In 1989, seven years after the events of the first film, Kevin Flynn, who has been recently promoted CEO of ENCOM International, disappears. Twenty years later, his son Sam, now ENCOM's primary shareholder, takes little interest in the company beyond playing an annual prank on its board of directors.
After being freed from police custody for his most recent prank, Sam is asked by Alan Bradley, an ENCOM executive and Flynn's old friend, to investigate a strange pager message originating from Flynn's shuttered video arcade. Sam discovers a large computer in a hidden basement, which suddenly teleports him to the Grid, a virtual reality created by Flynn that exists within ENCOM’s computer mainframe. He is quickly captured and sent to "the Games", where he is forced to fight a masked program named Rinzler. When Sam is injured and begins bleeding, Rinzler realizes that Sam is a human "User" and takes him before Clu, the Grid's corrupt ruling program who resembles a younger Kevin Flynn. Clu nearly kills Sam in a Light Cycle match, but Sam is rescued by Quorra, an "apprentice" of Flynn, who conveys him to his father's hideout outside Clu's territory.
Flynn reveals to Sam that he had been working to create a "perfect" computer system and had appointed Clu and Tron (a security program created by Bradley) its co-creators. During this construction, the trio discovered a species of naturally occurring "isomorphic algorithms" (ISOs) not conceived by Flynn, bearing the potential to resolve various mysteries in science, religion and medicine. Clu, considering them an aberration, betrayed Flynn, seemingly killed Tron, and destroyed the ISOs. Meanwhile, the "I/O portal" permitting travel between the two worlds had closed, leaving Flynn trapped in the system. Now that Clu has gained complete control, he sent the message to Alan in order to lure Sam onto the Grid and reopen the portal for a limited time. As Flynn's "identity disc" is the master key to the Grid and the only way to traverse the portal, Clu expects Sam to bring Flynn to the portal so he can take Flynn's disc, go through the portal himself, and impose his idea of perfection on the human world.
Against his father's wishes, Sam returns to Clu's territory on Quorra's tip-off to find Zuse, a program who can provide safe passage to the I/O portal. At the End of Line Club, its owner Castor reveals himself to be Zuse, then betrays Sam to Clu's guards. In the resulting fight, Flynn rescues his son, but Quorra is injured and Zuse gains possession of Flynn's disc. Zuse attempts to bargain with Clu for the disc, but Clu simply takes the disc and destroys the club along with Zuse. Flynn and Sam stow away aboard a "solar sailer" transport program, where Flynn restores Quorra and reveals her to be the last surviving ISO.
The transport is intercepted by Clu's warship; as a diversion, Quorra allows herself to be captured by Rinzler, whom Flynn recognizes as Tron, reprogrammed by Clu. Sam reclaims Flynn's disc and rescues Quorra, while Flynn takes control of a Light Fighter on the flight deck. Clu, Rinzler, and several guards pursue the trio in Light Jets. Upon making eye contact with Flynn, Rinzler remembers his past and deliberately collides with Clu's Light Jet, but Clu uses Tron's spare baton to escape while Tron falls into the Sea of Simulation below. Clu confronts the others at the I/O portal, where Flynn reintegrates with his digital duplicate, destroying Clu along with himself. Quorra, having switched discs with Flynn, gives Flynn's disc to Sam and they escape together to the real world. In Flynn's arcade, Sam backs up and deactivates the system. He then finds a waiting Bradley and tells him he plans to retake control of ENCOM, naming Bradley chairman of the board. He departs on his motorcycle with Quorra, and she witnesses her first real sunrise.Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, the former CEO of ENCOM International and creator of the popular arcade game Tron based on his own experiences in ENCOM's virtual reality, who disappeared in 1989 while developing "a digital frontier that will reshape the human condition".
Bridges also portrays Clu (Codified Likeness Utility), a more advanced incarnation of Flynn's original computer-hacking program, designed as an "exact duplicate of himself" within the Grid, via digital makeup and voiceover, while John Reardon portrays Clu physically.
Garrett Hedlund as Samuel "Sam" Flynn, a primary shareholder of ENCOM who, while investigating his father's disappearance, is transported onto the Grid himself. Hedlund won a "Darwinian casting process" which tested hundreds of actors, being chosen for having the "unique combination of intelligence, wit, humor, look and physicality" that the producers were looking for in Flynn's son. The actor trained hard to do his own stunts, which included jumping over cars and copious wire and harness work. Owen Best portrays the seven-year-old Sam Flynn.
Olivia Wilde as Quorra, an "isomorphic algorithm", adept warrior, and confidante of Kevin Flynn in the Grid. Flynn refers to her as his "apprentice" and has imparted volumes of information to her regarding the world outside of the Grid, which she longs to experience. She is shown to have a love of human literature, particularly the writings of Jules Verne, and plays Go with Flynn. She comments that her 'aggressive style' is usually foiled by Flynn's patience. Wilde describes Quorra as akin to Joan of Arc. Her hairstyle was influenced by singer Karen O. Wilde added that although "[Quorra] could have just been another slinky, vampy temptress", it was important for her to appeal to both men and women, and that character tried to avoid the typical female lead by having a naiveté and childlike innocence adequate for such an "evolving and learning organism". Quorra's action scenes led Wilde to work out and train in martial arts.
Bruce Boxleitner as Alan Bradley, an executive consultant for ENCOM, and close friend of Kevin Flynn who, after receiving a cryptic page from the office at the shuttered Flynn's Arcade, encourages Sam to investigate its origin.
Boxleitner also portrays Tron/Rinzler, a security program originally developed by Bradley to monitor ENCOM's Master Control Program and later reassigned by Flynn to defend the Grid, who was overpowered and re-purposed by Clu as a masked command program wielding an identity disk that splits into two, in flashback sequences via the same treatment as Bridges' younger self for Clu. Anis Cheurfa, a stunt actor, portrayed Rinzler, while Boxleitner provided the dialogue. Rinzler is named after author and Lucasfilm Executive Editor J.W. Rinzler.
Michael Sheen as Zuse/Castor, a flamboyant supermodel program who runs the End of Line Club at the top of the tallest tower in the system. Sheen describes his performance as containing elements of performers such as David Bowie, Joel Grey from Cabaret, and a bit of Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show.
James Frain as Jarvis, an administration program who serves as Clu's right-hand man and chief intelligence officer. Frain had to shave his head, bleach his eyebrows white, and wear make-up. The refraction on Jarvis' helmet led Frain to walk in a "slightly squinty, blind stagger" which the actor felt was helpful to get him into character. Frain described Jarvis as "a fun, comic character that’s a little off-beat", considering him "more human, in terms of being fallible and absurd" compared to the zanier Castor.
Beau Garrett as Gem, one of four programs known as Sirens. The Sirens operate the Grid's game armory, equipping combatants with the armor needed to compete in the games, while also reporting to Castor.
Daft Punk as disc jockey programs at Castor's End of Line Club.
Steven Lisberger as Shaddix, a bartender in the End of Line Club.
Jeffrey Nordling as Richard Mackey, the chairman of ENCOM's executive board.
Cillian Murphy (Uncredited) as Edward Dillinger, Jr., the head of ENCOM's software design team and the son of former ENCOM Senior Executive Ed Dillinger (portrayed by David Warner in the original film).
Serinda Swan and Yaya DaCosta also appear as Sirens.
Tron: Legacy is imbued with several references to religious themes, particularly those relating to Christianity and Buddhism. Olivia Wilde's character, Quorra, was informed by the historical Catholic figure Joan of Arc. Wilde sought inspiration from her six months before production of the film commenced. She, alongside Kosinski, collaborated with the writers on editing the characters so she would contain the characteristics of Joan of Arc. Wilde assessed the characteristics of the figure: "She's this unlikely warrior, very strong but compassionate, and completely led by selflessness. Also, she thinks she's in touch with some higher power and has one foot in another world. All of these were elements of Quorra." Since she epitomizes the concept of androgyny, producers conceived Quorra from an androgynous perspective, notably giving her a short haircut.
Bridges opined that Tron: Legacy was evocative of a modern myth, adding that ideas alluding to technological advancement were prevalent throughout the film. To Cyriaque Lamar of io9, the film's approach to technology was reminiscent of a kōan. "One of the things that brought me to this film," affirmed Bridges, "was the idea of helping to create a modern-day myth to help us navigate through these technological waters [...]. I dig immediate gratification as much as anybody, but it happens so fast that if you make a decision like that, you can go far down the wrong path. Think about those plastic single-use water bottles. Where did that come from? Who decided that? You can have a couple of swigs of water [...] and those bottles don't disintegrate entirely. Microscopic animals eat the plastic, and the fish eat those, and we're all connected. It's a finite situation here."
According to screenwriter Adam Horowitz, Kosinski stated that the film's universal theme was "finding a human connection in a digital world." They followed this by "approach[ing] the world from the perspective of character, using Kevin Flynn as an organizing principle, and focus on the emotional relationship from father and son and their reconciliation, which brings profound turns in their respective individual lives.”
Steven Lisberger relocated to Boston, Massachusetts from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1970s to pursue a career in computer animation. Since the computer animation field was mainly concentrated in Los Angeles, Lisberger had very little competition operating on the East Coast: "Nobody back then did Hollywood stuff, so there was no competition and no one telling us that we couldn't do it." He later produced the American science fiction film Tron (1982) for Walt Disney Productions, the first computer animation-based feature film. Although the film garnered some critical praise, it generated only modest sales at the box office — the cumulative North American gross was just $33 million. Producer Sean Bailey, who saw the film with his father and Lisberger, was captivated by the finished product. Although Tron performed below Disney studio's expectations, it later developed a cult following, which fueled speculation of Pixar's alleged interest in creating a sequel, in 1999. Rumors of a Tron sequel were further ignited after the 2003 release of the first-person shooter video game, Tron 2.0. Lisberger hinted that a third installment could be in the works, depending on the commercial success of the game.
Shortly after hiring Kosinski, Bailey approached screenwriting duo Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, who accepted for being self-described "obsessed about Tron". Horowitz later claimed the challenge was to "homage the first movie, continue the story, expand it and take it to another place and open up space for new fans", and Kitsis claimed that the film would start a whole new mythology "of which we're only scratching the surface". Horowitz and Kitsis first created a story outline, and developed and fine-tuned the plot with Bailey and Kosinski across a period of two days in La Quinta. The writers also consulted Lisberger, to view Tron's creator input on the story. Lisberger gave his blessing, particularly as he has a son the same age as Sam, which Kitsis stated that "was like we had tapped into something he was feeling without even realizing it." The Pixar team contributed with rewrites for additional shooting after being shown a rough cut in March 2010, which helped in particular to the development of Sam's story line.
The writing staff cited The Wizard of Oz as a source of thematic influence for Tron: Legacy in writing the script, with Kitsis stating that "They both have very similar DNA, which is Tron really lives on, in a lot of ways, trying to get home. You're put on this world and you want to go home and what is home? That's in a lot of way inspired us." Kitsis also added that they had to include an"emotional spine to take us into the story or else it just becomes a bunch of moves or gags and stuff", eventually deciding on adding a mysterious destiny to Flynn and giving him a legendary aura - "Kevin Flynn to us was Steve Jobs and Bill Gates all wrapped up into one and John Lennon". The writers decided to create the character of Clu as an evil embodiment of "how you look back on your younger self, (...) that guy [that] thought he knew everything, but he really knew nothing". Bridges liked the idea of the dual perspectives, and contributed with the writers for the characterization of Flynn as a sanguine Zen master by suggesting them to get inspiration from various Buddhist texts. Part of the concepts emerged from a reunion the producers had with scientists from California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to discuss concepts such as isomorphic algorithms and the digitizing of organic matter.
Horowitz revealed the film would contain many light cycles battles, and asserted that the script for the scenes were "incredibly detailed", and involved an intricate collaborative process. For the disc game, Horowitz and Kitsis wrote a rough draft of the scene, and sent the script to Kosinski; he summarized his perspective of the sequence's visuals to them. "He described them as these underlying platforms," said Horowitz, "that would then coalesce and then the way you would go from round to round in the game is you defeat someone, they kinda come together as you see in the movie." After giving his intake, Kosinski sent various sketches of the scene to the writers and would often revise the script. Kitsis thought that illustrating the character's stories to be the most difficult task in writing Tron: Legacy. The writers collaborated with the creative process throughout production, which was helpful especially considering the difficulties of describing in a tangible way a digital world that "in its very nature defies basic screenwriting conventions."
Plans for creating Tron: Legacy began to materialize in 2005, when Walt Disney Studios hired screenwriters Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal as writers for the film. The two had recently finished writing the script for Warrior. According to Variety columnist Michael Fleming, Klugman and Sternthal felt "that the world has caught up to Lisberger's original concept". Klugman said of the precedent film: "It was remembered not only for story, but a visual style that nobody had ever used before. We are contemporizing it, taking ideas that were ahead of the curve and applying them to the present, and we feel the film has a chance to resonate to a younger audience."
In 2007, Disney began to negotiate with Joseph Kosinski to direct Tron: Legacy. Kosinski admitted that at the time, he was not keen on the idea but it later grew on him as time progressed. Kosinski was involved in a meeting with Bailey, president of Walt Disney Pictures. "Disney owns the property, Tron," Bailey stated. "Do you know it? Are you interested? What would your take be? In a post-Matrix world, how do you go back to the world of Tron?" Kosinski wanted to embrace the general ambiance of the film, and wished to not use the internet as a model or use a formula emulative of The Matrix film series. As neither individuals were in equal agreement on choosing a perspective to conceive the film, Kosinski asked Bailey to lend him money in order to create a conceptual prototype of the Tron: Legacy universe, which was eventually presented at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International. "So, we went into Disney," he recalled, "and I told them, 'We can talk about this all day, but in order to really get on the same page, I need to show you what this world looks and feels like. Give me some money and let me do a small test that will give you a hint for a couple minutes of it, and see what you think.'"
A graduate of Columbia University's architecture school, Kosinski's knowledge of architecture was pivotal in conceptualizing the Tron: Legacy universe. His approach in cultivating a prototype was different from other film directors because, according to Kosinski, he came "from a design point of view"; "Some of my favorite directors come from outside of the film business, so that made my approach different from other directors, but a design background makes sense for a movie like this because the whole world has to be made from scratch." Lisberger would later state that he left the sequel to a different production team because "after thirty years I don’t want to compete with myself", and to showcase how the next generation dealt with the themes contained in Tron - "If I brought my network in, it would be a little bit like one of those Clint Eastwood movies where all the old guys go to space." Lisberger added that "I dig this role of being the Obi-Wan or the Yoda on this film more than being the guy in the trenches", stating that unlike Kosinski his age was a hindering factor - "I cannot work sixteen hours a day staring at twenty-five monitors for most of that time."
At the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, a preliminary teaser trailer (labeled as TR2N and directed by Joseph Kosinski) was shown as a surprise to convention guests. It depicted a yellow Program engaged in a light cycle battle with a blue Program, and it prominently featured Jeff Bridges reprising his role as an aged Kevin Flynn (from the first film). At the end of the trailer, the yellow Program showed his face, which appeared identical to Flynn's earlier program Clu (resembling the younger Flynn in Tron).
While the trailer did not confirm that a Tron sequel was in production, it showed that Disney was serious about a sequel. In an interview with Sci-Fi Wire, Bridges revealed that the test footage was unlikely to appear in the finished film. On July 23, 2009, Disney revealed film's title at their panel at Comic-Con. Bridges explained that the title is in reference to the story's theme: "It's basically a story about a son's search for his father." They also showed a trailer similar to the one shown at Comic-Con 2009, with updated visuals. At the time, the film had just wrapped production and they had a year of post production ahead of them. Because none of the footage from inside the computer world was finished, they premiered concept images from the production. Art included the Recognizer, which has been updated from the original film. Concept photos were also shown of Disc Wars, which has also been revised from the original film into a 16-game tournament. The arena is set up so that the game court organically changes, and all 16 games are going on at the same time. The boards also combine in real time until the last two Disc warriors are connected.
Light cycles make a return, with new designs by Daniel Simon. According to the press conference at Comic-Con 2008, a new vehicle appears called a "Light Runner," a two-seat version of the light cycle. It is said to be very fast, and has the unique ability to go off The Grid on its own power. We also get a glimpse at Kevin Flynn's own cycle, a "Second Generation Light Cycle" designed in 1989 by Flynn and is "still the fastest thing on The Grid." It incorporates some of the look of both films.
A life-size model of the light cycle was put on display at a booth at Fan Expo 2009 in Toronto, Ontario from August 28–30, 2009, along with a special presentation of material from the production. The conceptual art shown at Comic-Con was shown in the session, along with some test film of the martial artists who play a more athletic style of Disc Wars. A segment from the film showed Flynn's son entering the now-decrepit arcade, playing a Tron stand-up arcade video game, noticing a passage in the wall behind the Tron game and entering it, the passage closing behind him. Flynn's son makes the visit to the arcade after Alan Bradley receives a page from the disconnected phone number of the arcade. The footage was used later as part of the trailer released on March 5, 2010.
The character of Yori and her user, Dr. Lora Baines, do not appear in the sequel, even though the film refers to Alan Bradley being married to Lora. Fans have lobbied for actress Cindy Morgan to be in the film with active campaigns online, such as "Yori Lives" on Facebook, which is independent of Morgan herself. "All I know is what I'm seeing online," Morgan said. "I am so thrilled and touched and excited about the fan reaction and about people talking about the first one and how it relates to the second one. I can't tell you how warm a feeling I get from that. It just means so much." No one from Tron: Legacy had contacted Morgan, and she did not directly speak with anyone from the sequel's cast and crew. As Dr. Lora Baines, Cindy Morgan had appeared with Bruce Boxleitner (as Alan Bradley) at the Encom Press Conference in San Francisco, April 2, 2010.
Principal photography took place in Vancouver, British Columbia in April 2009, and lasted for approximately 67 days. Many filming locations were established in Downtown Vancouver and its surroundings. Stage shooting for the film took place at the Canadian Motion Picture Park studio in Burnaby, an adjacent city that forms part of Metro Vancouver. Kosinski devised and constructed twelve to fifteen of the film's sets, including Kevin Flynn's safe house, a creation he illustrated on a napkin for a visual effects test. "I wanted to build as much as possible. It was important to me that this world feel real, and anytime I could build something I did. So I hired guys that I went to architecture school with to work on the sets for this film, and hopefully people who watch the film feel like there’s a certain physicality to this world that hopefully they appreciate, knowing that real architects actually put this whole thing together." The film was shot in dual camera 3D using Pace Fusion rigs like James Cameron's Avatar, but unlike the Sony F950 cameras on that film, Tron used the F35s. "The benefit of [the F35s]," according to director Kosinski, "is that it has a full 35mm sensor which gives you that beautiful cinematic shallow depth of field." The film's beginning portions were shot in 2D, while forty minutes of the film were vertically enhanced for IMAX. Digital Domain was contracted to work on the visual effects, while companies such as Prime Focus Group, DD Vancouver, and Mr. X were brought on to collaborate with producer on the post-production junctures of Tron: Legacy. Post-production wrapped on November 25, 2010.
The sequences on the Grid were wholly shot in 3D, utilizing cameras specifically designed for it, and employed a 3D technique that combined other special effects techniques. The real-world sequences were filmed in 2D, and eventually altered using the three-dimensional element. Bailey stated that it was a challenge shooting Tron: Legacy in 3D because the cameras were bigger and heavier, and variations needed to be taken into account. Despite these concerns, he opined that it was a "great reason to go to the movies because it's an experience you just can't recreate on an iPhone or a laptop". In some sequences the image shows a fine mesh pattern and some blurring. That is not interference or a production fault, but indicates that that sequence is a flashback and to simulate an older form of video representation technology. Stunt work on the film was designed and coordinated by 87Eleven, who also designed and trained fight sequences for 300 and Watchmen. Olivia Wilde described it as an honor to train with them.
In defining his method for creating Tron: Legacy, Kosinski declared that his main objective was to "make it feel real", adding that he wanted the audience to feel like filming actually occurred in the fictional universe. For this, many physical sets were built, as Kosinski "wanted the materials to be real materials: glass, concrete, steel, so it had this kind of visceral quality." Kosinski collaborated with people who specialized in fields outside of the film industry, such as architecture and automotive design. The looks for the Grid aimed for a more advanced version of the cyberspace visited by Flynn in Tron, which Lisberger described as "a virtual Galapagos, which has evolved on its own". As Bailey put, the Grid would not have any influence from the internet as it had turned offline from the real world in the 1980s, and "grew on its own server into something powerful and unique". Kosinski added that as the simulation became more realistic, it would try to become closer to the real world with environmental effects such as rain and wind, and production designer Darren Gilford stated that there would be a juxtaposition between the variety of texture and color of the real world introduction in contrast with the "clean surfaces and lines" of the Grid. As the design team considered the lights a major part of the Tron look, particularly for being set in a dark world—described by effects art director Ben Procter as "dark silhouetted objects dipped in an atmosphere with clouds in-between, in a kind of Japanese landscape painting" where "the self-lighting of the objects is the main light source"—lighting was spread through every prop on the set, including the floor in Flynn's hideout. Lisberger also stated that while the original Tron "reflected the way cyberspace was", the sequel was "going to be like a modern day, like contemporary plus, in terms of how much resolution, the texturing, the feel, the style", adding that "it doesn’t have that Pong Land vibe to it anymore."
The skintight suits worn by the actors were reminiscent of the outfits worn by the actors in the original film. Kosinski believed that the costumes could be made to be practical due to the computerized nature of the film, as physically illuminating each costume would be costly to the budget. Christine Bieselin Clark worked with Michael Wilkinson in designing the lighted costumes, which used electroluminescent lamps derived from a flexible polymer film and featured hexagonal patterns. The lights passed through the suit via Light Tape, a substance composed of Honeywell lamination and Sylvania phosphors. To concoct a color, a transparent 3M Vinyl film was applied onto the phosphor prior to lamination. While most of the suits were made out of foam latex, others derived from spandex, which was sprayed with balloon rubber, ultimately giving the illusion of a lean shape. The actors had to be compressed to compensate for the bulk of the electronics. In addition, Clark and Wilkinson designed over 140 background costumes. The two sought influence from various fashion and shoe designers in building the costumes. On the back of the suit was an illuminated disc, which consisted of 134 LED lights. It was attached to the suit via a magnet, and was radio-controlled. All the costumes had to be sewn in such a way that the stitches did not appear, as the design team figured that in a virtual environment the clothes would just materialize, with no need for buttons, zippers or enclosures. According to Neville Page, the lead designer for the helmets, "The art departments communicated very well with each other to realise Joe’s [...] vision. We would look over each other’s shoulders to find inspiration from one another. The development of the costumes came from trying to develop the form language which came from within the film."
The majority of the suits were designed using ZBrush. A scan of an actor's body was taken, which was then encased to decipher the fabric, the location of the foam, amongst other concerns. With a computer numerical cutting of dense foam, a small scale output would be created to perfect fine details before initiating construction of the suit. Upon downloading the participant's body scan, the illustrations were overlaid to provide an output manufacturing element. Describing the computer numerical cutting process, Chris Lavery of Clothes on Film noted that it had a tendency to elicit bubbles and striations. Clark stated: "The [...] suit is all made of a hexagon mesh which we also printed and made the fabric from 3D files. This would go onto the hard form; it would go inside the mould which was silicon matrix. We would put those together and then inject foam into the negative space. The wiring harness is embedded into the mould and you get a torso. We then paint it and that’s your finished suit."
Crowd effects for the gaming arena were recorded at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International. During one of the Tron: Legacy panels, the crowd was given instruction via a large video screen while techs from Skywalker Sound recorded the performance. The audience performed chants and stomping effects similar to what is heard in modern sports arenas.
It took two years and ten companies to create the 1,565 visual effects shots of Tron: Legacy. The majority of the effects were done by Digital Domain, who created 882 shots under supervisor Eric Barba. The production team blended several special effect techniques, such as chroma keying, to allow more freedom in creating effects. Similar to Tron, this approach was seen as pushing the boundaries of modern technology. "I was going more on instinct rather than experience," Kosinski remarked. Although he had previously used the technology in producing advertisements, this was the first time Kosinski used it a large scale simultaneously. Darren Gilford was approached as the production designer, while David Levy was hired as a concept artist. Levy translated Kosinski's ideas into drawings and other visual designs. "Joe's vision evolved the visuals of the first film," he stated. "He wanted the Grid to feel like reality, but with a twist." An estimated twenty to twenty-five artists from the art department developed concepts of the Tron: Legacy universe, which varied from real world locations to fully digital sets. Gilford suggested that there were between sixty and seventy settings in the film, split up into fifteen fully constructed sets with different levels of computer-created landscapes.
Rather than utilizing makeup tactics, such as the ones used in A Beautiful Mind, to give Jeff Bridges a younger appearance, the character of Clu was completely computer generated. To show that this version of Clu was created some time after the events of the original film, the visual effects artists based his appearance on how Bridges looked in Against All Odds, released two years after Tron. The effects team hired makeup artist Rick Baker to construct a molded likeness of a younger Bridges head to serve as their basis for their CG work. But soon, they scrapped the mould because they wished for it to be more youthful. There was no time to make another mould, so the team reconstructed it digitally. On-set, first Bridges would perform, being then followed by stunt double John Reardon who would mimic his actions. Reardon's head was replaced on post-production with the digital version of the young Bridges. Barba – who was involved in a similar experience for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — stated that they used four microcameras with infrared sensors to capture all 134 dots on Bridges face that would be the basis of the facial movements, a similar process that was used in Avatar. It took over two years to not only create the likeness of Clu, but also the character's movements (such as muscle movement). Bridges called the experience surreal and said it was "Just like the first Tron, but for real!"
The French electronic group Daft Punk composed the film score of Tron: Legacy, which features over 30 tracks. The score was arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese. Jason Bentley served as the film's music supervisor. An electronic music fan, Kosinski stated that to replicate the innovative electronic Tron score by Wendy Carlos "rather than going with a traditional film composer, I wanted to try something fresh and different", adding that "there was a lot of interest from different electronic bands that I follow to work on the film" but he eventually picked Daft Punk. Kosinski added that he knew the band was "more than just dance music guys" for side projects such as their film Electroma. The duo were first contacted by producers in 2007, when Tron: Legacy was still in the early stages of production. Since they were touring at the time, producers were unsuccessful in contacting the group. They were again approached by Kosinski, eventually agreeing to take part in the film a year later. Kosinski added that Daft Punk were huge Tron fans, and that his meeting with them "was almost like they were interviewing me to make sure that I was going to hold up to the Tron legacy".
The soundtrack started being composed before production had even begun, and is a notable departure from the band's previous works, as Daft Punk put more emphasis on orchestral elements rather than relying solely on synthesizers. "Synths are a very low level of artificial intelligence," explained member Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, "whereas you have a Stradivarius that will live for a thousand years. We knew from the start that there was no way that we were going to do this film score with two synthesizers and a drum machine." "Derezzed" was taken from the album and released as its sole single. The album was released on December 3, 2010, and sold 71,000 copies in its first week in the United States. Peaking at number six on the Billboard 200, it eventually acquired a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America, denoting shipments of 500,000 copies. A remix album for the soundtrack, titled Tron: Legacy Reconfigured, became available on April 5, 2011 to coincide with the film's home media release.
A ninth viral site, homeoftron.com, was found. It portrays some of the history of Flynn's Arcade as well as a fan memoir section. On December 19, 2009 a new poster was revealed, along with the second still from the film. Banners promoting the film paved the way to the 2010 Comic-Con convention center, making this a record third appearance for the film at the annual event.
Disney also partnered with both Coke Zero and Norelco on Tron: Legacy. Disney's subsidiary Marvel Comics had special covers of their superheroes in Tron garb, and Nokia had trailers for the film preloaded on Nokia N8 phones while doing a promotion to attend the film's London premiere. While Sam picks up a can of Coors in the film, it was not product placement, with the beer appearing because Kosinksi "just liked the color and thought it would look good on screen."
At the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, one monorail train was decorated with special artwork depicting lightcycles with trailing beams of light, along with the film's logo. This Tron-themed monorail, formerly the "Coral" monorail, was renamed the "Tronorail" and unveiled in March 2010. At the Disneyland Resort in California, a nighttime dance party named "ElecTRONica" premiered on October 8, 2010 and was set to close in May 2011, but it was extended until April 2012 due to positive guest response, in Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Park. Winners of America's Best Dance Crew, Poreotics, performed at ElecTRONica. As part of ElecTRONica, a sneak peek with scenes from the film is shown in 3D with additional in-theater effects in the Muppet*Vision 3D theater.
On October 29, 2010, the nighttime show World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park began soft-openings after its second show of a Tron: Legacy-themed encore using a Daft Punk music piece titled "The Game Has Changed" from the film soundtrack, using new effects and projections on Paradise Pier attractions. The encore officially premiered on November 1, 2010. On December 12, 2010, the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as part of a house rebuild constructed a Tron: Legacy-themed bedroom for one of the occupants' young boys. The black painted room not only consisted of life sized Tron city graphics but glowing blue line graphics on the walls, floor and furniture, a desk with glowing red lit Recognizers for the legs and a Tron suit inspired desk chair, a Lightcycle shaped chair with blue lighting accents, projection mural system that projects Tron imagery on a glass wall partition, laptop computer, flat panel television, several Tron Legacy action figures, a daybed in black and shimmering dark blue and blue overhead lit panels.
Disney was involved with the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden through association with designers Ian Douglas-Jones at I-N-D-J and Ben Rousseau to create "The Legacy of the River", a high-tech suite inspired by Tron: Legacy. The suite uses electroluminescent wire to capture the art style of the film. It consists of over 60 square meters of 100mm thick ice equating to approximately six tons. 160 linear meters of electroluminescent wire were routed out, sandwiched and then glued with powdered snow and water to create complex geometric forms. The Ice Hotel is expected to get 60,000 visitors for the season which lasts December 2010 through April 2011. On November 19, 2010, the Tron: Legacy Pop Up Shop opened at Royal-T Cafe and Art Space in Culver City, California. The shop featured many of the collaborative products created as tie ins with the film from brands such as Oakley, Hurley and Adidas. The space was decorated in theme and the adjacent cafe had a tie in menu with Tron inspired dishes. The shop remained open until December 23, 2010.
Electronics and toy lines inspired by the film were released during Fall 2010. A line of Tron-inspired jewelry, shoes and apparel was also released, and Disney even created a pop-up store to sell them in Culver City. Custom Tron branded gaming controllers have been released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii.
A tie-in video game, entitled Tron: Evolution, was released on November 25, 2010. The story sits between the original Tron film and Tron: Legacy. Teaser trailers were released in November 2009, while a longer trailer was shown during the Spike Video Game Awards on December 12, 2009. There were also two games released for the iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, and iPad) as a tie-in to the film: Tron and Tron: Legacy. Disney commissioned N-Space to develop a series of multiplayer games based on Tron: Legacy for the Wii console. IGN reviewed the PlayStation 3 version of the game but gave it only a "passable" 6 out of 10. A tie-in 128-page graphic novel Tron: Betrayal was released by Disney Press on November 16, 2010. It includes an 11-page retelling of the original Tron story in addition to a story fitting between the original film and Tron: Legacy. IGN reviewed the comic and gave it a "passable" score of 6.5 out of 10.
On October 28, 2010, a 23-minute preview of the film was screened on many IMAX theaters all over the world, (presented by ASUS). The tickets for this event were sold out within an hour on October 8. Stand-by tickets for the event were also sold shortly before the presentation started. Original merchandise from the film was also available for sale. Announced through the official Tron Facebook page, the red carpet premiere of the film was broadcast live on the internet. Tron Legacy was released in theaters on December 17, 2010, in the United States and United Kingdom. The film was originally set to be released in the UK on December 26, 2010, but was brought forward due to high demand. The film was presented in IMAX 3D and Disney Digital 3D. The film was also released with D-BOX motion code in select theaters and released in 50 Iosono-enhanced cinemas, creating "3D sound".
On December 10, 2010, in Toronto, Canada, a special premiere was hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos organised through Twitter, open to the first 100 people who showed up at the CN Tower. After the film ended the tower was lit up blue to mirror The Grid. On December 13, 2010, in select cities all over the United States, a free screening of the entire film in 3D was available to individuals on a first-come, first-served basis. Free "Flynn Lives" pins were handed out to the attendees. The announcement of the free screenings was made on the official Flynn Lives Facebook page. On January 21, 2011, the German designer Michael Michalsky hosted the German premiere of the film at his cultural event StyleNite during Berlin Fashion Week.
Tron: Legacy was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and digital download in North America on April 5, 2011. Legacy was available stand-alone as a single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, and a four-disc box set adding a Blu-ray 3D and a digital copy. A five-disk box set featuring both Tron films was also released, with one, entitled The Ultimate Tron Experience, having a collectible packaging resembling an identity disk. The digital download of Tron: Legacy was available in both high definition or standard definition, including versions with or without the digital extras.
A preview of the 10-part animated series Tron: Uprising is included in all versions of the home media release. Tron: Legacy was the second Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment release that included Disney Second Screen, a feature accessible via a computer or iPad app download that provides additional content as the user views the film. Forty minutes of the film were shot in 2.35:1 and then vertically enhanced for IMAX. These scenes are presented in 1.78:1 in a similar way to the Blu-ray release of The Dark Knight.
Leading up to the release, various commercial analysts predicted that Tron: Legacy would gross $40–$50 million during its opening weekend, a figure that Los Angeles Times commentator Ben Fritz wrote would to be "solid but not spectacular". Although the studio hoped to attract a broad audience, the film primarily appealed to men: "Women appear to be more hesitant about the science-fiction sequel", wrote Fritz. Jay Fernandez of The Hollywood Reporter felt that the disproportionate audience would be problematic for the film's long term box office prospects. Writing for Box Office Mojo, Brandon Gray attributed pre-release hype to “unwarranted blockbuster expectations from fanboys”, given the original Tron was considered a box office failure when it was released, and the film's cult fandom "amounted to a niche".
In North America, the film earned $43.6 million during the course of its opening weekend. On its opening day, it grossed $17.6 million, including $3.6 million during midnight showings from 2,000 theaters, 29% of which were IMAX screenings, and went on to claim the top spot for the weekend, ahead of Yogi Bear and How Do You Know. Tron: Legacy grossed roughly $68 million during its first week, and surpassed $100 million on its 12th day in release.
Outside North America, Tron: Legacy grossed $23 million on its opening weekend, averaging $6,000 per theater. According to Disney, 65% of foreign grosses originated from five key markets; Japan, Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom, and Spain. The film performed the best in Japan, where it took $4.7M from 350 theaters. Australia ($3.4M), the United Kingdom ($3.2M), Brazil ($1.9M), and Spain ($1.9M). By the following week, Tron: Legacy obtained $65.5 million from foreign markets, bringing total grosses to $153.8 million. At the end of its theatrical run, Tron: Legacy had grossed $400,062,763; $172,062,763 in North America, and $228,000,000 in other countries.
Upon its release, the film received mixed reviews from film critics, who praised the visual effects, production design, and soundtrack, but criticized the character development, cast performance and story. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 51% of commentators gave the film a positive review, based on 226 reviews. Attaining a mean score of 5.9/10, the site's consensus stated: "Tron: Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, Tron: Legacy received a rating average of 49, based on 40 reviews.
The visual effects were cited as the central highlight of the film. In his three-star review, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that the environment was aesthetically pleasing, and added that its score displayed an "electronic force" that complemented the visuals. Rolling Stone columnist Peter Travers echoed these sentiments, concluding that the effects were of an "award-caliber". J. Hoberman of The Village Voice noted that while it was extensively enhanced, Tron: Legacy retained the streamlined visuals that were seen in its predecessor, while Variety's Peter DeBarge affirmed that the visuals and the accompanied "cutting-edge" score made for a "stunning virtual ride". To Nick de Semlyen of Empire, "This is a movie of astonishing high-end gloss, fused to a pounding Daft Punk soundtrack, populated with sleek sirens and chiselled hunks, boasting electroluminescent landscapes to make Blu-ray players weep." Some critics were not as impressed with the film's special effects. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times avouched that despite its occasional notability, the film's "vibrating kaleidoscopic colors that gave the first movie its visual punch have been replaced by a monotonous palette of glassy black and blue and sunbursts of orange and yellow". Though declaring that Tron: Legacy was "eye-popping", San Francisco Chronicle's Amy Biancolli asserted that the special effects were "spectacular"—albeit cheesy. A columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern denounced the producers' emphasis on technological advancements, which he felt could have been used for other means such as drama. To the New York Post's Kyle Smith, there were many moments where he "shed [his] customary phlegmatic equilibrium and [...] thought: Hey, this is really exciting!"
The performances of various cast members was frequently mentioned in the critiques. Michael Sheen's portrayal of Castor was particularly acclaimed by commentators, who—because of his flamboyance—drew parallels to the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, as well as fictional characters such as A Clockwork Orange lead character Alex. Dargis, Debruge, Puig, and Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer were among the journalists to praise his acting: Dargis ascribed Sheen's exceptional performance to a seemingly "uninteresting" cast. To Philadelphia Daily News film critic Gary Thompson, the film became humorous with the scenes involving Castor. Star Tribune critic Colin Covert believed that Sheen's campy antics were the "too brief" highlights of Tron: Legacy. With other cast members—particularly Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Jeff Bridges—commentary reflected diverse attitudes. The film received "a little boost from" Wilde, according to Rickey. The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris called Hedlund a "dud stud"; "None of what he sees impresses," he elaborated. "The feeling is mutual. At an alleged cost of $200 million, that’s some yawn. If he can’t be thrilled, why should we?" To Salon commentator Andrew O'Hehir, even Bridges—an individual he regarded as "one of America's most beloved and distinctive" actors—was "weird and complicated" rather than being the "sentimental and alluring" portrayer in the original Tron.
Critics were divided with the character development and the storylines in Tron: Legacy. Writing for The New Yorker, Bruce Jones commented that the audience didn't connect with the characters, as they were lacking emotion and substance. "Disney may be looking for a merchandising bonanza with this long-gestating sequel to the groundbreaking 1982 film," remarked Jones, "but someone in the corporate offices forgot to add any human interest to its action-heavy script." Likewise, USA Today journalist Claudia Puig found Tron: Legacy to resonate with "nonsensical" and "unimaginative, even obfuscating" dialogue, and that "most of the story just doesn't scan". As Dana Stevens from Slate summed up, "Tron: Legacy is the kind of sensory-onslaught blockbuster that tends to put me to sleep, the way babies will nap to block out overwhelming stimuli. I confess I may have snoozed through one or two climactic battles only to be startled awake by an incoming neon Frisbee." Although he proclaimed the plot of Tron: Legacy and its predecessor to be spotty, Ian Buckwater of NPR was lenient of the latter film due to its youth-friendly nature. In contrast to negative responses, Michelle Alexander of Eclipse adored the plot of Tron: Legacy, a reaction that was paralleled by Rossiter Drake from 7x7, who wrote that it was "buoyed" by its "sometimes convoluted, yet hard to resist" story. Metro's Larushka Ivan-Zadeh complained about the underdeveloped plot, saying "In 2010, issues surrounding the immersive nature of gaming and all-consuming power of modern technology are more pertinent than ever, so it's frustrating the script does nothing with them." However, she conceded that "it's the best 3D flick since Avatar and a super-groovy soundtrack by Daft Punk nonetheless makes for an awesome watch".
Tron: Legacy received an award for "Best Original Score" from the Austin Film Critics Association. The film was also nominated for "Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Film" by the Art Directors Guild, and for "Sound Editing" by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film made the final shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, although it did not receive a nomination.
Steven Lisberger stated on October 28, 2010, before the film's release, that a sequel was in planning and that Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, screenwriters for Tron: Legacy, were in the early stages of producing a script for the new film. Perry Nemiroff of Cinema Blend speculated that Tron 3 could be the first installment in a new trilogy. On January 13, 2011, Ain't It Cool News reported that the film was close to having its sequel announced as part of Disney's plan for Tron's future. On January 21, 2011, Tron-Sector reported an unsourced rumor that a sequel to Tron: Legacy had been green-lit and a teaser trailer would debut on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases of Tron and Tron: Legacy. Harry Knowles reported on the teaser, calling it a "DVD Extra" and noting that it had been filmed before Thanksgiving (i.e. before November 2010). On April 8, 2011, director Joseph Kosinski talked about the sequel: "We're working on the story right now. Once we get a script we're all really happy with, we'll take it to the powers that be and see if we can go back to the grid. I think we will pick up with where Tron: Legacy left off with Sam and Quorra in the real world and what does that mean and the possibilities it opens up for the next chapter. It's that relationship between the two of them that's the next step." On March 31, Kosinski said that the film's script was expected to be finished in two weeks and its working title is Tr3n.
On June 7, 2011, it was reported that screenwriter David DiGilio (Eight Below) had been hired to draft a script for the sequel to Tron: Legacy. Legacy screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were initially slated to return, but were forced to drop out due to their ongoing work in developing the ABC television series Once Upon a Time. It is currently unspecified whether or not Legacy director Joseph Kosinski will return to direct the sequel. On March 8, 2012, Bruce Boxleitner suggested that a sequel to Tron: Legacy could begin filming as early as 2014, after Kosinski finished his film Oblivion. On June 4, 2012, Horowitz and Kitsis confirmed they were developing a sequel, and the character of Quorra would be returning for the film, as well as a cameo in Tron: Uprising. On December 5, 2012, Jesse Wigutow was hired to rewrite the script for the film. This was later followed by the confirmation that Bruce Boxleitner and Garrett Hedlund would return for the third film.
In September 2013, Kosinski said: "The TRON sequel is still in early stages, it’s still in the script stage. So I can’t say if and when that would go into production but the fundamental idea of the movie is something I’m very excited about, it delivers on the ideas that we set up in Legacy, especially at the end in the last five minutes, so that one is a work in progress."
On January 15, 2014, Bruce Boxleitner stated in an interview: "All I know is, they don’t tell me anything, but they want to do it I would say probably the end of this year, for 2015 maybe," Boxleitner said. "They don’t have any dates but I’m thinking from the scuttlebutt I’m hearing that’s it, but I don’t know anything for sure other than they do have a script they love, they're still tweaking." The film may also take place more in the real world than in the past according to the recent interview: "That’s what I’m told, but you didn’t hear me say that," Boxleitner joked. "I think it’s going to be a lot about taking the company back because if you remember Sam Flynn says to Alan at the end, just before he rides his bike off into the sunrise with Quorra, says, ‘We’re going to take the company back.’ That’s not the end of the movie. That’s the beginning of the next one. That’s foreshadowing. And you don’t get Cillian Murphy to do an unscripted cameo" and "I got a feeling Eddie Dillinger Jr.’s going to be as bad as his dad was."
In March 2015, it was revealed that Disney had greenlit the third film with Hedlund reprising his role as Sam and Kosinski returning to direct the sequel. Wilde was revealed in April to be returning as Quorra. Filming was expected to start in Vancouver in October 2015. However, in May 2015, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Walt Disney Studios had chosen not to continue with a third installment, which was confirmed by Wilde the following month. In the end of July, Boxleitner stated he frequently heard about the pre-production of Tron 3 while shooting Cedar Cove in Vancouver, and was disappointed to hear about the cancellation. While expressing the opinion that Disney decided to "play it safe" and explore other properties [E.g. Star Wars], Boxleitner said that this broke his interest in continuing with the franchise, as "it's been too up and down for me. I would rather not just keep going. I don’t want to repeat my career anymore." In September 2015, Hedlund stated that he was told that the third Tron film was not "totally dead", but jokingly suggested that it could be released 30 years later, referencing the near 30-year gap between the first film and Legacy.
In August 2016, former Disney development executive Brigham Taylor told ScreenRant that "there’s obviously been conversations", referring to the possibility of a sequel.
On February 28, 2017 during a Q&A session with Joseph Kosinski, he revealed that Tron 3 has not been scrapped, instead saying it was in "cryogenic freeze". A few days later, it was reported that Disney is supposedly looking into rebooting the franchise with Jared Leto attached to portray a new character named Ares, who originated from the Tron 3 script. Disney has not officially announced as to whether a reboot is officially in development.
Tron: Uprising, a spin-off animated series, premiered June 7, 2012 on the Disney XD network across the United States. Tron: Legacy's writers Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis revealed that the series tells the story of what happened in the Grid in between the films. Voice actors for the animation include Bruce Boxleitner as Tron, Elijah Wood, Lance Henriksen, Mandy Moore, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Paul Reubens, Nate Corddry and Olivia Wilde, who reprises her role as Quorra.
A manga version of Tron: Legacy was released by Earth Star Entertainment in Japan on June 30, 2011.