An amazing blast of Tron nostalgia from Japan, these “Kubrick” playsets – a popular variety of novelty toys that resemble nothing so much as Lego men on steroids – offer the first miniature models of any Tron vehicles other than the light cycles. And that said, the light cycles kick butt too.
Each playset comes in a massive box adorned with authentic Tron artwork (right down to attributing the figures to being actual ENCOM products), and a fold-up lid held in place by velcro. When opened, the lid offers a window view of the items in that individual set. One set contains Tron, Yori (in her first ever appearance as a toy) and an orange light cycle. Another contains Flynn, a red light cycle, and one of those tank programs he should never have written. A third set bundles one of Sark’s generic warriors, a yellow light cycle, and a nifty Recognizer which overcomes the problem of replicating the movie’s unconnected-segments design by using clear plastic to join the various pieces. Finally, the villainous Sark, packed with a blue light cycle and the ominous cylindrical face of the MCP, rounds out the collection. (The MCP face also opens to reveal the wizened form of its original program as seen at the end of the movie.)
While the characters are plenty familiar (still no Dumont or Ram figures!), the cute sculpts and paint detail are more elaborate than one might expect. Except for the warrior and Yori, every figure includes his own glow-in-the-dark disk, as well as a glow-in-the-dark handlebar to hold when mounted on their light cycles. (There’s no real reason for the tiny – and potentially easy-to-lose – handlebar, other than to replicate the floating handlebar gripped by the movie’s characters just prior to the formation of the light cycles.) The helmets are removable as well, except for the warrior’s, but in the end they don’t reveal anything underneath but a featureless bald head.
The Recognizer, tank and MCP have never seen the light of day as toys before, and they’re so well-replicated that they’d be highlights on anyone’s Tron toy shelf, even next to the Tomy or Neca 33/4″ figures. That said, the light cycles still steal the show; each cycle comes with its own “jet wall” accessory which snaps into a notch on the back of each bike and gives it enough support to stand. The walls are exact reproductions of the light cycle sequence from the movie, including the fact that they “erupt” upward from the wheel with a translucent white flare. Each well turns at one right angle, offering some really nifty display possibilities even though they’re fixed in that shape. And best of all, the light cycles really do roll.
They’re all put together in a very simple way, but the Japanese Tron Kubricks were an unsung highlight of the film’s 20th anniversary in 2002.
Special thanks to Jeff Godemann for making this article possible.