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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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.