My Pitch for TRON

July 29, 2009

Now that the TRON movie is well on its way, I thought I’d publish my pitch that I brought in to the mouse. It’s really different from what’s being done in that my version is a remake while the new TRON is a sequel to the original. At the end I go into an arc for a trilogy of movies. I don’t often develop a pitch with this much detail, but because I wanted to make sure I had enough material for a trilogy I had to outline almost every scene:

Treatment by Doug TenNapel

TRON is about a self aware computer called MASTER CONTROL PROGRAM (MCP) that uses the world’s most popular internet video game to declare war on the Earth. MCP’s plans are challenged by three video-game programmers; Flynn, Lori and Alan and another self aware being created inside the game. This is TRON, a digital man with a Pinocchio complex who will discover that becoming a human requires the most illogical offense to the computer world…self sacrifice.

LORI (20s) is an independent, hottie games programmer who takes whatever respect she can’t earn. She dumped her Ex (Flynn) because he couldn’t be tamed. She finds safety in a better man…ALAN.

ALAN (20s) is a bookish, humble, game programmer who is obsessed with TRON a self-aware game character he created. That’s right, TRON is the first digital life form and lives in a Massive Multiplayer on-line (MMO) video game called iPLANET.

TRON (18) holds up his hand revealing blood trickling down his palm. Alan asks how he got hurt. TRON lives in a secure portion of iPlanet where no AI monsters can attack him. He admits to venturing into the danger zone of the game which he knows is against Alan’s wishes. Alan explains that TRON must not play in the game because if he dies, he does not come back like normal users…that’s part of what separates him from being just a video-game.
TRON wonders if now that he’s been hurt and feels pain…is he a real human? Alan says that feeling pain is only part of being human. TRON begs Alan not to give up on him until the job is complete…until he can be a real man. ALAN is hesitant…he’s not being up front with TRON about something.
LORI confronts ALAN in secret and says he shouldn’t keep secrets…that’s what she hated about FLYNN, he could never reveal his inner self. ALAN found out that the funding for TRON was pulled to put more ENCOM resources into Flynn’s “beam project”.
LORI fumes, “Flynn!” and storms out of the office.

Two heroes fight on a computer screen. (The style of character approximates The Incredibles.) FLYNN (30s) is a Harley-riding, rebellious, twenty-nothing genius who designed the iPLANET game. He is playing against his ENCOM partner the slick, foul-mouthed DILLINGER (30s) who thinks himself a rock-star.

DILLINGER accuses FLYNN of cheating. Flynn says there’s no such thing as cheating, every advantage is legitimate in the game of life…even so-called cheats. LORI stands between the players and their monitor with her arms crossed. FLYNN uses a cheat code to nuke DILLINGER’s character in some funny fatality move.

Flynn already knows why Lori is pissed. He asks why LORI’S boyfriend ALAN doesn’t come to defend the project.
“Fiance”, she corrects.
The decision is out of FLYNN’s hands…DILLINGER controls the budgets. Flynn shucks his responsibilities onto others–as if just showing up and being a genius is enough at work…or at home. Lori says that there are no cheats to maintaining adult relationships. Flynn didn’t realize that the clingy therapist survived the divorce. Why couldn’t the crazy-in-the-sack part survive?
Lori: I was neglected.
Flynn: Clingy.
Lori: You lived in your work.
Flynn: …but I didn’t leave.
Lori: Damn right, I left.
Flynn walks out of the office to attend a big presentation to the share-holders leaving Lori hanging mid-conversation, “Well, now it’s my turn to leave.”

DILLINGER takes a Binaca hit then enters the teleconference room lined with video monitors of stereotype Japanese investors. ENCOM’s global success of IPLANET continues to grow in every computer market and the investors anxiously await the sequel. DILLINGER presents the next generation of their full-body digitizer: “LIFE-SCANNER” which is the brain-child of his partner KEVIN FLYNN. Polite applause.

FLYNN walks the office mutt, a stinky bull-dog named WILLIE, up for a demonstration. WILLIE sits on a digitizing deck and FLYNN points out a corresponding deck inside the iPlanet video game.
The Life Scanner projects a grid over Willie as a blue laser traces around the dog, storing his likeness even breathing pattern. A digital copy of Willie builds in the game, skeleton guts and muscles resulting in a perfect likeness. The digital version gives a little bark that elicits applause and a rare smile from the suits on the teleconference screen.
When the “real” Willie hears the digital dog bark he looks at the computer screen and barks back! More applause. Flynn says that the in-game dog can see the outside world via a camera built into the computer monitor, “The success of iPlanet is that users feel unprecedented presence in the game. The next incarnation of iPlanet will allow players to digitize their likeness into the game. It’s flattering and immersive!”

Dillinger takes over the show as Flynn stands on the digitizing deck, “LIFE SCANNER allows a perfect, believable image of the user to appear in the game…” A grid projects over FLYNN as the LIFE SCANNER circles him, recording his likeness. The LIFE SCANNER beam suddenly kicks into a different mode, it goes from BLUE to RED. Sparks fly out of the machinery of the beam when FLYNN pixilates and vanishes! LORI gasps.

Flynn appears in the game. He looks up in the sky and sees the outside world fed in via camera. “Aw, crap.” He feels something warm on his leg and the digitized version of WILLIE is peeing on him, “Nice.”

Dillinger reaches into the control box of the LIFE SCANNER and says the beam is fried! Everyone turns to the screen in horror as the sound of a Battle Tank comes from the game monitor.

FLYNN sees the red battle tank coming over a dune. “AW, SHIST!” He RUNS! The battle tank fires plasma-missiles that demolish a palm tree next to FLYNN. He finds a power-up on the ground and crushes it into his own face! A blue shield made of three rings forms around him. The take shoots FLYNN and wears down his shield. Digital WILLIE takes a hit and vanishes (which makes the real dog bark in anger). FLYNN sprints toward the TANK MAZE at the top of the hill.
FLYNN is blasted through a wall and into the into the TANK MAZE. He hears multiple tanks working their way to the entrance of the maze.

The ENCOM employees run to their computers to find FLYNN in the game and try to help him. LORI puts on her headset and logs into iPlanet using her work account.

An anime likeness of LORI appears in the Tank Maze. She runs between tanks setting charges in their treads. LORI turns a corner in time to see Flynn take a shot from three tanks at once removing his final shield and blowing him to pieces. FLYNN’S DEAD.

LORI takes her headset off and cries at the terminal. ALAN offers to take LORI home, she says she needs to be alone. She’s going to go to Flynn’s place and get the address of his relatives.

Lori sees that bachelorhood hasn’t been kind to Flynn given the floor is papered with pizza boxes and Chinese take-out. She gets choked up seeing that all of their wedding pictures still hang on the wall.

It’s 3AM and Lori tosses and turns in her sleep. She winces at an image in her dream of FLYNN standing in front of her, “Lori, help me!”

LORI tells ALAN that she dreamed something that wouldn’t go away…it was FLYNN but he didn’t look like himself. For the first time…he looked needy.

DILLINGER makes an announcement making sure everyone knows how dramatic and heartbroken he is. Oh yes, and do go back to work on iPLANET since they are just a few weeks away from another BETA-test submission…it’s what FLYNN would have wanted.

Tron has found a strange power dip at ENCOM…ALAN suspects this isn’t FLYNN’s first time in the iPlanet game. ALAN suspects Dillinger is acting weird.

ENCOM employees get up to talk about how great Flynn was…but especially how much he loved to cheat at his games. LORI suddenly figures something out, “He’s alive.” LORI’s so happy because she knows how FLYNN survived…he cheated!

Dillinger’s eyes glow…because he is a physical incarnation of the Master Control Program. He logs onto the iPLANET game and writes a patch that locks all users out of the game kicking ALAN and LORI out so that they can’t discover the truth about Flynn.

Lori and Alan can’t look for FLYNN any more so they summon TRON since he already lives in the game.

Two AI robotic creatures drive a future-fantasy HUMVEE. A third creature (with BLUE feet!) pulls out an electric staff and cuts the others in half with one swift move. He removes his hood and reveals FLYNN! (This isn’t the FLYNN we’ve been watching so far…that was a copy the Master Control Program (MCP) made of Flynn to get everyone to think FLYNN is dead so FLYNN’s shares will be inherited by DILLINGER…who is also the MCP acting like a real human.)
FLYNN looks like a castaway, he has a beard, messed up hair, suffers from lack of sleep and his clothes are torn up. He picks over dead bodies for power-ups.

Recognizers suddenly appear overhead. Ten players appear all around FLYNN…the game is open to outside users again. FLYNN isn’t bothered since this is not a PVP (player vs. player) server. He hears the geek kids talking on their headsets to each other: the geek, the husband nagged by his wife to get the hell off the game, the foul mouthed teen. They ask how Flynn looks “real” while they look like anime. FLYNN tries to convince them that he is a REAL person sucked into the game…he says that he actually invented iPlanet and they call him a liar!

Dillinger suspects LORI or ALAN hacked the iPlanet game and allowed friendly users back in to help FLYNN kill AI monsters. Dillinger hacks code into the terminal that switches this server into a PVP (Player vs. Player) mode. Now players get points for killing other players!

FLYNN runs from geeks trying to kill him! Recognizers fly over head in an aerial war between guilds. Flynn turns on them and pulls a power up from his belt labeled “Samurai Tiger” and uses it. GONG! He wears a robe and kung fu fights, gutting the geeks with his tiger claws!…don’t ever mess with the programmer of the game. (We go to the kid’s real life bedrooms and see them curse at their character dying in the game. One fat house-husband plays in his briefs while eating a bowl of Captain Crunch).
Flynn’s leg is bleeding. He finds a “health” power-up but doesn’t use it yet. He needs more firepower and has his eye on a rusty crashed Recognizer.

Meanwhile, TRON sneaks up on some players…who have lightcycle batons attached to their backs. TRON grabs a baton and forms a LIGHTCYCLE—(a motorcycle made of raw energy bolted together with black metal.) Killer lightcycle chase and battle using light trails that are like solid steel.

Flynn crawls into the Recognizer cockpit and uses his health power-up on it! It reassemble into a massive flying machine. FLYNN is targeted by 10 other Recognizers. Worse…a player is in the cockpit with him and kicks FLYNN’s injured leg! FLYNN offers the user any amount of real life money if he just lets him go. The player wants 200 dollars wired to his Paypal account. FLYNN agrees but when the player isn’t looking he gets STABBED in the back with FLYNN’s dagger. The player dies and we come out to the real world and see that it’s Ben Affleck playing the game in his underwear while eating Captain Crunch. He yells, “DAMN!”

TRON sees a huge BLUE Recognizer taking damage as it maneuvers around 10 other RED Recognizers. TRON knows this amazing gameplay is FLYNN’S style.

TRON peels out and rides his light-cycle up a hill, ramps off the mountain, landing on the FLYNN’s Recognizer by laying the bike on its side. TRON produces a health power up for FLYNN’s leg but he refuses it. The vehicle needs more health. TRON doesn’t use health on vehicles, “Life is more important than the materials.” FLYNN’s leg is healed.

Their blue Recognizer falls apart mid-flight as the pieces tumble over the landscape. An injured red Recognizer catches up to them now. TRON pulls a DRAIN ESSENCE power up from his pocket and throws it at the enemy vehicle. Upon impact, it is instantly drained of power and falls limp to the ground. TRON gives Flynn a DRAIN ESSENCE spell and suggests he keep one with him at all times (This is clunky but FLYNN will pull this out in ACT III).

FLYNN says that DILLINGER and he were both sucked into iPlanet long before but DILLINGER died in the game.

LORI and ALAN are fired by DILLINGER for hacking a game-patch into the game. LORI starts yelling to the security guards that DILLINGER isn’t really DILLINGER any more. Dillinger smiles and when his door closes, he pixelates and floats over to his corner office window, surveying the world outside with a hungry look.

FLYNN is happy knowing a copy of he and Dillinger made it to the outside world. Now they just need to access the LIFE SCANNER beam from inside the game!
They begin their quest to huge domed building on the horizon.

Alan and Lori can’t access the game from ENCOM so they go back to Flynn’s apartment. Lori logs into the game using her old account.

LORI looks for Flynn. The re-occurring teenage PVP punk players show up and harass her confident that they can kill a girl player. LORI is pissed and pulls out amazing moves and beheads or stabs them in the GROIN with a sword.

Alan gets to work on a laptop writing a chunk of code that will hamper the effects of Dillinger’s PVP patch launched earlier.

To avoid PVP geeks TRON and FLYNN have to walk around the city through haunted monster-filled forests. FLYNN explains that Dillinger wrote the Master Control Program which emulates successful routines of other programs and incorporates them into itself.
Once FLYNN started scanning people the MCP learned how to mimic life forms. Now MCP sees the real Earth as part of its game. It has already taken over ENCOM’s management and technology. They veer off the path to a huge wooden door with a keypad on the front. This is one of FLYNN’s safe areas he designed for himself and his friends—he punches in a code using his old nickname for LORI: “LADYBUG”.

They step into a wooded paradise…deer play in a tropical waterfall with raptors. FLYNN finds his stash of health power ups and crams three of them in his shirt. TRON asks for one just in case he needs it. FLYNN says, “No offense, TRON, but you’re digital and I’m real.”
TRON is crushed and asks how it feels to be human. FLYNN says that it HURTS and then you hurt others. Flynn admits that he lived around a good thing long enough, and took it for granted… He looks over to TRON and he’s sound asleep.

FLYNN is surprised to see LORI’s character perched on a green rock. She knew where to find him! Flynn tells Lori’s that DILLINGER is actually the Master Control Program.

Alan is in the background working on his laptop trying to hack his patch into the game with no luck. He puts his head in his heads…he’s been up for 48 hours straight.

Lori’s in game character sits next to Flynn under multi-moon light. Flynn apologizes about their past. He might not make it out and if he doesn’t he wants Lori to move on…with Alan. She quips that she’s moving on with Alan regardless! Flynn falls asleep in the game and Lori watches over him.

FLYNN is awakened by TRON…PVPers are breaking in and looking through bushes for FLYNN! A dragon-creature leaps out of the woods and GRABS Flynn and TRON! It drags them outside and they stand before 10,000 in-game PVPers who cheer in victory…
Flynn gives up. LORI’s informs him that the PVPers are only responding to ALAN’s patch! Now every player who helps FLYNN and TRON journey to SARK’s DOME get an automatic five-level advance! FLYNN tells LORI to thank ALAN and that he forgives that bookworm for stealing his wife.

The PVPers give FLYNN and TRON light batons as all 10,000 players mount their own light-cycles. They see an evil in-game army lining up to protect the entrance to the DOME as they also get on their black and purple evil lightcycles. All draw weapons and pop-wheelies toward their approaching enemies!

As the greatest full-contact lightcycle sequence unfolds, TRONN and FLYNN work their way to SARK’s DOME.

He’s pissed about LORI and ALAN’s attacks from FLYNN’S CONDO. He notices that the in-game transport deck is covered in MANTULAS (man/tarantulas, duh) and points the LIFE SCANNER beam across the lobby and out the window toward FLYNN’S CONDO. Three huge MANTULAS are sucked out of the game…

LORI and ALAN hear something moving in the back room. Another scratching noise at the window!

Once inside the black dome FLYNN, TRON, LORI and a few other ‘red-shirt’ players zip up a spiraling path then enter the tower on foot. The tower interior is made up of the personal information of every iPlanet player!

Flynn enters a room that has his entire life scanned on file…magazine clippings, television appearances, taxes, childhood memories, social security number…this Master Control Program plans to take over everyone’s identity by means of the iPLANET game! LORI suddenly screams–she is attacked in the real world.

A MANTULA breaks through a window and bashes Lori’s computer to bits with all eight legs. Her in-game character fizzles and disappears.

DILLINGER can’t let Flynn make it out of the game so he ZAPS himself with the LIFE SCANNER beam…

Flynn arrives at the tele- deck and is met by his old partner who says, “Dillinger is now combined with the MCP and the MCP with Dillinger, we are SARK!” Spider enemies, robots and tanks keep Flynn from reaching the teleport deck. The monsters beat the crap out of Flynn and Tron.

ALAN pulls a fire extinguisher from the wall and sprays a MANTULA in the face so they can escape the condo. The MANTULAS follow them out. ALAN and LORI jump into their car and speed away but the Mantulas LEARN by observing…they jump in cars and start them up too! Then crash…Mantulas can’t drive a stick.

SARK challenges FLYNN to another battle…this time there will be no cheating. Choose any weapon; curved track-ball, Frisbee disk, chain-saw. The Frisbee-disc is his weapon of choice. While SARK is distracted FLYNN Sunday-punches him in the jaw!
Flynn wants Tron to digitize first. It’s his chance to be a human on Earth!
Tron agrees…but SHOVES FLYNN onto deck! FLYNN curses as he pixelates, “That’s CHEATING!” SARK blasts TRON with a rocket.

Now that FLYNN is transported out of the game thousands of PVPers cheer as their characters gain levels for their accomplishment ( BEN AFFLECK cheers at his monitor while his wife breastfeeds the baby in background before putting her head in her hands in shame).

Flynn wakes up on the deck from where he left. LORI and ALAN welcome him back. He admits he loves Lori. Lori says, “Too bad. I’m still sticking with Alan.”
Flynn says, “Don’t flatter yourself, woman. I didn’t say I wanted you back, I said ‘I love you.’” Flynn consoles ALAN since TRON didn’t make it.
The Japanese investors appear on the video-conference.

SARK stands over dead TRON. SARK swallows ALL of his power-ups: armor grows from his body, red sparks shoot from his fingernails and he is ZAPPED out of the game by the beam. TRON’s eye twitches.

FLYNN tells the Japanese investors that DILLINGER is under the control of an evil computer named MCP. FLYNN wants the board to reinstate him as a partner. SARK rezzes into the room!
The life-scanner beam begins forming thousands of Mantulas around the room. They pour out of the building and on the L.A. streets below.

FLYNN jumps off a desk, produces a light baton and ignites his lightcycle landing on the seat and peeling out through the office at the same time! SARK follows on his RED, heavily armed light-cycle (with a demonic head mounted to the front).

The Life-Scanner beam fires up again and TRON is formed in the office! HE survived! (He looks like an anime character but lit by real world office lights). TRON sees that thousands of Mantulas are forming all around them…he pulls the disc off his back and flings it at the LIFE SCANNER beam destroying it in a ball of light. Hoards of unformed Mantulas vanish!

Flynn and SARK blaze through L.A. traffic driving up the sides of buildings leaving light trails that cause massive car pile ups! TRON sees the fight take place in the distance, but his lightcycle baton is broken. He sees a biker bar and sets his eyes on a parked Harley Davidson. TRON rides the bike chasing FLYNN and SARK!

SARK eats a growing power up and grows to the same height as the 50-story ENCOM building! SARK sees LORI inside the building and reaches in for her. FLYNN and TRON ride through parking structure across the street. FLYNN fires up the light-trail just as the bike takes off from the roof of the structure, leaving a light trail behind him. TRON rides over the light trail on his Harley!

FLYNN bounces off SARK’s giant shoulder crashing into the office. SARK is about to grab FLYNN when TRON slams his Harley into the back of SARK’s head! This distraction gives FLYNN the opportunity to fish a little rendered oval out of his pocket…the DRAIN ESSENCE power-up was also made real in our world by the beam! FLYNN throws the power-up down SARK’s throat!
Now a normal sized SARK hangs from the ENCOM building in his underwear.

Flynn and TRON drag SARK before the Japanese investors and say that he’s a thief and a murderer. He also wants to use ENCOM to take over the world. The board has considered these things and actually prefer SARK’s plan for ENCOM’s world domination. For inhibiting SARK’s aggressive business model FLYNN is fired. Our heroes are escorted out of the building by security.

Flynn, Lori, Alan and TRON start their new company. Flynn wears a suit and sneakers, he is the new front man of the company. ALAN is the new lead programmer. They are working on virtual life applications to help TRON become human. All of the ENCOM employees quit and the fans of iPlanet quit the game out of loyalty to Flynn. ENCOM is on the brink of bankruptcy. TRON has his own office where he works while proudly wearing a casual suit and eating a cheeseburger…almost human!


The structure of TRON focuses on TRON’s Pinnocchio journey from machine to man. Oddly, the first chapter “INTO THE MACHINE” appears to be FLYNN’s journey. But FLYNN becoming a functioning adult is the A plot of this first chapter but the B plot of the trilogy.

Flynn thinks being a genius is enough. He goes into a game to learn that he not only needs the friends he discounted, but also every player who ever used his game when they save him in the end. TRON is a digital self aware being who wants to be human. MCP, like TRON is dabbling in being ‘real’. He sets his goal a little higher than TRON…he doesn’t want to be a real human on Earth…he wants to be Earth’s GOD.

TRON learns it’s hard to be a human. He feels extreme pain in battle, people treat him as a mutant. He is a super-hero on Earth saving people’s lives and riding his motorbike. TRON has to shop for groceries, survive the flu and pay freakin’ taxes. MCP uses the global markets to purchase and launch a satellite. He’s built a network of LIFE-SCANNER beams that allow him to digitize the Earth from space.

MCP appears as a human and wants LORI to be his mate. Oh, and he’s going to wipe out the rest of mankind, starting a new Garden of Eden. Alan can destroy MCP if he sacrifices his son, TRON. TRON’s code won’t let him harm himself since this is the ultimate illogic of survival. TRON’s will overcomes his data and he dies for human race. He wakes in heaven a REAL human and God (a bright light) declares him so.


10 Responses to “My Pitch for TRON”

  1. Hugh Says:

    Uh, wow! Better than A.I. You definitely know what you’re doing! Or, at least, it reads like you do.

  2. Mike Wazowski Says:

    Ha! Can’t drive stick, good stuff!

  3. Mistchiff Says:

    is good is good!

  4. Isaac Says:

    Wow. I can’t believe I read all that. Good stuff.

  5. Doug.

    you are truly an inspiration. I am from Turlock, CA as well and i have greatly admired your work for years!! i remember when James let me borrwo his copy of The Neverhood and i got it stuck on my finger and we had to break it off.

    i just want to tell you that you have really made reality for me…
    great things CAN come from small towns. I am now an aspiring musician and have been asked to play several places with my band.

    (ps, Eric julien says he remembers when you would doodle in class and not pay attention. it made me smile because i would just write music. i passed chemistry with a D.)

  6. oscar lopez Says:

    this is great!!! i’m all for your reboot version. if you can’t make it into a movie, at least try to get it out as a motion comic or graphic novel :) P.S. iron west, excellent! also thanks for the autograph at comic-con.

  7. Palmeri Says:

    That was pretty groovy!

  8. This is some really information, I just finished my paper for school and think i may need to bookmark or save this for the second class lol. You may have just made me a regular :)

  9. […] was a fantastic, but much darker storyline from the original — different from the “Into The Machine” pitch made to Disney by another party. It involved updating the ENCOM universe to a networked […]

  10. Rick Says:


    I am sick and tired of reboots. They are nothing but an excuse to re-tread old material and avoid having to come up with an original idea. Everything now is a fricking reboot. I won’t be surprised when they reboot the Godfather or Citizen Kane. Why not, when they just did True Grit? Star Trek, James Bond, now Spiderman…


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