Tron: Uprising is everything we theoretically want out of a cartoon. It’s mature, well-written, possessed of a distinct and gorgeous design, and it has a top-notch voice cast. While it’s kid-friendly, you can watch it as an adult and enjoy it as a well-written action show. In theory, this is everything Disney would want out of an animated show that appeals largely to nerds in their twenties and thirties.
Of course, this assumes Disney wants any show of theirs to appeal to adults.
We the nerd blogs are as culpable as anything. After enjoying the pilot, the show honestly disappeared from my radar, largely because Disney wanted it that way. It got zero promotion to nerd blogs, and in fact it wasn’t even clear the show was available on streaming services.
To give you an idea of just how much Disney wants to put a bullet in this show, after a long hiatus over the summer it returned. To Sunday nights at midnight, and this is a show on Disney XD, a primarily kid-targeted network. Most midnights, it’s showing reruns.
So why is Disney packing off a show that has a rabid cult following, generally the kind of thing tiny cable networks want to encourage, off to die? Because it’s a show that appealed primarily to adults.
It’s worth noting that the ratings weren’t great even before Disney decided to put a bullet in the show, so that’s a factor. But a larger factor was probably who was watching, for two reasons. The first is that Disney XD isn’t designed to sell adult products to grown men and women, but toys and junk food to kids. The second requires a look at the corporate mindset.
It’s easy to forget that for most toy and cartoon conglomerates, the idea of having a Brony-like phenomenon on their hands scares the ever-loving hell out of them. Keep in mind that to a lot of people, being an adult fan of a children’s show still immediately marks you, at best, as a man-child who lives in the basement and writes creepy sexual fanfic. Some networks have realized that hey, money’s money, but for many, an adult fan base for a kid’s show is essentially the kiss of death.
It’s pretty clear Disney ran the numbers, decided they didn’t want the audience this show was getting, and worked to put a bullet in it. And that’s a shame. Tron: Uprising is a genuinely good show; well thought-out, faithful to the material without being slavishly dedicated to it, and making good use of its cast. Characters have personalities and opinions in this show, which is rare for even adult fare. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it is available on Amazon Instant Video, and if you like animation, it’s well worth buying an episode and giving it a try.