Smuckers missed the boat by not having a tie-in neon blueberry flavored Tron jam…

By Shawn Robare

Though I feel completely like a child of the 80s, I have to say that being born in 1977 there were a handful of 80s pop culture events in which I completely missed the boat.  Tron and the boom of arcade gaming are a couple  phenomena that I didn’t get to really immerse myself in as a kid.  Sure, I had an Atari 2600 (bought at a garage sale) after the big home console crash, and I was a full-blown Nintendo kid, but I didn’t catch a screening of Tron until only a few years ago.  In fact, aside from a vague idea of the iconography of the arcade console (in particular the awesomely large joystick) and what the characters in the flick more or less looked like, I was largely unaware of the film.

My childhood video game movie experience surrounded flicks like the Wizard, Wargames, and the Last Starfighter.  I’ve met so many people at work over the last 10 years that attribute Tron as the incipience of their awakening to the potential of computer technology and quite possibly the reason that they entered the IT field as a career.   Having never experienced a film like Tron and being exposed to the idea of anthropomorphizing the inner workings of a computer, I never saw the excitement inherent in programming and computing.  Like most people, it took the wide acceptance of the internet to open my eyes.  Because of that I’ll always probably feel a little left behind.

On the bright side, getting a chance to catch up with the film as an adult I can both appreciate some of the more technical aspects to the conceptual nature of the flick, and it gives me the unique opportunity to discover something new and nostalgic.  It’s rare that I get a chance to stumble upon something from the 80s that I’m either not familiar with or have been inundated with during the last 10 years of the 80s nostalgic resurgence.  For that I’m thankful.  Because of this and because of the news of the new sequel over the last couple of years I’ve been keeping and eye out for any bits of scan-able Tron ephemera, in particular vintage advertisements.  Here are a few I’ve found while flipping through old issues of Woman’s Day and Muppet magazines…

First up is this 1982 ad for Dial and Tone bar soap with a mail-away coupon for a discounted Tron beach towel.  Featuring the static hero pose of the titular character, this towel is one of the few times when I think that image is successfully striking.  I’m always curious how many of these mail-away items make it into the public (and it’s not like old beach towels get proffered up on ebay all that often), so it’s cool when you can find some photographic evidence of these items.  Thanks to Hillary over at I’m Remembering for coaxing her readers into submitting old photos for her site…

Next up is this 1982 Smuckers ad for strawberry jam and the in-store special offer for a free Tron Futuristic Adventure Book with the purchase of a bottle of preserves.   Maybe not as cool as a collectable jelly glass with Tron characters and scenes, but the book did come with a fold-out 17″x22″ poster, and featured games, puzzles and stickers!  I’ve seen a couple of Tron sticker sheets over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever laid eyes on the stickers from this free book.

Last, but not least, is this 1984 holiday ad from Disney Home Video featuring a VHS copy of Tron.  Back in ’84 this cassette copy of Tron was a steal at $39.95 (msrp at the time was a whopping $84.95.)  This was back before most people had started purchasing movies for their home libraries, and videos were largely still priced for the rental market.   Also, at first I was pretty excited when I flipped to this ad in the back of an issue of Muppet magazine because I though the video came with a free Tron ornament.  How cool would that have been?  Well, even though there is that die-cut gold Tron disc on the packaging, the ornament is actually the image on the top left featuring Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Still a cool ornament, but not nearly as cool as one featuring Tron.

There is another thing that stuck out to me in this ad.  I thought it was weird that the graphic designers of this advertisement chose to feature a rare red variation of the Tron character artwork.  Though my memory might be a little shady, I thought that red was reserved for the “evil” programs in the Tron world like Sark and his minions?  I guess this is sort of the equivalent of catching a glimpse of Luke Skywalker with a red lightsaber…

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  • LadyJaye

    One Tron tie-in that I clearly remember (I was 7 when the original came out) were colorful plastic mini-frisbees in boxes of Shreddies. Each color (blue, green, red and yellow) was linked to a different character. I had the green one, although I can’t remember which character appeared on it — Flynn maybe?

  • Esteban

    Hey speaking of Santa Trons here’s the cover the December 23 issue of a recent weekly entertainment periodical from the county I live in