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12 Fascinating Facts About Tron

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Despite receiving only mixed reviews and inviting modest box office business when it was released in 1982, Tron garnered a lot of attention for being unlike any other film that had ever been made. A mix of early computer effects, animation, and live-action, the movie—about a programmer (Jeff Bridges) sucked into a virtual terrain—developed a cult following. Check out some facts and trivia notes about the project that helped usher in the digital age of cinema.

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY PONG.

In 1976, independent animator Steven Lisberger came across a demonstration reel compiled by MAGI, a computer firm that was at the forefront of experimenting with graphics software to create optical effects. Lisberger was intrigued by the idea—traditional cell animation is a time-intensive process—but it wasn’t until he saw the early Atari video game Pong that he was convinced a movie set inside a computer-generated world was viable.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE A CARTOON.

At the time Lisberger and his co-producer, Donald Kushner, started working on Tron (which is taken from the word “electronic”), the two had planned to use their considerable experience in animation to make it as a feature-length cartoon framed by just two live-action sequences. After being turned down by MGM and Columbia, the partners pitched Disney, who invested in a test reel (which you can see above) for first-time director Lisberger that combined animation with live-action performers. When that was met with executive approval, Lisberger got the greenlight for the $17 million feature.

3. SOME DISNEY ANIMATORS REFUSED TO WORK ON IT.

Not everyone at Disney was enthusiastic about a computer-generated project. Disney’s traditional animators were said to have felt threatened by the potential for computers to force their craft into obsolescence and openly refused to assist Lisberger in any way. Instead, the director used Syd Mead and renowned French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud to design the costumes and storyboard the film.

4. THE EFFECTS USED JUST TWO MEGABYTES OF MEMORY.

Disney

The work it took to achieve the distinct visual style of Tron was a multi-layered process. CGI was used for backgrounds and the light cycle races; traditional animation techniques hand-painted the vibrant costumes. The actors (Jeff Bridges and David Warner) performed against a black screen so virtual sets could be dropped in during post-production. To realize the computer-generated images, Lisberger needed a computer that used just two megabytes of memory and 330 megabytes of hard drive storage space.

5. THE DISCS WERE PART OF LISBERGER’S NO-GUNS POLICY.

In the hardware grid of Tron, war is waged with flying discs. The latter was an intentional choice on the part of Lisberger, who wanted the film to distance itself from any violent imagery that kids might consider emulating at home. If they decided to recreate the fights they saw onscreen, he figured the worst they could do was bean themselves in the head with a Frisbee. 

6. PAC-MAN HAS A CAMEO.

In a nod to Lisberger’s video game inspirations for the movie, viewers can catch a glimpse of Pac-Man in the scene where villain Sark (David Warner) is lecturing his troops. You can even hear the game’s wacka-wacka cue on the soundtrack. Lisberger and his team inserted a few other early Easter eggs: the Recognizer surveillance machines were modeled after the hunched-over appearance of Donkey Kong; a digitally-rendered lake seen in a fleeting shot takes on the distinctive shape of Mickey Mouse’s head.

7. THE ACADEMY AWARDS SNUBBED THE MOVIE FOR CHEATING.

When it came time to announce the nominees for Best Visual Effects for the 1983 Academy Awards ceremony, Tron seemed like a sure thing. Instead, it got snubbed. Why? According to Lisberger, it was because the industry considered computer effects a shortcut. “The Academy thought we cheated by using computers,” he told the San Francisco Gate in 2002.

8. ITS RELEASE DATE WAS SCHEDULED OUT OF SPITE.

Tron was originally scheduled for the Christmas 1982 season, which would have made for some intriguing counter-programming against the serious dramas studios release in time for Oscar consideration. But the plan was scrapped when Disney found out that animator Don Bluth, who had defected from the company in 1979 and had publicly chastised it as being “stale,” was set to release his Secret of NIMH in July; Tron was moved up to a July 9 release in the hopes it would crush Bluth’s project. NIMH made $14 million; Tron delivered $33 million, but neither was considered a runaway hit.

9. PLAYBOY WANTED TO DO A TIE-IN PHOTO SPREAD.

While movie marketing has become a near-exact science, Disney publicists weren’t quite sure at the time who the target audience for Tron would be. Computer users? Video game players? Teens? While they were strategizing, Playboy made an offer: they’d photograph models with circuit boards strategically positioned to preserve their modesty. Disney declined.

10. ELIJAH WOOD STARRED IN A SEQUEL.

Disney XD

After the mixed response to the belated Tron: Legacy sequel in 2010, Disney decided to continue the franchise in a more financially modest way with Tron: Uprising, an animated series for their Disney XD channel. Elijah Wood voiced Beck, a mechanic thrust into the world of digital stakes. Debuting to poor ratings in 2012, the series lasted only one season.

11. IT INSPIRED PIXAR.

Pixar animation specialist John Lasseter (Toy Story) was a young storyboard artist at Disney when Tron was in development. After catching a glimpse of the production, he convinced the studio to let him film a 30-second test reel featuring CGI backgrounds. The company liked it, but at the time, they were more interested in saving money than nourishing a new wave of technology.

But Lasseter wasn't discouraged. “It absolutely blew me away,” he told Animation World in 2012. “A little door in my mind opened up. I looked at it and said, “This is it! This is the future.”

12. TRON GUY WAS BANNED FROM SEEING THE SEQUEL.

Tron megafan Jay Maynard became an internet meme after photos of his decidedly low-tech, tight-fitting replica costume made headlines back in 2004. When Disney released Tron: Legacy in 2010, people were clamoring for his opinion. The problem? He was booted out of the theater. According to TIME, Maynard went to a screening in Minnesota but was ushered out when management decided his illuminated wardrobe would be too distracting for other guests. When he finally got a chance to see it, he said the sequel was so good it nearly drove him to tears.

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16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
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Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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Floppy disks are not obsolete—at least in your living room area.

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2. MARIO; $20

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Unfortunately, no coins will be coming out of these coasters, but they will keep your table dry.

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3. GAME OF THRONES; $12.99

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Avoid a royal mess with house sigils of houses Targaryen, Stark, Baratheon, and Lannister.

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4. PACMAN; $20.95

Use these on a black table to recreate the retro video game.

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5. AGATE; $35

Rock on: These fancy agate coasters will look solid resting under your glass.

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These glowing coasters are perfect for chemists, Breaking Bad fans, and anyone who forgot to pay their electric bill.

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7. BUILDING BLOCKS; $19.99

Build your own coaster with this LEGO-esque design.

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8. STAR TREK; $16.63

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This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

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9. DR. WHO; $22.99

Just make sure you don’t accidentally send your glass into a different time period when you set it down.

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Bonanza

Cover your counter space with the cute face of Rilakkuma.

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11. HARRY POTTER; $50

Set of wood burned coasters featuring the crest of each Harry Potter house
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All the houses are present in this set of wood coasters.

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Etsy

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean all manners go out the door: Never forget to use a coaster!

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13. BRAIN; $19.99

This set comes with 10 coasters, each with a slice of brain specimen. When you’re not using them, you can stack them together to create a full brain.

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14. THE LAST AIRBENDER; FROM $13

Aang and his entourage face off on these wooden coasters.

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Getting totally wigged by the idea of a stained table? All your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can give you an assist.

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Studio Ghibli Stone Tile Coasters
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These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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