Category Archives: Safari Ltd

Diplodocus (2017) (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd)

Available from Amazon here.

For some reason, I can remember that one of the dinosaur books I had as a kid included a picture of a Diplodocus-style sauropod, with a quote from a paleontologist in the caption saying that “for most people, this is literally Mr Dinosaur himself”. It’s a comment that captures the unique fasciation of these animals, as the largest creatures ever to have walked the Earth. Everything about the sheer mass of these animals borders on the inconceivable, and yet modern reconstructions of sauropods emphasise that alongside their staggering size, these “earth-shaker lizards” possessed a sinuous, almost swan-like elegance and beauty. For this reason, sauropod figures have a special place in the hearts of many dinosaur model collectors. Today I review the newest potential addition to your herd, the 2017 Safari Diplodocus.

Diplodocus was first unearthed in 1877, and by now, countless millions of people must have gazed up at the many skeletal casts of Diplodocus featuring in museums around the world, as donated by the millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie in the early years of the twentieth century. Palaeontologist Gregory S Paul gives a size estimate of 25 metres and 12 tonnes for D. carnegii (in the dinosaur books I read as a kid, it seemed more or less compulsory to include a picture showing Diplodocus lined up alongside three busses parked end-to-end) and suggests that there may have been as many as 6 Diplodocus species, one of which, D. hallorum (the sauropod formerly known as Seismosaurus) may have reached 32 metres and 30 tonnes, making it a pretty decent candidate for the longest land animal ever (although not the most massive – sauropods from other branches of the family tree, such as brachiosaurs and titanosaurs, were much more heavily built). What’s really amazing is that four of the most famous of dinosaur giants, Diplodocus, the brontosaur Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Camarasaurus, all lived together at the same time and place, in the Morrison Formation of late Jurassic North America, around 150 million years ago. What a truly astounding sight it must have seen these colossi together, wandering the same plains and drinking from the same watering holes…

But enough of this banter, what about the model? The first thing to note about this figure is it’s impressive size, which doesn’t really come across from the promotional photographs online. Although not as massive as the Carnegie collection sauropod figures of old, this is still a very hefty model that does justice to the imposing dimensions of the original beast. The length of the figure, (as posed with a tail that curves over upon itself), is about 47cm long. If you straighten out the tail, you get a total head-to-tail length of about 60cm, so accepting a 25 metre length estimate for the living animal, that gives us a scale that is pretty darn close to 1:40 (1:41.666 if you want to be precise). Furthermore, if you can manage to find a toy bus that is 20cm long, then you can use three of them to recreate that Diplodocus size-comparison illustration we all saw in the dinosaur books of our youth – isn’t it lucky that you have me to point these things out for you?

The pose of this Diplodocus is very handsome, and arguably superior to  Safari Diplodocus figures that have preceded it, not least because the head and tail are in a more-or-less straight alignment, meaning that the model displays equally well from both sides. The thing that I like best about this figure’s pose it that it is so naturalistic – it really does look like a plausible animal, ambling through its late Jurassic habitat, relaxed and self-assured (mercifully, the protruding ‘shrink wrapped’ vertebra and  ‘belly-almost-dragging-on-the-ground’ carriage of Papo’s sauropod monstrosity are not in evidence here). The way the whiplash tail curls over upon itself is a particularly appealing feature of the sculpt – it’s been speculated that living Diplodocus could twirl their tails around like this for communication and display within the herd. Iguana-like spines seem to show up on all manner of sauropod reconstructions these days, but in the case of the Diplodocus line of the sauropod family tree, there really are fossil skin impressions indicating this feature, so they make a welcome addition to the model. An aspect of the figure that will please many is that the hands (front feet) are depicted with only a single but large claw projecting laterally out from the side, which intuitively, looks a little odd, but is in fact in line with current paleontological views on sauropod anatomy. The musculature of the neck, where it joins onto the body, is portrayed as being rather deeper and more massive than on many older reconstructions that I’ve seen. I’m afraid I don’t know enough sauropod anatomy to comment on this from a technical standpoint, but purely in terms of aesthetics it looks plausible enough, and adds to this sculpts refreshingly contemporary and up-to-date feel.

I was excited to buy this figure, because the two-toned colour scheme with the dappled underbelly reminded me of the dinosaur art of Raul Martin, whose sauropod restorations must surely rank as among the most beautiful renditions of these animals. But unfortunately, it must be said that when the model is in hand, the surface details are a little disappointing. The skin is textured all over, but the depth of the texturing is slight, and not crisply cast. Consequently, the skin detailing seems flat and nondescript – in the picture below I’ve compared it with the skin texturing of the Collecta Diplodocus, which in my opinion is much more dynamic in its surface details. The colour scheme is based around a plausible-seeming (and not unattractive) shade of green-grey, and the underbelly mottling has an effectively organic look to it. But unfortunately, (on my example at least), the paint has not been well applied, appearing very thin and watered-down in places, and clumsily slapped-on in others, especially about the  head. The eye is just a black dot, and the way the white for the teeth has been dashed all about the head gives my example something of an unfortunate  bucked-tooth look. There is absolutely no tonal variation on the green-grey that covers most of the body, and this makes it rather overpowering visually – even the spines are in the same colour, which is a shame since a line of dark spines against the grey would really have made them a standout feature of the model. Even the most elementary of repainting efforts, (such as picking out the spines in black), would greatly improve the look of this guy. The blandness of the surface detailing and the lacklustre paint application do tend to make this figure seem more like a plastic lump of a toy than a scale replica for display, which is a real shame since the proportions and pose are so well thought-out.

Kids will no doubt really enjoy playing with this life-like Diplodocus, and would appreciate the flexibility of the whiplash tail as a way of adding some life and movement to the toy. As a collector’s model for the shelf, my conclusions are more equivocal. This is one of those figures that perhaps looks rather better from a distance than close up. From the promotional photographs online, I thought this was going to be a truly stunning model… the pose and form certainly give it the potential to be so, but unfortunately the execution of the surface detailing and paintwork have reduced the impact considerably. It’s still a very interesting and appealing model, just not the truly stunning figure that I feel it could have been. Sauropod fans will undoubtedly want to add this one to their herd, but more general-interest collectors will have to make up their own minds. I usually like to end my reviews with some atrocious pun, but given the various plusses and minuses of this figure, I’ll just remark that it is up to individual collectors to decide if they want to risk sticking their necks out for this one.

Available from Amazon here.

Kronosaurus (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd)

Available from Amazon.com for under $20

When their vaunted Carnegie Collection was discontinued in early 2015, Safari Ltd evidently got to work pretty quickly to take up the slack elsewhere, because in a mere two years they more than doubled the output of figures from their standard dinosaur line. This year they’ve released a whopping 13 new figures, several of which are updated versions of animals that had been in the Carnegie Collection. One is this Kronosaurus, the first new figure of this genus since Schleich’s in 2005. The Carnegie Collection version was on the market for nearly 20 years, and Schleich’s was really no improvement, so we were due for a new one.

Safari Kronosaurus

This figure is large. It’s roughly 34 cm long, almost a third of which is the head. This is appropriate, as Kronosaurus had a truly gigantic head, up to 2.7 meters long. This figure is about 1:25-1:30 scale and could easily serve as a doorstop.

Safari Kronosaurus

Our hefty friend sports a fairly standard color scheme for a large marine predator, with a mix of grays above and white below. Even with the relatively conservative color scheme, the pattern is deceptively intricate, consisting of a broad, graded band of gray along the dorsal midline, criss-crossed by irregular but sharply defined vertical striations. The effect is quite eye-catching, and if I didn’t have the toy in my hands you could convince me that it was a computer-generated model. It’s sculpted in an active pose, with the head twisted slightly to the side as though striking at prey.

Safari Kronosaurus

The gaping jaws show off the dentition to great effect. We can see four teeth per side in the premaxillae (the front of the snout), marking this as K. queenslandicus. The gap between the fourth and fifth pair of teeth aligns with huge teeth in the flared lower jaw. This sort of pattern occurs in many aquatic predators, such as crocodiles, and makes it easier to handle prey.

Safari Kronosaurus

This new Kronosaurus represents a dramatic improvement in accuracy relative to previous renditions. Comparison with its Carnegie predecessor is especially instructive. Whereas the old one was perfectly cylindrical, inviting frequent comparisons to a sausage, the new one has a broader head and body, which makes it look much less…extruded. And while the old one had dinky rear flippers, the new one has long, broad ones, reflecting their important role in swimming.

Safari Kronosaurus

There is a low, subtle keel along the back of this figure, continuing on to the tail, but there is no fin. There is circumstantial evidence for small tail fins in some Jurassic pliosaurs, but tens of millions of years of evolution separate them from Kronosaurus. In contrast to ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, whales, or metriorhynchid crocodiles, Kronosaurus did not use its tail for thrust production. Rather, it propelled itself with its flippers, which is unusual in modern animals. Sea turtles probably come closest, with perhaps penguins a distant second. Neither has any sort of vertical fin. Although Kronosaurus did not have a shell, it shared with turtles a relatively stiff torso, which, along with its slight dorsoventral compression, would help with stability. Therefore, it may not have been necessary to have a fin to prevent rolling. Since we have no clear and obvious modern analogue to compare, until and unless soft tissue around the tail of a big advanced pliosaur is found, Safari’s decision not to include a fin looks perfectly reasonable. At the same time, including one would also be defensible.

Safari Kronosaurus

The one minor gripe I have with this figure is that the fins tend to curl upward. I’m not sure why this is, and if it were a subtler bend it could be explained as minor deformation as the animal rows against the water. It might be that if you softened them up with a hair dryer and squished them between two books they would assume a more natural shape. If you try that or something similar, let us know in the comments!

Safari Kronosaurus

With the small exception of the curly fins, this is a spectacular figure that reflects great attention to detail. It’s the most accurate Kronosaurus on the market, ending the Carnegie version’s dubious 20-year reign. Kids and adult collectors alike should find a way to give it a home.

Available from Amazon.com for under $20

Tyrannosaurus rex (2017)(Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

Available from Amazon.com here.

The old bull snorts angrily, but Hardbit is unmoved. He has stalked and killed scores of calves and cows on his own, and together with his mate, Tanjaw, large bulls like this one. And there is no moon in the sky overhead. A good night for a kill. Silently and methodically, the two hunters circle their prey. Unlike them, it cannot see in the pitch darkness and can only swing its horned head blindly from side to side. Suddenly, Tanjaw lunges and bites down on the bull’s right thigh! The bull jerks its head to the right and in that instant, Hardbit comes in from the left, clamps his jaws down on the bull’s frill, and forces the massive animal to the ground. Immediately, Tanjaw places her full weight on top of the bull and pins it down. Hardbit then plants a foot on the bull’s shoulder, bites down on the frill even harder, and begins to tug with every ounce of his brute strength. The frantic bull struggles and screams as the skin around its neck stretches and tears. There is a sickening crunch of breaking bone, and then, with one last effort, Hardbit wrenches off the bull’s head completely! He holds the dripping prize aloft for a few seconds, then lets it fall to the ground with a thump.

Tanjaw wastes no time in beginning to feed, but Hardbit pauses to catch his breath. He regards the severed head lying in a dark puddle at his feet. Although his mind does not allow much in the way of deep thought, he is still capable of feeling pride. This was indeed a good night for a kill . . .

Tyrannosaurus rex is THE dinosaur, plain and simple. Granted, some people have other favourites, and that’s great, but the tyrant lizard king will always be iconic. It’s the Batman, Spider-Man, Optimus Prime, Mickey Mouse, and Darth Vader of dinosaurs, the most famous and the most liked. And the most studied one too. The Dinosaur Toy Blog certainly attests to this popularity, as there are by far more T. rex reviews than any other animal. And now it’s my pleasure and privilege to review one of the newest and most anticipated renditions, the 2017 Feathered T. rex from Wild Safari!

As is often the case when I acquire a new figure, I promptly presented this T. rex before my non-dinosaur loving wife. Her gut reaction this time? “It’s really fat!” And yes, this certainly is one of the beefiest tyrant kings I’ve seen yet. The rib cage is nearly 6 cm wide and the torso is around 7 cm deep. The figure stands a majestic 14 cm tall and measures just over 31 cm long, positively dwarfing the previous Wild Safari T. rex! It is also noticeably heavier than either of the Papo T. rexes or the CollectA Deluxe Feathered T. rex. So why is this figure so massive? Well, the truth is that we’ve all been duped for a long time into envisioning T. rex as slimmer than it really was. One reason is that a number of prominent museums such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and even the Field Museum in Chicago have their T. rex specimens mounted without gastralia, those belly ribs that would have made the animal’s torso particularly bulgy. The Smithsonian’s recently acquired specimen, however, will include its gastralia when it goes on display in 2019. Another reason is that even some of the best paleoartists have had a tendency to depict T. rex more along the lines of an NBA forward as opposed to the NFL linebacker it really was. Indeed, while it’s true that Giganotosaurus was longer than T. rex, the latter was still heavier, with a thicker head, neck, and torso as well as far greater physical strength. And if the Ibrahim/Sereno reconstruction of Spinosaurus is indeed correct, then the spined lizard also lost out to the tyrant lizard in terms of mass if not length. Bottom line: I strongly advise against placing this figure up on a high shelf; you really wouldn’t want it falling on your head!

This T. rex is posed with the head raised high and turned to the left, the jaws wide open, the left foot forward, and the powerful tail twitching slightly to the left and well off the ground. Unfortunately, I’ve heard a few people report balancing issues with their figures. Mine was stood well enough when I first got it, but after a couple of days, it became more prone to tipping forward. Fortunately, after softening the left foot in boiling water, bending it back slightly, and then running it under cold water, I have solved that issue. The figure can also be balanced on the tip of its tail if needs be.

Our fine feathered friends! And a must-read book too!

One detail I’m going to touch right now are the deep scars crisscrossing the muzzle, three one on side and three on the other. Looks like the result of a very nasty scrap with another T. rex. There does exist fossil evidence that tyrannosaurines at least occasionally engaged in intraspecific conflict. These could have arisen over food, territory, mating rights, or possibly even cannibalism. In any case, the scars give this individual a distinctly rugged, hard-bitten appearance, hence why I’ve named him Hardbit.

Hardbit’s most prominent feature is, of course, his elaborate plumage. Nearly his entire body is covered in feathers. A thick mane, similar to that found on the wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) and various species of eagle, covers the back of his neck. A welcome bit of variety from the tall mohawks so frequently seen on feathered dinosaur depictions. There are even feathers extending onto his cranium. Feathered renditions of T. rex usually omit such a feature, so this is again a welcome change. The only bare parts are the muzzle, the mandible, the throat, the feet, and a large patch on the underbelly.

Like many of the 2017 Wild Safari figures, Hardbit here was crafted by artist (and fellow Canuck) Doug Watson, which alone should tell you about the quality of the sculpting. The featherless bits have a very fine pebbled texture, with thick folds of skin on the throat and large, overlapping scales on the fingers and feet. The feathers on the main body have a lush, shaggy feel, like on a rhea or a kiwi. The larger, spikier feathers comprising the mane have tiny grooves carved into them. The savage teeth are appropriately sharp and the roof of the mouth and the tongue are pitted. There are also rows of tiny osteoderms running along the brow ridges and along the top of the muzzle, as well as the aforementioned scars. Even the soles of the feet are textured. I can’t imagine how much time, effort, patience, and heart must have gone into sculpting this figure, but I take my hat off to you, Doug.

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food!”

Hardbit is easily one of the most colourful Wild Safari dinosaurs to date. The plumage on his main body varies between dark red and pale orange with black stripes and a slight dark grey wash. The plumage on his chest and the underside of his tail have a white wash and the mane and cranial feathers are a combination of crimson and black. The scaly parts are a mixture of grey and beige, the nostrils, claws, and the large scales on the feet are dark grey, the eyes are yellow surrounded by red, the osteoderms are red as well, the mouth, connective tissue, and scars are crimson, and the teeth are white. It really is a gorgeous scheme, one that utilises a wide variety of colours, yet at the same time is quite realistic and not overly bold. There are a few small nicks and blemishes here and there amidst the feathers, but keep in mind that finely textured figures carry a greater risk of paint rubbing when they are packed close together during shipping. This goes more so for large figures like this one. Safari may want to consider providing extra protective packaging for their products in future.

And now it’s time to discuss the scientific accuracy of this figure. Doug Watson informed me that Hardbit was based on the famous Sue specimen, which is the largest T. rex known from near-complete remains (although Scotty might actually have exceeded Sue in mass). As such, Hardbit possesses all the correct anatomical features. The massive, T-shaped skull features stereoscopic vision and savage teeth that are large, but not overly so. No question of shrink wrapping here; the orbits and fenestrae are completely hidden beneath the skin. There is a short, sturdy neck, a barrel-like rib cage, rightly tiny arms with non-pronated wrists, powerful-looking hind legs, and finally a stout tail whose enormous caudofemoralis muscles would have enhanced the animal’s speed and allowed it to successfully pursue live prey. As for the plumage, we all know that’s a divisive issue among dinosaur experts and enthusiasts. It’s true that there’s currently no direct fossil evidence of feathers on T. rex, but the same can be said for a good many theropods that we are still pretty certain had them. Fossilised feathers are the rare exception, not the norm. Phylogenetic bracketing certainly suggests the distinct possibility that the tyrant king had feathers. And shoot, no one has yet discovered a Megatherium with preserved fur, but you don’t hear anyone claiming it had naked skin! Speculation will always be an essential and major component of paleontology, and I for one am all in favour of a tyrant king adorned with plumage. I will also note that for the life of me, I’ve never understood the notion that feathered theropods can’t possibly be scary. I think the people who claim as such would be screaming at their top of their lungs if they were attacked by a Canada goose, let alone a great horned owl, a harpy eagle, or a cassowary (which actually has killed at least one person). And consider brown bears, which are covered in heavy fur that gives them a cuddly, friendly appearance. But have you ever seen The Revenant or the documentary film Grizzly Man? A feathered T. rex like Hardbit here would be no less lethal than a scaly one.

Wild Safari has long been one of the very best prehistoric lines, but 2017 will go down in history as the year they took it to a whole new level of awesomeness. This Tyrannosaurus rex is nothing short of a masterpiece, no two ways about it. Its gargantuan size and bulk alone make it stand out in any dinosaur collection, but add to that the expansive plumage, the handsome colour scheme, the exquisite sculpting, and those vital airs of majesty and ferociousness that accompany any proper depiction of the tyrant lizard king, and you have a truly phenomenal toy. One for the ages. Even people who don’t agree with the feathered look ought to be impressed by it. Hardbit here is now my favourite T. rex figure, hands down. Yes, even more so than the CollectA version (which I still adore, mind you). Highest of recommendations!

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Dan’s Dinosaurs for generously providing this figure for review.

“It ain’t about how hard you bite. It’s about how hard you can get bit and keep moving forward. It’s about how many bites you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”