A few weeks ago, I sat down for a conversation with Steven Lisberger, director of the original Tron, to discuss our shared passions for science fiction cinema and transmedia entertainment. Mike Bonifer organized the meeting, filmed the exchange, and edited the footage. He has gradually been rolling it out in short three to four minute chunks via YouTube ever since.
I have to say that it was thrilling to me to meet Lisberger — having long admired how far forward the thinking behind Tron had been about the directions games and digital culture might take. In the first few installments of this conversation, Lisberger shares with me some of his experiences in making Tron and also considers the current project to re-engage with these characters, their world, and their stories for the next generation. In case you’ve missed the news, a new Tron movie is going to hit the theaters later this year, and we are already seeing a fair amount of buzz build around it.
Tron took advantage of cutting edge digital graphics to imagine forms of computer gaming which were not yet technically possible at the time. Many of us struggled to even understand what was happening in the movie because it was so far out beyond our previous experiences with things digital. In many ways, subsequent generations of game designers and digital effects artists have helped to design and fully realize many aspects of that vision. So it is interesting to imagine what Tron would mean for today’s generation.
This second section discusses Tron’s light cycles and the challenges of communicating how they worked and what they could do to people who had yet to have an immersive digital experience. Along the way, he gives us a taste of what it was like to work with futurist designer Syd Mead.
In this next installment, he describes his meeting with one of the “old men” on the Disney animation team and what a break Tron felt with what Disney had done before.
And in this installment, he gets into the ways that the new Tron movie engages with the franchise, including the decision to make the new film in 3D.
By the fifth and sixth installments, we begin to broaden the discussion outward from Tron to the larger context of contemporary digital culture. In part five, I hold forth about the concept of participatory culture and how it is changing the way media gets produced and circulated.
And in part six, we discuss Avatar‘s impact on the culture, including beginning to talk about the coming wave of 3D films emerging from Hollywood in its wake. I should note here that I discuss Alice in Wonderland as a film conceived in 3D but I have since learned it was shot in 2D and thus does not fully exploit the potentials of 3D cinematography.
Part Seven includes some discussion of political activism that has originated around James Cameron’s Avatar and the way popular culture can become a catalyst for social change movements and Steve talks about how Cameron brought together radically different aesthetics from previous science fiction and fantasy films.
In the next installment, we get into the construction of the alien in contemporary science fiction and how this may reflect some shifts that are occuring in American society around race and culture.
By Part Nine, we are back onto transmedia, discussing the ways advanced publicity may help frame and shape audience expectations and how different audiences bring different kinds of knowledge with them into the theater when they engage with the new Tron movie.
This is not exactly My Dinner with Andre, but I think you will find it interesting. I will run a second installment when the rest of the material is up, but you can follow them as they are posted, one a day, on Mike Bonifer’s Game Changers YouTube Channel.