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“Tron: Legacy” Producer Justin Springer Talks Connecting Movie and Game

“Tron: Legacy” Producer Justin Springer Talks Connecting Movie and Game (photo)

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Given how bad most of them are, most video games that tie in to movies don’t need to exist. “Tron: Evolution” bucks that logic for two reasons. Firstly, it serves to fill in the 28-year gap between the original “Tron” and “Tron: Legacy,” detailing how the Grid came to be taken over by Kevin Flynn’s evil doppelganger Clu. And, arguably more important, the game lets people play in the movie’s universe, affording them a deeper view of the franchise’s virtual landscape than either movie has at this point. The man with a foot in both the new “Tron” game and film is co-producer Justin Springer. In the interview below, he talks about the ever-widening world of “Tron.”

As I understand it, you’re a producer on the movie and the game as well?

I’m co-producer on the movie and I don’t have a title on the game. It’s part of the collaborative process when you’re making a movie for the studio to work with the other divisions who are working on “Tron”-related merchandise or content. But I did work very closely with the group at [development studio] Propaganda and Disney Interactive to make the new “Tron” game.

With the long layover between the two movies, you guys had a really big chance to kind of re-envision the world of The Grid, both on the screen and on the console. Obviously, “Tron” has been kind of a natural fit to turn into games before. When did the conversations about the game start?

It was probably the summer of 2008 that we started having conversations with Disney Interactive about the opportunity for a Tron game. Because there’s 28 years between Tron and the story we wanted to tell in “Tron: Legacy,” we had to write the mythology for the intervening years, what happened to Kevin Flynn after he stepped off the helicopter at the end of the first movie. And how do we arrive at a story that takes place in 2010?

And that had to do with what was happening on the outside, but more importantly, what was happening on the inside of the world of “Tron.” And as we started to build out that mythology, to give ourselves enough of a history to go off on for the movie, we realized there was a lot of story there to tell. We knew that we would only be able to tell two hours worth of story in our film. The games group at Disney is one of the first groups that we contacted about the opportunity to tell a little bit of the history of the world of the “Tron” universe inside the video game in a way that would lead up to the events of the film..

So, what were the things, the aspects of the Tron universe, that you felt like the game had to nail?

We were really focused on the parts where Clu overthrew Kevin Flynn and purged some of these programs, the ISOs, which is an important story point in our movie. “Evolution” frames up the current state of the world. In the film, it’s told to the audience and to Sam Flynn in the form of story and a flashback as far as how things get that way. And so, we thought, this is an excellent opportunity to really see what that was like, to live it.

And so that’s the central conflict inside the story of the video game. And honestly, it’s one of the central conflicts if you were to look at the entire history of “Tron.”
I think if you look at the two biggest moments in the history of the “Tron” universe, it would be the overthrow of the creator Kevin Flynn by the program Clu, which is sort of the crux of the video game. And then I think it would be the arrival of only the second user ever, the son of the creator, Sam Flynn, which is kind of the conceit of the movie. Those are the two big things. We really just wanted to find ways to make sure that we weren’t just telling a retelling of the movie story for the game.

Were there other games that you guys looked at in terms of execution that you kind of wanted the “Tron” evolution game to hit in terms of like, “Call of Duty does this really well. Let’s try and execute something like that.” Stuff like that?

TRON-LEGACY-Justin-Springer.jpgHonestly, I’m not a huge, huge gamer. I play some, but I’m very casual. The guys who work at Propaganda, who are the huge gamers, were able to give me so many points of reference than I was able to give them. I was definitely in our first meeting, and games like “Call of Duty” titles were very top of mind at the time. But, for me it was more about just storytelling. It was just about how do we tell a contained story that you don’t have to see the movie for it to be enjoyable as a player. That opportunity was really exciting.

We’ve tried to build something that — knock on wood — when audiences come to the theater, if they’ve already played the game, they are going to feel very rewarded, because they are going to see that they’ve impacted the events of the film by trying to reach the end of the game. Or if they see the movie, they go back to the game. They leave the theater saying, I want to understand more about what happened to the ISOs, and you can go find that in 12 to 14 hours of gameplay. So, I was really focused on kind of the story elements of the game.

What about the multiplayer elements? It seems, again, like, combat on the Grids, the light cycle racing and all that stuff is so iconic in terms of the Tron imagery. Was that always part of the conversation from the beginning to have to have a multiplayer aspect?

Yeah, for sure. Because it just felt like there’s this built-in opportunity to do something that feels very communal. I think the multiplayer element is always fun. While there is this kind of great quest game at the narrative heart of the game, the notion of being able to go onto the game grid and compete in gladitorial games against other people, was really, really exciting. You get the “Tron” virtual sports that we’re used to with the disc combat and the light cycle, and we can expand from there. But, it just seemed like the kind of game that you would want to go into this world and compete against your friends. Essentially, you have an opportunity to create the coolest techno track-and-field video game of all time.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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