Apatosaurus (Field Museum Mold-A-Rama)

Although I’m not old enough to have witnessed the Sinclair Motor Oil “Dinoland” exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair this has always been an era in American history that has fascinated me. The representations of dinosaurs at that time are now heavily outdated but they stand as symbols of just how popular these animals became in the wake of their discovery. The Sinclair Dinoland and Sinclair’s dinosaur heavy marketing campaign was at that time to many people what the release of “Jurassic Park” was to me in 1993. Just imagine what it must have been like to have stood at the feet of those life-sized models, taken right off of a Charles Knight painting and beautifully reproduced in what was essentially a real “Jurassic Park” for that time. Sure, countless life size dinosaur parks exist now, but this particular one at this iconic time in America’s history has always intrigued me.

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The model we’re looking at today comes straight out of that era. Indeed, the Mold-A-Rama figures were sold as souvenirs at the World’s Fair in 1964, right on the cusp of the Dinosaur Renaissance. DTF member Foxilized wrote much about the history of Sinclair and the World’s Fair in his review of the Mold-A-Rama Tyrannosaurus, so I won’t tread old ground here. The Apatosaurus model is of particular relevance to Sinclair Motor Oil as it’s an identical 3-Dimentional reproduction of their classic green “Brontosaurus” logo. Anyone familiar with old dinosaur Americana will instantly recognize it.

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Although finding these Mold-A-Rama models can be difficult they do occasionally show up on eBay, often with exuberant prices for a souvenir that originally cost next to nothing. But the highlight of the Mold-A-Rama figures (and there were many, dinosaurs and otherwise) was not the figure itself but watching the process by which they were made. You would essentially pay the machine to make the model right before your eyes (watch here). I’ve never had that privilege, yet. Working machines are rare but still in operation at the Chicago Field Museum where you can walk in and purchase one of these nifty dinosaurs as if it was still 1964.

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Although the model has the name Apatosaurus printed on it this is an Apatosaurus in name only. It represents the classic Brontosaurus depictions of old, right down to the boxy Camarasaurus head. The heavy body stands on thick heavy legs and a spindly serpent tail drags along the ground behind it. No accuracy points here, this unique model is significant for other reasons and will only appeal to those with an appreciation for retro dinosaurs and American history.

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All four elephantine feet are firmly planted on a base and thick folds of saggy skin can be seen along the sides. This Brontosaurus better find his way back to the swamps before it’s crushed by its own bulk. Since this figure comes from a Mold-A-Rama machine you can expect it to be made of brittle hollow wax and is easily broken which is probably why originals are expensive these days.

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8 Responses to Apatosaurus (Field Museum Mold-A-Rama)

  1. Nice mold-a-rama reviews, Gwangi, and thanks for linking to my original review!

    For the interested, here’s the original painting by Charles Knight this model was based on. Knight did it for the Chicago Field Museum in 1920s, being the very first time he painted Brontosaurus with the Camarasaurus head design. Before that he had previously sculpted Brontos with Camarasaurus head, but never dared to paint one because it was still a very controversial topic among paleontologists.

    https://chuckmanchicagonostalgia.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/postcard-chicago-field-museum-note-still-called-chicago-natural-history-museum-one-of-famous-charles-r-knight-murals-brontosaurus.jpg

    The SINCLAIR Dinoland merchandise in fact, present the two variants of Brontosaurus reconstructions, to the point that two versions of a Mold-A-Rama Brontosaurus exists, this one with Camarasaurus head, and a second alternative version with “rectangular” head (which btw was a total rippoff a the previous toy by MILLER company).

    Love!

    • Thanks! Glad to see you chime in too. I’ve always loved that painting by Knight, and all of the old Brontosaurus reconstructions it spawned.

  2. There have been some excellent articles in the magazine Prehistoric Times regarding the Mold-a-Rama dinosaurs and their blow-mold predecessors, the Miller dinosaurs. Gwangi is right: for those of us in our 60s now, our introduction to dinosaurs was through dime-store dinosaurs (Miller and Marx) as well as books, magazines, and Fantasia. It was wonderful to see our dinosaurs come to life in the Jurassic Park series!

  3. That must have been so neat to see it made right in front of you. Retro 3D printing! This is a nice sculpt, too, the smooth curves of it are aesthetically appealing.

  4. Unfortunately I am not of familiar with you know… Vintage dinosaurs, retro paleoart, dinosaur renaissance, when dinosaurs were first known to science by William Buckland, Georges Cuvier, Gideon Mantell … When the world was in black and white. When dinosaurs were known to people as slow, sluggish beasts and giant dragons[READ MY COMMENT ON THE REVIEW ON THE VELOCIRAPTOR BY DAKIN.]

  5. Ah… Zdenek Burian’s depiction of Apatosaurus in very old paleoimagery/vintage pictures. Can you tell me when was this figure in production and when did this figure retire and where can I get it?

  6. I got a triceratops when I was at the Field two years ago. Great stuff.

  7. These modern blow mold figures are awesome! I have a set of them. They are smaller and less detailed as well as more fragile than the original figures.

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