There’s no need to sugarcoat it, we here at Topless Robot are freaking the fuck out over the impending release of Tron: Legacy. In the intervening 28 years since Tron‘s release, the movie has gone from being an underperforming curiosity to a joke (see The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror VI” episode) to a mainstream phenomenon. For most of that time, it seemed that nerds had a better chance of scoring with their object of sweaty awkward desire than seeing a sequel get made. But, in the immortal words of Romeo Void, never say never. Somehow the planets aligned and a follow-up got greenlit. Then Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner returned, joined by a bunch of sexy new actors and actresses who don’t have a clue (Clu?) what fandom awaits them. As impossible as it all seems, the new movie looks terrific — thus all the aforementioned freaking the fuck out.
Better still, with Tron: Legacy comes an onslaught of merchandising. This was something that was surprisingly lacking when the first flick hit theaters. While there were the requisite action figures and books, Tron had only a minor range of tie-in products available. But were any of these trinkets worth venturing out into the miserable world for? Let’s find out. Spanning from 1982 to July of this year, this list looks at the best Tron merchandise ever released from the first film. Take a break from calculating how many hours of overtime you’ll have to work to be able to afford all the new crap coming out and check it out.
10) Promotional Coke Pitcher
Movie promotional products aren’t what they used to be. Back in the ’80s seemingly every would-be blockbuster had tie-in glasses or plastic cups emblazoned with images from their flicks. These kinds of souvenirs are always fun, but this Coca-Cola promotional pitcher ups the ante by showcasing the sexual prowess of a unitard-clad Bruce Boxleitner. From the “come hither” stare in his eyes to the seductive pose, this pitcher makes it pretty clear that Tron would much rather be fucking than dealing with all that MCP nonsense.
9) Air Freshener
I can’t be certain, but I suspect that the genesis of this product occurred when an air freshener manufacturers convention shared hotel space with a comic con. Or, maybe the company that produced this misguidedly believed that fresh-smelling homes and cars were high on the priority lists of sci-fi fans. Whatever the true reasoning is behind this madness, its existence did answer the question of what Tron smells like: pine trees with a hint of WD-40.
Diamonds, schimonds. There’s no better way to show your love to that special person in your life than by giving them a necklace with Tron on it (Benadryl for the inevitable skin breakout not included).
Adidas’ trademark Stan Smith sneakers got a Tron-themed makeover in 2006. These are pricey — upwards of $100 — not that cost matters to folks who are obsessed with both the film and limited-edition footwear. Adidas also issued a nifty Tron windbreaker to accompany these kicks, and will be rolling out a ton of new merchandise in conjunction with Tron: Legacy. Besides, if you are going to be playing jai alai in some demented 8-bit computer world, you should at least have comfy shoes on.
6) Pop-Up Book
Arguably the greatest pop-up book based on a movie (though the Empire Strikes Back one gives it a run for its money), this marvel in papercraft engineering let readers pit Flynn against Crom, destroy the Master Control Program, crash light cycles and make sweet sweet love to Yori. Okay, the last part is a filthy lie. That doesn’t make this any less cool though. Fortunately, these were so mass produced that finding one that hasn’t been destroyed by little hands isn’t a Herculean task.
Dubbed “My Other Ride Is a Light Cycle.” these Threadless hoodies by Rolf Nelson are the ultimate in nerd fashion (can such a thing truly exist?). The design comes in both Tron and Sark flavors and is printed with a nifty glow-in-the-dark ink. Not that anyone will ever see you with the lights out if you actually wear these, but still. If staying cool while not looking cool is more your thing, both designs are available as T-shirts as well.
4) Newspaper Strip
In 1982, Disney ran a 13-week adaptation of Tron in their Treasury of Classic Tales Sunday comics strip. This has never been reprinted elsewhere, so chances are you overlooked it unless you had one of those cool aunts or grandmoms who would cut out this sort of stuff from the paper for you. Fortunately, the kindly folks over at Tron Sector (whose amazing database supplied many of the images for this article) have scanned the entirety of the strip and placed it online for posterity. It’s a fun read that jumps right into the action. Speaking of action, check out these select panels. Hubba:
Man, the Christmas party at Encom must be amazing.
3) 2010 San Diego Comic Con Vintage Tron Exclusive
This beauty topped TR‘s 20 Greatest Exclusives at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con list, and if you don’t understand why then I weep bitter stinging tears for you. Spin Master toys have crafted a joy-inducing Tron collectible that pays tribute to the original film and bodes well for their upcoming Tron: Legacy line. The only downside is that it’s more of a statue than anything else, not that my bookshelves would care if I ever were to come into possession of one. Besides, if I were looking for articulation I’d go with….
2) Medicom Figures
Not to be confused with Medicom’s adorable Tron Kubrick sets, these are the company’s roughly 3 ?-sized action figures that put Tomy’s original translucent toy offerings to shame. (Although those do possess their own cheesy charms). The above video features an in-depth demonstration of the figures (sans Flynn) in action that will have you scrambling to eBay to score some. Like their rival Hot Toys, Medicom is known for an insane attention to detail — and products that are unreasonably expensive on these shores. So unless you are trust funded or wildly irresponsible with money, you’ll likely never get the full assortment. But hey, disappointment is nothing new to us nerds.
1) Discs of Tron
During its original release, Tron was only a modest success at the box office. At the arcade was another story. Legend has it that the first Tron game brought in more money than the film did during its entire theatrical run — spawning several home versions of varying quality and this sequel. Retrogaming enthusiasts continue to squabble over which of the two arcade releases are better, and they do each possess their own pros and cons (don’t make me detail them here or I might start to whimper). Really though, there’s no debate. The better graphics and visceral joy of de-rezzing Sark give Discs of Tron a clear advantage. Tron‘s arcade spin-offs are probably the most organic example of movie merchandising ever. This particular game beautifully recreates the disc battles, allowing players to experience the pure excitement of the film whenever they want. After playing it for awhile, you’ll want to see the movie again. And isn’t that the whole point of this kind of merchandising in the first place? End of line.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.