The animated series TRON: Uprising, premiering on Disney XD on June 7th, takes place after the 1982 feature film and before the events in TRON: Legacy. Produced in CG animation with a 2D aesthetic, the series follows the heroic journey of a new character named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood), a young program who becomes the unlikely leader of a revolution inside the computer world of The Grid. You can watch the first episode here.
At a press day for the show, executive producer/director Charlie Bean and consulting producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis talked about the challenges of doing such an ambitious animated series, the influences that they draw from for the TRON universe, making a story like this relatable to viewers, and how far ahead they’ve mapped out the story. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
EDWARD KITSIS: No. The thing that excited us about this series is that we’re going to tell this story through the point of view of a program. We’re really just in The Grid and exploring The Grid in this one.
CHARLIE BEAN: It’s really just that first shot that takes you from the real world through Flynn’s Arcade and into The Grid. That’s really where we wanted to be, for the whole series. We’re going to tell stories from The Grid, from a program’s perspective.
What are the challenges in doing something this ambitious in animation?
BEAN: They’re huge, but they’re also what’s exciting about it. I’ve done traditional animation for about 25 years, and only really just poked my toe in the water with CG within the last five or six years. To jump into something as big as this was hugely challenging, but now I’ve got all these new toys and tools to play with that I’ve never had the opportunity to play with before, which makes it extremely complex and difficult, and also exciting. I come from a 2D background and have a tremendous amount of experience in 2D, but it’s been exciting to jump into CG. We approach it from a 2D aesthetic, which is why it has the graphic look that it has.
There are a lot of parallels in the TRON universe to Shakespeare. Is that an intentional influence for you?
ADAM HOROWITZ: There are a ton of influences that all of us draw from. There’s something inherently mythic about the TRON world, and all those things tie into that. But, I wouldn’t say it was a conscious homage.
KITSIS: In Legacy, Flynn talks a lot about what this world could be and these programs and how special it was, and it was important for us to show that. Thematically, what’s great about Beck is that he’s a character realizing he’s more than his programming. He’s not just a mere mechanic, but what does that mean? That’s frightening and it’s exciting. It’s Batman and it’s Luke Skywalker and it’s Moses.
HOROWITZ: It’s the oldest mythic story there is, which is about finding out that there’s something special about you, that you have a destiny, resisting it at first, and then coming to terms with it and embracing it, and all the dangers that that entails.
What influences did you have for the animation for this?
BEAN: We’re very into science fiction and influenced by a tremendous amount of science fiction, as well as many other things, like comics and animation.
BEAN: I’m a huge fan of (Aeon Flux creator) Peter Chung. The long, lanky characters were an intentional choice. We are definitely influenced by Aeon Flux.
Will what’s going on in this series eventually lead into TRON: Legacy?
HOROWITZ: There is definitely connective tissue between the series and both movies, but the goal with it is to really allow new fans to come in while rewarding fans of the franchise. There are shout-outs and little bits of mythology and connective tissue and characters that pop up throughout. What was so exciting to all of us was being able to really dig in to parts of The Grid that we’d only hinted at before.
KITSIS: If you’ve never seen TRON, you can watch the show. And if you have seen Legacy, and you say, “Well, Clu wins, why am I watching?,” you haven’t learned the whole story yet, so keep watching.
BEAN: There will be interesting cameos in the series.
How do you go about making something like this relatable to viewers?
KITSIS: For us, the way you relate to this is through character and emotion. Paige, for example, who is the henchwoman for Tesler, has a really, really deep and tortured background that led her to that point. Beck is struggling with having to lie to his friends while doing something for the greater good. Although we are in a magical world, so to speak, we’re hoping that it is relatable because the themes and the emotions are something that everyone is dealing with, but through the filter of TRON.
HOROWITZ: These are programs, but as we’ve seen in TRON and in TRON: Legacy, programs have started to evolve and go beyond their programming. For us, we really saw that as a great opportunity to look at these programs as real three-dimensional characters.
BEAN: The ethnic backgrounds come from just loving faces, different kinds of faces and different people’s faces. We look at people and take photographs of people and look at haircuts. I’ve got all these pictures of kids with really cool haircuts that we’re bringing into the series. Mara has one of the coolest haircuts, ever. That just goes along with it.
Do you have this show mapped out for a certain duration, or is it designed to run for as long as it can?
HOROWITZ: When you’re setting out to start a new series, we like to try to have the big ideas of where we want it to wind up eventually, but also leave ourselves the flexibility to tell the story over however long we’re fortunate enough, or not, to run. They’re big ideas that we’ve got, but there’s also a lot of really fun areas to explore, along the way.
BEAN: As you start to get into it, storylines start to explode out of that and the characters start to talk back to you and you find out where those stories are going to go.
TRON: Uprising will air on Thursdays on Disney XD, starting on June 7th.