Category Archives: retro

Tyrannosaurus (Dor Mei)

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.

Stegosaurus (HG Toys)

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.


Moschops (White Post)

White Post is no company, but the location of “Dinosaur Land”, a theme park dedicated to prehistoric animals in Virginia, USA. This park has been run as a family business for over 50 years now. Early in the history of the park the operators had the idea of having some of their lifesize figures made into small plastic figures for their souvenir shop. In respect thereof these figures are an equivalent of the Kleinwelkas from the German Democratic Republic. (Here, for instance, is their Diplodocus.)
According to the Dinosaur Collector Site A, these figures are very collectible, impossible to find and go for high prices. This is probably due to both a small edition and the fact that it´s quite hard to tell the value of such a beast in a toy box or on a flea market. It even says “Hong Kong” at the belly! I hate the thought that uninformed parents threw many of these away after their childrens´ dinosaur development phase (which we enthusiasts never really grew out of, right?)

Here you can see other figures of this line. Some remind me at the Invictas in terms of their monochromacity and their overall look, yet these beasts have been modeled far more roughly and look much, well, cheaper.
Here is the homepage of the theme park.
And here is a link to a great collection of photographs showing the life-sized models the figures are based on.
Moschops (Greek for “calf face”) is an extinct genus of therapsid that lived in the Guadalupian epoch, around 265–260 million years ago. Therapsids are synapsids, which once were the dominant land animals. Its remains were found in the Karoo region of South Africa.
Besides the Moschops, there are many other interesting species, for example a Saltoposuchus, a Diatryma or a Tylosaurus. And they are all said to be ugly. Well, yes, they are ugly to a certain extent.
But to put it bluntly: There´s no accounting for taste, and this Moschops is a figure that suits me down to the ground!

It is 9 cm long and 3,5 cm tall. Its colour is a monochrome purple/tan. It looks as if someone had smeared green colour at its flanks.
Honestly, one would not recognize this figure as a Moschops if it had not been called a Moschops. The front legs should stand taller than the hind legs, the head is a catastrophe and the eyes look like they belong to an insectoid alien. And the figure even seems to have two muzzles. Very odd! There are some rough bumps at the flanks and a ridge extends to its back, but don´t expect anything looking like a continuous skin pattern. Both the forefeet and the hindfeet have been sculpted sloppily, and so has the whole figure. It looks like it is walking on brittle ice, permanently afraid of breaking. Anatomy didn´t play a role in sculpting this model, which is incomprehensible, since the original looks quite decent. It seems like the contractors modeled this figure after a badly shot picture from an unlucky perspective.
But it does have charme for it evokes both pity and the thrill of the chase. This is an interesting in-between affect. I was lucky to get mine in a pleasant trade, but I don´t have the slightest clue for a reference source. I guess it´s most probable to find one of these by scanning endless amounts of ebay lots. Good luck!

To sum it up: White Post Moschops is definitely no beauty, but true beauty is a matter of what your heart tells you, and so this figure for me, despite all its inaccuracy, gets 5 out of 5 stars. To me it stands in a line with the Marx or Tootsie Toys Moschops.

Is this a museum quality figure, sculpted correctly? The point is moot. This is the kind of figure that make a collector´s life worthwhile!