Disney brought out the big boys at WonderCon 2010 in San Francisco the other night. The studio behind Tron Legacy staged an unprecedented, full-fledged campaign that included an ENCOM press conference, a stage invasion by Flynn Lives activists, and a parachute entrance by Sam Flynn.
What makes it all so detailed is the appearance of the original actors in full character. Garrett Hedlund was there as Flynn, and Cindy Morgan and Bruce Boxleitner reprised Lora Baines and Alan Bradley respectively. Our friends over at /Film were there to share the details.
The event began with ENCOM CEO and former programmer Alan Bradley making an exciting announcement. But first Bradley brought out his wife, Lora Baines, who many recognize from the original Tron, but not as his spouse. After a brief thank you to the fans she returns backstage and Bradley gets back into the details.
In a tribute to Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), an announcement is made regarding a re-release of the company's flagship game, Space Paranoids. Bradley is quite nostalgic about Flynn's vision and speaks of him in the past tense on a number of occasions. He goes on to mention that 15 unreleased levels programmed by the missing Flynn will be featured.
But suddenly, noises are heard in the crowd. As the camera reveals a set of sign-wielding onlookers, it appears a gathering of protesters are amongst the fans. Their signs read, "Flynn Lives," "Come Out Flynn" and "Where is Flynn?" Bradley, off stage at this point, is unharmed. But the stage is overrun with Kevin Flynn supporters. An apparent leader takes the microphone:
"Flynn Lives is taking the stage to say what Alan Bradley is too decent and polite to say to all of you. And that is ENCOM has given up on the search for Kevin Flynn. He's still missing, he's still out there, and while ENCOM smeared his name to blame him for their mismanagement, while they rack up the profits off his work, Space Paranoids is, was, and always will be a Kevin Flynn work of art."
After a short pause, a neon-lit ENCOM helicopter approached at a relatively low altitude with a man hanging out its door. Moments later, a parachute is seen in the sky. The man lands behind the stage, and who else walks on stage but Sam Flynn. Before his jump a video was shot where he talks about how his life changed in 1989, the year his father went missing. A large '89' could be seen on his parachute during the big drop.
The event ended with Bradley returning to the stage to explain this is what they have come to expect from Flynn. That it is all his way of coping with the disappearance of his father and the overwhelming fame and popularity that goes with his name.
The viral marketing and promotional campaigns for films these days is reaching jaw-dropping levels of creativity. With the amount of money floating around at all stages of a film's production, it's worth the financial risk. And you've got to give credit to Disney for going the extra mile. They gave fans of the original Tron a big taste of nostalgia, while delivering a massive dose of the latest installment. I can't wait to see what they do for Comic-Con in July.
The Flynn Lives group is becoming a cult of its own that will surely bleed into the lines waiting to get into theaters. Their website is pretty darn cool and goes beyond just viral marketing. Loaded with t-shirts and signs, you can expect it to be a massive part of the promotional process. After this event, I definitely want a shirt of my own. Though I'll believe Kevin Flynn is alive when I see it. The trailers have only proven so much, but they're closing in making me a believer.
My hope is we are all pleasantly surprised by more than a visual stunning film and the Tronites (as I'm calling them) are not let down with a faithful continuation of the original.
Tron Legacy hits theaters and IMAX December 17th, 2010.