner set up their own animation studio to achieve the visual effects that they hoped to depict in the film. They then hawked their test footage around all the main Hollywood studios until Walt Disney agreed to finance the film.
While breaking in to ENCOM, Alan Bradley makes an off-hand remark that Kevin Flynn is a "little like Santa Claus." A few minutes later, in the laser bay, a computer screen shows that Kevin Flynn's password is "Reindeer Flotilla", confirming that he is, indeed, like Santa Claus.
The CGI computer screen shown when the orange is reassembled shows the connection between Lora and her program Yori: The screen reads Program: Orange, ROM YORI, KEY YORI.
The "User" played by Dan Shor is listed in the credits only as "Popcorn Co-Worker", but information revealed about the possible Tron (2010) sequel reveals this character's actual name to be Roy Kleinberg.
The MCP's original form is shown using an Oliver typewriter - most likely a model 3, produced from 1902-1907.
The film was a major influence on John Lasseter.
Debbie Harry was among the actresses who were screen tested for the role of Lora/Yori.
Bruce Boxleitner's character is named Alan Bradley. Allen-Bradley is the brand-name of a line of Factory Automation Equipment manufactured by Rockwell Automation.
Various computer animation firms bid for the opportunity to work on this movie, yielding the four that were ultimately selected: Magi Synthavision of Elmsford, NY; Digital Effects Inc., in New York City; Information International, Inc. (Triple I), in Culver City, CA; and Robert Abel and Associates in Los Angeles. By connecting a television monitor to a telephone wire at Magi in NY, filmmakers on the West Coast were able to immediately view the work and request adjustments that could be completed within the same day. This eliminated the need to ship prints back and forth across the country, saving time and money.
Made at a time that the Disney Studios were having financial problems, having had a string of box office losses. It was against this background that the studio started taking some real risks, with films like this, the real life thriller Night Crossing (1982) and the horror movie The Watcher in the Woods (1980). Ultimately none of these films helped the studio's finances but it did pave the way for the creation of Touchstone Pictures two years later which was tasked with being the adult arm of the company and which had an enormous hit with their very first release, Splash (1984).
Development for the film first began in 1976 when Steven Lisberger found himself addicted to the video game Pong.
The MCP forces programs and video warriors to fight each other to the death as gladiators in video games. Written as an obvious nod to the Gladiators of ancient Rome, Gladiators (Slave Warriors) fought each other to the death in the arena for the amusement of the citizens of Rome.
When Tron emerges between two walls following RAM's death, they appear to be covered in circuitry but are actually aerial WWII reconnaissance shots of Dresden Germany.
The film is an influence behind Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017). The film is about four teenagers whom play a mysterious video game, only to transported into the game's jungle setting where they embark on a dangerous quest and upon completing the quest, they leave the game's jungle setting and return to the real world.
The film inspired a handheld arcade game entitled "Space Turbo" which was manufactured by Tomy and released in 1985. In the game, the player has to speed through the galaxy destroying alien aircrafts by using the joystick control to fire and maneuver.
Before the orange is "de-rezzed" at the beginning of the movie, the following commands appear on the screen on each side of the graphic of the orange:
MAG IOX MCP CNTRL ACTIVE INPT SERVO CNTR GRID MATRIX LOG DATA CONCE INPT STRGE CLRD
MODE: SCAN TARGETING SERVO PWR PWR CPLING LOGIC BYPS GRID PROJ KZW CNTRL LSR RTRVL
As the orange is being de-rezzed, the commands change as follows:
ACTIVE INPT is replaced by ACTIVATE at bottom of commands
MODE: LOCK TARGET LOCK ON
GRID PROJ KZW CNTRL LSR RTRVL
When they restore the orange, the commands are:
ACTIVATE is replaced by RUNNING
MODE: RUN PROGRAM: ORANGE
ROM YORI KEY YORI PRIME
Digitalization of the orange goes into memory blocks 129-5233 to 129-5280 and then is read back from blocks 129-5272 to 129-5222.
The film takes place in 1982.
Some of the popular video games at the time were Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong Jr., Zaxxon, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Q*bert, and fulfilling its own destiny, Tron.
The 'Bit' characters assume the shapes of various uniform polyhedra: A dodecahedron/icosahedron compound, alternating with the 7th stellation of the icosidodecahedron (Neutral state); an octahedron ('Yes' state); and the 2nd stellation of the icosahedron ('No' state).
One of the inspirations for the film was Stanley Kubrick's _Spartacus_.
In the novelization, the final printout Flynn gets is very different from the one shown in the movie; it is more detailed and complicated, shown as a database-like list, and it shows evidence that Dillinger stole several game programs, not just Space Paranoids. The filmmakers may have originally had this list in the film and decided to simplify it so the audience would have no trouble knowing exactly what the printout says. The shots of the printout - and the readout on Dillingers desk computer - are inserts, and a wider shot of Dillinger sinking into his chair looking at the screen clearly shows a readout identical to the one in the novelization. (See also Goofs)
Even though he's not shown, the novelization of Tron states that Sark is present when the MCP derezzes CLU, which explains why he was shocked to see Flynn and calls him an "ordinary program" even though Flynn is a user. It also explains BIT's reaction to Flynn in the novelization in that the BIT believes Flynn to be CLU.
At the end of the movie, when Flynn gets his proof, both the printout and Dillinger's screen have the following:
ENCOM MX 16-923 USER # 0176825 06:00 INFORMATION
VIDEO GAME PROGRAM: SPACE PARANOIDS ANNEXED 9/22 BY E. DILLINGER ORIGINAL PROGRAM WRITTEN BY K. FLYNN THIS INFORMATION PRIORITY ONE END OF LINE