If your average person were hard pressed to name every dinosaur that came to mind we all know the names that would crop up; Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and since 1993…Velociraptor. I can’t think of many genera that achieved so much fame so fast, at least not since the so called golden age of paleontology in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when most well known dinosaurs were discovered. “Jurassic Park” was responsible for launching the entire dromaeosaurid clan into stardom but “Jurassic Park” was not the first to portray these creatures in popular culture, nor the first to produce merchandise depicting the infamous maniraptorans.
As a child of the late 80’s I like so many of my fellow blog readers paid witness to the short lived “Dino-Riders” cartoon and their action figure counterparts, the show actually having been created in order to promote the toy line. The show itself was pretty awful but I was five and easy to please. I had many fond memories of the show and the toys as well. One of the toys was the Deinonychus and it was my first introduction to the dromaeosaur branch of the dinosaur family tree. It was nothing special when I first received it but I couldn’t foresee “Jurassic Park” and it’s raptors only six years away. Once Spielberg’s movie came out I had raptor fever and my Tyco Deinonychus was always getting into trouble alongside my Kenner Velociraptor.
The Tyco line is an interesting one that far surpassed the television show in terms of quality. So impressive and accurate (for the time) were the dinosaurs that the Smithsonian repackaged them without all the weapons and armor as a respectable line of dinosaur figures. Famed artist William Stout is credited with designing the toys, according to the Wikipedia page anyway. The Deinonychus toy in particular is quite unique and I feel represents an interesting period in time when we didn’t quite know what kind of animal we were dealing with. It seems that despite the bird-like qualities of the actual animal people were dead set on the dinosaurs-are-reptiles mentality. Many old (and some modern) Deinonychus reconstructions were done this way; twisting what was essentially a bird into a lizard.
It should go without saying that the Tyco Deinonychus has its inaccuracies, a lot of them. I don’t really want to get into the specifics because we all know what they are. Aside from the glaring and obvious inaccuracies the toy suffers from all kinds of other anatomical and proportional issues as well. I’m sure some of the accuracy was compromised so the thing could stand upright with all its gear and rider. About the only thing accurate with this thing is the tail, held out stiff from the body.
This figure is capable of standing on two legs, albeit on two very strange looking clubbed feet. It looks fast and agile, even the action feature suggests as much. When you press the button on the back the toy’s legs kick back and forth in a comical fashion. The arms move too, the hands aside from being pronated are quite small as well. The head on the creature is actually kind of cute. The pointed mouth is a prefect triangle shape and has several little blunt teeth painted white. The eyes are yellow with black pupils. Rather than paint the eyes on like many companies do, Tyco dinosaurs gave the figures little beads instead, which bring a lot of life to the line. The body of this Deinonychus is covered with nicely textured scales over the entire body, never mind that there should be feathers there instead. Where color is concerned the figure is mostly brown with grey coloration dorsally that forms stripes over the side. The brown fades pale on the underside.
In the end what we’re left with is a nicely made retro representation of a now famous and well know dinosaur. It offers if nothing else a window into a time before these animals were the well known cultural icons they are today. If you want to find one you may have some difficulty, they have been out of production for a long time and are highly collectible. Your best bet is eBay and with some patience and luck you might be able to find one cheap in a lot like I did or just pay the extra cash to get one sold by itself.