Category Archives: plush

Woolly Mammoth (2007)(Cuddlekin by Wild Republic)

Review and photos by Bryan Divers, edited by Suspsy

This is a review of my most prized possession, the original woolly mammoth Cuddlekin by Wild Republic, released back in 2007. It is not the same as the more recent versions that have already been reviewed, which come in 40-inch, 12-inch, and 8-inch sizes. The original version by Wild Republic is made of noticeably different material and is slightly larger at about 14 inches. I can’t believe I haven’t thought to review it for the blog until now.

This good old woolly mammoth is approaching the 10th anniversary of when I first got her. I was twelve at the time, and my mother bought her for me at the Shop 4 Science gift shop at the Science Museum of Virginia. She was the best of the best for her time, and is probably my most prized possession down to today. I even think that if my house was on fire, I would grab her! A close friend also saw the personality in her and would always ask me about Ellie the mammoth, as we called her. Ellie also accompanied me on a number of family vacations: the most memorable one to me was to Smithfield, Virginia.

My friend always commented on how soft Ellie’s fur was to the touch, and indeed the plush was beautiful. It has become a bit matted over the last ten years, and I actually patched a couple of defective spots on her belly with some felt that matched her fur. The rest of her, though, has remained in fair condition. Although, as her owner, I may be a little prejudiced.

Her trunk is made in a tea spout position, as if she is trumpeting. Her tusks are accurately made, even down to the little brown parts that the tusks grow out of. The end of her tail has little black hairs on it, and the toenails are stitched. The insides of the ears, the soles of the feet, and the toenails are made of a reddish-brown fabric that is flatter than the reddish-brown fur fabric on her head and shoulders. Her mouth is open and makes her look like she is smiling–one of the most appealing features of this toy, to me at least. Her shoulders, hump, and the top of her head are made of a dark reddish-brown fur fabric, and the rest of her body is made of a brown taupe fabric that almost looks dark grey. My mother got her for an easy $12.99, which was moderate considering her quality and that she was sold from a museum gift shop. I think the fact that she remains my favourite stuffed animal into my twenties all the way from age 12 proves that she is as wonderful for the young as for the young at heart.

When my friend was forced to return to her native country, Brazil, in December 2009, Ellie became even more precious to me because she reminded me of the many happy memories with my friend and her family. She is the last connection I have to that beautiful time in my past. If you too see the magic of this beautiful toy and want one for your own, eBay is probably your best bet: search for “mammoth cuddlekins” or “wild republic mammoth.” (A hint: if you want the original mammoth like mine, the fur on the face, legs, and rump looks very dark, almost black, as opposed to the more brown look of the newer version.)

Ammonoid (Paleozoic Pals by Jaag Plush)

First off, just to get it out of the way, this is not an ammonite. This is an ammonoid, the broader group to which ammonites belong. While ammonites lived through the Jurassic and Cretaceous the group ammonoidea first appeared 400 million years ago in the Devonian. Thus, here we have a plush ammonoid, not an ammonite which would have no place in a line of toys representing Paleozoic fauna. Also worth noting, for no reason in particular is that ammonoids are actually more closely related to squids, octopuses, and cuttlefish than they are to the superficially similar nautiloids but all of them are of course cephalopods.

Now what species or genus of ammonoid this toy is supposed to represent is a bit of a mystery, and it’s probably not meant to represent any specific animal, just ammonoids as a group and you could probably pretend it was an ammonite if you wanted. Just for kicks I tried to identify it in my “Field Guide to the Devonian Fossils of New York” but with no real success. This is kind of a shame honestly because the previously released trilobite and eurypterid identify the toys at the species level.

Regardless of identity this is still a great toy. The boldly colored and tightly wound orange shell, in conjunction with the big shiny eyes and ten arms make it a lot of fun to look at and play with. It’s quite large too, measuring 15” in length (arms included) and 7” tall. The shell is quite wide too, 3” across. The eyes are brown, body tan, and the arms tan and white. No mouth is present hidden in the arms, unfortunately.

As with the rest of the Paleozoic Pals line this toy was commissioned by PRI’s Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, NY. If you want to catch one in the wild you’ll have to go there to get one but you can also acquire it on their website which is no doubt the more practical route. But, if you’re ever in central/western New York make sure you stop by the museum. The collection of Devonian fossils is truly impressive and one of a kind. This review concludes our look at the Paleozoic Pals, for now. It’ll be exciting to see what the future holds for these adorable and unique toys.

Dunkleosteus (Paleozoic Pals by Jaag Plush)

Armored placoderm fishes have never been so cuddly! Manufactured by Jaag Plush and commissioned by the Paleontological Research Institute (PRI) comes this 16” long most famous of prehistoric fishes, Dunkleosteus. Ol’ Dunk is a popular fish, about as popular as a prehistoric fish can get anyway. As such it has been reproduced by a few different toy companies already but this is the first plush Dunkleosteus that I’m aware of. It’s a good choice too for inclusion in the Paleozoic Pals as it reigned supreme as the largest predator of the Devonian period with the largest species measuring about 20’ in length, about the size of a great white shark.

For those unaware, the Paleozoic Pals is a line of plush animals that lived during the…you guessed it! The Paleozoic. They’re sold exclusively at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca New York but are available online on the PRI website. Since New York State is rich in Devonian fossils it makes sense that a New York museum would commission these mostly obscure but locally relevant plush toys and they’re a real hit at the museum gift shop.

This plush represents the first vertebrate in a line that so far consists of a trilobite, eurypterid, and an ammonoid. It no doubt represents Dunkleosteus terrelli, the largest and most well-known species of Dunkleosteus. Fossils of this species haven’t been found in New York but the species D. newberryi has and D. terrelli has been found in a few neighboring states. As such the Dunkleosteus figures in prominently at the Museum of the Earth with an entire museum display focused around an awesome set of its armor plates.

The armor plating of this fish is the only fossil material we actually have of Dunkleosteus and everything past the head is purely speculative on any reconstruction. Most reconstructions actually barrow heavily on the related genus Coccasteus for which we have much more complete remains. Coccateus only measured about 7-9” however, which means that it might be a poor comparison to the much larger Dunkleosteus. Features like the single-lobed eel like caudal fin of Coccateus probably wouldn’t have worked well for Dunk and despite nearly all reconstructions depicting it with such a tail it’s likely to have had a caudal fin more like that of a tuna, billfish, or shark than a relative that could fit in your hand. This plush, like most other renditions, gives the toy that unlikely tail.

The visible armored head is well constructed with the various plates nicely outlined. In life, Dunkleosteus probably had skin over this armor but these plates are its signature feature so it seems reasonable that they would be outlined so prominently here. Paired pectoral and pelvic fins are present as well as a long dorsal fin. An anal fin is absent.

The “teeth” of Dunkleosteus weren’t actually teeth, but modified plates. On this toy they’re made of felt but in color that matches the rest of the armor which is nice, it seems unlikely that they would be white. The toy is filled with polyester fiber and small pellets which add some weight to it and allow it to be propped up. From what I can tell this is a well-constructed plush with sturdy seams and should hold up to play from kids and adults alike.

The Paleozoic Pals Dunkleosteus is a really cool plush that I can’t recommend enough.  It’s not every day you get to give your child a soft and cuddly arthrodire placoderm fish and I doubt you’ll see another one of these from another company anytime soon. This is a must have in any prehistoric fishes collection.