Category Archives: Safari Ltd

Tylosaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Lizards have been around about as long as dinosaurs, and during their time on Earth they have produced some weird side branches. One is snakes (yes, all snakes are lizards, but not all lizards are snakes). Another is the mosasaurs, a group of large aquatic lizards that included some of the largest predators of the late Cretaceous. They weren’t dinosaurs, but true lizards, more closely related to modern monitor lizards than either is to, for example, geckos.

One of the best known mosasaurs is Tylosaurus, and it’s roughly tied with Mosasaurus as the one most commonly made into toys. Safari Ltd has released a new Tylosaurus for 2017, and it’s a very nice piece of work. Tylosaurus was one of the largest lizards of all time, up to 15 meters long. This figure is about 26 cm long measured along the spine, so it’s about 1:55 scale if it represents a large individual. That puts it roughly in scale with Safari’s Elasmosaurus. It’s mostly a sort of yellow ochre all over, slightly darker on top, with irregular bold black markings and a big black spot over each eye.

The maw is carefully rendered, including teeth borne on the pterygoid bone on the roof of the mouth. Like any inexpensive mass-produced toy, there is a bit of paint bleed from the gums to the teeth and vice versa, but overall the paint is well-executed. Based on a cursory glance at some Tylosaurus skulls, it looks like the number of teeth varies, with this figure at the low end of that variation.

The head correctly shows the front of the dentary and premaxillary (i.e. the very front of the mouth) without teeth. The folds of skin around the neck are expertly done, reminiscent of mosasaurs’ monitor lizard cousins.

This is the first mosasaur from Safari to include the two-lobed tail fluke, which was described in 2010 and 2013 based on smaller relatives. If anything, a gigantic animal like Tylosaurus would find a fluke even more useful to move its bulk. This is a realistic depiction, with the main bore of the spine deflected slightly downward, and soft tissue making up the top half of the fluke.

The whole figure is texturally rich, and the flippers in particular show very lizardlike scales. Each digit is discernible, which was likely true in the living animal as well.

Compared to the Carnegie version that was discontinued two years ago, this Tylosaurus is somewhat smaller, with an updated tail, and with a much brighter palette. This color scheme is a bit vibrant for an adult 14-meter animal. Some melanosomes have been observed in large mosasaurs, and their concentration suggests a very dark color, perhaps similar to a sperm whale. Tylosaurus did live in a vast inland sea, a habitat that is no longer widespread on Earth, so it’s at least possible that such an environment would have been friendlier to big bright animals. All the same, the coloration of this figure is probably more appropriate to a smaller mosasaur. Platecarpus was only about 4 meters long, and Dallasaurus was even smaller, comparable to a living monitor. Those were probably more often found in shallow-water, complex habitats where it might be beneficial to have your outline broken up in sun-dappled water. Some sharks that are pelagic as adults, but live near shore when young, have bolder coloration as babies. Perhaps large mosasaurs had a similar progression.

On balance, this is a wonderful replica, and should make both adult kids and regular kids happy. You can find it at museum gift shops, online, and at better toy stores everywhere.

Einiosaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Described in 1995 by Scott Sampson the Einiosaurus has been known to science for over 20 years but has never really caught on in popularity. Although not as iconic as Triceratops, or as flashy as Styracosaurus, the Einiosaurus has to be among the most bizarre looking ceratopsians. Imagine something like Centrosaurus, except with a bottle opener on its head instead of a spiky tyrannosaur deterrent. Indeed, the curved horn of Einiosaurus makes a strong case for the hypothesis that these head ornamentations were not primarily used for defense.  The genus has long been among my favorite ceratopsians and ever since I took up dinosaur collecting I’ve hoped someone would produce an Einiosaurus (aside from the cartoony “Dinosaur Train” toy) and then, for whatever reason, three of them have popped up within the span of a year. One by PNSO which I reviewed recently, this one by Safari, and another upcoming one by CollectA which I won’t be reviewing (I’m not that obsessed with Einiosaurus).

The Safari Einiosaurus is just one model in a huge (and dare I say historic) lineup of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals from Safari Ltd. It’s also another great addition to Doug Watson’s lineup of ceratopsians for the company (something that was sorely missed last year was the addition of another ceratopsian from Doug). This one was worth the wait though, not only is it an Einiosaurus but it’s also one of the best models of the five ceratopsians released thus far, though I may be biased.

Measuring 6.34” in length and 2.54″ tall it scales in well with the other Safari ceratopsians. They’re not in scale with each other of course but with them all being about the same size they still display well together. The Einiosaurus is sculpted with all fours planted on the ground. The left arm is bent at the elbow and the left leg is stretched out behind the animal. This position, and with its head lifted and mouth open, makes the animal looks like it’s bracing itself for something.

At this point I think we can safely say that Mr. Watson is a proficient ceratopsian sculptor. When you buy one of his ceratopsians you can rest assured it’ll be well researched and accurate. The digits are all correctly numbered and accurately portrayed with the forelimbs possessing two clawless little digits on each hand. The hide on this model is particularly noteworthy with many raised scutes along the body. This is in keeping with what we know about the integument of Triceratops and a logical choice for this dinosaur. The scutes also add that much more detail to the toy with its muscular limbs and fleshy skin folds. Unlike the PNSO model this is a full bodied ceratopsian too, full bodied and strong looking.

The head matches well with the skull of Einiosaurus but there is one peculiarity I must point out. Directly above the eyes there are small knobby horns but behind the left brow horn there is another horny bit that is absent from the right side. I’m not sure why this would be and maybe the sculptor knows something I don’t. It’s something I didn’t notice until I sat down to write this review and it’s only mildly distracting. (EDIT: The extra horn was indeed intentional, refer to Doug Watson’s comment below)

The model is painted in earthy greens and browns that blend nicely into each other. The horns and beak are also brown but the nails are painted black. The fenestra on the frill are highlighted with red rings and a yellow spot in the center. It’s nice to see the frill painted as a display structure.

It’s nice to finely have a few representatives of this obscure genus to choose from. Although I have not yet seen the CollectA model I feel confident that this model from Wild Safari is probably the best of the bunch. When the Nasutoceratops was released a couple years ago it was hailed as one of the greatest toys of that year. I think this Einiosaurus is just as good as that model, although it might be forgotten amongst the other offerings from Safari this year. Don’t let this model go unnoticed, it’s a must have for any serious dinosaur collector.

Now available at Dan’s Dinosaurs and wherever Wild Safari models are sold.

Velociraptor (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

For a long time now, too long in fact, various collectable dinosaur companies have tried and failed to make a properly feathered and accurate representation of one of the world’s most popular dinosaurs; Velociraptor and its kin the stem-birds we call dromaeosaurs or “raptors.” When I first started collecting dinosaur toys the best representations included those by Bullyland and CollectA and while we commend their efforts to popularize feathered dinosaurs they ultimately failed to make convincing looking animals. Even more recently companies like Favorite and Papo have tried and failed to make much more than a lizard in a chicken costume. As such my shelf is sadly devoid of feathered dromaeosaurs. I would rather have good outdated naked models than halfhearted attempts at accurate animals.

I think where companies and by extension the artists they hire fail is in one simple rule that seems like common sense in hindsight: if it had feathers, it looked like a bird. Instead of using a reptile as your starting point it makes much more sense to use a bird. In the wake of another dinosaur renaissance urged on by a new generation of artists like John Conway, Emily Willoughby, Matthew Martyniuk, and Mark Witton we’re finally seeing the most realistic looking dinosaurs ever put to paper and they’re not the savage reptiles of antiquity but rather the sort of animals your grandmother might feed outside her window.

Toy companies and model makers are starting to catch up with art and science with this year’s releases by Safari being hailed as the new standard in dinosaur depictions. Multiple dinosaurs in the line are feathered in a realistic way we’ve never seen: a truly epic and unprecedented Tyrannosaurus, feather coated and lithe Coelopyhsis, and now, finally, a properly avian looking Velociraptor.

The new Safari Velociraptor measures 8.39″ long, stands 2.73″ tall, and was sculpted by Doug Watson who continues to hone his trade each passing year. This Velociraptor is literally the first of its kind. The feather placement is absolutely spot-on, complete with primary feathers anchored to the middle digit and a luxurious fan of feathers along the tail. Most of all, and I can’t stress this enough, it looks like a bird. And there is no doubt that Velociraptor and its kin would have looked like birds. Unlike past attempts by other companies the feathery covering does much to obscure the shape of the actual animal within them. The neck is especially thick and fluffy. We’re used to Velociraptor with a long S-curved neck. This is accurate, modern birds have the same thing. It’s kind of a theropod hallmark. With most modern birds you just can’t see it under all the fluff and it makes sense that some feathered dinosaurs would have been similarly obscured by their plumage. Other Velociraptor trademarks are here too. The narrow curved snout, long stiff tail, hyperextended toe, and neutral 3 fingered hands.

If dromaeosaurs could be compared to any modern animals it would no doubt be the animals traditionally called raptors (birds of prey) in a pre-“Jurassic Park” world. This raptor indeed looks raptor-like (please excuse the word play) and the colors it’s reproduced in further enforces that. Doug Watson himself said the colors were originally inspired by the large and regal ferruginous hawk of western North America. The plumage is mostly a burnt orange color with some black highlights on the body. The tail and primary feathers are tipped in brown with beautiful white speckling. The head stands out with a black crown and nape and some white striping trailing away from the eyes. The eyes themselves are orange with round black pupils. The snout is brown and studded with numerous tiny teeth that are meticulously painted with little runoff despite the tiny size. The scaly hands and feet are an olive color with brown scutes and light brown nails. The underside of the toy is painted white. Overall the color is both eye-catching and realistic without being too gaudy.

The model is posed with the tail lifted high but supported by the tips of the wing feathers. Obviously these sorts of compromises are necessary to make the toy stand but unlike previous tripod attempts at a Velociraptor this one is much less offensive.  If I did have any complaint about the posture it would be the open mouth but that’s something I complain about with every theropod toy.

All in all this is just a fantastic model and just the sort of Velociraptor I’ve been longing for. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come from Safari and other toy companies take note. I urge every collector to pick this gem up. Vote with your money and tell toy companies that THIS is the kind of model you want on your shelf.  I could continue to gush over this model for many more pages but I’ll spare you that, this review has already run on longer than most but this toy is truly the Velociraptor to which all other figures will be compared. As a final note I would like to thank Dan of Dan’s Dinosaurs for generously donating this model for review.

The Safari Ltd. Velociraptor is now available for purchase at Dan’s Dinosaurs.