Saturday, December 25, 2010

TRIBUTE TO TRON! (also -bot, -roid and other great 80's toy robot name suffixes)

The eighteenth seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse disintegrates in a blinding flash like a high speed virtual rocket sled being driven by Santa Claus into a giant glowing wall of 1982 special effects in this TRIBUTE TO TRON (but not that one). Listen in horrific excitement as the Nostrodomatron extols the virtues of the greatest technological suffix of all time! Yes it's twenty minutes of talking about -TRON, the special combination of four little letters that made it possible for prefixes like mega-, robo-, power-, charger- and Nostrodoma- to have careers during the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Plus a José Delbo update, new developments in the StarriorThing contoversy and I review some toy robot appearances in magazines from 1984 and '85. All this and more in a very special non-denominational TRONSFORM and ROLL OUT edition of the podcastalypse!

Or download it directly


There's a scene in Fight Club where Tyler Durden says sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken. I'm reminded of that a lot when I come across ad after ad of 80s robot toylines with names that end in -tron. Tron is like pepper-it should only be sparsely used to add flavor to your 1980s toy robot pizza. The Transformers and GoBots only had a handful of -tron names for they knew the power of the tron suffix. To give an entire product line the -tron suffix is to abuse the power of -tron. Without a Tyler Durden in 1984, these third rate robots marketers did not understand that sticking -tron on the butt of your robot name does not make you Bob Budiansky. I like my version better than Tyler Durden's because I never could figure out why anyone would want to be a chicken.

Family Mart 11/5/84
Fishers 12/05/84
TG&Y 11/10/85
ToysRUs 12/15/1985
Toys&Gifts Outlet 12/15/85


American toy company Buddy L didn't have the greatest track record when it came to naming toy robots lines (or making them, either). They're the company behind the most obvious and cliched robot fad cash-in name ever-"Robo Tron". Just when I thought I'd never hear a worse name I found this one ad for a Buddy-L robot line named Robotor. Holy crap is that awful. The ad appeared in late '84 around the time the first Robo Tron ads started popping up. What's really great is the Robotor robots look exactly like the designs used for the Robo Trons. It's possible that instead of actually making better robots, Buddly-L figured the key to success was changing their product name from Robotor to Robo Tron. Although Robo Tron is pretty lame I must admit it was a good move because Robotor makes RoGun sound like divine inspired marketing advice from whoever came up with "Optimus Prime". Still I am thankful for this ad and the 1984 Buddy L marketing team because without them the world would never know how close it came to a toyline named "Robotard".

Lucky 12/13/84
Consumers 11/10/85

Time 10/01/84

Penny Power Apr/May '85

  • Non-specific multi-denominational 80s toy robot christmas commercial
  • Opening poem-"The Roboplastic Podcastalypse" (Non-denominational X-Mas version)
  • Without -tron there would be no -tronians
  • I get all my word origins from Bob Budiansky interviews
  • Zeroids issue 2 came out
  • The StarriorThing mystery deepens
  • José Delbo's upcoming con appearances and his binder of old Transformer paperwork
  • Mark Texiera will be at Wizard World Miami
  • Another internet presence I will never maintain-The RoboFacial Bookocalypse
  • Kilby has summoned me here for a purpose
  • Zeroids break
  • Ripping out pages from magazines at the dentist office in 1984
  • Hot Toys with a Special Twist from TIME Ocotber 1, 1984
  • Penny Power's legendary toy robots article from late '84
  • Penny Power's not so legendary toy robots article from early '85
  • I review Penny Power's reviews of Verbot, Varton, Starriors Deadeye, the Zoids Giant Zrk and other great unpopular toy robots that weren't -Trons
  • Fulfilling your sub teen prehistoric robot tyrannosaurs fantasies
  • If you can't say something good about robots, then write for Penny Power
  • The only rant about Robotroid instruction sheets in the history of the universe
  • Mysterious C.I.T.S. of Old


Captain Rufus said...

Wow. Some serious coverage in this episode. Plus mentions of the 2 robot bases I had as a kid. The Starriors Base (I got one boxed off ebay a while back. The stickers still on sheet. Which fell off stickyless when I touched them. OUCH.), and the Gobot Command Center. Both were great and I happily used my TFs with them. And a Stompers WW2 Tank track thing. And my Crossbows & Catapult brickblock things.

I made awesome warbases as a kid.

Hell, I used this mirror stickered motorized target drone from a Laser Tag ripoff as Unicron's brain.

I don't remember Capsela being for little kids. It was just another construction toy back then. One that was all science-y and motorized.

Not as awesome as Robotix though. I had the big fancy set of the time. Fantastic.

A shame those Tomy robots didn't get approved of too much back then. The concept is neat even if the execution was probably 15 years too early, especially pricewise. I even have a manual for the 100 dollar one. Cassette tape programming and such? Wow. These days you could probably do a drag n drop Flash interface and make a similar robot do way more, upload MP3s and WAVs for sound effects and kids could have a blast with basic icon based programming.

(Or adults with more money than sense. Which seems to be most of us. Some of us just buy goofier things with our funny money.)

One of the price scans you found was pretty boss. Bi Trons? That was the name of the knockoff or licensed Xabungle toys? (You might remember, the little blue car/jet robot and the red battlestation robot?)

Though not counting Robotix, back then there was another amazing construction robot set few people talked about and the sets are cheap even now.

Robotech Robolinks. Ive managed to get 4 sets of those really cheap. Little plastic robots with die cast chests with all sorts of holes and pegs on them for guns and such. Except they can plug into each other and various building bits like cockpits and tires and such. Make super big mecha for roughly 2 1/4 inch tall robots as the primary component.

I do remember reading Penny Power once or twice but never really consistently. I was more reading some of the toy line branded magazines and 321 Contact. Still wished I had access to one of those. As late as 86 I remember my local library having an issue pretty much devoted to Tron.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I think sticker degradation is going to be the downfall of many otherwise MISB samples in a lot of people's collections, especially in drier climates. When I lived in Arizona I saw a lot of sealed He-Man vehicles that were suffering sticker rot in otherwise pristine shape.

While I loved Optimus Prime, Metroplex, Trypticon and Omega Supreme I can appreciate what Starriors, GoBots and RoboForce were trying to do with their bases. It's interesting how the major robot action figure lines of the 80s started off as more traditional offshoots of action figures and were accessorized in the same ways with bases (and even vehicles in the case of Robo Force). But nowadays the concept of a robot base is largely ignored. I saw a line called Androidz that went on clearance at TRU recently that was bringing back the concept of interactive robot playsets but they're sort of dead now.

I think Tomy launched the motorized robot lines during a period when batteries were a four letter word. Electronic toys were experiencing a bit of a backlash in the early 80s as evidenced by the video game crash and the losses incurred by the electronic toy manufacturing divisions of companies like Mattel and Coleco. I really admire Tomy for not giving up on motorized and electronic toy robot lines. The vast diversity of their ideas and volume of products amazes me to this day, especially when I'm looking through years of newspaper ads. They were the sleeper kings of toy robots in the 80s.

I've found a couple of ads for various Xabungle toys that I'm sure were knockoffs. I've also seen a lot of different 80s Irongear and Xabungle toys in
a variety of packages with many different brand names. They got bootlegged a lot and BiTrons was probably just one of many takeoffs on the franchise. I have in my collection an Irongear that actually says it's from Xabungle so I'm going to say the BiTrons were knockoffs and the real thing used the actual name. Maybe I'll do a post with the few ads I've found and a picture of my toy.

Yeah Robolinks and its Japanese counterpart Blockman were pretty legendary. I saw a really nice Force 51 at the last Robot Japan summit and I was sad to not get it. did a recent post on them that had me in awe of that line. I wonder why I don't see more ads for them.

I wonder where all the 80s kids magazines went? I have a feeling there's an antique store in South Dakota with a gigantic collection of them just rotting away in a basement.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Oh and thanks for taking the time to listen all the way through to this one, Capt!

Rob said...

I remember wanting Capsela toys so much when I was around 7 years old. I was fascinated with robots, motorized toys, and gadgets back then. From Wikipedia: "Capsela is a construction toy consisting primarily of spherical plastic capsules which may be connected to form various toys that can be static or moving and suitable for land or water." How cool is that?

I listened to seven episodes of the Podcastalypse today. I'm all caught up- please post more soon!

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Okay you guys have opened my eyes to the world of Capsela appreciation but after researching them a bit I'm wondering how Penny Power made the connection that Capsela was a toy robot line instead of a building toy. The Capsela space station really didn't have a place among the other playsets in the review that came from actual toy robot franchises like GoBots and Starriors and stuff like that.

Rob you're insane for listening to seven podcastalypses in such a short span of time. I will have to promote you up a few ranks in the army of the Kingdom Roboplastico like Stan Lee promotes his Twitter readers.

As for more episodes, I think a twice monthly schedule may be sustainable if I have the time and good enough ideas-and I always have ideas. What I really want to do is invest in some VOIP recording programs so I can have guests on from various toy robots fandoms (which was one of the original purposes of the podcast that I've never fulfilled).

Rob said...

Maybe I'm insane, but I really enjoy the Podcastalypse. I love hearing about all the robot toys that existed when I was a child, but I never heard of before. It's fascinating.

Regarding Penny Power, I agree that there's no connection between Capsela and robot playsets. My guess is Penny Power didn't know how else to categorize Capsela and shoehorned it in with the other mechanical-ish toys. Or maybe Capsela wasn't selling as well as expected, so Penny Power tried to capitalize on the toy robot fad and slip Capsela in with them.

I can't believe there *still* isn't a good, standard voip recording solution out there. Greg and I struggled with this for a while and ended up doing one of two things: 1. each of us records his own end of the conversation and then one of us transfers the file to the other to put together. 2. If we have a guest on the who, I'll record the conversation entirely on my end using two instances of my audio recording software. In one instance, I'll tell the audio software to record my mic and in the other instance, I'll tell the audio software to record the stereo mix (however many people are on the other end of the Skype call). Hope that helps!

Shawn Robare said...

Have you seen this article from Ebony Magazine in November 1984?

Like the ones you mention in this episode it seems to focus on a lot of the non-Transformers stuff...

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yes I've been aware of a few 80s toy robot articles available through Google's book and magazine searches (including that one) but a lot of times I can't come up with a way to properly contextualize them so that they're interesting and I end up not mentioning them. It's cool that articles like that exist, but from a blogging perspective it's hard to write about stuff like that and have something interesting to add.

That one in particular is so pro-robot that it almost reads like an ad. I always have a hard time writing or talking about stuff I already totally agree with. On the other hand, articles where the writers denounce toy robots as war toys or have some other beef with them are a lot of fun and I've been saving up a number of those to talk about in a future show.


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