A collectors guide to vintage 1982 Tomy Tron toys and spin-off Disney Tron merchandise
Tron, a science fiction action-adventure film was released on July 9, 1982, in the United States. It was one of the first feature films to use extensive use of computer animation and was produced by Walt Disney Productions
Tomy of Japan were granted license to produce the official toys of the film. In this post I examine in detail these toys, such as the iconic light cycle below.
I take a detailed look at the Toy City Laser cycles, a fascinating bootleg version of the light cycles.
The 20th Anniversary Disney Tron toys produced by NECA are also discussed.
Several of the other Tron themed toys and games are highlighted at the end of the post.
Tomy Tron toys are particularly sought after in Japan, since Tomy was a Japanese company, but they were not available for sale there. Tron related merchandise is enthusiastically collected all over the world.
1982 Disney Tron film promo adverts
Below are three original promo trailers for the film. They are all worth watching.
The first one below is quite a full trailer showing some key scenes from the movie with a long sequence of the light cycle grid.
This next one is slightly shorter, with a nice intro involving a keyboard. Some of the scenes overlap those of the longer trailer, but has some nice differences. I am sure there are some scenes in this trailer that didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie!
This third trailer is later and quite short, and is based on early reviews of the movie.
Tron media franchise
In 2010, a long awaited sequel was made by Disney, Tron: legacy. Directed by first-time director John Kosinski. Jeff Bridges returned as Kevin Flynn, and also in a digitised de-aged form as the films antagonist.
This teaser trailer from Tron: Legacy below has a very cool light cycle scene that was cut from the movie!
A third film, originally entitled Tron: Ascension was being worked on in 2015, with Joseph Kosinski returning as director. In May 2015, the film was abruptly cancelled, despite pre-production being almost completed.
On February 28, 2017, during a Q&A session with Joseph Kosinski, he revealed that Tron 3 isn’t totally dead, instead saying it was in “cryogenic freeze”.
An American animated science fiction television series aired on the Disney XD channel, set between the movies Tron and Tron: Legacy. A total of 19 episodes (a prelude and 18 for the first season) were produced and aired in the United States from May 18th 2012 to January 28th 2013. After the last episode of the first season aired, no more episodes of Tron: Uprising have been produced, but Disney has not confirmed the cancellation of the series.
Tron: Legacy Soundtrack
On a personal note, the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy, by Daft Punk, I consider to be one of the best soundtracks made for any film. It really is the work of genius. If you listen to it, you will recognise some of the tracks that have been used in adverts and TV programs. Probably the best known is it’s use in a series of BMW 5 adverts.
For the fascinating story of how Daft Punk signed up for the soundtrack read here
Daft Punk worked exclusively on the score for 19 months solid, without taking on any other work during this period.
Tomy becomes licensee
Disney believed the film would be such a success that it enlisted the Tomy toy company of Japan to create a line of figures and light cycles in 1981. The toys were released in the USA in 1982 in time for the film.
Disney was in contact with several companies looking for bids to carry the line but TOMY was anxious to test the action figure market to try and capture some of the success of Kenner’s Star Wars line.
Both the film and the toy line wasn’t as successful as Disney & Tomy had hoped for, and only the initial release of four figures and two light cycles (red and yellow) they could ride in were produced. The toys were only ever released in the USA.
Tantalisingly, a c1982 prototype Tank, about 12″ long and space to fit figures, has been seen in 1996 but probably did not get far in production. Other toy prototypes may yet surface. I am sure the original intention of Tomy was to extend the range of toys.
The range of figures as displayed on back of carded figures
Below is a card back of a figure showing the toys in the range (the red light cycle is not displayed)
The figures are on the same basic scale of Kenner’s Star Wars figures but slightly taller, nearer to 4 inches. The figures are cleverly designed using colored transparent/translucent plastic which is highlighted with glow in the dark ‘light piping’ lines to depict the CGI costumes from the movie.
The translucent plastic also allows light to pass through the figure, changing the figures appearance in different lighting and environments. The translucent effect was more than a gimmick, it really is an ingenious way of representing the movie figures in a CGI world.
The four action figures are Tron, Sark, a generic (guard) Warrior and Flynn in the computer world. Each of the figures has a glow in the dark disc that can be mounted on their back apart from the Warrior who has a glow in the dark staff.
All four figures are of solid construction, with Tron, Sark and Flynn having 5 points of articulation: neck, shoulders and hips. The glow in the dark disc included with these three figures has a peg handle on one side which fits in a hole in the figure’s back. The disc can also be held in the hand. The disc is stamped “Japan” on the back.
The Warrior figure has four points of articulation: shoulders and hips. The staff is also glow in the dark and has “Japan” stamped on it.
Each figure is stamped “Tomy Japan” on the right leg and “(c) 1981 Walt Disney Prod.” on the left leg.
Figures as they appear in Tomy 1982 trade catalog
Below is a page from the Tomy Corporation Catalog 1982, which was a trade catalog, advertising the Tron figures. It is interesting to see the figures displayed are actually prototypes with strange painted faces, slightly different coloured plastic bodies and what looks like yellow discs held by Sark and Flynn.
They are stated as standing 3 3/4 inches tall, which was not correct as they stood approximately 4 inches tall or taller. The 3 3/4 inch scale figure had become a standard size since Kenner’s Star Wars figure line success.
It’s interesting to note that the figures displayed on the back of the production cards are also prototypes and have similarities to those in the catalog.
Front and back packaging of carded figures
The figures themselves are packaged on blister cards. All of the cards have the same assortment number ‘2205’ and barcode number ‘079844 02505’. The front of the cards are generic apart from the individual figures name is printed in black just to the left of the figure at the bottom of the card.
The back of the cards are identical for all four figures. The figures available are displayed along with the yellow light cycle. The figures are similar to those displayed in the Tomy 1982 Trade catalog with painted faces, different colours and body sculpt differences.
Light cycles as they appear in the Tomy 1982 trade catalog
Below is another page from the Tomy Corporation Trade Catalog 1982 advertising the light cycles.
These are prototype models. The light cycles have white bodies, which in the production models are grey. Most notably, the pull or rip cord is black with a white ‘TOMY’ label or printing on the handle.
In the production model the rip cord is a cream colour and appears to be better quality, with a larger handle and thicker stem. The production rip cord is 7″ long. One side of the handle has the letters ‘TRON’ moulded into the plastic, the other side ‘TOMY’.
Differences in production and prototype images on light cycle retail packaging
Below you can see the production model differences more easily.
The back of the light cycle boxes display what appears to be the production model, with the correct grey body. The rip cord, however, is clearly the black prototype.
The header flap of the light cycle box appears to display the prototype light cycle with a white body!
Both the red and yellow light cycle retail box were identical, with the yellow light cycle toy only displayed on the packaging.
Detailed pictures of the toys
Below is detailed pictures of the Tomy Tron unopened toys from my personal collection. The only toy not shown is the red light cycle which I could never track down. It is supposedly rarer than the yellow light cycle. Or it could be a orange depending on your view!
Tron carded figure
Tron and Flynn have an identical sculpt except for the chest. Tron is purple plastic, Flynn in blue to differentiate them. Also the pattern of painted highlights differs on each.
His accessory is a glow in the dark data disc which can be held in the hand, or fastened to his back.
Flynn carded figure
Tron and Flynn has an identical sculpt except for the chest. Tron is in purple plastic, Flynn in blue to differentiate them. Also the pattern of painted highlights differs on each.
Unlike Tron, Flynn has some kind of sash which is dressed diagonally across his body, covering some of his glowing light details. The sash is moulded with a cloth-like pattern which gives Flynn a unique appearance.
His accessory is a glow in the dark data disc which can be held in the hand, or fastened to his back.
Sark carded figure
Sark is made in translucent red plastic, as is the Warrior figure.
His accessory is a glow in the dark data disc which can be held in the hand, or fastened to his back.
Warrior carded figure
The Warrior figure is a generic guard from the film. A henchman of Sark who tries to defeat Tron and Flynn on the grid.
Like Sark, the Warrior is in a red translucent plastic. The colour is a darker red than Sark. The highlights are a glow in the dark orange.
Unlike the other three figures, his accessory is a glow in the dark staff.
Yellow Light Cycle
The light cycle is a pretty cool toy. The original designer of the light cycles for the film was Syd Mead who also designed for Blade Runner and Aliens. It was a popular want on boys Christmas list in 1982 (in the USA), but apparently was hard to find in the toy stores.
The light cycles were produced in yellow and red. The blue light cycle from the film was not produced for some reason, although there is speculation prototypes or mock ups exist. Only the yellow vehicle is displayed on the back of the carded figures.
The light cycle is scaled to fit the action figures with a lift-up cockpit. The toy looks pretty close to the original vehicle in the film. The only difference is in the cockpit where in the movie, the drivers ride lying on their stomach with legs straddled, but the toy requires the figures to be in a sitting position. All four of the figures can be fitted into the vehicle.
In 2002 NECA reissued the red and yellow cycles, along with a previously unreleased Blue Light Cycle.
Inserting the supplied long rip cord with groove teeth into a hole near the rear wheel and giving a hard pull spins the wheel. When you set the vehicle down, it propels at a decent speed across the floor. The heavy weight of the wheel enables the light cycle to act like a gyroscope, wobbling from side to side without falling over.
The toy is made of hard plastic and surprisingly robust. It needed to be as it was smashed into a wall during play continuously! For this reason, it’s hard to find a loose vehicle in good condition, but it was so well made that they rarely broke. It is much more likely for the rip cord to have disintegrated long before the vehicle.
Being a two wheeled vehicle, it cannot stand up on it’s own accord, so the rip cord (also called a pull or zip cord) action gives the toy it’s unique playability.
Other Tron themed toys and games released
Tron spawned a highly successful coin-operated arcade video game manufactured and distributed by Bally Midway in 1982. The game consists of four sub-games inspired from the film.
This was followed by a 1983 sequel Discs of Tron which was not as successful as the original.
A number of other licensed Tron games were released for home systems. These were based on elements of the movie and not the arcade game. Most notable was Tomy’s 1982 hand held game under the ‘Tomytronic’.
This game was also released in the UK by Grandstand.
Bootleg Toy City Laser Cycles
These are wroth a special mention as they are not widely known of. There does seem to be some confusion as to whether these were exclusively released in Canada, or in a variety of countries.
I have also seen the company Toy City described as Canadian, but it is my belief the company was based in Hong Kong. The toys themselves were made in Taiwan. They are likely to have been produced around 1984 or 1985.
There is also some debate as to whether they were in fact bootlegs or Toy City bought the moulds from Tomy but not the rights to the Tron name. The toys were branded ‘Laser Cycles’ as to not step on the toes of Tomy.
They came on generic cards, but were also produced in generic boxes! it is believed the toys were originally packaged in box form, and then on blister cards to save costs of production.
The cycle itself was very well made and of high quality, not always something you find with bootleg toys. The material used is the same as Tomy’s cycles, including the hard rubber wheel and diecast metal inner wheel. The only differences really are the trademarks and scale.
Since the cycles are almost identical to the Tomy light cycles, it does add weight to the argument of Toy City obtaining the original Tomy moulds legally.
The colours of the back wheels varied, such as black, blue, grey and green. This back wheel colour seemed to be added randomly to the vehicles, so for instance a green vehicle could be found with a green or red back wheel.
Six body colours were made: blue, Green, Silver, Red, Yellow and Grey. The vehicles were noticeably smaller, roughly three-quarters of the size of Tomy’s. They are 4.75″ long, whereas Tomy’s are 6.5″ long. This meant a Tomy Tron figure will not fit inside, but the vehicle was provided with a rip cord and mechanism and does move in a similar fashion.
To compensate the inability to fit a Tron figure, the Laser cycles were provided with an all plastic 2 1/2″ robot driver figure. These figures were actually knock-off Tonka Gobots. The figure was able to completely transform, just like it’s Gobot counterpart. The one I have seen is ‘Spoons’ which transforms into a forklift truck!
Whether or not these were bootlegs, considering the limited two colour range of Tomy’s light cycles, the Toy City releases open up more collectable options.
NECA 2002 20th anniversary Tron figures and light cycles
Worthy of a mention are the NECA produced Tron toys to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film.
The original four figures were were released on vintage style cards in a limited run of 1000. The figures whilst similar to the Tomy originals did differ in various subtle ways. This also applies to the accessories included.
The cards, both front and back, used the same artwork as the vintage cards.
It’s easy to tell them apart because there is no TOMY logo, the NECA logo is printed on both sides, a numbered holographic sticker is applied just above the barcode on the back, the text printed on the bottom of the card back on the vintage card is removed, and the barcode is a different number, with the addition of the name of the character printed below the barcode.
The four NECA figures were also released on modern style cards in a limited run of 10,000 under ‘Disney’s Tron’ branding. The card front has the text ’20TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR’S ADDITION’
In 2002, NECA also re-released the red and yellow light cycles, this time also including the blue light cycle, sadly missing from Tomy’s original toy range.
Each of the three Light Cycles were produced as a limited number of 5,000. A prototype of an orange Light Cycle was made, but the toy never made it to production.
The cycles are identical to the Tomy cycles. The only difference appears to be the copyright mark. The cycles are made from new moulds, not the original Tomy ones.
Like the originals, the cockpit flips up to seat one figure. The propelling mechanism was the same, with a similar rip cord supplied.
The light cycles included a black plastic figure – the yellow with Tron, the red with Sark and the blue with Flynn. Tron and Flynn are supplied with a disc weapon. The figures are of a poorer quality than the Tomy figures.
The NECA rip cord does work with the Tomy cycles and vice versa. The rip cord was branded ‘TRON’ on one side, and ‘NECA’ on the other. The light cycle carries the NECA trademark, which makes both the rip cord and toy easy to differentiate from the vintage Tomy.
Miscellaneous Tron toys
There were numerous other Tron spin-off toys and accessories produced by a wide variety of companies around the world.
Duncan glow in the dark Yo-Yo
One of of the most well known Tron spin-off toys was the Duncan glow in the dark Tron Yo-Yo ‘with video action’, produced in 1982 to commemorate the movie.
The packaging is really attractive with a strong Tron theme.
The Yo-Yo had a glow in the dark body with special lenticular side caps. One side featured the Tron movie logo, the other side featured the Tron light cycle.
Ideal Tron “Assault on MCP” board game
A board game, the 1981 Tron “Assault on MCP” GAME was produced by Ideal. Probably the coolest thing about this was the box cover art work.
Tron inflatable MAGIC ZOOM DISC
An inflatable Frisbee type device called a ‘MAGIC ZOOM DISC’ was produced in 1983. This was originally available to purchase only on the Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom on Ice Tour in 1983. The 1983 date, just one year after the film release, combined with a Disney production meant it was not such an odd tie in to the tour.
The original disc had the’ Magic Kingdom on Ice’ logo printed on the front. The version displayed below was also made without the logo. Possibly this was produced so that item could be sold more widely.
This is the back view. It looks like half a beach ball! Maybe useful in the swimming pool, at least it will float.
Canadian Nabisco Shreddies Tron mini flying discs
In 1982, to tie in with the film release, Nabisco Shreddies breakfast cereal, exclusively in Canada, offered a free Tron mini flying disc in the package.
The discs are stamped with the date 1981 on the back, along with ‘Canada’. 1982 was the date these were available however. The discs are 3 1/2″ diameter with a recessed centre.
The discs featured four characters from the film: Tronn, Flynn, Sark and Yori and were available in four colours. The same character was available in any of the four colours.
Donruss Tron Trading Cards
Donruss produced a set of Tron trading cards around the time of the film in the USA. The card packets are dated 1981, but were not available until 1982. 36 sealed packets were sold out of a counter top box. The price of each pack was 25cents.
The packets were very attractive as was the counter top retail box. The distinctive black background with the large TRON logo was striking. Each sealed packet contained 8 random cards and 1 sticker.
A bonus “Authentic Tron Sticker Tips for Winning Tron Video Game” was advertised on each packet. These were stickers which looked pretty cool, showing scenes from the game like ‘LIGHT CYCLE’ and ‘TANK MAZE’. The ‘tips’ were printed on the back of the card, but they were not tips! They just described the objectives of the game, so was a bit disappointing if you were tying to obtain that highscore on the game.
Below is the back view of the sealed packets.
The complete set consisted of 66 cards. The images were very striking, and each had a large ‘TRON’ logo. Mnay consider these cards among the best of the period.
1982 Smucker’s Strawberry Jam Tron Adventure book and poster promotion
One of the more amusing Tron promotions was that with Smucker’s Strawberry Jam!
What Strawberry Jam had to do with Tron the movie I do not know, but this makes an interesting story.
Upon the purchase of just one 32 ounce jar of Smucker’s Strawberry jam, you could obtain a free Tron Futuristic Adventure Book and Poster.
The poster was full colour 17″ x 22″. The poster was not separate, it was actually part of the book. You folded out the book and on the other side was the poster.
I will say, a 2lb (32 ounce) Jar of Jam is nearly 1kg! Not something you normally see on UK supermarket shelves.
The poster was quite impressive and showed scenes from the film.
The Adventure Book was displayed and supplied in-store at the grocers, but if it was unavailable there, you could send the label from the Jar to Smucker’s who would send the book free of charge in the mail. The offer expired on August 31st 1982.
The book unfolded measures about 8.5″ x 11″ and is full of facts about the movies, puzzles and games.
It has a lot of interesting material and pictures on the story of Tron and the making of the film.
Below are pictures of the contents of the book.
Tron Woodlets Inc. Air Freshener
Another strange Tron item was the Air Freshener produced by Woodlets Inc. of the USA in 1982. It had a bold Tron theme and a cool light cycle grid theme on the back.
In 1981, Woodlets Inc. produced a Ms. Pac-Man Air Freshener. After their great success with this 🤣 presumably they were looking for their next success story in Tron.
Tron Beach Towel promotion by Tone and Dial Soap
Maybe this is not as odd as an Air Freshener. The company behind non-telephone related Dial and Tone Soap (Henkel Corporation) offered this mail-away promotion in 1982.
By sending in two proofs of purchase from either Dial or Tone soap, along with $7.95, you would receive a discounted Tron Beach Towel. The towel was a large 32″ x 60″ with a full colour Tron themed design. The image is very striking and makes it a very cool item in my opinion!
I will be adding further Tron related items to this post soon.