Category Archives: Prehistoric Life

Smilodon (Prehistoric Life Collection by Safari Ltd)

Review and photographs by Quentin Brendel (aka Pachyrhinosaurus), edited by Suspsy

Smilodon, the notorious sabre-toothed cat, has been included in dinosaur toy sets for decades. It’s often depicted in the likeness of a modern tiger, probably in part due to its common name being “sabre-toothed tiger.” On the contrary, this cat wasn’t closely related to tigers, belonging to a now-extinct subfamily of felidae: Machairodontinae.

image

The Wild Safari Smilodon‘s pose is good for playability and dioramas alike. It’s lunging forwards with its mouth open, brandishing the namesake sabres. It looks as though it would be pursuing prey or facing an enemy. The ears are pointed backwards and there are subtle wrinkles in what looks to be an open mouth snarl, creating a very realistic expression. There’s great attention to detail in the musculature around the rest of the body as well. The tricep is bulging and better defined in the weight-bearing front left leg than on the right leg. The fur is very well-defined, being a bit longer on the back of the neck and flowing in the proper directions. From nose to tail, it’s four and a quarter inches long.

image

The colours are similar to those of a bobcat, but with more solid and prominent stripes, like the stripes of a true tiger. On the ventral surface of the neck, they’re especially similar to tiger stripes. As with most cats, the WS Smilodon is countershaded with a white underside. In addition, it has white markings around the eyes and white patches on the ears, also like a tiger. The nose is an oddly vibrant color of pink, being the same colour as the mouth. A duller pink would have looked better, but it would probably have increased production costs.

image

In the newer figures, there is a dark wash inside the mouth. Overall, the older one is paler with more natural-looking transitions between the brown and white fur. The stripes are more neatly-applied on the older version, making it preferable to the newer version in my opinion. It’s also worth noting that the newer one has a glossy finish while the older does not.

image

The proportions seem to be right. If there are errors, they certainly aren’t obvious. As noted earlier, the body is well-muscled as it should be, including the famously robust forelimbs of a sabre-tooth. Unlike dinosaurs, the understanding of the basic anatomy of recently-extinct mammals has not changed very much, so figures much older than this one could still hold up to modern knowledge.

image

Given that it’s a popular genus, there are relatively few good Smilodon figures on the modern market, but this is one of them. The attractive pose and accurate anatomy make this one formidible figure. In fact, I would consider this to be the best mass-produced sabre-tooth cat figure so far. It is still in production as of 2016 and can be purchased on Amazon and eBay. Safari also produced a Smilodon cub, though it has eluded my collection so far. From the pictures, it looks like an excellent match for this figure.

Giant Sloth (Prehistoric Life Collection by Safari Ltd.)

Back in the mid-2000’s Safari Ltd. released a series of mammals for what they dubbed the “Prehistoric Life Collection.” The series included popular animals like Smilodon and the wooly mammoth but also included some more obscure creatures like the Andrewsarchus, Arsinoitherium, Ambelodon, Doedicurus, and the giant sloth. Save for the mammoth and Smilodon these mammals would soon be retired and only accessible by paying a hefty fee on eBay. Why these mammals were retired so soon after their release I can only speculate but they were among the best models in the Wild Safari line at the time, representing animals seldom produced in our hobby. Some say that Safari’s involvement with the Carnegie Collection prohibited them from making mammal toys but I don’t have enough information on that to say for sure. Suffice it to say that the Carnegie Collection retired last year, and now those coveted mammals have been re-released. Well, most of them. The Ambelodon, Doedicurus, and the giant sloth are all back on the market. This review will concern the giant sloth but reviews for the other two already exist on the blog and are worth checking out.

giantsloth2
The ground sloths belonging to the Megatherium genus were among the largest land mammals that ever lived, the largest of them measuring up to 20’ in length and weighing 4 tons. Although Safari does not specify which species of sloth their model is (and there were many species) chances are that it represents Megatherium americanum, one of the largest and most popular species of giant ground sloths. M. americanum lived in Pleistocene South America and went extinct about 11,000 years ago.

giantsloth1
The Safari giant sloth measures about 4” tall and 3.5” long. It’s standing erect on its feet while being supported by its thick, heavy tail. Its beefy forearms are reaching forward for some unseen branches. The mouth is open and reaching towards the left, no doubt about to eat some scrumptious foliage. The pose reflects what these behemoth herbivores probably spent most of their time doing; feeding. And in this posture we see how the giant sloth probably operated while feeding, using its size and strength to reach the highest branches. The hands are sculpted with four fingers, three of which possess large claws. The number of fingers and claws being accurate for the Megatherium genus. Like modern anteaters giant sloths would have walked on the sides of their feet due to the large claws it had and this is reflected in the model as well.

giantsloth3
First released in 2004 this sloth along with the other Safari mammals were leagues ahead of the dinosaurs released at the same time and a sign of things to come for the company, at least in terms of quality. The sloth is sculpted with a dense shaggy coat, the hair following the various contours of its body. The model despite its small size looks hefty, and robust. The sloth’s body is painted chocolate brown in color. The claws are a lighter shade of brown. The tiny eyes are brown too with black pupils. The snout and lips are black and the tongue, palate, and nostrils pink. The snout, lips, mouth and eyes are all painted with a glossy coat, giving them a wet, lifelike appearance.

giantsloth3
For collectors of prehistoric mammals this sloth as well as the entire “Prehistoric Life Collection” are must have pieces. Their early retirement and subsequent rarity was unfortunate for those of us interested in these bizarre mammals. But now they’re back and hopefully will be for years to come. You can find this sloth as well as others in the collection wherever Safari models are sold online and for reasonable prices as well. Fingers crossed that Safari will bring back their Arsinoitherium next year!
giantsloth4

Upcoming releases from Safari Ltd (New for 2016)

 

Despite the sad retirement of their long-respected and trend-setting Carnegie Collection this year, Safari Ltd have shown no signs of slowing down with their other major prehistoric animal line – Wild Safari. The company has five brand new for 2016 prehistoric animal sculpts in the pipeline: four dinosaurs and one marine reptile. Although slated for release next year, some are already available from Safari Ltd’s Amazon page here and will be available there in the coming months.

This year the Dinosaur Toy Blog was delighted to be invited to participate in Safari Ltd’s #GimmeNewSafari launch campaign surrounding these new releases. This saw Safari Ltd select several ‘influencers’ to receive a sneak peek of their new products, so we’ve been waiting for our surprise to arrive to give it the old walk-around photography and review treatment. Unfortunately, the ‘new’ figure we received isn’t technically new, but rather a re-issue of a 2005 figure already reviewed on the Dinosaur Toy Blog in 2009. So, we don’t have anything exclusive to offer our readers after all, but it was nice of Safari Ltd to think of us.

All of the truly new Safari Ltd figures will be reviewed here sooner or later, no doubt. So, let’s summarise what we have to look forward to:

Carcharodontosaurus – The giant African super-predator.
Wild Safari Carcharodontosaurus 2016

Masiakasaurus – The weirdly toothed small theropod dinosaur.
Wild Safari Masiakasaurus 2016

Iguanodon – An old favourite!
Wild Safari Iguanodon 2016

Shunosaurus – Club-tailed sauropod with an unusually short neck for a ‘long-necked’ dinosaur!
Wild Safari Shunosaurus 2016

Plesiosuchus – The largest of the metriorhychid crocodiles (technically, crocodylomorphs). As a palaeontologist who specialises on marine reptiles it was a pleasure to be involved in the design process of this particular figure. In fact, it is the third Wild Safari marine reptile I’ve had the honour to assist with (so far!). So, although I’d have settled for any of the new dinosaurs, when my surprise package arrived from Safari Ltd this week I really had my fingers crossed that it would be this gem. Alas, it was none of the above! (A reissued mammal though – it hurts a little!)

Wild Safari plesiosuchus 2016

Four very welcome re-releases of prehistoric mammal figures will accompany the brand new sculpts in 2016, as follows:

Woolly Mammoth baby
Wild Safari baby mammoth 2016

Doedicurus. Here’s a shot of our ‘sneak peek’ figure courtesy of Safari Ltd. Check out our review of the Doedicurus (Prehistoric Life by Safari Ltd) here.
Wild Safari Doedicurus 2016

Giant sloth
Wild Safari giant sloth 2016

Ambelodon
Wild Safari Ambelodon 2016

Thanks to Safari Ltd for involving us in the launch and watch this space for the detailed reviews of the above new releases. We’ll just have to get in line like everybody else. You can find out more about Safari Ltd at their blog, here.

The figures will be available very soon, and some already are, from Safari Ltds’ Amazon page, here.