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Disney piled on the promotion for "TRON: Legacy" at Comic-Con

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Disney piled on the promotion for "TRON: Legacy" at Comic-Con

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Let's cut to the chase here: There was just no escaping "TRON: Legacy" at this year's Comic-Con.

Even before you entered the San Diego Convention Center, thanks to those banners that seemed to be hanging off of every light post in the city, you found yourself face-to-face with Jeff Bridge's not-exactly-smiling face.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And then when you got out on the exhibition floor, there was no way you could miss that enormous Recognizer looming over the TRON: Legacy booth.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And for the full 4 ½ days of Comic-Con, attendees were drawn like moths to a flame to Booth 3712. Where they either "Oohed" and "Aahed" at the full-size replica of Sam Flynn's Light Cycle that was on display there ...

Photo by John Shearer. Getty Images for Disney

... or stood on line for hours with the hope that they then  might be able to purchase one of the limited edition die-cast versions of Sam's Light Cycle which Disney periodically put up for sale inside of their TRON: Legacy booth.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, if you timed your visit just right, you sometimes got a whole lot more show for your dough. Which is what happened on July 23rd, when Garrett Hedlund (who plays Sam Flynn in this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release) came by to pick up the custom-made action figure that Spin Master had created for him ...

Garrett Hedlund with his custpm-made Sam Flynn action figure. Photo by John Shearer
Getty Images for Disney

... and Beau Garrett (who plays Siren Jem in "TRON: Legacy") checked out some of the remote-control merchandise that Disney has had created to help capitalize this new 3D action-adventure film.

Beau Garrett visits the TRON: Legacy booth on the exhibition floor at Comic-Con
Photo by John Shearer. Getty Images for Disney

Mind you, by the time that Garrett & Beau got to the exhibition floor, the TRON collectible that the diehard fans most wanted (i.e. that special vintage version of a TRON action figure from the original film. Which came in an arcade-style package with a base that had this cool light-up feature) ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... were long gone. All 1500 pieces sold like hot cakes.

And if you missed out on those two limited edition items that Disney was selling out of its TRON: Legacy booth, not to worry. You could always exit the exhibition floor and then head on over to Flynn's ...

Photo by Eric Charbonneau /Le Studio / Wireimage

... Where - after walking through that hole towards the back of the arcade ...

Photo by Eric Charbonneau / Le Studio / Wireimage

... and then getting zapped by that old ENCOM laser ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... you then found yourself inside the "End of the Line" Club. Which was this cool physical recreation of a virtual nightclub that proves to be a crucial setting in "TRON: Legacy."

Photo by Eric Charbonneau / Le Studio / Wireimage

Where - if you were lucky - you might bump into someone like Bruce Boxleitner (i.e. one of the stars of the original "TRON" film who's reprising his Alan Bradley role in "TRON: Legacy"). Who'd then happily sign your "Flynn Lives" poster.

Photo by Eric Charbonneau / Le Studio / Wireimage

Of course, let's remember that Boxleitner has been playing a huge part in the promotion of "TRON: Legacy" for months now. You may recall Bruce's performance at that bogus ENCOM press conference that was held in San Francisco back in April in conjunction with WonderCon. Which ended with "Flynn Lives" supporters swarming the stage ...

Photo courtesy of The Blue Parrot

... before an ENCOM helicopter buzzed the crowd standing in Justin Herman Plaza ...

Photo courtesy of ENCOM

... and a mysterious skydiver (alleged to be Sam Flynn) then jumped out of that copter.

Photo courtesy of The Blue Parrot

I know, I know. It's cool to get to see all of the "TRON" -related celebrities who turn out at events like Comic-Con and WonderCon ...

Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges at Comic-Con 2010. Photo by Eric Charbonneau
/ Le Studio / Wireimage

...  not to mention some of the cool "TRON: Legacy" products that will be turning up on store shelves this fall. Like the TRON Game Chair pictured below.  Which comes with high performance speakers that will then give you an amazing surround sound effect.

Photo by John Shearer. Getty Images for Disney

But isn't this the tail wagging the dog? With The Walt Disney Company putting far too much emphasis on promotion of this December 17th release. Rather than making sure that "TRON: Legacy" is actually a good movie.

Not to worry. Back in March, Disney screened the work-in-progress version of this Joseph Kosinski film for the brain trust at Pixar. Afterwards, the Mouse hired "The Incredibles" director Brad Bird and "Toy Story 3" screenwriter Michael Arndt to punch up the script of this "TRON" sequel. With a particular emphasis being placed on beefing up Sam Flynn's relationship with his long-absent father.

Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Once Bird and Arndt turned in these new script pages, Kosinski and his cast went back in front of the cameras last month for six days of previously planned reshoots. With the end result being that "TRON" Legacy" 's underlying theme and emotional underpinning got that much stronger.

So - sure - Disney was promoting the hell out of "TRON: Legacy" at this year's Comic-Con. The cast and filmmakers literally did hundreds of on-camera interviews last week as they tried to get the word out about this upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release.

Director Joseph Kosinski and Walt Disney Studios President of Production Sean Bailey
at the "TRON: Legacy" MySpace Party at 2010 Comic-Con. Photo by Eric Charbonneau
/ Le Studio / Wireimage

And given that Rich Ross regularly meets with his "TRON: Legacy" speed team (i.e. 30 representatives from various divisions of The Walt Disney Company whose sole responsibility is make sure that Mickey isn't missing any promotional opportunities for what Mouse House execs hope will their next big film franchise), you should expect to hear a whole lot more about this "TRON" sequel between now and December 17th.

Which brings me to an interesting question: Are you willing to put up with all of this hype &  merchandising if "TRON: Legacy" actually turns out to be a good motion picture?  Or has all of this advance publicity (which has been going on for almost three years at this point) already soured you somewhat on this project?

Your thoughts?

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  • Disney doesn't have the best track record when it comes to producing a great moving following massive marketing.  In fact, most every time that the company pre-plans a theme park ride for a forthcoming film, the experience goes sour (Black Hole, Atlantis, Dick Tracey, etc., etc.)  All of those park attractions were scrubbed after the movie fizzled at the box office.  Tron Legacy is in the same slot: massive marketing, theme park tie-ins planned, rumored sequels.  For Disney, that's usually the kiss of death.  Yet, I have hope for this project.  I want it to be amazing.  Here's hoping!

  • Here's an outsider perspective. I am 18, and never heard of anything Tron before. I saw a trailer at the movie theater, and when the trailer ended, I had no idea what the movie was about. I still have no idea what it's about. Based on the trailer, some kid enters a video game through a portal built by his dad. And once he's in there... well, I'm not exactly sure what's going on. Theres a lady sitting on a couch, some guy playing air guitar, and then the father shows up out of no where. Then, when the trailer ended, two cycles zoom across the screen. So yeah, I have no idea what the movie is about besides him getting sucked into a video game.

    Which would be reasonable since it's not coming out for another 5 months. But they've already been promoting it so much. It's definitely soured in my mind. They should've had more story/plot in the trailers to attract people that don't know anything about what Tron is.

    Based on that, I have no desire to see the movie at all. seems like the target audieance for this is males old enough to know about the original, and they hope that this market has sons in the 8-12 age range to take to the movies with them.

  • I'm a huge fan of Tron since I saw it in the theater back when I was a kid.  I can quote the whole movie to you.  I still have the original action figures and vehicles.  I've let me kids watch Tron on DVD and they love it.  Like many others, when I saw the cell-phone recording of the ComicCon teaser from a few years ago, I was extremely excited.  I have been following the viral marketing and have been entertained by it.  Essentially, I don't think I can get tired of it.

    That said, given Disney's track record as noted by TJ in the prior comment, I would be extremely worried about the story for the film save for the involvement of people like Kosinski and Bridges whom I trust to only get involved with quality storytelling.  When I read the reports of Bird and Arndt tweaking the script, I became completely confident that not only would we be treated to a visually amazing film, but a film with a solid, character-driven story.

    Now, would I be willing to put up with all this hype if it weren't for a franchise that I'm already sold on?  Probably not.  My usual reaction to a film with an excessive amount of hype (before release) is to expect it to be a weak film that the studio put a lot of money into and is trying to get people to see.

  • How could anyone be sick of any of Disney's advance marketing for Tron: Legacy? It's all so brilliantly done: the viral campaign is awesome, the games (like Space Paranoids, which you can play at www.spaceparanoidsonline.com) are fun, and the trailers are incredible. I can't wait to see Tron: Legacy.

    A bit of background: I am 17, and my first exposure to Tron came to me as a player of Disney's free online game VMK back in 2006-2007 (or thereabouts) when a Tron-oriented quest that gave your avatar a costume and guest room became available to the game's players. The quest required some somewhat in-depth Tron knowledge, and having never heard of the movie before, I wikipedia'd it and was able to successfully complete the quest and get all the cool Tron stuff. Based on what I had learned through Wikipedia, I became really interested in Tron and on my next trip to Best Buy, I picked up a copy of the DVD. I didn't get around to watching it until fall of 2008, after all the summer 2008 Comic-Con Tron sequel buzz. It's a really cool movie; I suppose some would say it's kind of "dated" but I've never been one to care about that sort of thing. Anyhow, I've been eagerly anticipating the sequel since two summers ago.

  • I'm not sure this movie is being "over-hyped".

    It's being "over-hyped" to the comic book/computer geek types (of which I am one), but most of us have seen the original and we LOVE this kind of stuff. It's being "over-hyped" at ComicCon which has MOSTLY the before mentioned geeks. Who was clammoring for the merchandise at ComicCon? Again the same geeks.

    Who in the general public knows that much about it? Where is it being "over-hyped" at? MOST of their campaign up to this point has been to the people that are aware of the original and have been anticipating a sequel for the last 10 years.

  • I was turned off by the earlier ads which seemed to indicate that the Jeff Bridges character was now the bad guy. He was great as same in Ironman, but in the original Tron he was the rooting interest. Hopefully Bird et al have smoothed that over at this point.

  • I saw the original Tron at the theater, and was bored out of my gourd by it. I also remember people walking out of it. It looked pretty neat, in a neon kind of way, but that was its only attraction. I suppose the thinking behind this revival is that movie technology has advanced so much from the 1980's that Tron is ripe for a remake. But  if it has the same story problems, it's toast. I'll be curious to see if anyone aside from basement-dwelling dweebs have any interest in this film...

  • I have a strange feeling that this sequel is being made for two reasons: 1) to cash in on the 80s, and 2)  to show the world how cool CG is now compared to the 80s.  I did like the original film, but the trailer has me worried.  If you notice, it was mostly composed of scenes found in the original, only better rendered.  

    And to say that the movie will do well because Pixar helped them means nothing to me.  I read somewhere that Pixar also helped (to a small extent) the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and we know how well THAT did at the box office!

  • I am extremely excited for this since I heard about Daft Punk being the soundtrack artists! <3  Nice article again, Jim!  I love reading your stuff!

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