Original production art from Disney’s “Tron” will hit the auction block during Heritage Auction’s animation event on Oct. 20-23, 2023.
Long before the ideas of cyberspace and the Metaverse were part of everyday life, Disney took a chance on a movie about “programs” using digital frisbees and motorbikes to overthrow the Master Control Program featuring “users” (or humans) represented by avatars – and the rest is movie making history.
“’Tron’ keeps fading away,” says Harrison Ellenshaw, the movie’s visual effects supervisor and associate producer. “But I always have to look at it now and then. And when I do, I always go, ‘Wow, how the hell did we pull that off?’ We kind of reinvented the wheel. You couldn’t do it today. It was a slice of time. There was never a film made like it before, and there will never be a film made like it again.”
The Art of Anime and Everything Cool Volume IV Signature Auction
Just one minute into the 1982 film, the audience finds themselves in a groundbreaking sequence:
A videogame player in “the real world” drops a quarter into a machine, grabs a joystick, and then begins steering one beam of light against another illuminated on the screen. The camera pushes in, and suddenly, we’re inside the game as two Light Cycles roar along a stark, colorful digital grid, each trying not to crash into the other or the light trails left in their wake.
For the first time, nearly 80 lots of original production-used artwork and artifacts from the collections Ellenshaw and “Tron” technical effects supervisor John Scheele will be included in Heritage Auctions The Art of Anime and Everything Cool Volume IV Signature Auction on Oct. 20-23, 2023.
Among the items included in the auction are concept sketches by Moebius and Syd Mead for the characters, costumes, the Solar Sailer, and the Light Cycles that eventually inspired Tron Lightcycle Run at Walt Disney World Resort.
Also included are dozens of high-contrast black-and-white Kodalith (often referred to by “Tron” collectors as Ektachrome),transparencies, which were individual frames blown up to twice their size so animators could illuminate the actors and sequences within the stylized world of “Tron.”
When the movie debuted in 1982, film critic Roger Ebert called “Tron” an “almost wholly technological movie,” but in reality, the movie was shot on 70mm film on an actual set with an entirely black backdrop and actors Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan, David Warner, and Barnard Hughes dressed in white costumes. During post-production, the footage was “dismantled,” according to writer and director Steven Lisberger, and every frame was animated by hand – just like every Disney classic before it. For comparison, it would take today’s filmmakers just a single day to accomplish what took months to finish 40 years ago.
The items in this auction highlight the painstaking process of creating the iconic look of “Tron” – which is more “computer-simulated” than “computer-generated.” One key example is Ellenshaw’s hand-drawn storyboards demonstrating why shooting the film against a black background instead of white (as was initially suggested) was essential.
Auction Dates and Details
The Art of Anime and Everything Cool Volume IV Signature Auction will take place on Oct. 20-23, 2023, with two floor sessions and two internet sessions.
- Signature Floor Session (Lots 16001-16323) – Oct. 20, 2023 at 10 a.m. CT: Live Floor, Live Phone, Mail, Fax, Internet, and Heritage Live bidding.
- Signature Floor Session (Lots 17001-17333) – Oct. 21, 2023 at 10 a.m. CT: Live Floor, Live Phone, Mail, Fax, Internet, and Heritage Live bidding.
- Signature Internet Session (Lots 18001-18699) – Oct. 22, 2023, at 10 a.m. CT: Mail, Fax, Internet, and Heritage Live bidding (no Live Floor bidding).
- Signature Internet Session (Lots 19001-19762) – Oct. 23, 2023, at 10 a.m. CT: Mail, Fax, Internet, and Heritage Live bidding (no Live Floor bidding).
For all sessions, proxy bidding ends ten minutes before the session starts. Live Proxy bidding on Heritage Live starts seven days before the live session begins and continues through the session.
Lot viewing is available at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Tex. (by appointment only) on Oct. 17-19, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT. Click here for more information.
Disney’s original “Tron” is available for streaming on Disney Plus.