On Friday night, I attended the opening of what is surely one of the best pieces of interactive marketing ever assembled: “ElecTRONica” at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. For the casual theme park attendee, I assume it would be an interesting thing to experience. But for someone eagerly anticipating the upcoming film, Tron: Legacy, it was a dream come true.
The event starts at 6:00 pm every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night, and runs from now through the beginning of next year. Hit the jump to check out my impressions of the event, as well as pictures detailing my experience.
Upon arriving at Disney’s California Adventure, the first thing I noticed was how different the atmosphere felt. The usually well-lit “Sunshine Plaza” area near the entrance gate was now dark, and contained a stage and large video screen at the back of the circular courtyard. Unfortunately, because I didn’t arrive before 7:00 pm, I missed the 6:00 pm dance party in this area, as well as the 6:45 pm performance in which they “open the portal” to the main ElecTRONica area. Thankfully, these are only minor parts of the whole experience. The bulk of the event, which runs for the following few hours, takes place to the left of the plaza in the “Hollywood Pictures Backlot.”
After stepping under the huge ElecTRONica sign which acts as the “portal” into the world of Tron: Legacy, I was immediately hit by Daft Punk’s score for the film, reverberating down the entirety of the street. It wasn’t anything new necessarily, just some of the music we’ve all heard from the trailers, but it was very effective in setting the mood. The visual effects going on throughout the street were impressive as well. Large scaffolds with lights lined the sidewalks, and a video board showing various Tron-esque designs was hanging at the end of the street. The coolest part was that two “Light Cycles” would occasionally dash around a virtual grid on the screen and continue their paths onto the sides of the buildings lining the street. The projections of the light cycles were accompanied by full sound effects, following the racers from building to building.
About halfway down the street, two men in full Tron costume were encouraging people to play a game reminiscent of disc golf. The discs were lit to look like Tron’s “Identity Discs,” and you could toss the glowing Frisbees into a disc golf basket.
Underneath the video board was the first bar I came across. It sold a variety of soft drinks, in addition to a few Tron-themed alcoholic beverages. The “Glowjito” was sold in a cup with a plastic ice cube which lit up and changed colors, and the “Digitini” came in a flashing martini glass.
To the left of the bar stood a huge black and red “Recognizer.” After passing underneath it, I found myself in the main dance area of the event. More scaffolding crisscrossed high above the area, providing dynamic lighting and giving it a distinct “club” vibe. A round, raised DJ booth was in the center, and the DJ of the night (dressed as a Tron: Legacy Siren) was playing a variety of remixed pop songs, as well as the occasional Daft Punk song. People around the DJ booth were dancing, and four raised podiums surrounding the round dance floor each supported a go-go dancer in full Tron attire. In short, it felt like an outdoor club.
To the right side of the area was another stage, somewhat removed from the main area. Here was where, at least three times a night, Laserman performed. This was another unexpectedly cool part of the night. What started as simply a man dressed in a glowing outfit manipulating a laser illuminated by fog machines, built into a surprisingly intense performance that was reminiscent of a magic show, all timed to a techno beat. He was definitely worth seeing in person.
On the opposite side of the entrance to the area was the End of Line Club. It was essentially another bar flanked by two outdoor lounge areas, which contained long, illuminated couches, tables, and faux-windows giving everyone a view of “Tron City.” There was also a food van opposite the bar, which sold a few Tron-themed food items.
To the side of the End of Line Club was a row of platforms, each containing a flat screen TV and Wii video game system with two controllers. I got to play the upcoming Tron: Legacy tie-in game, entitled Tron: Evolution. The Wii version, which is separate from the PS3/360 version, has a much more “multiplayer” feel, allowing you to create a profile and choose from a surprisingly large selection of Tron-themed games. I played a round of “Light Cycle Race,” and found the controls to be both intuitive and responsive. I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the Wii version when it’s released December 7th. Sadly, there was no demo of the PS3/360 version available.
Behind this area was perhaps the coolest section of the event: Flynn’s Arcade. Based on Kevin Flynn’s arcade from the movies, both the entrance and the inside of the arcade were accurately recreated by Disney, old-school video game machines and all. And better still, each machine was playable, and for only 25 cents. However, like so many other arcades, you needed to get tokens. But in this case, they weren’t just any tokens; they were cool, custom, Flynn’s Arcade tokens. I hope Disney prints a lot of these tokens, because I guarantee the majority of people attending the event will be taking some home with them. While inside the arcade, occasionally the lights would dim, the 80’s music playing on the arcade’s sound system would cut out, and the dialogue track from Tron: Legacy’s trailers would play. Light would emanate from cracks in the wall behind the Tron arcade cabinet located at the back of the room. Sadly, there was no secret room behind the machine available for the public to explore.
The last thing I checked out at the event was the Tron: Legacy Exclusive 3-D Sneak Peek, playing inside what is by day the Muppet Vision 3-D theater. Essentially, it was an extended trailer that ran for about six minutes. I got the feeling that most of it had been shown at this past Comic Con, but I can’t be sure. Either way, beyond getting everyone even more excited for the film, the screening did have a few things worth noting. First, we got a glimpse of Daft Punk’s cameo in the film, which sent a wave of cheers and applause through the audience. Second, the preview was “enhanced” by wind and light effects inside the theater, turning it into what some theme parks call a “4-D experience.” The effects were used pretty minimally, but I thought they turned the screening into more of an “attraction” than it would otherwise be.
Finally, for those of you interested in Tron merchandise, yes, there was a cart selling dozens of action figures and vehicles, as well as a few shops to buy shirts and hats. Since, I have already convinced myself that I will most likely buy every piece of Tron: Legacy merchandise released, I did pick up a few things. Thankfully, it didn’t look like the prices were much higher than what the same items will be sold for in stores.
If you’re a Disneyland season pass holder, attending ElecTRONica is a no-brainer. If you’re a TRON fan, it’s absolutely worth experiencing, even if it takes just a couple hours to see everything. I’m already planning on going back to experience it all again. It’s the perfect mixture of fan service by way of interactive marketing. Well done, Disney.
TRON: Legacy will be released everywhere on December 17th.
Click on a photo to see it in high-resolution.