Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Talking TRON With Sean

As my longtime readers are no doubt already aware, I have a lot of love for Disney's TRON, one of the seminal film-viewing experience of my young life. Thus, when my best friend Sean Coyle, an editor at Disney for several years now, told me awhile back that he was working on TRON: Uprising, the Mouse House's impending animated entry into the franchise, I nearly plotzed. Knowing of my deep affection for both the original film and its 2010 sequel, TRON: Legacy, Sean has teased me with the fact of the show's existence at every opportunity, all the while maintaining strict radio silence about its contents. Until now, that is.

With last week's airing of "Beck's Beginning," a prologue to the series proper, on Disney XD, the big ramp-up to TRON: Uprising's series premiere next month has begun. The series, which fills in the gap between the flashback sequence in Legacy and the film's story proper, chronicles the exploits of a rogue program named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood) who is trained by the original Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) to take on his mantle as they work to defeat the evil CLU. If the prologue is anything to go by, it looks like the project lacks in neither scope nor ambition, fitting comfortably in the film world of the sequel while also plotting its own unique stylistic course.

I had the chance last week to pick Sean's brain about the show, how he got involved, and what we can look forward to. Here's what he had to say:
He asked me to use this pic. You're welcome, Sean.
First of all, why do a prequel as opposed to something that picks up where the last movie left off?

The TV series takes place between the original 1982 TRON and 2010’s TRON: Legacy. I’m not sure what that amounts to in actual Tron-time. Where Legacy was very much Flynn’s story, Uprising is centered around the character of Beck and is still very much a Tron-centric adventure, telling the story of what happened between Clu’s betrayal (first movie) and Tron’s rebirth as Rinzler (second movie). I’ve noticed some commentary on various websites voicing concerns about knowing how the story ends -- that ultimately, Tron falls. But to me, that’s what makes the story so compelling. And believe me -- this series is going to be epic.

Tell us a little about the development process behind the show? How long has a TRON cartoon been on the radar?

I came on board in early 2010 for the pilot -- which was originally conceived as a 10-part micro-series, 3-minutes each. The pilot ultimately became the prelude to TRON: Uprising, "Beck’s Beginning," which streamed together all 10 shorts. Knowing right off the bat that the Legacy writers (Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz) and producer (Justin Springer) were involved and that director and executive producer, Charlie Bean, who was a major player in one of my all-time favorite ‘toons, Samurai Jack, was leading the project -- there was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to work on TRON: Uprising.

Then, all of a sudden, Bruce Boxleitner was on board. Then Elijah Wood. Lance Henriksen. Paul Reubens. Mandy Moore. Then we saw an animation test. It was mind-blowing! You really knew this was going to be unlike anything else out there.

What's your role in putting it together?

My role as film editor on the series is taking all the storyboard panels and putting them together with dialogue and temping in music and sound effects. I use a lot of Hans Zimmer. Then I assemble as close to a 22-minute story as possible. Then I sit with Charlie [Bean] and we figure out what works and what doesn’t. We’ll bring the writers in and rewrite scenes on the fly and record all the new dialogue with each of us doing our best impressions of certain characters. I take pride in knowing that I’m the go-to “temp” Bruce Boxleitner!

Storyboards get revised and polished and revised and polished. Once everything is finalized, we ship it off to the animation studio to await final animation. The next storyboard comes through and its wash, rinse, repeat.

Then, usually about 4 months later, we receive final animation and my job is to then work with the director to trim the show to its proper running time, usually cutting about 2 minutes of content. It’s a fun challenge to work within such restrictions -- telling the best story we can in 22 minutes. The best part about my job is how collaborative it is. And that comes from Charlie Bean. He really respects everyone on the crew as an artist and filmmaker in their own right. Not only that, he will never hesitate to give you credit for your contributions.

How closely does Uprising tie in with the TRON movies? What familiar characters can we look forward to seeing?

If I may harness my inner-politician for a moment. Zaki, I can assure you that TRON: Uprising will feature characters familiar to fans young and old. How many and how often? Well (wink) you’ll just have to tune into Disney XD to find out.

So, seriously, how cool is [TRON star] Bruce Boxleitner?

Okay. I get a lot of Bruce stories from Charlie Bean and the wonderful people in casting. He sounds like literally the coolest guy ever. Supposedly he decided very early on in his career that he would never say “no” to anything TRON. And, well, you see how that worked out. There was a press junket and premiere screening of the pilot episode which I was unable to attend (for good reasons -- I had a newborn baby at home -- woohoo! Baby got a plug!). Anyway, it was an all-day affair and, apparently, Bruce was literally the first guy to arrive in the morning and the last guy to leave that night.

I’ve only met him once. I was eating lunch in my office, watching old sitcoms on Netflix when I hear my door open behind me and a voice say “Whoops. Uh-oh! We caught him while he’s eating!” I hear his voice every day while I edit shows together so there was something so surreal about hearing him in non-Tron mode. He was very kind and gracious with me, as he has been with the entire crew.

Are there any easter eggs in Uprising that longtime TRON fans can look forward to?

Definitely. The bigger the Tron-geek you are, the more you’ll appreciate the attention to detail. This is definitely a show for Tron fans -- by Tron fans.

How far ahead has the series been planned out?

I hope we go 10 seasons. Then maybe I can retire when I’m 43!

Can you tell us anything about TRON 3?

Ask Bruce Boxleitner.


Big, big thanks to Sean for allowing us a little peek behind the curtain. You can watch the entirety of "Beck's Beginning" below, and then catch the series premiere of TRON: Uprising this coming June 7 at 9 PM ET/PT on Disney XD. Make sure you watch!


TronFAN1982 said...

EXCERPT: “…Uprising is centered around the character of Beck and is still very much a Tron-centric adventure, telling the story of what happened between Clu’s betrayal (first movie) and Tron’s rebirth as Rinzler (second movie).”

First, and most importantly, CLU did NOT betray Flynn in the first film. IN FACT, CLU only lasted for the first 8 minutes or so of TRON before screaming like a girl and crashing his tank into a wall, from which he was subsequently captured by a recognizer patrol (sent by the MCP), tortured and killed [derezzed]. CLU was IN FACT Flynn’s greatest ally inside The Grid THROUGHOUT his short time in the first film. Any idiot would know this.

Second, the CLU who actually does betray Flynn is CLU 2.0, NOT the same CLU from the first film (first Grid). IN FACT, CLU 2.0 was created by Kevin Flynn strictly for the second grid (featured in Tron: Legacy). CLU [2.0’s] betrayal happened between the first film and the second film, and the only time we ever ACTUALLY see this betrayal in film form is in the SECOND FILM’S FLASHBACK. So if ANY film should serve as the reference for “Clu’s [CLU 2.0’s] betrayal” it should IN FACT be Tron: Legacy and NOT the original TRON. Any idiot would know this.

Third, this editor seems to suggest that “Tron’s rebirth as Rinzler” happened in the second movie. But IN FACT, Rinzler already exists at the start of Tron: Legacy, and the timeline of his actual transformation to Rinzler is NOT KNOWN. Any idiot would know this.

Lastly, to characterize Tron’s transformation to Rinzler as a ‘rebirth’ is a staggering misnomer, and IN FACT completely disregards the heroism of Tron. Would you say that Anakin Skywalker was REBORN as Darth Vader??? Or that Harvey Dent was REBORN as Two-Face??? Or that Colossus was REBORN after his sister Illyana died and he joined Magneto??? NO. Any idiot would know this.

End of line. (you know, from TRON) ARGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOBODY GETS IT!

Zaki said...

Would you say that Anakin Skywalker was REBORN as Darth Vader???


Sure. From a certain point of view. :-p

Anonymous said...

Eh... Word quibbling aside, it's obvious he means that the story takes place between the flashback described in Legacy and the rest of Legacy proper. And when he says "Clu's betrayal", isn't he obviously talking about when Clu 2 betrays Flynn?

So what's all this griping about? Sheesh! If you are a "TronFan", then you should just be thrilled that this is coming out like I am! Instead of bitching about it.

I saw the pilot. It was awesome man! This animation tie-in is WAY better than most. Some people think The Clone Wars did Star Wars justice. From what I've seen so far, this show is FAR better than that!

So get a life, dude. Stop griping. Enjoy the ride.