Who would have thought back in 1982 that "TRON" would be bigger than ever 28 years later? Certainly no one at Walt Disney Studios, as the film was considered a critical and commercial disappointment.
Steven Lisberger, the director of the film that started it all, has theorized, "It took 28 years because we needed the 10-year-olds (who enjoyed the original) to grow up and take their 10-year-olds to see it." And those 10-year-olds did just that, growing up to get jobs as writers of widely popular TV shows, comedians, pro skaters and advertising reps.
So, without further ado, let's jump into The Grid and see where their inspiration led…
9. 'The Simpsons' (1995)
The year was 1995 and "The Simpsons'" annual Halloween special got folks talkin' some "TRON" 13 years after its release. Inspired by "The Twilight Zone" episode "Little Girl Lost," the segment not only treated us to our first look at CGI Homer, but was awesome enough to have him lost in a suspiciously TRON-ish third dimension. Homer tries to explain his surroundings: "Uh... it's like... did anyone see the movie 'Tron'?" Everyone back in reality quickly answers with a confused "No" except for an enthusiastic Chief Wiggum. Embarrassed, he changes his answer to "No."
[Editor's Note: Since the Hulu clip has expired, all we have to offer you is the Spanish version, which is actually funnier.]
8. 'Dexter's Laboratory' (1996)
The first season of this Genndy Tartakovsky-directed animated show earned some serious geek cred when it aired "Game Over" in 1996. The entire episode recreates the story of "TRON" with Dexter getting digitized by a video game cartridge called "Master Computer." After Dexter fails at destroying the villainous cartridge on his "Beam Cycle," his sister Dee Dee derezzes Master Computer and saves Dexter, returning him to the real world. Kids may have been none the wiser, but older viewers enjoyed this on a whole other nostalgic level.
7. 'Tony Hawk TV Spot' (1996)
Animated shows aren’t the only spotlight for TRON-inspired mayhem. Tony Hawk's Syfy promo not only makes us long for the retro computer generated environments seen within the world of "TRON," it also makes us miss the days when the network was known simply as "The Sci Fi Channel." Since Tony Hawk's fan base tend to have been born after 1982, this spot may have been a powerful tool for the MCP to recruit a new generation of fans.
6. 'Family Guy' (1999)
Peter Griffin flashes back to a previous job as a Calvin Klein model in "A Hero Sits Next Door," trying desperately to remember the name of "the bad guy from TRON" during this first season episode. But that was just a warm up for season 3's "One if by Clam, Two if by Sea" episode, where Peter is seen in a recreation of the film's famous Light Cycle sequence.
5. 'Robot Chicken' (2006)
Seth Green and company wasted no time bringing a little Light Cycle action to their stop-motion animated show. During the Adult Swim series' second season, a geeky teen test-drives a sweet retro Light Cycle in the sketch "Used Car Surprise." The bit is from 2006's "Metal Militia" episode, which answered the question of how much a Light Cycle would set someone back. The answer: "Under 500 bones."
4. Honda Commercial (2006)
Speaking of buying Light Cycles, who didn't want to run right out and grab themselves a Honda Civic after seeing this Trontastic TV spot four years ago? Advertising company RBG6 knew how to tap into geek nostalgia to demonstrate the Grid-defying abilities of their 2006 line, replacing Light Cycles with Honda Civics. Since Civics continue to be ranked number 2 out of 32 affordable small cars, maybe other auto companies like Chrysler could have avoided their bankrupt fate if they were as innovative in their own advertising.
3. 'Cheech & Chong' (2008)
As if Tron's computer environments wasn't psychedelic enough, Cheech & Chong used them as the perfect place to reunite in this 2008 short, tripping back to the Game Grid for Mean Magazine's "Cinemash." With these two dudes racing around in Light Cycles, as well as Jeff Bridges' growing cult popularity as "The Dude," it began to look like The Grid had its first "trees."
2. 'Chuck' (2009)
There's nothing worse than when you feel like character's walls are just randomly phoned-in by the art director – which is why NBC's "Chuck" earns respect, courtesy of that sweet vintage "TRON" poster. No mere set dressing either! The back of the poster revealed information essential to the plot in the 2009 episode "Chuck vs. the Lethal Weapon."
1. 'South Park' (2010, 2001, 1999)
TRON's inspiration to Trey Parker and Matt Stone is evident in three episodes of the long-running series. Before Comedy Central pulled season 5's "Super Best Friends" episode off SouthParkStudios.com (for depicting the prophet Muhammad) you would have witnessed the Master Control Program as… Moses!
However, Moses first appeared in "Jewbilee" during 1999's third season, depicted as a giant, glowing dreidel worshiped by the Jewish Boy Scouts. Earlier this year, Stan entered the virtual world of Facebook in the episode "You Have 0 Friends," where he hunted down his profile page in a frustrating attempt to delete it. You can watch the entire episode at South Park Studios.