If you are a designer or aficionado with a pulse you will undoubtedly be looking forward (with great anticipation) to the release on December 17th of Tron Legacy. The original 1982 Tron movie, a cult movie in its own right, was a flight on fantasy into the inner workings and conflicts within mega computers. With the onset of the internet and computer technology this fantasy has grown exponentially as has computer animated technologies. But we are not film critics here at GCD, we are into it for the design and most notable of the design of the transportation units in the movie.
The famous futurist designer Syd Mead was the architect of the transportation design in the original movie and in the sequel Disney recruited the talent of Daniel Simon, a worthy successor to Mead. There are plenty of blogs out there about the design process as there are CGI images but what we found was something special! We heard on the grapevine that actually someone was even crazier than Simon and Disney in their realisation of this unknown world. Someone had decided to make the Light Cycle a reality, and sell them.
Meet the Parker brothers, Marc and Shannon. About a year ago they decided to close down their construction company and build a new company, Parker Brothers Choppers based on their love for designing and building choppers. When they saw that Disney was releasing the sequel to Tron they immediately set their sights on building the real thing. As the design was all in CGI and Disney said it could not be built there were no design infringements and the brothers went for it building 5 bikes and selling them on eBay. One went to a Saudi Prince, one to a promotions company in the UK, and the remaining 3 to New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle to private buyers. Each bike took 20,000 man-hours to build, as every single piece was purpose built in-house.
Although all the bikes were petrol V-Twin engines the brothers are intent on building an electric version for themselves. When we spoke to Marc he said, “Electric motorcycles are needed and will be a global trend. In our upcoming TV series, Dream Machines Inc, we want to do something different, we would like to push designs using alternative energies.” In the production process of the 5 bikes they sold they found that there are many new technologies that would lend themselves perfectly to electric bikes such as the Light Tape they used to create the signature illuminated stripes on the Light Cycle. The tape is charged electrically, weighs practically nothing, is super bright, easy to apply, and comes in the different colours featured in the film.
Of course reality always has its limitation and that slick millimeter precision that can be achieved on CGI is a different story when trying to bend real life materials to your will. So the actual bikes that the brothers built are, in design terms, a bit raw. The refinement and sweeping curves that movie designer Simon brings to life through CGI are lost in translation. In trying to mimic the open wheel design the lightness is lost in trying to create a hubless wheel as the width exceeds the original design proportion due to technical issues. The foot pedal is heavy as is the body where the motor is covered by body panels. Finishing is also missing a certain precision most notably around the wheel area where the light tape has been used. But does this matter?
In a prefect world perhaps, but the reality, ironically, is that they made something no-one else dared to and we are confident that when they build the electric version these issues may be solved as lighter materials can be used. With Shannon as chief designer, Marc as the engineer, and shop staff 10 and growing Parker Brothers Choppers is glad to be growing and making dreams come true. Disney has already called them up to attend the opening with their creation…we will be watching!
Enjoy the images courtesy of Michael Lichter Photo.