The old bull snorts angrily, but Hardbit is unmoved. He has stalked and killed scores of calves and cows on his own, and together with his mate, Tanjaw, large bulls like this one. And there is no moon in the sky overhead. A good night for a kill. Silently and methodically, the two hunters circle their prey. Unlike them, it cannot see in the pitch darkness and can only swing its horned head blindly from side to side. Suddenly, Tanjaw lunges and bites down on the bull’s right thigh! The bull jerks its head to the right and in that instant, Hardbit comes in from the left, clamps his jaws down on the bull’s frill, and forces the massive animal to the ground. Immediately, Tanjaw places her full weight on top of the bull and pins it down. Hardbit then plants a foot on the bull’s shoulder, bites down on the frill even harder, and begins to tug with every ounce of his brute strength. The frantic bull struggles and screams as the skin around its neck stretches and tears. There is a sickening crunch of breaking bone, and then, with one last effort, Hardbit wrenches off the bull’s head completely! He holds the dripping prize aloft for a few seconds, then lets it fall to the ground with a thump.
Tanjaw wastes no time in beginning to feed, but Hardbit pauses to catch his breath. He regards the severed head lying in a dark puddle at his feet. Although his mind does not allow much in the way of deep thought, he is still capable of feeling pride. This was indeed a good night for a kill . . .
Tyrannosaurus rex is THE dinosaur, plain and simple. Granted, some people have other favourites, and that’s great, but the tyrant lizard king will always be iconic. It’s the Batman, Spider-Man, Optimus Prime, Mickey Mouse, and Darth Vader of dinosaurs, the most famous and the most liked. And the most studied one too. The Dinosaur Toy Blog certainly attests to this popularity, as there are by far more T. rex reviews than any other animal. And now it’s my pleasure and privilege to review one of the newest and most anticipated renditions, the 2017 Feathered T. rex from Wild Safari!
As is often the case when I acquire a new figure, I promptly presented this T. rex before my non-dinosaur loving wife. Her gut reaction this time? “It’s really fat!” And yes, this certainly is one of the beefiest tyrant kings I’ve seen yet. The rib cage is nearly 6 cm wide and the torso is around 7 cm deep. The figure stands a majestic 14 cm tall and measures just over 31 cm long, positively dwarfing all the previous Wild Safari T. rex figures! It is also noticeably heavier than either of the Papo T. rexes or the CollectA Deluxe Feathered T. rex. So why is this figure so massive? Well, the truth is that we’ve all been duped for a long time into envisioning T. rex as slimmer than it really was. One reason is that a number of prominent museums such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and even the Field Museum in Chicago have their T. rex specimens mounted without gastralia, those belly ribs that would have made the animal’s torso particularly bulgy. The Smithsonian’s recently acquired specimen, however, will include its gastralia when it goes on display in 2019. Another reason is that even some of the best paleoartists have had a tendency to depict T. rex more along the lines of an NBA forward as opposed to the NFL linebacker it really was. Indeed, while it’s true that Giganotosaurus was longer than T. rex, the latter was still heavier, with a thicker head, neck, and torso as well as far greater physical strength. And if the Ibrahim/Sereno reconstruction of Spinosaurus is indeed correct, then the spined lizard also lost out to the tyrant lizard in terms of mass if not length. Bottom line: I strongly advise against placing this figure up on a high shelf; you really wouldn’t want it falling on your head!
This T. rex is posed with the head raised high and turned to the left, the jaws wide open, the left foot forward, and the powerful tail twitching slightly to the left and well off the ground. Unfortunately, I’ve heard a few people report balancing issues with their figures. Mine was stood well enough when I first got it, but after a couple of days, it became more prone to tipping forward. Fortunately, after softening the left foot in boiling water, bending it back slightly, and then running it under cold water, I have solved that issue. The figure can also be balanced on the tip of its tail if needs be.
One detail that I’m going to touch right now are the deep scars crisscrossing the muzzle, three one on side and three on the other. Looks like the result of a very nasty scrap with another T. rex. There does exist fossil evidence that tyrannosaurines at least occasionally engaged in intraspecific conflict. These could have arisen over food, territory, mating rights, or possibly even cannibalism. In any case, the scars give this individual a distinctly rugged, hard-bitten appearance, hence why I’ve named him Hardbit.
Hardbit’s most prominent feature is, of course, his elaborate plumage. Nearly his entire body is covered in feathers. A thick mane, similar to that found on the wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) and various species of eagle, covers the back of his neck. A welcome bit of variety from the tall mohawks so frequently seen on feathered dinosaur depictions. There are even feathers extending onto his cranium. Feathered renditions of T. rex usually omit such a feature, so this is again a welcome change. The only bare parts are the muzzle, the mandible, the throat, the feet, and a large patch on the underbelly.
Like many of the 2017 Wild Safari figures, Hardbit here was crafted by artist (and fellow Canuck) Doug Watson, which alone should tell you about the quality of the sculpting. The featherless bits have a very fine pebbled texture, with thick folds of skin on the throat and large, overlapping scales on the fingers and feet. The feathers on the main body have a lush, shaggy feel, like on a rhea or a kiwi. The larger, spikier feathers comprising the mane have tiny grooves carved into them. The savage teeth are appropriately sharp and the roof of the mouth and the tongue are pitted. There are also rows of tiny osteoderms running along the brow ridges and along the top of the muzzle, as well as the aforementioned scars. Even the soles of the feet are textured. I can’t imagine how much time, effort, patience, and heart must have gone into sculpting this figure, but I take my hat off to you, Doug.
Hardbit is easily one of the most colourful Wild Safari dinosaurs to date. The plumage on his main body varies between dark red and pale orange with black stripes and a slight dark grey wash. The plumage on his chest and the underside of his tail have a white wash and the mane and cranial feathers are a combination of crimson and black. The scaly parts are a mixture of grey and beige, the nostrils, claws, and the large scales on the feet are dark grey, the eyes are yellow surrounded by red, the osteoderms are red as well, the mouth, connective tissue, and scars are crimson, and the teeth are white. It really is a gorgeous scheme, one that utilises a wide variety of colours, yet at the same time is quite realistic and not overly bold. There are a few small nicks and blemishes here and there amidst the feathers, but keep in mind that finely textured figures carry a greater risk of paint rubbing when they are packed close together during shipping. This goes more so for large figures like this one. Safari may want to consider providing extra protective packaging for their products in future.
And now let’s discuss the scientific accuracy of this figure. Doug Watson informed me that Hardbit was based on the famous Sue specimen, which is the largest T. rex known from near-complete remains (although Scotty might actually have exceeded Sue in mass). As such, Hardbit possesses all the correct anatomical features. The massive, T-shaped skull features stereoscopic vision and savage teeth, although the ones in the lower jaw could probably afford to be a bit larger. No question of shrink wrapping here; the orbits and fenestrae are completely hidden beneath the skin. There is a short, sturdy neck, a barrel-like rib cage, rightly tiny arms with non-pronated wrists, powerful-looking hind legs, and finally a stout tail whose enormous caudofemoralis muscles would have enhanced the animal’s speed and allowed it to successfully pursue live prey.
And then there’s all that shaggy-looking plumage. It’s true that there’s currently no direct fossil evidence of feathers on T. rex, but the same can be said for a good many theropods that we are still pretty certain had them. Fossilised feathers are the rare exception, not the norm, and phylogenetic bracketing certainly suggests the possibility that the tyrant king had some degree of feathering. Ah, but what about that recent paper that took a careful look at various tyrannosaurid skin fragments and concluded that they were scaly? Isn’t that the proverbial nail in the feathered coffin? Well, no, it’s not. Paleontology, like any other branch of science, is always open to changing in light of new ideas and information. This paper is not the final word on this topic, which the authors admit frankly themselves, and a number of prominent paleontologists such as Thomas Holtz and Andrea Cau have raised various issues with the methods and conclusions. As it presently stands, if T. rex really did have feathers, they may have been relatively sparse, like on the life-sized model used in National Geographic’s T. rex Autopsy (which I strongly recommend viewing if you haven’t already!). We’ll just have to see what future discoveries and research reveal. Even if it is demonstrated someday that Hardbit here is indeed too shaggy, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this one of the finest sculpted and most dyanamic T. rex toys ever. I will also note that, for the life of me, I’ve never understood the notion that feathered theropods can’t possibly be scary. I think the people who claim as such would be screaming at their top of their lungs if they were attacked by a Canada goose, let alone a great horned owl, a harpy eagle, or a cassowary (which actually has killed at least one person). And consider brown bears, which are covered in heavy fur that gives them a cuddly, friendly appearance. But have you ever seen The Revenant or the documentary film Grizzly Man? A feathered T. rex would be no less lethal than a scaly one.
Wild Safari has long been one of the very best prehistoric lines, but 2017 will go down in history as the year they took it to a whole new level of awesomeness. This Tyrannosaurus rex is nothing short of a masterpiece, no two ways about it. Its gargantuan size and bulk alone make it stand out in any dinosaur collection, but add to that the expansive plumage, the handsome colour scheme, the exquisite sculpting, and those vital airs of majesty and ferociousness that accompany any proper depiction of the tyrant lizard king, and you have a truly phenomenal toy. Hardbit is now my favourite T. rex figure, hands down. Yes, even more so than the CollectA version (which I still adore, mind you). Highest of recommendations! And a heartfelt thank you goes out to Dan’s Dinosaurs for generously providing this figure for review!
Also available from Amazon.com here.