Pteranodon (CollectA)

Pteranodon is not only the most famous pterosaur, but also the best known. More than 1,000 fossil specimens have been uncovered, including both male and female individuals. Males were larger and possessed the familiar blade-shaped crests while females were smaller, had short, rounded crests, and wider hips for laying eggs. This means, sadly, that every single Pteranodon toy ever made is a male. Someone needs to give us a female!

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Anyway, here is CollectA’s Standard class Pteranodon figure, released all the way back in 2006 when the company was called Procon. It’s a small figure at only 9 cm long with a wingspan of 15.5 cm. It’s sculpted in what I like to call the “M-bird” pose, with its wings open and gently curving downwards. Personally, I much prefer my pterosaurs in a standing pose with the wings folded, but I know others will enjoy swooshing this little fellow through the air.

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The main colours on this toy are light orange and medium brown with dark brown patches on the wingtips and upper bill, black for the eyes and claws, and a red mouth. The wings have a wrinkled leathery texture while the main body features minimal but visible pycnofibers. The upper bill is slightly curved downwards, but that’s probably due to warping. The crest is too chunky and covered with wrinkles, which was unlikely to be the case in real life. It kind of looks like a carrot! The wing elements are fairly accurate though, and the hind limbs are attached.

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Despite the fact that this Pteranodon hails from CollectA’s earliest year, when their prehistoric toys were more lamentable than laudable, it’s actually decent. It’s not going to make anyone’s mouth water, but it’s reasonably well-sculpted and accurate. Recommended for those looking to bolster their pterosaur ranks.

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Kentrosaurus (4D Puzzle by Fame Master)

Poor Kentrosaurus, it always plays second fiddle to its larger cousin Stegosaurus.  Still, the genus has proved popular enough to be reproduced as a toy in several instances. And oddly enough, most of them have proved to be great representations. Safari, CollectA, Tyco, and even Schleich have all produced some outstanding Kentrosaurus figures. In the case of the 3D puzzle company Fame Master they too have made a pretty good Kentrosaurus and we’ll be looking at that one today.

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The Fame Master dinosaur puzzles are toys first and foremost and while most of them are hit and miss in the accuracy department the grand majority are dynamic, colorful, and display well once assembled. From a distance the Kentrosaurus could pass off as just another dinosaur toy but in reality it is a puzzle and consists of 25 pieces. It’s easy enough to put together though, and stays together quite well without the seams being too visible. Once put together the dinosaur measures about 5” in length.

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The Kentrosaurus is posed in that typical Kentrosaurus pose. The head looking over its left shoulder, limbs braced for combat, and tail swung high in the air. The paint job is also something we’ve seen before with a green body and orange plates. The green is darker dorsally and fades towards the belly. The plates are tipped in black and the spikes are gray. The detail work is quite nice on this small model with appropriate musculature discernible on the legs, forelimbs, tail, and neck. Scales, wrinkles, and skin folds are sculpted along the body.

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On the surface the toy is well proportioned and reasonably accurate but there are a few issues. The feet and hands are messed up as they tend to be on many dinosaur toys, stegosaurs and otherwise. The feet are sculpted with four toes when there should only be three while the hands actually lack a digit, having four instead of five as they should.

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Although fans of Kentrosaurus aren’t lacking for decent reproductions, the Fame Master model is still decent enough to seek out. It’s a vibrant, well sculpted, dynamic toy that has the added bonus of being a puzzle.

Dinosaur Advent Calendar 2016 (Schleich)

Review and photos by Tim Sosa

This year Schleich followed in the footsteps of companies like Lego and Playmobil in offering an advent calendar, but this one is dinosaur-themed! 24 days of dinosaur goodies sounds pretty attractive, so I bit the bullet and picked one up. I opened it long before Christmas, so that maybe this review can help you decide whether to buy one yourself. If you want to be surprised, maybe don’t read any further, but it’s going to be tough anyway because the entire contents of the box are pictured on every surface.

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If this were a video review, I might go day-by-day, but that would be too many photos for a brief review, so I’ll let the photo below give you an overview, and then summarize the contents:

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So what do you get over 24 days? You get three dinosaurs, none of which is a new sculpt, although two of them have been repainted and therefore are billed on the box as “exclusives.” The Velociraptor is the same sculpt released by Schleich in 2011 with a new paint job. Previous reviews have dealt with it more thoroughly, but briefly, it lacks feathers, its hands don’t face each other as they should, and the shape of the head is incorrect. You might notice from the photo above that it’s the only dinosaur not in a plastic bag, so during shipping it loses paint to the tray and there are lots of little red streaks on the white plastic. The Compsognathus is the same sculpt as in the “Velociraptor on the Hunt” pack released last year, again with a new paint job. The evidence on Compsognathus feathers is more ambiguous, since its preservational environment had at least a chance of preserving feathers but did not do so. Nevertheless, its relationships to other animals suggest it might have had feathers, and even if you give it the benefit of the doubt on its pajamas, this figure has the same problems as many Schleich theropods: incorrectly oriented hands, distorted proportions, and in this case the wrong number of fingers. The Tyrannosaurus baby is the same as in Schleich’s cave playset, and doesn’t even get a new paint job.

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Besides the living dinosaurs, you get the remains of a couple more: a complete Stegosaurus, the same one as in the volcano playset, and a Tyrannosaurus skull. The Stegosaurus is spread out over multiple days. Its stance isn’t perfect, but it has the right number of plates and roughly correct proportions. (I didn’t count ribs and vertebrae, but you can if you like!)

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There are a few other animals included in the advent calendar. To my mind, these are actually the biggest draw for this set. None of these is identified by name, but they’re identifiable to varying degrees. You get two ammonites, and to the best of my knowledge, they are the only parts of this set that represent sculpts available nowhere else. I don’t know what kind of ammonite, if any, they’re supposed to represent, although they seem like reasonable efforts, with the basic ammonite shape and correct number of arms. The frog has a stub of a tail, perhaps to indicate that it is one of the earlier, more basal members of the group, something like Triadobatrachus, Mesophryne, or Vieraella. It’s a repaint of the frog included in the volcano playset. Finally, there’s a little fish, painted like a flying fish, but with very different proportions. It’s a dead ringer for the reconstruction of the holotype fossil of Potanichthys xingyiensis by Fei-Xiang Wu. Potanichthys and its relative Thoracopterus seem to have evolved the ability to glide over the water about 240 million years ago, long before modern flying fishes (which aren’t closely related, showing up independently about 66 million years ago). This figure makes for a pretty nice rendition of Potanichthys, although it is missing the anal fin. Like the other small animals, it isn’t labeled, but it strains belief to suppose that its resemblance to Wu’s reconstruction is coincidental.

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This set also includes a pair of plants, although they come in pieces that you assemble over multiple days. Both are figures used in plenty of other Schleich products. One is a fern, which makes sense, as ferns were common throughout the Mesozoic. The other is an agave, which is peculiar because agaves didn’t evolve until well after most dinosaur lineages had gone extinct. I would have been happier with another fern (or better yet a horsetail or cycad), but oh well.

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Finally, you get four information cards about the best-known animals in the set, and stickers for everything (four days of the calendar, you just get stickers), but sadly no information on the “accessory” animals. I think that’s a bummer because you could use these to teach kids about animals that lived alongside the dinosaurs, but how would you even know where to look if they aren’t even identified?

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This set isn’t great if you’re looking for accurate dinosaurs, and doesn’t have much educational value for kids who are into prehistoric life. If you’re the kind of collector who likes the quirky animals that don’t get much press, you might get more enjoyment out of it. It’s a much cheaper way to get the fish and the frog than the very large, very expensive volcano playset due for release later this year, and so far it’s the only way to get the ammonites (and you get two!). That’s the only type of dino fan I’d recommend it to, however–you have better options for Velociraptor, for prehistoric plants, for skeleton figures, you name it. You can get this all over the Internet right now, although I imagine availability will diminish after the 2016 holiday season.