Tonight, Encom's Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) came to San Francisco to give us some hints for Tron Legacy. It was the most elaborate viral marketing event in forever: Boxleitner charmed us, protestors rioted, and someone parachuted from a helicopter!
The Encom press conference was an impressive affair even before anything had happened: Disney had built a huge stage in the middle of San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza, with tons of floodlights — constantly changing color — bathing the huge stage in a warm glow. There was an enormous screen showing the Encom logo, laser animations showing shapes from the Space Paranoids game, and lights turning the surrounding buildings and sculptures different colors. It really did feel like an other-worldly setting.
The "protestors" from the Kevin Flynn Lives group (another viral marketing thing, of course) had been handing out fake Encom security badges to help Wondercon attendees "infiltrate" the Encom event. They had a strategy meeting for two hours before the event, helping people plan an elaborate scheme to disrupt the press conference, and tons of fans were recruited to help out.
Here's our video of the main press conference, including Boxleitner's appearance. (Update: video now much higher quality.)
At the press conference itself, eventually a woman got up on stage and introduced herself as an Encom press representative. She talked a bit about the history of the company and Alan Bradley - most notably, Bradley was CEO of Encom for a while in the late 1980s-early 1990s, but then stepped down. And now he's come back as a vaguely defined executive consultant, particularly working with Encom on environmental issues. (Which makes me wonder if Tron Legacy will have the obligatory trendy subplot where Encom is destroying the environment and must be stopped.)
Eventually, the man himself took the stage - accompanied at times by his lovely wife, Lora (Cindy Morgan). Boxleitner/Bradley gave a long, ten-minute speech about how much our computer technology has progressed since he started working for Encom - apparently in the movie's universe, Encom works on pacemaker implants as well as tons of communications software. But more to the point, Encom is bringing back its classic Space Paranoids game. And they're porting it to the Internet, so you can play it in your browser. Not only that, but the game will be with you, wherever you live. You'll have "Recognizers in your bedroom," said Bradley.
But the game's engine will still be based on the code that long lost visionary Kevin Flynn created - including 15 new levels that Flynn created, which were never rolled out before. Some people at Encom wanted to do away with Flynn's original code and start over, but Alan Bradley prevented them. He also made a sentimental speech saying that Flynn is still alive in all of us. And then Bradley's speech sort of wound down, as though he was waiting for something to interrupt him and it wasn't quite happening.
Just as Bradley had totally run out of things to say, the P.R. rep came back on stage and told him there were unforeseen difficulties, hustling him and his wife off stage. Then there was a long pause, before she came back on stage and started talking, only to be interrupted by the Flynn Lives brigade, storming the stage and shouting that Kevin Flynn is still alive out there and Encom has given up on looking for him. They had cool Flynn Lives T-shirts, plus funny home-made signs, including one that blamed Flynn's disappearance on the Dharma Initiative. (So true.) And yes, one of them had a Captain America shield. An Easter egg? Or just a really zealous fan? You decide!
Then after the protesters were done shouting, a helicopter bearing the glowing Encom logo flew directly overhead. Was it taking Alan Bradley and his wife away to safety? Was there some other reason? It flew over us a few times, and then it climbed high enough to let someone parachute out. We watched the parachuting figure as he/she descended right on top of us, slowly falling to Earth.
Then the mysterious figure landed about 40 feet away and was hustled into a van before we could really get a good look. An Encom refugee? A rogue programmer? An Encom spy parachuting into our midst? It wasn't really clear. And with that, the PR person got up and announced that due to unforeseen circumstances, the event was over.
Update: According to the Flynn Lives site, this was Sam Flynn, Kevin Flynn's son. The site uploaded this video. (Thanks to everyone who pointed this out in comments!)
So what did we learn? Alan Bradley is still helping to run Encom, in some ill-defined capacity. The company is more influential than ever, in the tech sector. (I was in the press section, and I kept raising my hand so I could ask how Encom planned to respond to Apple's new Ipad. Sadly, no dice.) Also, Bradley's doing something vaguely environmental - but he's also personally overseeing the new rollout of Space Paranoids. And he seems to think Kevin Flynn is gone for good. Check out the video for yourself, and see what you think.
Photos by Jet Set Sean on Flickr.