"TRON" DVD Conspiracy is a Travesty for "TRON: Legacy" Potential

by Christopher Campbell
November 17, 2010 5:55 AM
11 Comments
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Imagine if it was currently impossible to watch the first six "Harry Potter" movies in preparation for the first part of "Deathly Hallows." That's how I feel regarding the recently discovered difficulty in seeing "TRON" before next month's release of "TRON: Legacy." I haven't seen "TRON" since I was a kid, at least 25 years ago, and if I don't have the chance of revisiting it I likely won't end up seeing the sequel. Fortunately I have a friend who is a diehard fan of the 1982 original and will likely get to borrow his copy of the apparently rare and out-of-print 20th anniversary DVD (which is being sold new on Amazon for nearly $100). What about the others who desire a refresher? And all those young people who've never seen it at all? I have a feeling that Disney's "highly anticipated" return to Flynn's Arcade is not going to be so highly successful without a number of newbies getting a proper introduction to what the heck Flynn's Arcade, not to mention ENCOM and the TRON system, is beforehand. Honestly, I don't even recall what this stuff is all about, and even if the new movie provides expository reminders, this is a problem for me.

I don't know if this is truly a conspiracy or simply a big mistake for Disney in terms of the potential for "TRON: Legacy." Given my current theory that mainstream moviegoers aren't interested in totally unrecognizable imagined worlds as film settings unless they have some investment or familiarity with that world via an already popular franchise or property, I do believe that if the masses aren't exposed to the original (which let's not forget wasn't a box office smash in its day), they'll have little interest in the sequel. This doesn't have the support of being a James Cameron movie, as "Avatar" did, and Disney's choice to copy that movie's marketing stunt by showing extended footage in theaters is somewhat misguided. I just don't think the same sort of curiosity is there. And oh yeah, "Tron Night" already happened weeks ago, and I seem to have heard nothing of its positive effect. Of course, I also, like many, thought "Avatar Day" was a flop and never expected the film to be as good or as successful as it ended up being.

Here are some comments heard round the film blog water cooler regarding the "TRON" DVD "conspiracy":


Rebecca Keegan, who broke the conspiracy theory, at Hero Complex:

Studios rarely miss an opportunity to capitalize on interest in one of their catalog titles. [...] but it’s possible the company is deliberately holding back on printing new copies of a movie that could alienate the broad, non-geek audiences they’ll need to make “Tron: Legacy” a success.

Charle Jane Anders' response to Keegan's speculation at i09:

Which I think means that if people see how dated the original Tron looks now, they'll be less interested in seeing an updated version. But it's still a bit odd to be paying homage to a 30-year-old film that you're hoping people won't have seen recently. I guess Disney really believes our rosy memories of Tron are better than the real thing.

Devin Faraci at Badass Digest:

I’d imagine that the reality of Tron - it’s not really that good! It’s more than a little boring! – is what’s keeping it hidden from sight. [...] Disney would rather you not revisit this film and then say to yourself ‘Holy shit, that was turgid. Why would I want to pay up to 17 bucks to see the sequel in 3D IMAX?’

Which then raises the question of ‘Why would Disney want to make a direct sequel to a movie they’re so embarrassed of?’

My educated guess in response to this is that Disney's hoping for the same kind of magic that comes from remaking minor classics. The name recognition is there for moviegoers to say, "oh, I've heard of that." It's also a movie that's so old that some of us who haven't seen it in years may remember it more fondly than we should. Or think we remember it being a bigger deal, at least in pop culture if not actual popularity.

Erik Davis at Cinematical:

Definitely strange, especially since Disney (the ones putting out 'Tron') just recently re-released 'Toy Story' and 'Toy Story 2' in theaters (and on DVD/Blu-ray) prior to the theatrical release of 'Toy Story 3' this past summer. You'd think there would be an audience interested in catching up with the original 'Tron' prior to watching its sequel, right? Surely a studio wouldn't pass up the opportunity to capitalize on all the hype floating around this franchise right now ... right?

I think so. And I think like the "Toy Story" re-releases, "TRON" should have been converted into 3-D and put out in a similarly limited engagement. I would settle for an original print, though, even as a midnight movie. I know NYC's Landmark Sunshine has shown the movie in this way before. But the title is nowhere on their "Sunshine at Midnight" schedule, which lists "Christmas Vacation" as booked for the weekend prior to the opening of "TRON: Legacy" and "The Shining" playing the weekend of its release.

Mack Rawden at Cinema Blend:

Late last month, Blue Sky Disney ran an editorial on this very subject. In it, they cite a focus group screening of the film that went horribly awry as a possible reason for Disney pushing back the original’s Blu-Ray release date. Could this also be the reason why copies of Tron seem to be disappearing before our eyes? Is Disney really trying to hide or disfigure all memory of the 1982 cult classic? Doesn’t it seem like we live in a society too advanced for this shit? This isn’t Ancient Egypt. You can’t just go in and chisel off the faces of previous rulers you don’t want history to remember. Tron made 33 million dollars when it was released. Since then, it’s become a serious cult classic. People care about this movie. It’s culturally relevant. It’s too big to stifle.

This is the same studio hiding other embarrassments, most notably "Song of the South." But "TRON" isn't that politically incorrect as far as I can recall.

From that referenced Blue Sky Disney post:

Word has it that earlier this summer the original Tron was screened at one of the theme parks and was laughed at by people who had not seen the original film and mocked it for its now-outdated effects and silly attire of leotards and hockey helmets parodied by the infamous "Tron Guy." Rumor has it that some Disney execs witnessed their reactions and it made them very, very nervous.

There's also mention of "The Black Hole" in that post, which is interesting to me mainly because of the laughs a scene from the original received during a recent DOC NYC screening of Errol Morris' documentary "A Brief History of Time" -- also unavailable on DVD, as it happens -- which includes an unintentionally hilarious clip of Maximillian Schell at his worst. I do have the feeling that if we want to watch "The Black Hole" before its remake hits theaters, now might be the best time to add it to our Netflix queue.

As for "TRON," if you can't revisit the original I recommend you ignore "TRON: Legacy," at least until it arrives on disc along with next year's (strategically?) late-scheduled Blu-ray of the original.


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11 Comments

  • Cant wait to buy Tron! | April 7, 2011 6:55 AMReply

    Yea its pretty ridiculous that you cant see the original Tron but I just pre ordered the dvd which has the first one included so ill just have to watch it first when I get them! I thought about a torrent but i can wait!
    www.buytrondvd.com

  • John | January 20, 2011 11:14 AMReply

    I can't stand it. I put it on my Netflix queue much before the movie, and I never got my hands on it. A few weeks before Tron Legacy, I looked at the queue and found that Tron was unavailable. I ended up watching it on YouTube a couple days before TL came out in theatres. It's official. Tron is the rarest film ever made by Disney. I hate the fact, but it's true.

  • Kevin H | December 18, 2010 2:30 AMReply

    im looking for the dvd, no luck as of yet. I have no plans of downloading it off the net. I'd rahter have a dvd copy

  • Orionsaint | November 18, 2010 10:36 AMReply

    Everyone relax! You can watch TRON for free on Youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULZ6NA0L738

  • Jon Duckworth | November 18, 2010 8:38 AMReply

    Hi, over here in England you can pick up a DVD of the original Tron (2002 anniversary edition packed with extra features) quite easily from Amazon, Play.com etc. Maybe there's more love for "Tron" over here. Either that or Disney consider the UK such an insignificant territory they've forgot to withdraw copies of the film.

    It may be a conspiracy, but I think it more likely that they would want to avoid confusion (dumb folks mistakenly purchasing the 1981 film in the shops thinking its the version at the cinema). They'll probably then release a special edition of the original after the new film's finished, hoping to pick up sales from people who've (maybe) had their appetites whetted.

    Personally, I thought the original was average and nearly fell off my chair when I heard about this sequel/remake thing. Looking forward to Disney remakes of "Oliver & Company", "Basil The Great Mouse Detective" and "The Ugly Daschund"...

    Keep up the good work.

    Jon
    http://adventures-in-couchsitting.blogspot.com/

  • Gloria | November 18, 2010 6:56 AMReply

    Are you seriously that ignorant?

    The new Tron film has garnered the interest of not only sci-fi and action film fans everywhere, but even everyday people who love a great story, AND even a lot of women who don't normally like those kinds of films.

    I honestly think you are not very aware of the real world. Or the simulation. :)

  • Cody k | November 18, 2010 2:58 AMReply

    To Neil and others who believe that the original Tron was a flop, you might want to consult with some actual box office records. Tron cost $33 Million to make, and made that much at the box office within the first 8 weeks. THEN, it became a HUGE hit on home video - VHS and two DVD editions. It has since become a cult classic, ranked on many SciFi fans' lists along with The Day The Earth Stood Still, Blade Runner and Star Wars.

    It is a shame that Disney has made this marketing decision, and I disagree with it personally, but it has to be said that nobody knows how to work people into a lather to spend money for its products like The Mouse. From a business standpoint, they may be doing the best thing. Ultimately, if young fans (and I know quite a few who are really jazzed for Legacy and have never seen the original) really dig the new one, they will probably be more accepting of the original, in all of its '80s day-glo splendor, when they do get to see it next year. I'm just glad I have a copy from the HDnet broadcast a few months ago. BTW, it looks fantastic.

  • Neil John brimelow | November 18, 2010 2:50 AMReply

    The arcade game made like 10 times the amount the movie made, and the arcade game was so successful that they made a follow up arcade game with "Discs of Tron," even though the movie was a flop for Disney at the time.

    If you look at Tron, it really is more like "Fantasia," than anything else. It is a fantasy film.

    "Tron Legacy" is much, much more hard edged and "realistic" and "gritty." "Legacy" looks almost exactly like "The Matrix." In fact they took out the glow of the costumes and dumped the light cycles, and said the movie was the next Matrix movie you'd be hard pressed to not believe it.

    The original Tron represented the wonder and awe most people had about computers back then. Now computers are so commonplace that the wonder is gone.

    The world of the original Tron was that of an alternate reality, sort of an alternative mirror universe. Legacy seems to be more of a virtual reality.

    The original Tron was also a perfect representation of what life was back then at that exact moment; Journey on the jukebox, video games everywhere, a fun attitude.

    Now everything has to be super serious.

    Keep in mind that Tron 2 takes place in a sealed off server that's been lost in time, so it HAS to be different.

    I'm disappointed that the world of Tron 2 was not more bizzaro and fantastic and chaotic seeing that it is essentially put together by an insane, megalomaniac computer program (Clu 2)

    Disney should be embracing the Retro-ness of Tron and embracing the differences between the two movies instead of trying to bury the first one because some focus group of 12 year olds that don't know nothing about nothing said it was stupid.

  • djmasturbeat | November 18, 2010 12:12 AMReply

    yeah you can find DVD ISOs and rips, as well as HDTV rips.
    i found copies of such starting about 3 years ago, long before i knew it was getting an update.
    it really isn't that great... surely not as awesome as i remembered it as a kid.
    that said, i would have paid for it legitimately if it were reasonably priced, so Disney still phails.

  • George B NYC | November 17, 2010 11:36 AMReply

    When the first clip of the new film came out, I added the original movie to my Netflix queue because I had the same reaction. . . I remember bits of it, but not the whole. I was never a huge fan, but I certainly don't think it's laughable or terrible. Put into perspective of it's time period, I thought it was gutsy to release something a little different than normal fare and the effects aren't really that bad considering the budget given at that time. Of course, profit motive is what drives media and film nowadays, so it's not surprising to hear that Disney may have stifled a re-release of the original due to fears that a younger audience would find the effect lacking. With many younger people weened on the original Star Wars, it would be hard to compare. Oh well, DVD release for me, either way.

  • Mike L NYC | November 17, 2010 9:31 AMReply

    Thanks for the heads up. I, too, haven't seen it in 20-or-so years -- since I was a kid. I'll be sure to start looking for a torrent of the original film right now. Disney, if you want to sell it to me first, let me know asap. Thanks.

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