Tron hits 30

It’s preaching to the converted, and we’ve preached long and loud about this many times, but the summer of 1982 was a hell of a time for genre fans.

There are ongoing tributes, screenings and celebrations for the best of that year, including Blade Runner, E.T., John Carpenter’s The Thing, and of course, Tron.

The other day I received an e-mail from Harrison Ellenshaw, who was associate producer and co-visual effects supervisor on Tron. (Harrison’s father, Peter Ellenshaw, was also a special effects wizard who brought his big screen magic to Mary Poppins and many other films).

Ellenshaw was sending out e-mail about his appearance at Pop Con with the heading, “Can it be? Tron turns thirty.”  And indeed, the anniversary had completely slipped my mind as well.


Tron went live in theaters on July 8, 1982, and if you know your Tron history, you’ll know the film wasn’t initially a hit. Of course, all of us genre fans knew it was one of the most bitchin’ movies we’d ever seen, especially when you’re an impressionable ten year old.

At the time, Disney was still a ways away from the company’s resurrection, and were pretty much considered the last stop on the train if you wanted to get your movie made. They had no idea what they were holding onto until right before the film came out, and at the studio thought they might have the next Star Wars on its hands.


Well, it didn’t work out that way, but the cult of Tron has grown significantly enough over the years to where there was finally a sequel in 2010 with Tron: Legacy and an animated series with Tron: Uprising.

I’m more than willing to bet there’ll be more Tron to come, because it takes place in a vast world you can put all kinds of stories and characters into, and of course long after all the hoopla, people have realized how much ground Tron broke for special effects, especially computer effects.

For me and many other fans, there’s a lot of nostalgia for the summer of 1982, and the movies that thrilled us the whole season. Going back to Tron again recently, I still enjoyed it after all this time, and am glad it still holds up for me, and many other fans all over the world.

Although it wasn’t a critical or box office success when it first came out, Tron lives on strong today, and the fans who first saw it in the theaters, like myself, didn’t need to wait thirty years to realize how cool it was. 

“God bless the kids, their minds are open,” writer/director Steve Lisberger Lisberg once told me. “Tron was their story because those kids were the ones, like Jeff Bridges, who went into cyberspace.”