Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges has played a lot of memorable characters over the past 50 years, but the two roles many people will always remember him best for are either a hacker or a slacker in, respectively, the cult favourite films Tron and The Big Leboswki.
Gloo Studios, a small Burnaby production house that specializes in original comedy shorts and visual effects for the popular website Collegehumor.com, has stuck the two films together for The Tron Lebowski – combining the 1982 sci-fi classic about a computer programmer (Kevin Flynn) sucked into a video game with the Coen brothers’ 1998 noir comedy about a pot-smoking, White Russian-slurping bowling enthusiast (Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski) seeking restitution for his ruined rug.
The short went viral after being posted recently, earning nearly 32,000 “likes” after being viewed nearly one million times in its first week.
“They’ve recreated a bunch of scenes from The Big Lebowski, and our job was to put it all in the Tron universe,” said Gloo president Paul Lowey. “If you’ve seen the movie, the whole problem with The Big Lebowski is that everybody thinks he is a different Lebowski; he’s the Dude, not the Big Lebowski. And in Tron, everybody is wondering ‘who’s Flynn,’ so there’s actually a lot of similarities to begin with and, of course, Jeff Bridges being the character in both. So you’ll have Flynn basically playing the Dude.”
The Tron Lebowski is only the latest of several shorts Gloo Studios have created for CollegeHumor, an American site featuring daily new comedy videos that is currently the tenth most popular channel on YouTube.
Other recent commissioned projects include Die Hardly Working, a spoof of action movie clichés performed by office workers, and the now-famous Pixar Intro Parody, which won a 2010 Webby Award for best animation and even kudos from Pixar Animation Studios’ owners, the notoriously litigious Walt Disney Company, after poking fun at Luxor Jr., their hopping desk lamp character seen at the start of all Pixar films.
Lowey said he hopes Disney’s lawyers will also have a similar sense of humour regarding The Tron Lebowski.
“You know, it’s one of those things we didn’t think about until after we’d finished it,” he said with a laugh. “Uh-oh, here we are again parodying Disney, pushing a company that is known for taking its copyrighted material quite seriously.”
While Disney may take issue with some of the irreverent material, it is unlikely they’ll have any problems with the visual effects, which are on a par with those of the 2010 big budget sequel, Tron: Legacy, also coincidentally filmed at a Burnaby film studio.
“I look at in regards to what they had to do a year a go with the real Tron: Legacy film, and I’m looking at what our team of four guys have done in one month to pull this off, and I’m thinking we could’ve handled the Disney Tron a heck of a lot quicker than the actual guys did,” said Lowey proudly.
He added that Gloo VFX crew Mike Ritchie, Paul DeSilva, Casey Vigushin and Jonny “Awesome” Ostrem had to abide with an around-the-clock work schedule to create the futuristic atmosphere – glowing gladiators, deadly flying discs, lavish light cycles and all – after receiving raw footage of actors that was shot in New York using a green screen.
“If we could’ve done it like the original, it would’ve been a heck of a lot easier, but the new one, of course, is so much more technologically advanced. There are a couple of throwbacks to the original as well, there’s a bit of a meld between the old and new.”
Lowey added that behind-the-scenes footage showing how the digital effects were created is also available on their website.