One of my favourite movies to come out of the 1980s is Tron. A daring glimpse into the future of technology, this classic Disney flick pulled back the shroud to showcase what a world run by computers could look like. While it may have come across as a little too convoluted for most moviegoers of the early ’80s, it enjoyed moderate success at the box office and would spend the next 40 years spawning an impressive multimedia franchise — everything from comic books to video games. Not too shabby for a film that was criminally passed over for a Best Visual Effects nomination at the 55th Academy Awards. Yeah, it makes no sense to me, either!
Needless to say, shortly after the film’s release, an action figure line followed. Disney gave the Tron license to TOMY, a Japanese company that was known at the time mostly for its wide selection of wind-up toys. While TOMY may not have had any experience in the field of action figures prior to this venture, the resulting products were all very well done, in addition to being some of the most eye-catching toys available on shelves at the time.
Only a single wave was produced: four individual figures that included Tron, Flynn, Sark, and a Warrior. Each stood close to 4-inches tall and featured the same basic five points of articulation common in the industry at the time. The most unique feature of these figures had to do with their appearance. TOMY chose to craft each of its Tron action figures in brightly coloured translucent plastic: Flynn was cast in blue, Tron in purple, and both Sark and the Warrior were done up in a transparent red. The transparency allowed light to freely pass through the toys, creating a neat futuristic glow reminiscent of what was seen on screen.
Complementing that crystalline construction, each of TOMY’s Tron figures featured distinctive painted-on details in an effort to further capture the look of the characters from the film. A single glow-in-the-dark accessory was also packaged alongside each of the figures. Tron, Flynn, and Sark had their iconic data discs and the Warrior brandished a staff. As an added bonus, the data discs could be plugged into a port on each of the figure’s backs.
The line also included two vehicles. These, of course, were the famous Light Cycles. Just as many consider the movie’s racing scene that features the Light Cycles to be the best part of Tron, TOMY’s renditions are the high point of this line. Both a red and yellow version of the iconic transport were released, and each featured an opening canopy capable of holding a single figure. An included zip cord allowed the vehicle to zoom off on its own — a very cool bonus feature that substantially upped the playability of this line. Needless to say, these Light Cycles have gone on to become some of the most sought-after pieces from the original line among collectors.
In the decades since its initial release (wow, that sentence makes me feel old!), TOMY’s Tron line has become both incredibly collectible and tough to find. Loose examples of the figures sit at around the $150 USD price point, while incomplete Light Cycles fetch close to double that. Good luck trying to find any still sealed in their original packaging! While preparing for this article, I spent an exhaustive week in and out of cyberspace trying to track down such things. I sent emails, combed message boards, and kicked over every last proverbial rock I could think of — and still, I came up empty-handed. Thus, it has now officially been well over 20 years since I last saw a boxed example from this line.
Fortunately, there are some alternatives out there. In celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary, NECA re-released the original Tron figures back in 2002 — they even include an additional blue Light Cycle, something TOMY apparently had planned for its line that never saw a release in 1982. But, even these are becoming difficult to track down. Should you be fortunate enough to get your hands on some of them, you’re sure to pay a lot less than what the original figures are going for nowadays. For those looking for something a little more modern, Diamond Select Toys has also taken some of its larger-scale Tron figures from the last couple of years and given them a translucent TOMY-style makeover that calls to mind that original ’80s assortment.
Like the film on which it was based, TOMY’s Tron line was both daring and creative. Refusing to be like everything else, it instead gave us a glimpse into what the future of action figures could be. It may not have enjoyed the same popularity and prestige as G.I. Joe or He-Man, but there is no denying that this little action figure assortment has gone down in history as something truly special.