D23 Celebrates Back to the Grid: 40 Years of TRON

photo by Nadya Martinez (d23)

Fans got to experience the groundbreaking legacy of Tron at D23 Expo. On day 3, the Back to the Grid: 40 Years of TRON panel presented by Enterprise, took place on the Backlot Stage Sunday, September 11th. Fans got to watch the amazing panel celebrating 40 years of the iconic and innovative release of Tron with the producers, filmmakers and Tron himself . The fantastic panel was hosted by Juju Green and took a look back at artwork, footage, and photographs and included a discussion with the talented filmmakers and creators about the groundbreaking sci-fi action adventure film. The panel was broken into three parts, one with the filmmakers, one with Tron actor Bruce Boxleitner, and then a focus on the Imagineers -Tron light cycle theme park attraction.

(The Walt Disney Company) Carol Green, Bruce Boxleitner, John Scheele, Scot Drake, Donald Kushner, Mike Bonifer, Juju Green

The original Tron film first released on July 9th, 1982 and was the first film to feature the combination of 3D CGI and live-action! It was amazing hearing the filmmakers and panelists discuss the nostalgic behind-the-scenes stories of how the film came to life. As we listened to the intriguing stories the monitors showcased original concept art, behind the scenes photos, a deleted scene and historical snapshots, including the original Hollywood historic Chinese theater premiere!

The panelists included Carol Green (DGA), Bruce Boxleitner (Tron actor) , Scot Drake, Donald Kushner (producer) , Mike Bonifer (producer). Tron was a pioneer in Vfx special effects and was the first film to really use computer simulated models. Producer Donald Kushner recalled selling the idea of Tron to Disney and getting it green-lit. The visual effects supervisor Richard Winn Taylor II recalled the making of the suit and using a white motocross helmet and inventing things along the way. The handmade Tron suit was showcased by David Fleming with his replica Tron prop costume  during the panel (iotower.com) John Scheele, the films effects technical supervisor had the crowd cracking up as he spoke about airbrushing the unanticipated glowing effects from the actors buttocks during filming.

photo by Nadya Martinez (d23)


The panelists described the innovative camera movements, designing the style and look of the film, and designing cyberspace – outer space has been done but cyberspace was completely innovative. They thanked Director Steven Listberger, and John Scheele discussed the process, storyboarding, using cells and literal hand drawn techniques. Every single frame was shot on film, they used lightables- Kodak actually worked with them. They had to write exposure sheets, and the costumes were hand done, the make-up effects all hand done. The Academy didn’t even acknowledge Tron, they didn’t believe it was hand-done, they somehow thought they cheated. Tron was revolutionary but they somehow hated it. Tron was technically the first to really do “green screen” and their pioneering efforts changed film forever. Production used black backgrounds and the actors had to use directions and signals to follow along.

We also got to watch a deleted scene that was never shown to the public, featuring Tron and Lora (Cindy Morgan) during a racy private moment with the computer-generated grid.

The panel ended with a focus on Scot Drake, the attraction Imagineer and the upcoming spring 2023 release of TRON Lightcycle/Run, a new high- speed rollercoaster coming soon to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. He oversaw the attractions debut in Shanghai Disney and recalled his challenges immersing guests in the grid like never before.

See Gallery and clips of the panelists discussions below!

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