Fans of “Tron” got a sneak peek of the new trailer for the long-awaited sequel “Tron Legacy” at select IMAX theaters across the country today, but an audience in Los Angeles got a special additional treat: a Q&A with director Joseph Kosinski and original “Tron” helmer Steve Lisberger.
First, some thoughts about the preview itself. For anyone who has any doubts whether Koskinski can pull off a visual look as iconic as the first movie, this new two minutes of footage should ease their concerns. Unlike some other upcoming 3-D films, “Legacy” was actually filmed with 3-D cameras and it’s an impressive experience that sucks the viewer in even in a short trailer. The preview starts out in the real world where an aged Alan Bradley (a comfortable Bruce Boxleitner) visits Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) the hero of the first movie who has been off the map for years. Bradley tells Sam he got a signal from his father from his old workshop. Cut to a recreated Flynn’s Arcade where Sam enters and — surprise — gets zapped into the world of “Tron.” However, a lot has changed sine the 80s. It’s a sleek blue, black and white canvas with sexy ladies, stormy skies, a gigantic developed city and much more advanced light cycles. As Kosinski noted afterward, he didn’t want to make another “Matrix” and that’s pretty obvious from the footage we saw.
Answering questions from the packed theater of longtime “Tron” fans, Kosinski touched one everything from Daft Punk’s involvement (yes, that’s a new score from them in the trailer), to what characters would be back (Clu for one), to Jeff Bridges return, the “new” Bit and much, more.
A full transcript of the Q&A follows.
Q: Will the “Tron 2.0” video game be considered cannon for the new movie?
Q: We know Allan is in the movie, but is Tron coming back from the first movie?
Q: What was your working relationship? The two of you?
K: Between Steve and I?
Lisberger: We’re 30 years apart. (Laughs.) We get along real well. Joe is gonna bring his new baby over tomorrow so Peggy and I can meet him. We are neighbors. As it turns out, the new producer, Sean Bailey, Joe and myself all live within a half a mile of each other. It was a complete accident. So, I guess we are ‘supposed’ to be together.
Q: How do you do the effects in 3-D?
K: Well, all the footage that was shot live action with Cameron Pace’s 3-D fusion system is basically two cameras offset about an inch that shoots two slightly different views. You have to track each eye separately and then composite your effects in each of those two views which is a lot of effort. The full CG stuff is done with two virtual cameras offset the same amount.
Q: What inspired to go with a more minimalistic look for the character’s suits?
K: Ah, I would say that is a combination of things. Mainly, I was really interested in rather than doing the kind of rotoscoping process and backlighting in post, I wanted to build physical suits that actually emit light which you saw a glimpse of. The technology that is available with illuminated fabric kind of resulted in that minimalistic design.
Q: Was Jeff Bridges involved in the story at all?
K: Yeah, yep, we worked with Jeff from the very beginning in sort of crafting the story.
Q: Is Cindy Morgan returning?
K: Cindy Morgan? Her character is not in ‘Tron Legacy,’ but that doesn’t mean she’s not in the world of ‘Tron.’
Q: For Flynn’s Arcade, did you use the original building in Culver City?
L: No, no we didn’t. We rebuilt that.
Q: Is Daft Punk going to be in the movie?
K: Uh…(Laughs.) Yeah, Daft Punk is in the movie, their music is all over it.
Q: Did Daft Punk score the trailer?
K: Yes, that’s a track they did just for the trailer. That’s a custom track.
Q: How long did it take you to shoot the principal photography for this?
K: I think we shot it in 70 days.
Q: Is there another hidden Mickey Mouse head in the new movie like the original?
L: If we tell you, it won’t be hidden. (Laughs.)
Q: In your original effects test you showed at Comic-Con the light cycles were all CG, they were photo real CG. Was that the plan? Everyone was going to be photo real CG instead of shooting them live with real actors?
K: It depends on the sequence. Our movie has a mixture of techniques whether you are riding a light cycle or in an interior. I wanted to use real lights and real sets as much as possible, but the idea is make that blend seamless so you don’t know the difference.
Q: I read that Michael Sheen, I didn’t see him in the teaser…
K: He is, there are two shots of him in the teaser if you watch very closely at the end. He’s hard to recognize. He definitely transformed himself in this movie, but he’s in this.
Q: Can you tell us about his character?
K: Yeah, he plays a character named Kaster who runs a nightclub down in the downtown part o the city.
Q: Was the leaked track last month actually a track from Daft Punk?
K: No. There is a lot of fake tracks floating out there.
Q: Why did you do it and why now? The first movie came out so long ago. How will people know this is really the “Tron 2” people want to see?
[Audience reacts with an ‘Oooh’]
K: I think Steve should speak to that.
L: First of all, we are really glad it happened [in the first place]. It will be great.
Q: Is there any chance for a Flynn’s Arcade at Disneyland?
K: There are many things in the future coming. Things are coming. (Laughs.)
Q: Will MCP return or will we find out what happened to Dillinger?
K: The MCP was destroyed.
L: That’s the old technology of the mainframe and that’s sort of obsolete.
K: We are on a new server now. You got a glimpse of it there when he wipes the screen it’s the next generation ENCOM server. We’ve moved on. The technology has advanced and you’ve got a glimpse of Clu who is kind of the next level of artificial intelligence.
Q: The first ‘Tron’ was one of the most important films in bringing CG to mainstream audiences. What do you think the legacy of the new movie will be?
K: It’s impossible to say at this point.
L: We didn’t know the legacy of the first film until we completed it and it got out there. Even then it took years for people to realize what it was. Unless you were about 10-year-old and you got it right away. (Laughs.) So, we don’t know yet.
K: I will say, I think it’s one of the first movies where an actor has played against a younger version of himself which you get a glimpse of Clu in there.
L: Also, at this point, anything you get from Jeff Bridges is sort of a legacy. [Applause.]
Q: How did you get Daft Punk involved the picture?
K: When I first started thinking about the picture, I heard randomly that — I knew they were interested in ‘Tron,’ it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has seen their show. But, I have a connection to them and we just decided to meet in LA for breakfast one morning and that was the first of about a dozen meetings over the first year where we just discussed kind of conceptually what we wanted the film to be, what we wanted the music to be, how we wanted to push the envelope like Wendy Carlos did in her work. And I think this is just a small taste of it, but the soundtrack is one of the things I’m most proud of for this movie.
K: Are there any girls here? (Laughter.)
Q: Is Jeff Bridges going to sing in the movie?
L: I’m sure he’d like to, but I’m not sure Daft Punk would go for that.
Q: Is there an equivalent to Bit in this film?
K: I would say we do have an equivalent to Bit. Clu’s right hand information officer is a character named Jarvis. You get a clip of him there. He’s definitely not just a geometric shape, but he kind of plays the same role.
Q: Were you ever worried that a younger generation wouldn’t know enough about ‘Tron’?
L: I almost worry that the younger generation knows too much. I’m not worried about that.
K: It’s one of those things that for whatever reason has stuck in the social consciousness and it’s at tribute to Steve and the work his team did back in the 80s that even today I saw last night on the Olympics they were calling an Australian speed skater’s outfits ‘Tron’-like suits.
L: I think the younger the audience the more they care whether something is hip. And y’know, obviously, it’s very hip.
Q: So the character Clu is he the same kind of character like Tron or…?
K: Clu is an exact duplicate of Kevin Flynn that he created of himself in 1988. So, he is a duplicate, he’s kind of Clu 2. If you remember the first movie there was a Clu. This is a more advanced version of Clu, but he’s a different version. Yes, Tron will be in it. I promise you. The film is called ‘Tron.’ (Laughs).
Q: Was this a story you wanted to tell for a long time? How bad did you want to do this?
K: That’s a tough question. I didn’t grow up wanting to direct the sequel to ‘Tron.’ I never grew up wanting to be a director. I wanted to be either a jazz musician or an astronaut. So, I kind of found my way to ‘Tron’ randomly, but when it was brought up to me in Summer 2007, I remembered how iconic the designs and look of ‘Tron’ were and that’s something I wanted to preserve as long as I could. My effort was to make this feel like an extension of that look and not try to do a ‘Matrix.’
L: I think what Joe managed to do is create a ‘Tron’ which is more like what we remember ‘Tron’ to be than what it actually was which I think is the right progression. He’s really moved it into today and made it real.
Q: Will the same games be played from the first movie?
L: Yes, it’s an evolution of some of the gladiatorial games as well as some new ones.
“Tron Legacy” opens nationwide in Disney 3-D and IMAX 3-D on Dec. 17.