Here’s a toy that many of you will no doubt recognize. It probably doesn’t stand on too many collectors’ shelves today but certainly helped fill a lot of toy boxes in the 80’s and 90’s. Yes, you could call this a Chinasaur but you could also call it retro, vintage, and nostalgic. For me it’s an iconic toy from my youth and now that I’ve reacquired it I’m excited to formally introduce you all to the Dor Mei Tyrannosaurus.
Even if you didn’t have this particular toy growing up roughly 30 years ago you no doubt had something produced by Dor Mei. They were responsible for a lot of the cheap dinosaur toys from the late 80’s. Dor Mei was right up there with the likes of UKRD, Imperial, and AAA. They closely resembled their contemporaries of that time and their toys stood out if for no other reason than they were large. The Tyrannosaurus in this review stands 10” tall and measures 12” from snout to tail. Dor Mei was also responsible for a lineup of Godzilla knockoffs and other large menacing plastic reptiles.
This is the kind of toy only a hopeless nostalgic could love. Superficially it resembles a Tyrannosaurus. Large toothy head? Yup! Small arms? Of course! Bipedal? You got it! But it gets just about everything wrong with the details. For starters it is of course a tail-dragger. That should be of no surprise but if you look closely at the legs and feet you’ll see that anatomically they look more human than dinosaurian. This is a model of a man in a dinosaur costume, looking like something straight out of “Unknown Island.”
The tail is short and thin, the torso laughably long. The arms are too long as well but the hands aren’t pronated. Not an intentional decision to be sure. The head is big and boxy. The mouth is filled with generic pointy “shark teeth” and two gigantic eyes resting atop the head. The toy comes off looking more like a frog than our favorite theropod. Ear and eye openings are present and surprisingly the finer details aren’t as bad as you might expect. The skin is covered with pebbly scales; the belly has scales resembling those on a crocodile. The fleshy throat dewlap is cross hatched but gives the toy a lot of its charm. Skin folds run down the torso and the crudest hint of musculature is present on the legs. No bad for what it is.
This toy can be found in at least two color schemes that I’m aware of. The most common being this reddish-brown version. The back is a lighter shade of greenish-brown with a black stripe down the spine. The eyes and nostrils are red and the claws aren’t painted. The teeth are sloppily painted white, and some don’t have paint on them at all. Another version exists that’s painted yellow with black tiger stripes coming down the flanks along the back.
The toy is hollow which as a child meant you could stuff a lot of smaller dinosaur toys in there. Or action figures. Whatever you wanted really. It was a lot of fun to play with and was the matriarch of my particular pack of Tyrannosaurus. Although hilariously outdated this is one of those toys you can’t help but love. It has a lot of personality and represents a unique approach to the Tyrant King. It’s easy enough to find to this day, on eBay in lots or singly. No doubt there are hundreds lurking around yard sales and flea markets as well. If vintage retrosaurs are your thing, check out the Dor Mei Tyrannosaurus.
Here is an interesting rendition of the popular, plate covered, thagomizer wielding stegosaurus. HG toys made some interesting looking dinosaurs during the 80’s. For inspiration on this stegosaur they must have looked at turn of the century paleoart. They certainly didn’t reference any dinosaur renaissance ideas into this stegosaurus, as this toy looks squat and sluggish. This guy could have leapt from the canvas of Heinrich Harder. The last time someone would have considered this toy scientific accurate, it would have been the 1920’s. Despite being outdated lets take a closer look at it and see what redeeming features it might have.
About the Toy: It is a decent size toy at 11.50 in (29.21cm) long and 4.6 in (11.68 cm) high over the hips. It is made of hollow plastic and despite being relatively light, it is a rather sturdy fellow. The pose is straight and low. The suspension on the guy is low with a clearance of just 0.25 in (3.9 cm). A true low rider. The legs are short with big feet, with three toes per foot. Along the back there are twenty two plates arranged in parallel lines of eleven. The body is rotund and well fed. The tail is rather short and is slung low to the ground ending with four spikes. There is some texturing with the skin folds rippling along the body and etched lines on the plates The main paint job is sweet potato orange with a secondary color of dark brown along the back, plates, the underside, and brushed along the legs.
This toy does have some articulation. The front legs do not move backward, but when pushed forward to the front they can move to about 100 degrees. The back legs are the opposite as they do not move forward, but they do move backwards to about 95 degrees. Due to the low body, the fact the legs move is sort of pointless unless you want it to slide on its belly like Frosty the Snowman. There is also an action feature, push the button on the head and the mouth opens. The mouth does not open very wide though. The head can twist all the way around exorcist style. The tail by the spikes can also turn all the way around so you can get those pesky predators.
Overall: It is a “Classic” sand box toy. Yes it does have some retro styling which might give it some curb appeal but this toy is not heading to most peoples shelves. In fact, most people would find it a rather unattractive fellow. Obviously it has very little use as an educational tool. Unless you love Stegosaurus (which I do), into retro styling, or have a sandbox and in need of a toy for a family member, I would pass on this toy. If you are interested in this toy, it has been out of circulation since the 80’s, but does show up occasionally in neighborhood garage sales, thrift stores, and on E-Bay.
Finishing off our reviews of the Field Museum Mold-A-Rama collection is the Stegosaurus. Older original Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs exist as well but they aren’t currently being produced at the Field Museum and the only way to really obtain them is through eBay. It has come to my attention that the Stegosaurus machine was recently removed from the Field Museum so if you don’t already have the Stegosaurus then try to find one on eBay before they become scarce. The “retired” figures include the Ankylosaurus, Edmontosaurus (Trachodon), and Corythosaurus. All of the Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs were offered up as souvenirs at the World’s Fair Dinoland back in the 1960’s. To the best of my knowledge the only place that still has working Mold-A-Rama machines are those located at the Field Museum in Chicago. For a brief history of Dinoland and the World’s Fair check out the review of the original Tyrannosaurus written by Foxilized.
The Stegosaurus is presented as you would expect it to be in a pre-renaissance era. It’s low to the ground with a dragging tail, sturdily built but obviously dim and slow moving with a considerable amount of bulk. True to Stegosaurus the plates at least alternate but aside from that there is little in common with modern depictions.
There is a good bit of detail on this dinosaur but the painfully yellow color makes them difficult to see. Circular scales adorn the body, loose skin hangs from the neck, and skin folds sag along the flanks. The plates are unusually small but vertical striations are etched along them. Although lacking cheeks the mouth does have a thick set of frowning lips which only accentuate the plodding demeanor of the mold.
Personally this Stegosaurus is my least favorite of the Field Museum molds. It lacks the same charm and character that even the oddball Tyrannosaurus possesses. The yellow color is a bit of a turn-off too but that’s just my personal preference and he certainly stands out on a shelf of conventional dinosaur toys.
Caution must be exercised with this particular mold. All of the molds are fragile, made of hollow waxy material but the Stegosaurus seems particularly prone to breakage along the tail. Mine came to me broken but it was easy enough to just glue it back on.
This is the kind of figure that only dinosaur historians might find interesting. The history of the Mold-A-Rama machines, Dinoland, Sinclair Motor oil, and the World’s Fair are all fascinating bits of American history that make seeking this and the other Mold-A-Rama figures worth the effort. Get this Stegosaurus while you can and good luck!