By 2010, the enigmatic French duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (aka Daft Punk) had created a megablast with 1995’s grimy “Da Funk,” banged out some incisive remixes for the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Gabrielle and I:Cube, put out three hit-filled studio albums, and played some blockbusting live shows. They had also flipped the electronica game completely and utterly with their discofied 1999 remix of Scott Grooves’ “Mothership Reconnection,” and with their subsequent sophomore effort, 2001’s Discovery, whose 80s disco revival set the tone for the decade ahead. They’d even infiltrated hip-hop, thanks to Kanye West’s sample of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” for his 2007 single “Stronger.” So when it was announced that the duo were set to soundtrack Tron: Legacy, Disney’s 2010 sequel to their much-loved 80s cult classic Tron, the anticipation couldn’t have been any higher.
Daft Punk and Tron: A perfect fit
Disney couldn’t have found a better group to provide the future-retro vibe they were looking for. From their iconic look, down to promo videos shot by Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, and their own 2006 sci-fi movie, Electroma, Daft Punk had an advanced sense of visuals that kept them ahead of everybody else. Fittingly, too, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo were as much trapped in their machines as Tron’s protagonists were; film critic Roger Ebert could almost have been describing the French duo when he praised the original 1982 movie for making computers “romantic and glamorous… sensational and brainy, stylish and fun.”
For their part, Daft Punk were doubtless pleased that Tron: Legacy was set to include Steven Lisberger, Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner, lynchpins from the original movie. And the thought of following in the footsteps of the original score’s composer, electronic-music pioneer Wendy Carlos, could only have increased their enthusiasm for the project.
The soundtrack itself
Despite the conceptual connections, the hour-long Tron: Legacy soundtrack was quite a departure for Daft Punk. They worked on it for two years with an orchestra, and with arranger Joseph Trapanese (who has since gone on to work on box office smashes such as Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Straight Outta Compton and The Greatest Showman). They mixed their trademark electronics with more traditional soundtrack stylings (at turns tense, epic and moody), in a concoction reminiscent of Vangelis and John Carpenter, while Bridges’ stirring dialogue was also utilized on early highlight “The Grid.” Perhaps surprisingly, they generally steered clear of actual dance music, though single “Derezzed” went some way to satisfy that audience, and “End Titles” throbbed just right for capturing the sense of release one gets at the end of a good movie.
Tron: Legacy was a hit at the box office, and a double-disc edition of the soundtrack album, with extra tracks, was followed by an all-star EDM remix collection in 2011. An accompaniment to the home video release of the movie, Tron: Legacy Reconfigured, featured M83 (who went on to work with Trapanese on the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion), The Crystal Method, Paul Oakenfold, Moby, Boys Noize, Photek, Sander Kleinenberg and the late Avicii. It took Daft Punk’s material further back towards the duo’s spiritual home, the dancefloor.
Beyond the release
The following year, the Tron: Legacy soundtrack was included in a juicy box set, with Blu-rays of both films, and a graphic novel. By 2014, it had taken on a life of its own, with parts of the soundtrack being used in everything from computer game trailers (Resident Evil: Retribution) to the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Avicii returned to the material, too, this time with Negin Djafari adding vocals to his remix of “Derezzed,” for the Disney Dconstructed remix compilation. By then, Daft Punk were firmly installed as part of the Walt Disney family.