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Kevin Krock, editor
Tron - 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition
(1982)
| Approx. 96 Minutes | Rated PG | Reviewed by Tony Phoenix
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
ADVANCED HOME THEATER - Finally! They got it right!

The Movie

It has been almost exactly one year since I reviewed the original DVD release of Tron. Now for the 20th anniversary of the film, Disney has released a two-disk set commemorating this ground-breaking film.

For the story line, refer back to my original review. Instead, let me take a closer look at the new release, and examine just how special this "special edition" is.

The original movie poster art - Promo art © Disney
The original movie poster art - © Disney

The Goodies

In my opinion, there are two highlights in the goodies: the audio commentary that is an optional audio track for the film, and a brand new "making of" feature.

Although the audio commentary is a direct lift off of the laserdisc release, (they even refer to the old side breaks) it is still probably one of the most impressive commentaries I have ever listened to. Unlike so many other presentations, the participants — Steve Lisberger, Donald Kushner, Harrison Ellenshaw and Richard Taylor — really get into the detail of Tron; how and why it was developed, instead of spending time talking about how wonderful they are, or how great their work is.

Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

Unfortunately, like all Disney releases, there is no way to switch the commentary on while watching the movie. Instead, you are forced out to the main menu to enable the commentary. Try pressing the audio button on your remote with nearly any non- Disney DVD, and you see the difference. It seems silly to prevent you from changing the audio tracks during the movie. (This is purely a programming issue, Disney can program the disc to allow switching of the tracks on the fly.)

The 90-minute "making of" documentary is a brand new addition, and is truly impressive. Assembled by the same company that did the Snow White DVD, this documentary delves into a wide range of topics and issues related to the movie. Even John Lassiter, who was working as an animator on Mickey’s Christmas Carol at the time Tron was being produced, talks about his encounters with the making to Tron, and talks about the influence it had on his later work with Pixar.

Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

There are about four more hours of bonus material on the disk – way too much to cover in this review. I spent hours browsing through the presentations, finding myself drawn deeper into the computer world.

While the overall goodies are a vast improvement over the first release, there was one major regression. The Spanish and French audio tracks that were included on the original disk release are completely missing from the edition. I know that this is not a huge issue to most people, but as someone who speaks French, I do like to take advantage of listening to the French soundtracks in order to maintain my language skills. It was disappointing to find those missing.

From the MousePlanet archives: Tron special event - May 14, 1999

From the press release [edited]: Walt Disney Pictures' 1982 landmark computer-animated feature Tron returned for a special one-week limited engagement at The El Capitan Theatre. This marked the debut of a brand-new 70mm six-track Dolby SR® Stereo print - the first struck in seventeen years and the first time the film has ever been formatted and presented in Dolby SR® Stereo.

A special panel discussion with the filmmakers, including director Steven Lisberger, visual-effects supervisors Richard Taylor, and computer-image choreographer Bill Kroyer, was presented before the film. Also participating were actor Bruce Boxleitner (who starred in the title role) and actress Cindy Morgan (who played the dual role of Lora / Nori). Noted journalist / animation historian Charles Solomon moderated.

Cindy Morgan Bruce Boxleitner Charles Solomon

[Above - left to right] Cindy Morgan, Bruce Boxleitner and Charles Solomon.

Bill Kroyer Richard Taylor Steven Lisberger

[Above - left to right] Bill Kroyer, Richard Taylor and Steven Lisberger.

The Video, Audio and Interface

The film transfer has been cleaned up significantly, with a lot less grain in the images. Color and contrast are a bit schizophrenic, but that is mainly due to the animation process used to create the film. Gone are most of the scratches and defects I noticed in my first review. Overall, this is a vastly improved image. The transfer is also now anamorphic, meaning it shows properly on a wide screen TV.

Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

The audio in this release moves up to a 5.1 track. The only major difference I noticed was that my subwoofer got a good workout as the tanks and light cycles moved across the screen. Unlike the original DVD, the bass is clear and powerful – you really get the feeling of the tanks rumbling toward you.

The interface has been significantly jazzed up, with new animated menus that tie you directly into Tron’s computer world. It's really amazing what can be done now to duplicate Tron's look with the current technology.

The Advanced Home Theater

What do I like most about this new release? That customers no longer have to spend over a hundred dollars on a huge laserdisc box set to get this material on a favorite film! Finally the average consumer out there can see all sorts of great features that in years past only a few hundred thousand people (if that many) used to only be able to enjoy on the LD format.

What you get in this new DVD edition is pretty much a port of the original laser set, with a new anamorphic transfer (which really looks great on the new 16x9 widescreen sets) and a spiffed up sound track. In particular the scenes bathed in red light, which were a nightmare even on the relatively stable LD format (and unwatchable on tape) are now rock solid on DVD. And yes, the lightcycle chase zips around the widescreen and your speaker system the way it should. (Even with all the improvements in computer effects technology since the film first opened this sequence can still hold its own.)

Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

The purchaser of the disc will also be pleased to find the sound is slightly improved from the already good first DVD release (which was a real disappointment otherwise in the features department), and the new documentary made for this DVD sort of nicely brings together in a story form what used to be just a collection of infobits and elements on the original LD set.

Tron is no masterwork, is a bit clumsy in its storytelling, and clunky in its action. (And why this happened is explained in the documentary.) But it was a visual treat, and Disney with this movie experimented with some concepts and ideas that only really came into full bloom just recently with the advance of motion picture special effects.

For a lot of the film's fans, it sort of is like the first movie adventure that captured their imagination - in the same way that other generations were captivated by such adventures as Disney's "In Search of the Castaways" or Lucas' "Star Wars" did.  Lord knows over the years I've come to find out that many of you reading this column today were introduced to the world of computers by this truly innovative film.

Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

Disney has improved upon a really disappointing first release of this movie on DVD, and made it special once again for the movie's fans and for people just now "entering the game grid of Tron." The company deserves compliments for a job well done, and offering this set at a price point that is ultra consumer friendly. What a treat.

Also Disney has finally released the Tron soundtrack on CD - in a newly remastered edition with three bonus tracks at midline pricing - which means you can find it at most stores for around ten dollars! 

Cover Art
Click to Buy

Tracks: 1. Creation of Tron | 2. Only Solutions | 3. We've Got Company | 4. Wormhole | 5. Ring Game and Escape | 6. Water, Music, And Tronaction | 7. Tron Scherzo | 8. Miracle and Magician | 9. Magic Landings | 10. Theme from Tron | 11. 1990's Theme | 12. Love Theme | 13. Tower Music - Let Us Pray | 14. Light Sailer | 15. Sea of Simulation | 16. New Tron and the MCP | 17. Anthem | 18. Ending Titles | Bonus Tracks: 19. Tronaction | 20. Break In | 21. Anthem for Keyboard Solo

The film's composer Wendy Carlos in the interesting liner notes even begins a story about how the master tapes had to be baked in an oven to get a final high quality copy off of them for the CD release, she fills in the rest of what was involved on her website. (It's a terrible problem affecting many master tapes for all recording companies now - due to a change in the tape manufacturing process during that time. She details the process, and how it affects everyone in the music industry now.)

The original album cover - Promo art © Disney
The original album cover - Promo art © Disney

I'd always found the music from this movie, in particular the main theme, to be rather haunting. What a pleasure to now hear the score on this CD with improved sonics, in particular the end theme with its huge choir and pipe organ. There's a richness in the new 20 bit remastered CD presentation that the souped up DVD Dolby Digital soundtrack can't quite match with its more limited data rates.

- Al Lutz

The Final Evaluation

Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

I liked Tron before this DVD. Now, I honestly have to say I like it even more. While it lacks the same emotional impact of Toy Story or A Bug’s Life, it is still an amazing movie.

So, my old copy of the DVD gets tossed out, and I gladly replace it with a collection that is truly worthy of this ground- breaking movie.

Tron - 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition - Promo art © Disney
Promo art © Disney

DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • All-new extensive "The Making of Tron" documentary (88 mins.)
  • Deleted scenes
  • Production photo gallery including archival photos not presented in the laser disc edition
  • Commentary by writer/director Steven Lisberger, producer Donald Kushner and visual effects supervisors Harrison Ellenshaw and Richard Taylor
  • Storyboard-to-film Comparisons
  • Extensive still frame galleries
  • Pre-production animation tests
  • Deleted original soundtrack music
  • Inspirational designs by futuristic artists Syd Mead, Peter Lloyd and Jean "Moebius" Giraud
  • Computer animation design and memo reels
  • Original publicity materials
  • Original theatrical trailer

Technical Specifications

anamorphicdvd.gif (2563 bytes)

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Spanish, French subtitles
  • 19 chapters
  • THX Certified
  • Widescreen anamorphic - 2.20:1
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