By now I assume every nerd has seen the “VFX Concept Test” Disney is using to promote the upcoming movie Tron: Legacy. The big surprise at the end of the trailer is that mysterious program, apparently able to break the rules, is Flynn (or Clu?), as played by Jeff Bridges — but not Bridges as he appears now (included in the trailer as a point of comparison, no doubt). Instead it’s Bridges as appeared in 1982, fresh off of Heaven’s Gate.

As near as I can tell the younger Jeff Bridges is completely computer generated, which represents a leap forward in that technology. Yes, of course there have been fairly realistic CGI people for quite a while, for example, in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but those CGI people didn’t have to look or act convincingly like specific real people. They were made from scratch. There have also been “digital stunt people” for a while, but while they look like the original article they don’t have to act. They’re just bodies. The young Flynn in Tron: Legacy both looks and acts convincingly like the real Jeff Bridges, at least for the duration of the clip.

That being said, I don’t think we’re entering the age of digital actors. If this clip is anything to judge by, they’re going to be cheating a lot to sell the young Flynn. If he only appears as a face in a helmet, that certainly makes things easier from a CGI point of view. If Young Flynn looks stiff or acts a little off, it can be explained by the fact that he’s a computer program and not a real person. And of course the real Jeff Bridges is around to do the voice and act as a model for Young Flynn should be played. Still, this is an interesting first baby step.

BTW, anyone else remember back around 2001 when a Korean company claimed they had acquired the rights make a new live action Bruce Lee, featuring a CGI Lee. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed they didn’t get if off the ground, but considering all the counterfeit Bruce Lees there have been over the years, a CGI Lee made a certain perverse sense.