History, Legacy & Showmanship

Revisiting the Inside of a Computer: Remembering “Tron” on its 35th Anniversary

July 10, 2017 - 2:01 am   |   by
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Tron should be remembered as a very daring, risky adventure on the part of a few young visionaries and artists. They believed that by using computers for animation and visual effects, they could change moviemaking.” — The Making of Tron author William Kallay

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 35th anniversary of the release of Tron, the Walt Disney Company’s groundbreaking science-fiction computer adventure starring Jeff Bridges and David Warner. [Read on here...]

Tron, which also featured Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan and Barnard Hughes, opened in theaters 35 years ago this week. For the occasion The Bits features a compilation of statistics, trivia and box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context; passages from vintage film reviews; a reference/historical listing of the film’s 70mm presentations; and, finally, an interview segment with The Making of Tron author William Kallay, who discuss the virtues, shortcomings and influence of Tron.

Jeff Bridges on the set of Tron



  • 0 = Number of weeks nation’s top-grossing movie
  • 1 = Number of sequels
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning movies of Disney’s 1982 slate
  • 2 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 2 = Rank among top-earning movies during opening weekend
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning science-fiction films of 1982
  • 5 = Number of months between theatrical release and home-video release
  • 10 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (summer)
  • 22 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (gross; legacy)
  • 23 = Rank among top-earning movies of 1982 (rental; calendar year)
  • 23 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement
  • 43 = Number of 70mm prints
  • 1,091 = Number of opening-week engagements
  • $29.98 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (videodiscs)
  • $79.98 = Suggested retail price of initial home video release (VHS and Beta)
  • $4,364 = Opening-weekend per-screen average
  • $4.8 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross
  • $12.2 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
  • $15.2 million = Box-office rental (as of 12/31/82)
  • $17.0 million = Production cost
  • $33.0 million = Box-office gross
  • $38.5 million = Box-office rental (adjusted for inflation)
  • $43.1 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $83.7 million = Box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)


A scene from Tron



Tron is 90 minutes of eye-popping originality, a computer-age Alice in Wonderland, and a thing of wonder.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

Tron is with it, meaning it is in step with the times. It’s as up to date as the latest video game, whereas recent Disney pictures seemed to believe that today’s youngsters were still playing marbles and lagging baseball cards.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“The lavish Walt Disney production[’s] technological wizardry isn’t accompanied by any of the old-fashioned virtues — plot, drama, clarity and emotion — for which other Disney movies, or other films of any kind, are best remembered. It is beautiful — spectacularly so, at times — but dumb. Computer fans may very well love it, because Tron is a nonstop parade of stunning computer graphics, accompanied by a barrage of scientific-sounding jargon. Though it’s certainly very impressive, it may not be the film for you if you haven’t played Atari today.” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Where was it written that to accommodate an outburst of new effects, no matter how revolutionary, we agreed to give up character, subtlety, a well-told story, clearly understood action and even — heaven help us — humor? Where?” — Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times

“When Tron concerns its little pointed head about anything, it fusses over the sacrifice of humanity to technology. Of course that is precisely what has happened to the movie. Tron does not, with a single exception, look as though it was touched by human hands. The exception is Jeff Bridges, who may be the most adventuresome and underrated actor in movies today, and who manages to imbue Tron with what small glimmer of humanity it possesses.” — Ron Base, Toronto Star

Tron has changed my life. It blew my mind right into the digital decade. Tron is not only an eye-opener in every sense of the word, but a film that does that rare thing: opens up the imagination and mind to the future.” — Judy Stone, San Francisco Chronicle

“Dazzle aside, Tron doesn’t compute…. Walt Disney’s $18 million fantasy adventure about a war between computer programmers and the despot master control program they created is worth seeing. But only for that reason.” — Jack Mathews, Detroit Free Press

“Despite what some critics across the nation are saying, Tron is not a horrible film. It does suffer, however, from the same problem that Blade Runner, The Thing and Firefox have: weak story development, and even weaker character development. This is the first live-action feature film directed by Steven Lisberger, who has done a feature-length cartoon and some television, but he hasn’t a grasp on the human side of his film. As a result, Tron’s people take a back seat to its special effects.” — Christopher Hicks, (Salt Lake City) Deseret News

“This is an almost wholly technological movie. Although it’s populated by actors who are engaging (Bridges, Cindy Morgan) or sinister (Warner), it is not really a movie about human nature. Like Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but much more so, this movie is a machine to dazzle and delight us. It is not a human-interest adventure in any generally accepted way. That’s all right, of course. It’s brilliant at what it does, and in a technical way maybe it’s breaking ground for a generation of movies in which computer-generated universes will be background for mind-generated stories about emotion-generated personalities. All things are possible.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Tron gets an ‘A’ for ingenuity. The summer’s most unconventional film, it is also a milestone for Walt Disney Productions. At long last, the giant has awakened to traverse the decades. Coonskin caps were yesterday’s heritage; the computer is today’s.” — Pat H. Broeske, The (Santa Ana) Register

“Dazzling disaster…. Gorgeous, pioneering special effects cannot overcome the script’s emotional vacuum and the slack acting by some of Bridges’ co-stars.” — Michael Maza, (Phoenix) Arizona Republic

“Walt Disney Studios, the same factory that for years specialized in realizing the most whimsical and human expressions of man’s imagination, has joined the automaton parade with a film that glamorizes and endorses the video game craze that has overwhelmed America.” — Scott Sublett, The Washington Times

Tron is loaded with visual delights but falls way short of the mark in story and viewer involvement. Screenwriter-director Steven Lisberger has adequately marshaled a huge force of technicians to deliver the dazzle, but even kids (and specifically computer game freaks) will have a difficult time getting hooked on the situations.” — Variety

Tron is as innovative as the Disney breakthroughs in animation that produced the classics that still make money for the studio. Walt Disney never forgot the importance of plot and of making the audience care about the characters. Lisberger has a great deal of talent, but Tron would have profited from remembering such basics.” — Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Now I have seen a lot of boring, expensive wastes of time and talent in my life (especially in the last few years, as movies have begun to come apart at the seam and stop making sense), but Tron is the biggest waste of everything known to man that I have ever encountered.” — Rex Reed, syndicated columnist

“[I]t is hard to see how a film so original in conception and execution (and so firmly tied to the electronic preoccupations of its adolescent target audience) can fail.” — Richard Schickel, Time

Tron succeeds in expanding the parameters of animation and in presenting something totally new on the screen. For that alone, the affable Tron can’t be faulted.” — Marylynn Uricchio, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A scene from Tron

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