Joseph Kosinski’s TRON: Legacy may not have excellent in the script department, but it was a visual stunner with a badass propulsive soundtrack by Daft Punk. For many of us who grew up loving the original TRON, it was, if nothing else, a nostalgic trip that showed off an upgraded game grid and snazzy new versions of iconic vehicles such as the speedy light cycles and the airborne “recognizers.” You can check out the history and evolution of TRON’s vehicles below, courtesy of an infographic put together by — strangely enough — carinsurance.org. I wonder how much it costs to get full coverage on a light cycle, given how flimsy those can be…
As the infographic points out, the light cycles were originally designed by the legendary Syd Mead. His daunting resume also includes designing Blade Runner’s flying cop cars, called “spinners” — I think you can definitely see the same DNA shared between them and the light cycles — as well as V’Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the Sulaco vessel in James Cameron’s Aliens. More recently he’s worked on flicks like Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium and Brad Bird’s upcoming Tomorrowland. You can see some shots of the original TRON light cycles below.
And if you thought there were only two breeds of light cycles — as I did — the infographic hints at a history only die-hard TRON fans are likely to know about. See, the original TRON cycles are “first generation.” But the ones seen in TRON: Legacy are “fifth generation.” The designs in between were featured in secondary material such as the TRON: Evolution video game, the TRON: Uprising animated series, and Marvel’s TRON: Betrayal comics miniseries. Through various steps, the cycles evolved from the basic TRON design to the sleek, canopy-free versions seen in Legacy.
The solar sailer, hovering recognizers, and light tanks also recurred in Legacy and throughout the other expanded universe material. The recognizers were originally designed by Lisberger Studios animator and character designer John Norton. You can see one in action below.
And last but not least you have the “light runner,” for those of you who prefer a bit more stable vehicle standing between you and deresolution. Hopefully we’ll get to see all these bad boys in action again if they ever get around to TRON 3.