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“Tron Uprising” Preview talkback

Tonight at 9:30pm Eastern/Pacific, Disney’s Tron Uprising airs its pilot on Disney Channel (it’s also available online). I personally think this series is a breakthrough for a US-generated animated action series; a game changer.

For decades the standard look for adventure cartoons was the model started by Doug Wildey on Hanna Barbera’s Jonny Quest (1964). Later, Bruce Timm and the team at Warner Animation advanced the field with Batman: the Animated Series (1992), and there’s no denying Anime certainly brought a new feel to the genre.

Tron Uprising certainly borrows from those traditions and ups it a notch – a BIG notch. To be fair, the pilot airing tonight only shows off half the picture – the beautiful visuals designed by Art Director Alberto Mielgo and Lead Character Designer Robert Valley. The pilot Beck’s Beginning is a bit of a paste-up – as its constructed from the elements of the previously announced mini-sodes which were originally planned to preview the show (Disney execs decided to edit them into one 31 minute episode instead of presenting them as serialized bite-sized pieces, as first intended). Producer/director Charlie Bean (The Ren & Stimpy Show, Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, The Amazing World of Gumball) has the perfect sensibility for this show – and from what I understand the storyline for the actual series is far more complex than the set-up presented tonight.

But so far, I love what I see. How about you? What’s your take? You have no excuse not to give it a try. Take a look at some of this gorgeous production material below. Top row: two of Mielgo’s magnificent production paintings, and a third by Joon Ahn; second row: a model sheet for some of the lead characters; third row: a few of Valley’s storyboards and (at my request) a Beck model sheet (click thumbnails to enlarge). Click all images for larger, fuller views.

  • Jerry, this might be strictly o.t, but your mini-history of action cartoons is seriously remiss in not mentioning Avatar. That show is the missing link here, the Batman’ of the modern age that set a commercial president for this kind of thoroughness in production design and employing of name designers and marrying East/West sensibilities and pitching to young adults and epic continuities. THAT was the game changer, which has paved the way for this and motorcity, but this site let it pass by without commentary at the time. This is a welcome follower.

    • I should add that the show is nothing less than beautiful. I didn’t think I would be saying it but I’m even enjoying it more than Korra. With Motorcity on the way I expect to be enjoying THREE U.S action shows simultaneously! This will be an unprecedented experience in my liftime. Us whiteboys might be enjoying a renaissance all of a sudden.

      Tron and Korra are very interesting side by side, since they’re kind of the same show. One is about a young Terrorist trying to start the revolution, the other pitches that character as the villain and seems loosely to be about the rise of national socialism.

      Those berating the dryness of Tron, and the lanky ‘triangles on stilts’ character designs – maybe you just don’t like action shows? That shortcoming has been the standard in the west since Bruce Timm standardized aesthetics for your consumption, about 20 years ago.

      • Motorcity’s not on the way; it’s already aired 3 episodes. XP

      • Daniel

        korra isn’t a game changer.. it’s a pale imitation of folks like yutaka nakamura and norio matsumoto.. but mcdonaldized so americans can watch anime and not feel bad about it~

      • Not really. Though maybe I wasn’t clear that I meant the original series was the gamechanger. Korra remains but a follow up.

        I stand by that. And while I’m sympathetic to your proxy-Japanese-nationalism, what Avatar actually bought to the world arena is the worlds first hands-on (not outsourced) American funded (aka sufficiently funded) Korean ‘anime’ series. A major creative opportunity for rising Korean studios to step out from the shadow of the Japanese productions they’ve been secondary animating for years. It’s production methodology is 100% different to any previous American OR Japanese show, and it’s success revealed a new market which Tron Uprising is clearly Disney’s attempt to meet.

        And yes, those aspiring would-be-kurisuma Korean animators all wear their Nakamura on their sleeve. But McDonalds doesn’t even come into it.

        Truth is, anime needs to step up. It looked invincible in the fall out from FLCL, but in the last decade the market has turned into a big móe mulsh, most of the best old guys have started dropping off, and the new young guys are themselves all Nakamura imitations. The playing field between Korea and Japan is leveling off, and America is funding that growth through the Avatar shows. Tron Uprising meanwhile, if only in production values, *looks* better than almost any anime show of the last few years.

        I’m not going to pretend this new set of shows puts U.S tv in 2012 at the same creative level that Japan tv was at in 1980. They don’t. But these shows are blurring the old geography for better or worse.

  • “TRON: Uprising” looks phenomenal. If the story ends up being half as good as the visuals this show’s style will revolutionize the look of action animation series going forward.

  • A Writer

    you LOVE what you SEE thanks to Alberto but what about what your HEARING

  • It’s visually outstanding, but any show stands or falls on story and character. It’s too soon to tell. They’ll have to have something to do with these characters other than chases and fights.

  • Adam

    Looks great. Sounds great. It reminded me at times of Aeon Flux, in a good way.
    My only quibble is the mushroom top hairdo.

  • Much better than what I was expecting from the previews. I’m not really sure what I was expecting from the previews – pretty, sure, but the characters’ lanky proportions really bugged me. Also I like to keep low expectations for everything. Wasn’t anticipating this to be a thing that becomes part of my regular viewing schedule but it may do just that.

  • Andy Prinsey

    As for the movie: great design, characters and environments aesthetically beautiful, but everything is very cold (too) … it is true that the web is the set, but the original TRON had more soul … the story is a bit ‘poor and the animation is “too much motion capture”.

    PS Jerry! In the history of the aesthetic revolution of US cartoon you have forgotten “Samurai Jack” and “CloneWars” (Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated series) bye

  • I’m so glad Jerry posted his own positive thoughts on the Tron pilot after Amid expressed dissatisfaction with the show in a May 14th post on Cartoonbrew. I agree with Jerry. I think this is the best-looking animated dramatic series since Batman in the early 90’s. Visually dazzling at every turn, it seems to me to be a success on all levels. Congrats to Charlie Bean and his entire team.

  • Kyle Maloney

    For some reason the audio was horribly out of sync on my end so I didn’t watch more than a few mins of it. What I saw looked nice though.

    • Ryan’s Dad

      My audio was off too. Annoying but I couldn’t not watch it.
      Definitely Tron meets Aeon Flux. The skinny/long limbed figures… It’s like watching MTV Liquid Television, but WAY better.
      I’m digging the show. Love that Tron/Rinzler is actually in it and that it’ll hopefully explain how he eventually falls to Clu.
      The only problem I have with the show is, like the game, you know it can’t end well for the main character… because they weren’t in Legacy.

  • I was pleasantly surprised.
    It has a great style about it, which I really enjoyed.

    The only thing that bugged me was the lack of facial animations/expressions.

    Will definitely keep watching though. :)

  • Andrew KIeswetter

    Let’s not forget the Fleischer/Famous Superman cartoons. Or
    did you leave them out because they were theatrical cartoons and not tv?

  • edelillus

    Some bits were in serious need of motion tweens… other than that I liked it.

  • Lola

    Call me the black sheep but I find it pretty ugly. It’s hard to tell why though. Maybe the super beautiful/perfect young characters everywhere, maybe I just don’t like the glowy grid thing that Tron does, maybe it’s something else but I forced myself to watch the whole thing and I ended walking away hating animation and the TV world in general.

    I had a similar thing with Motorcity but at least they had quirky facial expressions and interesting animation. The characters here are just boring and beautiful and BLAND.

  • It sure looks cool. I’ll check it out.

    The look of the characters reminds me of that Spider-Man cartoon that ran on MTV a few years ago, like a combination of CG and cel shading. The backgrounds give it real depth, almost like a movie.

    But I think action cartoons have looked better and better since CG entered the picture. Compare something like Clone Wars with 1990s era Johnny Quest or Captain Planet… So game-changing? I dunno.

    From a design standpoint, though, it looks awesome. 14 year old me would have wanted a playset.

  • Billy Batz

    I love Tron ,but those Character heads look like bad Graffitti art. Highschool kids notebooks are full of the same mis-proportioned ugly heads. The Jeff Bridges one is the only normal one. Easter Island Moai head uprising!

  • Frank Ziegler

    I’m with Lola on this one. My problem with the designs is that its hard to tell which characters are which. If you were to put them in silhouette I think they would all look basically the same and not “read” very well. And as others have said….depends a lot on story as well.

  • Dave Smith

    i’m out!
    no one slipped on a banana peel!

  • My current FB status is:

    I’ve just watched the first episode of TRON UPRISING and maybe it’s gonna be the “Batman Animated” of this generation. TOTALLY AMAZING.

    ‘Nuff said!

  • Bud

    The storytelling is thin, the sound just annoying, and the alleged “design” extremely monotonous and derivative. No sense of variety in either style, story, or tone.

    That said, it’s better than that recent tron movie.

  • Seni

    Personally, I would’ve preferred it to take place after Legacy rather than in-between.
    Other than that, I really enjoyed it!

  • Norco

    They placed the story in between to fall into the Star Wars: Clone Wars category and that one resulted in a series that ran and ran, which Disney hopes this does. Too early to tell from just this pilot. Characters must really click with the audience for that to happen. I’m not on a Disney payroll so I’m not going to publicly rave until this series proves it’s got the stuff beyond design.

  • Visuals look great, but it is going to be a challenge to keep it from looking monotonous. Not enough visual variety for a long term show. Story and characterization seem weak, but I’ll give it more time before I make the final call.

  • Inkan1969

    What happened to the synch in the 5/18 Disney Channel broadcast? The dialogue was very noticeably out of synch with the mouth movement.

    • I had exactly the same problem here in NC- thought it was just my cable provider!

  • DD

    I thought it was great. I like the style used for the animation. Not too realistic and it also doesn’t have that shiny-plastic look in some 3D animated shows that I’ve watched.

    Before Tron Uprising I stopped watching Disney because of all those pre-teen comedies. It’s refreshing to see new animated shows.

  • Alissa

    So far it has the same problem as Legacy. Very pretty environments but little…heart I guess? Everything, even the characters, feels too clean and sterile. Of course it does fit in with whole computer verse but it just isn’t my cup of genre.

    Oh well, at least there’s Korra. :)

  • Oluseyi

    Hate the proportions – those legs are just too long. Story is paperboard thin, but this is true of everything Tron (re-watch the original without nostalgia glasses). Watchable, but hardly the vanguard of contemporary American animation some are heralding it as.

    And I have to agree, Cartoon Brew’s blindness toward Avatar: The Last Airbender (and I presume The Legend of Korra) is disappointing. *IT* is the bridge between Bruce Timm’s DCAU and whatever comes next.

    Still need to check out Motor City…

  • Alê Camargo

    It was great! Loved the story, and the visuals and the music were top-notch. Actually, I felt Uprising even more satisfying than Legacy in many points (and specially in the way they´re using the Tron character).

    Looking forward to the series.

  • Ted

    I miss Guardian 452… Sadly, the creative team has apparently been scattered from Mainframe.

  • E. Nygma

    Loved every minute of this. A game changer for sure. The cinematic element and the mood of the show is phenominal. I havent felt this way since Samurai Jack!

    Can’t wait for the rest, and i seriously hope this gets a Blu Ray release NOT just a DVD!

  • Albert

    First of all I have no idea what Disney was doing because the whole preview was completely out of synch. The voices did not match the movement of the mouths. Secondly I don’t think Tron looks ‘ugly’, as some people have put it, any more then Motorcity or SRMTHFG looks ‘ugly’. In fact I am pleasantly surprised how Motorcity and Tron have held my interest. I have a knack for knowing when shows are going to be crap from the beginning which is why I cut Young Justice and Ultimate Spiderman loose early.

    What I am concerned about Tron is not the voices or the dialogue or how they look but how they are going to keep my attention. Motorcity has some nice ideas but Tron looks like it’s going to be stuck between light cycles, disc throwing and trying not to get caught. I am impressed with it especially the reflecting arms the bad guy used and the constantly shifting prisoner train but I am not sure what Tron is going to be doing in every episode besides the things i just mentioned.

    Motor City has a whole city above and beneath to play in. Tron is just stuck on the Grid which already looks flat and sparse. No gardens, no vegetation, no blue sky, no rivers or streams or weather changes. I could be wrong but I think Tron may have stuck itself in a rut before it even got past the first episode.

  • Looks like somebody needs to put an artbook out for this one pronto. Do we know anyone who writes those? Make it so, internets! ;)

  • Daniel

    the character designs lack any sense of life and fits perfectly with how it’s animated!

  • Steve

    Why is the cast (judging from the link on the second row) 80% male?

  • Gee, did they frame enough shots through the female characters buttocks? Nasty, commercialized version of Aeon Flux. UGH. Aeon Flux mocked the pornographic aspect of this type of stuff, but this is as full of women-as-GaGa-strippers as the awful film.