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Steven Lisberger
Birthname Steven M. Lisberger
Gender Male
Date of birth April 24, 1951
Place of birth New York City, New York, USA
Character(s) Shaddix

Steven Lisberger (born April 24, 1951 in New York City, New York) is the creator, co-writer and director of TRON. He also worked on the film's unique special effects, especially the trademark "glowing circuitry" of TRON. He was later involved with the sequel, TRON: Legacy, and appeared in the End of Line Club.


Beginnings in Animation[]

Lisberger attended the Hill School of Pottstown, Pennsylvania for five years and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Steven Lisberger's beginnings in animation started in 1973, with a short film that he directed and animated with fellow animator, Eric Ladd, called Cosmic Cartoon. The cartoon itself is very psychedelic and features many different animation techniques.

Steven Lisberger by Gage Skidmore.jpg

A couple of years later, Lisberger founded the animation studio Lisberger Studios in Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, very few animators lived on the East Coast of the United States and work was hard to find, thus the animation studio had very few employees. Lisberger and his business partner Donald Kushner decided to move Lisberger Studios to the West Coast in 1977 in order to get more work and employees. It was during this time that Lisberger saw video games for the first time. He was immediately fascinated by them and wanted to do a film incorporating them. According to Lisberger, "I realized that there were these techniques that would be very suitable for bringing video games and computer visuals to the screen. And that was the moment that the whole concept flashed across my mind." He was frustrated by the clique-ish nature of computers and video games and wanted to create a film that would open this world up to everyone. The Lisberger Studios' logo featured a character created completely out of light, by using backlit animation. Lisberger named the character "Tron" after the word "electronic".

Coincidentally, "TRON" is a debugging command in the BASIC command language. It is an abbreviation of TRace ON. It is used primarily for debugging, line-numbered BASIC GOTO and GOSUB statements. In text-mode environments such as the TRS-80, or MS-DOS/PC-DOS, it would print the current line number which was being executed on-screen. In a windowed environment, when the TRON command had been executed, a window would indicate the line number being executed at that instant. This command's opposite is TROFF, or TRace OFF, used to turn off command tracing.

After doing several commercials and animations segments for children's shows like Sesame Street, NBC commissioned Lisberger Studios to make an animated made-for-TV movie to be shown along with the network's 1980 winter and summer Olympics coverage. That movie would be, Animalympics. However, only the part of the movie made it to the small screen, as the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan caused President Jimmy Carter to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics. As America stayed away, NBC canceled its Olympic coverage, and Lisberger's hour-long companion special along with it. After this, Lisberger decided to put all of the focus onto making TRON. (Animalympics would eventually be released on cable television by Lorimar-Telepictures and later by Warner Brothers.)

Making TRON[]

Originally, TRON was conceived to be predominantly an animated film with live-action sequences acting as book ends. The rest would involve a combination of computer generated visuals and back-lit animation. Lisberger planned to finance the movie independently by approaching several computer companies but had little success. However, one company, Information International, Inc., was receptive. He met with Richard Taylor, a representative, and they began talking about using live-action photography with back-lit animation in such a way that it could be integrated with computer graphics. At this point, Lisberger already had a script written and the film entirely storyboarded with some computer animation tests completed. He had spent approximately $300,000 developing TRON and had also secured $4–5 million in private backing before reaching a standstill. Lisberger and Kushner decided to take the idea to Disney, which was interested in producing more daring productions at the time. However, Disney executives were uncertain about giving $10–12 million to a first-time producer and director using techniques that, in most cases, had never been attempted.

The studio agreed to finance a test reel which involved a flying disc champion throwing a rough prototype of the discs used in the film. It was a chance to mix live-action footage with back-lit animation and computer generated visuals. It impressed the executives at Disney and they agreed to back the film. The script was subsequently re-written and re-storyboarded with the studio's input.

After TRON[]

Hot Pursuit[]

When TRON was released in 1982, the movie didn't do as well at the box office as Disney had hoped. Lisberger left Disney and worked at Paramount Studios for a period of time before writing and directing a comedy in 1987 called "Hot Pursuit", starring John Cusack, Robert Loggia, Jerry Stiller, Ben Stiller and Keith David.


In 1989, Lisberger directed Slipstream, a post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure film starring Bob Peck, Mark Hamill, Kitty Aldridge, Bill Paxton, Robbie Coltrane, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham. The film was produced by Gary Kurtz, who produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The film marked the first time in 9 years since Kurtz worked with Mark Hamill; the last time was on the set of Empire Strikes Back.

During filming, Gary Kurtz was having major financial difficulties. He was in the middle of a divorce case which he lost and lost all of his profits from the Star Wars films in which were used to finance this film in part. As a result, the film lacked funding for a cinema release and distribution in the United States and had a very limited cinema release in the United Kingdom. It flopped and was released into the public domain due to Kurtz's financial problems.

Return to TRON[]

After making these movies, Lisberger began to devote his time and effort to pitch a TRON sequel to Disney. Executives constantly turned him down for over 20 years, until Joseph Kosinski and Sean Bailey created a visual test film in 2008. After the internet buzz and glowing response from fans at Comic-Con and around the world, the film was greenlit.

"It went through six administrations at Disney over the years, and I interacted with all of them to a certain degree. And sometimes they seemed to be really interested in pursuing this and sometimes they didn't. At one point, I went into the studio and I got notes back from an intern. Frankly, I didn't get this movie made. It was Sean Bailey and Joe Kosinski through their efforts who got this movie greenlit. And after those 25 years, I really felt like I had run the ultimate marathon."
―Steven Lisberger[src]

Lisberger was attached to TRON: Legacy in an advisory capacity; Kosinski referred as the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" of the TRON universe, with "big, broad ideas about what TRON means."[1]

Lisberger described himself as humbled and overjoyed that a new generation had made the TRON universe their own, approving of its evolving details, that his movie had inspired technically-oriented people to build computer careers, and that it had inspired Daft Punk, who were now creating TRON: Legacy's soundtrack.[2]

Personal life[]

Lisberger is married to Peggy Flook Lisberger, an attorney and Vice President of Business Affairs at MarVista Entertainment. They have a son named Carl.


  • Animalympics (1980)
  • TRON (1982)
  • Hot Pursuit (1987)
  • Slipstream (1989)
  • TRON 2.0 (2003) (Special Thanks)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II (2006) (Special Thanks)
  • Soul Code (2009)
  • TRON: Legacy (2010) (Writer/Executive Producer)