I hope you have your nostalgia glasses on, or at least some form of eyewear that allows you to be completely comfortable with shoddy video quality. The above clip, which has been kicking it on the Internet for some time, combines two things that we don’t often get to see together these days: one of the most respected newsmen on the planet and a film that shattered the mold for computer graphics in cinema. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Walter Cronkite touring the set of 1982’s Tron, and that’s the way it is.
Created for Universe, a 1980-1982 science-based series that Cronkite presented, the video makes up in content what it lacks in visual quality. (It was recorded and archived in Betamax, the HD DVD of the videotape era.) It’s pretty awesome to hear this news legend talking about the birth of CGI, saying they "have no physical limitations" and that the objects "can do anything." And this was back when they could barely do anything, as compared to where we are today. They even show people talking on telephones while working on the footage. With cords!
Facetiousness aside, watching Cronkite enter the Tron universe wearing an all-white suit and top hat is an image of a lifetime. After mentioning the film’s $20 million budget, paltry by present standards, and that producers spent $6 million of that inserting actors into the action, a rather finicky Cronkite stands center stage, tossing his hat off and performing a nice tap dance, made all the more exciting thanks to the uber-flashy effects inserted after the fact. The man changes boutonniere colors like no one else in the biz.
It really is a wonder how quickly times change, and how vastly superior today’s technology is. I’m almost the exact same age as Tron, and I don’t think I’ve advanced as a person nearly as much as computer tech has. The differences between the effects work of that film and its sequel, 2011’s Tron: Legacy, are startling. Take a peek below to get an idea.
Nobody’s messing around with back-lit photography on that movie. They’re too busy making Jeff Bridges look young again. Who knows if we’ll ever get to see Tron 3, or what bio-chemical jazz computers will be capable of by the time it gets here. But we’ll be waiting with our light cycles revved up, or whatever.