SEATTLE, Wash. – Disney’s TRON: LEGACY opened Dec. 17 in theaters nationwide.
Finally, after a 28-year hiatus, the wait is over.
Everyone seems to have a unique experience with any cult classic, TRON is no exception. Here’s mine.
My TRON experience began at the tender age of seven, during my first – and thus far only trip – to Disneyland in southern California. We went on the TRON ride, complete with the red and blue lines made by the film’s iconic “light cycles” riding beside us.
I finally watched the film a decade later. My parents talked about what a great movie TRON was, so I wanted to see it for myself.
It was beyond anything I ever expected. It absolutely blew me away. The graphics where a little cheesy by 1999, but that didn’t matter.
The story of Kevin Flynn, the game designer and occasional hacker who goes out to prove that his creation was stolen by an upstart CEO, only to be sucked into the alter world that very network, and who must rely on the guidance of other programs who bear an uncanny resemblance to his friends – the God-like users who created them – in order to get back to the real world, captivated my imagination for weeks afterward.
So, what do I, then a fifteen year-old aspiring storyteller do to keep the story from ending?
Easy. Write a sequel.
I worked on the TRON sequel for about three months. I worked, re-worked, and poked at the plot until I produced something I could be happy with. I had no intention of sharing this with anybody, this was something I did for me. I have never told anyone about this story, until today.
It was the tail end of 1999. Naturally, the basic premise dealt with the events surrounding Y2K. Kevin Flynn, the designer and hacker from the first film, teamed up with his teenage son [thirteen to fifteen] to battle the Millennium Bug. The Bug was similar to Master Control. It was an all-powerful malware program trying to upstart the user, who was poised to destroy the world’s computer networks at the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000. Only Kevin Flynn and his budding-hacker son stood in the Millennium Bug’s way.
I lost interest in the story shortly after Jan. 1, however. Since none of the dreaded Y2K predictions – the main focus of the plot – never came to pass, so I didn’t see much of a point working on it anymore.
Plus, another story about the adolescent son of a deceased New York-area hockey star, slowly consumed my interest. I started working on what would become my first novel, “The Late Shawn Hillard,” shortly after I dropped my TRON sequel [as of this writing, the book is in the final editing stage].
I wrote none of it down, so I simply shoved it to the back of my mind and forgot all about it. Until late last year.
I didn’t think of the plot again until I read the premise of TRON: LEGACY a little over a year ago. From what I’ve read of the new film (and from less than faltering reviews since), the premise is not much different than the one I crafted a little over a decade ago.
It features a father-and-son story, Kevin’s son Sam is around my current age, and they must work with the programs to defeat yet another upstart program. The villain is different – Clu 2.0 as opposed to the Millennium Bug – and the idea that Kevin has been trapped for twenty-plus years in The Grid, a world of his own creation, are different from my story.
I’m not accusing anyone of stealing my story, or even my concept, since I left no paper trail and have not spoken of it to anyone until today. That would be impossible. But I think it does offer a unique wrinkle to my own life and career as a storyteller.
Much of my earliest work, from when I was thirteen to fifteen, was exclusively adaptations and sequels. If there was any movie, video game or concept that grabbed my attention back then, they got another story. A majority of these plots remain in tucked away in my head, but a few of them do exist in old journals. When I started to create my own stories, beginning with “The Late Shawn Hillard,” I dropped the practice, dismissing it as simply childish and stupid. This changed when I read the plot of TRON: LEGACY.
I realized then that I wasn’t being childish or stupid when I did these, I was simply ahead of my time. I guess the old saying rings true; brilliant minds really do think alike.
And that is my TRON experience.