Tron appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie offered a surprisingly terrific presentation.
Tron created a slew of opportunities for the image to look bad. Many of the scenes that took place inside the computer world used multiple composited layers, and each one of those introduced additional possibilities for problems. To be sure, some issues revolved around those segments. However, the image still managed to present a very pleasing impression.
Sharpness largely appeared distinct and concise. A few wide shots demonstrated some minor softness, but those concerns seemed infrequent. Otherwise, the picture looked accurate and well defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges offered no problems, and I also witnessed no concerns related to edge enhancement.
Although compositing often introduces many source flaws, that didn’t seem to be the case for Tron. The image took on a flickery look that also appeared to stem from the compositing and other technical elements, but this actually worked within the computer world, so it wasn’t a distraction. Actual print defects remained absent in this clean presentation.
Colors varied dependent on the setting. In the “real world” shots, they consistently appeared vivid and natural. Inside the computer, the hues tended to appear heavier and more artificial. I don’t know how much of that was intentional and how much just came along with the processes used, though I feel much of it occurred by design. In any case, the hues always looked fine, and I thought they seemed good to great throughout the film.
Similar issues related to black levels. During the real world scenes, they came across as nicely deep and intense, but they could seem a little murky when we entered the computer. This didn’t create any problems, however, and shadow detail appeared solid. Low-light sequences were appropriately opaque but not overly dark. In the end, I felt impressed with the image; it took a difficult film and made it look stunning much of the time.
I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Tron. Given the vintage of the film, I didn’t expect much from the mix. To my surprise, it turned out to be a very active and engaging affair.
The soundfield created a rather vivid and involving setting. The forward spectrum offered nice stereo imaging for music, and effects also were well placed and blended together reasonably cleanly. At times, I thought the mix seemed a little speaker-specific, but as a whole, the various elements meshed well and created a solid setting.
Surround usage was quite positive, especially for an older movie. The rears worked actively through most of the film, and they added a fine layer of reinforcement to the audio. They also contributed a high level of unique audio and created a nicely enveloping presence. A reasonable amount of split-surround usage occurred, and the mix seemed quite vibrant at virtually all times.
Audio quality also came across as well above average for its era. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and vivid, and its dynamic range sounded full and rich. Effects showed no signs of distortion; they came across as clear and realistic at all times.
Bass response was extremely heavy throughout the movie. Frankly, I thought it was too heavy, as the LFE channel frequently threatened to destroy my house. My poor little subwoofer feared for its life, as this track absolutely poured on the low-end. I love bass as much - if not more - as the next guy, but this was a bit much. Nonetheless, that was a small mark against a soundtrack that otherwise stood out strongly among it age-based peers.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2002 DVD? I thought the audio remained comparable. The Blu-ray tamed the overwhelming bass a bit; the DTS-HD low-end seemed less intense, and that was a good thing. Otherwise, both were a lot alike.
Visuals took a much bigger leap forward, as the movie looked much better here. The image was significantly better defined and smoother, and it seemed cleaner and less messy as well. This was a splendid visual presentation that blew away the DVD.
The Blu-ray includes all of the original extras plus some new ones. Also found on the DVD, we get an audio commentary from director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner, special effects supervisor Richard Taylor and visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw. All four men were recorded together for this running, fairly scene-specific piece. Ported over from a 1995 laserdisc boxed set, this track occasionally seemed somewhat dry, but it offered a reasonably interesting discussion of the film.
Not surprisingly, technical considerations dominated the piece. The participants provided a lot of remarks about various effects techniques and challenges. However, we still got some good material that went over other areas. They talked about a nice mix of issues that related to the production and generally made this a compelling program; heck, they even made fun of some of the movie’s sillier elements at times. The commentary was a little flat on occasion, but overall, it seemed informative and worthwhile.
Next we locate the two Blu-ray exclusives. The Tron Phenomenon runs nine minutes, 45 seconds and includes notes from Lisberger, conceptual artist Syd Mead, Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, Legacy producers Justin Springer and Sean Bailey, Legacy writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and actors Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde, and Garrett Hedlund. This acts as an appreciation for the film and discusses some of its innovations. There’s a lot of back-patting here, but a few behind the scenes clips make it occasionally worthwhile.
Under Photo Tronology, we find a 16-minute, 37-second piece. Lisberger and his son Carl head to Disney to dig through their Tron archives; along with them, we see shots of Steven and other participants during the production. We see more modern video footage of the Lisbergers than I’d like – the ratio of video:photos is too high – but we still get a nice selection of shots. The Lisbergers also add interesting commentary; that adds value to the reel.
Most of the remaining extras fall in various subdomains. Under Development we get five programs. "Early Development of Tron" offers a two-minute and 37-second piece that consists of interviews with writer/director Steven Lisberger and producer Donald Kushner. Based on the quality of the piece and the styles displayed by the participants, I’d guess that it comes from the period in which Tron was made. Lisberger discusses his inspirations and his insistence on the use of computer animation, while Kushner tells us how they ended up working with Disney. It’s a short but reasonably informative featurette.
Next we find "Early Lisberger Studios Animation". Basically a 30-second promo logo that I suppose was meant to tout the studio, the traditionally-animated clip seems silly and dated, but it shows some of the roots of Tron and is a nice addition for archival reasons.
"Computers Are People Too" provides a snippet from a May 1982 TV program of that name. The piece looked at that era’s top-of-the-line computer work, and we hear from Lisberger and co-supervisor of special effects Richard Taylor in this Tron-centered segment. In many ways, the four and a half minute clip just acts as a preview of the movie; we get a little information about the techniques used in the flick, but essentially it emphasizes the basics. It’s another piece that’s nice to have for archival value, but it’s not terribly useful otherwise.
Lastly, "Early Video Tests" intends to include a 30-second reel commissioned by Disney to prove the viability of the film’s techniques. Unfortunately, this area provides the wrong material. It shows a 1981 test reel displayed to exhibitors, not the bits created to prove the styles would work.
The same “Gallery” collection shows up here and under a few other domains. It includes “Design” (130 stills), “Early Concept Art” (9), “Publicity and Production Photos” (33) and “Storyboard Art” (44). The package can be slow to load, but it includes a lot of good material and gives us nice options to view the elements.
As we move to Digital Imaging, we get another five subsections. "Backlight Animation" runs one minute, 39 seconds as effects technical supervisor John Scheele gives us a quick demonstration of the manner in which that work was done. "Digital Imagery In Tron" lasts three minutes, 45 seconds and gives us statements from Richard Taylor and Bill Kroyer; they cover some of the challenges created by working with computer imagery.
"Beyond Tron" offers a snippet of a TV special of the same name. It lasts four minutes and we get some information about the material created by a company called MAGI. We hear from MAGI founder Dr. Phillip Mittelman, and we learn about their origins and their work. Lisberger appears to relate his early exposure to MAGI and how it influenced his decisions for Tron. We even see a cute early piece of computer animation in this fairly interesting little program.
In "Role of Triple I", we get a 35-second clip from Richard Taylor in which he briefly explains how that company helped get Tron off the ground. Lastly, the "Triple I Demo" includes a two minute and 15 second example of their computer imagery from the early Eighties.
Through the various sub-sections, we get a decent look at a mix of Tron elements. However, the next extra helps tie all of this together. The Making of Tron provides an excellent 98-minute and 21-second look at the project as a whole. We hear from director Lisberger, animator Roger Allers, producer Donald Kushner, storyboard artist Andy Gaskill, Disney Motion Picture Group Chairman Dick Cook, visual effects supervisor Richard Taylor, associate producer/visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw, director of photography Bruce Logan, background painter Tia Kratter, storyboard artist/animator Bill Kroyer, Pixar chief John Lasseter, as well as actors Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Barnard Hughes, Cindy Morgan, and Dan Shor.
“Making” covers quite a lot of the production. We learn about the film’s genesis, its casting, and all of the challenges that occurred along the way, technical and otherwise. The participants seem surprisingly blunt at times; while the show includes no true dirt, they express concerns and disagreements, issues that don’t usually appear in this sort of show. Overall, it’s a consistently interesting and entertaining piece that really is the prime supplement on DVD Two. The others are nice but most will mainly appeal to diehards; “The Making of Tron” will be all that most people need.
Music simply offers some unused scoring. We get the three-minute "Lightcycle Scene With Alternate Carlos Music Tracks" and the five minute, 15 second "End Credits With Original Carlos Music". Both are for completists alone, I’d think, as they don’t seem very appealing for more casual fans. Not that I’m complaining, as I appreciate their inclusion here.
Publicity includes a five minute and five second promo reel created to show the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), while “Work In Progress” runs 80 seconds and gives us an early look at the flick. An additional four standard theatrical trailers appear as well. "Production Photos" offers 87 stillframe images, while we can link to the same “Gallery” mentioned earlier.
More compelling are the three Deleted Scenes. In a two minute and 15 second “Introduction”, Lisberger, associate producer/visual effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw and actor Bruce Boxleitner discuss the omission of a romantic scene between Tron and Yori. We then see the 115-second “Tron and Yori’s Love Scene” as well as its follow-up, the 45-second “Tron and Yori’s Love Scene #2”. Lastly, we get an “Alternate Opening Prologue” which added three paragraphs of text that would have clarified the film at its start.
Within the Design domain we get more short pieces. "Introduction to Design" lasts 70 seconds as Lisberger briefly touches on visual inspirations. Next comes 18 seconds of “Lightcycles MAGI Animation Tests” as well as “Syd Mead Discusses Lightcycle Design”. In the 114-second piece, the designer talks about some of the challenges. We can also look at “Recognizer: Space Paranoids Video Game” full screen or letterboxed, and the same “Gallery” found elsewhere repeats here.
Storyboarding gives us another five mini-topics under its banner. "The Storyboarding Process" runs for three minutes and 55 seconds as we hear from computer image choreographer Bill Kroyer. First he guides us through a narrated look at boards for one of the lightcycle sequences, and then he shows us and discusses some diagrams created for the film to assist the computer artists. It’s a decent little piece but not overly informative.
"Creation of Tron Main Title - Moebius Storyboards" is a 15-second running look at some proposed art for the opening, while we once again gain access to “Galleries” here.
Finally, the "Storyboard to Film Comparisons" look at the “Lightcycle Chase” sequence. After a 50-second “Introduction” from Bill Kroyer, we can watch the two-minute scene in these ways: “Lightcycle Chase Split Screen” - with the boards on the top of the screen and the movie itself on the bottom - as well as “Lightcycle Chase Storyboard Only” and “Lightcycle Chase Final Film”.
If you haven’t gotten enough of the “Galleries” in the various subdomains, take heart: it appears on its own as well.
The disc launches with ads for Tron: Legacy, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Prom. These also show up under Sneak Peeks with promos for the Tron: Evolution video game, Cars 2, African Cats and The Incredibles.
A second disc offers a DVD copy of Tron. This offers a nice bonus if you haven’t gone Blu yet or if you just want a spare to watch on the road.
Almost 30 years ago, Tron offered a revolutionary visual experience that dazzled teens like myself. Today it doesn’t look so hot, so it needs to stand on its own merits as a film. Tron continues to deserve respect, but frankly, the movie itself is something of a bore. It features some decent action at times, but it comes across as a rehashing of other better flicks. The Blu-ray provides excellent picture and sound as well as a terrific package of supplements. Fans of Tron should be exceedingly pleased with this release.
To rate this film, visit the 20th Anniversary Edition review of TRON