Who says that Walt Disney Pictures can’t keep a secret?

As the “Race to Witch Mountain” panel ended yesterday at Comic-Con, 6,500 people got to their feet. As these folks made ready to head back into the San Diego Convention Center, that panel’s MC hurried back onstage. Saying “Stay in your seats please. We have something else to show you folks. Something that won’t be in theaters for another year or so.”

And then the house lights went down again. The Walt Disney Pictures appeared on the screen, then quickly faded to black. A very familiar sort of black.

And then — as muted neon-like lines of color appeared on the distant black-marble horizon — a gasp went up in Hall H. It couldn’t … It can’t be … Tron 2?!

But that’s what it was, folks. Three minutes of CG goodness. Showing two lightcycles zooming across a seemingly infinite game grid. Of course, this being 2008 rather than 1982 … The game has changed somewhat over the past 26 years. Now players can race across different levels of the same terrain, using spiral ramps up or down in an attempt to gain an advantage over their opponents.

And as for the lightcycles themselves … They were very reminiscent to the bikes seen in the original Steve Lisberger film. Only bigger and meaner-looking. Which — given the way that these two vehicles battered against one other as they raced across the course, sending showers of blue & yellow sparks flying everywhere — only seemed appropriate.

Yeah, this was definitely not your Daddy’s “Tron.” As was apparent by the appearance of first a grey, bearded version of Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Who was holed up in this austere furturistic penthouse which overlooked the game grid. This was then followed by the appearance of a much younger looking CG Flynn. Who — as the injured lightcycle rider lay crumpled at Flynn’s feet said “Hey, it’s only a game” — he powered up his energy disk and then said “Not anymore.” And as this CG Flynn moved in for the kill, the “TR2N” logo formed onscreen.

And at that point, the crowd in Hall H went absolutely nuts.

I’m told that the three minutes of footage that was shown at Comic-Con yesterday wasn’t so much a trailer for “TR2N.” But — rather — a proof of concept. This footage was actually used to convince Mouse House managers that “Tron” could effectively be updated / reimagined for today’s audiences. Who obviously demand a bit more edge to their action.

Which is why the first “Tron” ’s Flynn character is now being rethought of as a Colonel Kurtz-style villain. Someone who’s no longer grounded in reality. But — rather — has slipped off into cyberspace where he’s now wrecking havoc.

Speaking of Flynn … I’m told that — in order to keep word from leaking out that “TR2N” was actually in the works — Jeff Bridges shot all of his Mad-Old-Flynn scenes with a very small crew in a single afternoon. And that each member of this production team then had to sign confidentiality agreements in order to prevent word from leaking out in advance about the “Tron” sequel.

Which is why this footage caught everyone at Comic-Con by surprise. As the lights came up in Hall H, you could see people all over that auditorium whipping out their cellphones and frantically calling their friends. Proudly proclaiming “I just saw the ‘Tron 2′ trailer.”

FYI … If you’re at this year’s Comic-Con and missed out on seeing the “TR2N” footage yesterday, my sources at Disney suggest that you might want to attend Saturday’s “Bolt / Up!” presentation. Which could possibly feature a second appearance of Crazy-Old-Flynn.

So are you folks really ready to return to the world of Tron? Particularly since “TR2N” is reportedly being envisioned as a showcase for the Disney Digital 3D process?



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