Tron v2.0. How technology has changed...
A sequel with an interweaving storyline to its predecessor, Tron Legacy is an ideal example of beautifully rebooted material which was so limited at the time to the story it could tell due technological constraints, now free of limitations while staying true to the original content and subject matter.
Disney has been searching for a new flagship live action franchise since the Pirates of the Caribbean films wrapped up so re-making and re-branding one of their original live action milestones was the perfect next ticket. Joseph Kosinski was an ideal choice as a new feature director to take on sterile mes-en-scene of the world of Tron mainly because of his amazing visual eye and heavy design background. As much a designer as a director, I had previously worked with Joe on a spot for Gears of War and was aware of his early work from his original KDLAB days back in New York. His antiseptic style of futurism really resonates with me and is extremely similar to my own personal tastes in production design and architecture. Amazing fresh re-visits of the characters, vehicles, and environments within the style palette of stark contrast juxtaposed with bright neon sources make virtually every frame of this visual masterpiece a breathtaking glimpse at a avenue of the future somewhere between dystopia and utopia. Simply put, this film has some of the most bitchen design work ever put to screen.
Studio side Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Baraba and team, fresh off their Oscar win for the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, would embark on a more than 3 year long project and the largest show Digital Domain has ever done, bigger than Titanic. Barba is very similar to John Knoll in the way he operates and is equally capable of leading a 2000+ shot count show where efficiency has to be king because on certain days in dailies you can have upwards of 300 shots to review and they all filter through one supervisor. This film would prove to be much harder mountain to climb than Benjamin Button from a computer graphics standpoint because not only was there a Star Wars prequel level of environments to create (and render in stereo 3D), but the holy grail of CG, a digital human head, developed on Button to age Bratt Pitt would now be used to de-age both Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxlightner back to their early 30's - The same ages they were in the original film. Making a digital version of a person younger is probably even more of a challenge than making them older because it's known exactly what that actor looked like at that age so as a result there is an even smaller target to hit after you crest the uncanny valley.
A small team of us in DD's commercial department came in on the last year of the project to complete one real-world sequence. Like DD's Vancouver Office, we were treated as an additional vendor, helping out the feature department which in addition to doing the bulk of the work on the film, was acting as an umbrella over all the other outsourced vendors which DD was responsible for managing. Although it was a fairly short schedule for me doing matte painting and composting, it was great to be part of the Button team again and get a piece of Legacy (film) after having worked on Evolution (game) that same year. I LOVE science fiction and some of my favorite cinema is anime futurism such as the Ghost in the Shell franchise so to work on a project that combines the best elements of sci-fi eastern animation (There's a series of shots in this new Tron that is straight out of the amazing opening title sequence of Wonderful Days) with the production value and photo-real computer graphics of the west is in my opinion one of the highest peeks you can stand on. Having an equal love for electronic music, I fully realize the French duo Daft Punk amazing electronic score was the perfect choice to balance out the striking visuals. Big thumbs up to Disney for bringing a 21st century Tron to the big screen and doing it right by making the first film at the studio since Pixar's conception that the folks at Pixar can be envious of.