The long road to Tron: Legacy

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Whisper it, but Tron: Legacy, the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 original, is finally on the horizon. The cinematic release is set for December 17 (fingers crossed), but today saw the unveiling of the third segment of the film's triptych-style poster, featuring God of Tron and the dude himself, Jeff Bridges. The unveiling of the poster marks the conclusion of Disney's unprecedented three-year long marketing campaign, as Scott Snowden explains.

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Arguably the most overdue sequel ever, it only took Disney 26 years to realise they had a potential gold mine with Tron. The original, made back in 1982, is set in a world that exists inside a giant software corporation’s computer mainframe and was way ahead of its time. So far ahead in fact, that it didn’t do too well at the box office. It was only a few years after that it began to develop a cult following. The idea of computers having such an influence on our daily lives seemed unimaginable.

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Back at the 2008 Comic-Con, the panel for Race to Witch Mountain was winding down. The crowd had been kept entertained by Dwayne Johnson’s jokes, but were keen to get outside into the San Diego sunshine. However, before they could exit Hall H, there was one more previously unannounced presentation. The crowd shuffled back to their seats as the lights dimmed and a two-and-a-half minute trailer – actually more a concept test – was played for a sequel to Tron.

Reimagined Lightcycles raced through tunnels in a seemingly familiar world that had been transformed into something so much more than it once was. Two video game warriors do jaw-dropping battle as these Lightcycles repeatedly smash into each other in attempt to win. They even have air brakes.

The crowd went absolutely nuts. Within minutes, posts were appearing all over the internet – the coolest thing in the universe has just been unveiled. And since then, in a carefully orchestrated marketing exercise, Disney has managed to keep fans on the edge of their seats for three years. Each year, a new trailer has been released along with new photographs and tantalising titbits of information about the new movie.

One year later - again at Comic-Con, a warehouse-style building in the fashionable Gaslamp District and not far from the convention centre was completely decked-out down to the last detail to match Flynn’s arcade – a pivotal location featured in both Tron movies. Inside, old arcade machines from the 80s stood draped in plastic covers as if time had stood still for nearly 30 years. Fans were allowed in to walkthrough the replicated set, and through a secret door that opens in the wall - just like in the new movie, into a secret cellar and into a glamorous, super-trendy, Tron-themed nightclub bar at the end.

Needless to say, the queues to get in went around the block. Flynn’s arcade marked the end of a three-month or so internet-based quest that fans could embark on. It followed the basic premise of a continual online search for the main character, Kevin Flynn – played by Jeff Bridges, who has disappeared, just like in the new movie.

Fans could answer questions on the website about all manner off arcade games of the past to qualify for t-shirts, identity badges and all manner of Tron-related goodies. In addition, viral posts began to appear on the web showing mocked up news footage associated with the disappearance of Flynn. Naturally no one this side of the Pond really caught wind of this, but in the States it was huge.

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