Released in 1982, sci-fi cult classic Tron was nominated for a variety of awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Sound. What’s fascinating about the nominations for Tron, a heavily CGI-enhanced movie that included audience-wowing special effects, was that the Academy refused to support a nomination for Best Special Effects because the effects were computer generated.
Director Steven Lisberger, in an interview with the San Francisco Gate, explained:
“We used computer-generated imagery as an actual environment, which hadn’t been done at that point. We did all those effects in about seven months, which included inventing the techniques. The Academy thought we cheated by using computers.”
In later years, CGI-based special effects would become a mainstay and completely accepted by the Academy.
As an interesting side note, in 1997, 15 years after the movie’s release, the Academy honored Ken Perlin with an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for his invention of Perlin Noise, a computer visual effect he created for Tron. Perlin Noise is a type of computer-generated fractal gradient noise used to make computer-generated visual elements such as object surfaces, fire, smoke, or clouds appear more natural, and is still in use today.
Image courtesy of Walt Disney Productions.