Review by Dan Liebman
Around the time Jurassic Park was pumping prehistoric animals back into pop culture consciousness, Safari Ltd. released this rather large statue of the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex. One glance, and it’s clear the company was appealing to mature collectors of dinosauria. At 50 centimeters in length, this 1:20 replica bears an indisputable presence that simply can’t be conveyed from a 1:40 scale figure. The sleek wooden base, brass name plate, and high level of sculptural detail distinguish this statue from mere toys. It is meant to be exhibited on a mantle or an office shelf, without provoking the ridicule of visitors who “just don’t get it.”
The active gait, parallel posture, and inward-facing arms indicate a thoroughly researched creation that closely follows modern paleontological theory, even to this day. The body has prominent musculature, detailed folds and wrinkles, and a conservative color scheme that could pass for suitable camouflage. Knobby osteoderms run along the top of the snout, while the eyes and nostrils glisten faintly.
Upon close inspection, the age of the piece becomes quite evident. More recent Safari figures bear much greater sculptural detail, as well as more layers of paint. The amber base color of this statue has been decorated with dark browns in a few areas, mainly with dorsal stripes and bumps, but it is otherwise quite plain. The lower jaw appears to be separately cast and attached, as the seam is plainly visible. The teeth have been “separated” with stripes of black paint; they lack the fine separation seen in Safari’s latest theropod figures. One wonders if perhaps an unpainted Invicta-style statue would have appeared more sophisticated and less crude to the inquiring eye.
Keeping a reasonable distance, the statue is still quite impressive as the scale and sculptural definition shine through. Without awkward poses or oversized feet, it’s hard to get this sort of dynamic power without losing realism in the reconstruction, and using the base allows the artist to break free of this constraint. The feet even appear to be caked with soil, a particularly nice touch of realism that is too often absent.
In addition to the “limited edition” tag, the statue was sold with a certificate of authenticity. This document offers a bit of background on both the statue and the species depicted. Apparently, it was crafted by paleoartist William Burford with “the mandate to incorporate the latest theories based upon recent discoveries, such as Sue of the Chicago Museum of Natural History.” Marketing materials suggest a “hydro-stone” construction, as well as an edition size of 5,000 pieces. This small edition size has ensured a consistent demand for the now retired statue; they typically fetch triple-digit prices at online auctions, which is close to the original retail price.
The certificate also refers to the piece as a “Primal,” hinting a unique product line which sadly appears to have been cut short. Safari has a long history with producing high-level dinosaur figures, but this was by far their boldest effort to strike a chord with the collector demographic. Today, the market is saturated with resin kits and Sideshow statues, so there may be an even greater risk to attempt another specialty line. Continual increases in Safari’s product quality have kept their figures at the top of their class, and so this “Tyrant King” gives one cause to stop and ponder what might have been.