Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

US live-action/Animated Movie (1982). Disney/Lisberger-Kushner. Pr Donald Kushner. Exec pr Ron Miller. Dir Steven Lisberger. Conceptual artists Jean Giraud (see Moebius), Peter Lloyd, Syd Mead. Spfx R J Spetter. Vfx Ellenshaw, Lisberger, John Scheele, Richard Taylor. Computer fx Taylor. Effects anim Lee Dyer. Screenplay Lisberger. Novelization TRON * (1982) by Brian Daley. Starring Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/TRON), Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn/CLU), Barnard Hughes (Walter Gibbs/DUMONT), Cindy Morgan (Lora/YORI), Dan Shor (RAM), David Warner (Ed Dillinger/SARK). 96 mins. Colour.

The ENCOM organization, headed by founder Gibbs, is run by Dillinger with the aid of the central computer's huge Master Control Program (MCP), which is ever growing through the theft of programs from elsewhere; MCP plans to take over the Pentagon and Kremlin while Dillinger plots to oust Gibbs. Coincidentally, Gibbs and assistant Lora are working within ENCOM on a system to encrypt and later decrypt objects and organisms using computer-linked lasers, the long-term goal being practicable matter transmission. Wacky genius Flynn devised ENCOM's vastly successful video-games programs, but saw his inventions stolen by Dillinger. ENCOM employee Bradley has devised a new debugging program, TRON, which MCP sees as a threat. Bradley, Lora and Flynn try to work their way into the computer. MCP activates the encryption laser to absorb Flynn into itself in the form of a program; there Flynn discovers a sort of video-game world where lesser programs are forced to engage in gladiatorial contests. The rest of the tale, set within the computer's net, sees Flynn, Tron and Lora's program YORI, aided by Gibbs's original "guardian" program DUMONT, outwit and destroy MCP and its chief lieutenant, SARK.

T, despite a clumsy script, is an extremely interesting piece of Technofantasy. The plot owes obvious debts to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L Frank Baum, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne (1828-1905) and even Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll. The world within the main net is realized, through a mixture of live-action and computer animation, as if it were a Secondary World. Individual programs are incarnated as the human beings who devised them – although there is religious dispute among the programs as to the existence or nonexistence of the Users (programmers and operators), regarded as Gods. There is a death-analogue, in that programs may be "derezzed" at the whim of MCP or through failure in any of the various games MCP makes them play. The programs display certain Shapeshifting abilities, and Flynn, as an encrypted User rather than a piece of software, possesses some of the supernatural qualities of an Avatar. The blurring between the two Realities is further enhanced through the depiction of the ENCOM building's interior as scrupulously clean, angular, over-automated and utterly inhuman; in a stunning final Trompe-L'oeil the camera looks over nighttime LA and sees it as a board of flashing electronics. [JG]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.