Category Archives: Safari Ltd

Pteranodon (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

It was once thought that there were two distinct species of the famous Pteranodon. P. longiceps is the “standard” one with a knife-shaped crest, while P. sternbergi was larger and had a more ornate, upright crest. However, a 2010 study concluded that P. sternbergi was distinct enough to be a distinct genus, Geosternbergia sternbergi.

This figure, released by Safari in 1999, is clearly a Geosternbergia, but I’ll refer to it as a Pteranodon, as that’s what it was intended to be at the time (Safari’s Tapejara figure has the same issue). At 8 cm in length and a maximum wingspan of 18 cm, it’s small compared to more recent pterosaur figures. The main colour is brownish-orange with light orange for the brachiopatagium, a greenish-yellow bill, and bright yellow eyes ringed in black.

This Pteranodon features the most important details of any pterosaur figure: wrinkled, leathery wings and a body covered in pycnofibres. The crest has the correct shape, but the bill could certainly stand to be longer. The feet and the first three fingers on each arm are little more than notches, and the extended fourth digits are ridiculously thick. On top of that, the head on mine is permanently warped to the right, and treating it to boiling water has not proved successful. If that were all there was to this toy, it’d be easy to write off.

But as you can see from the photos, this Pteranodon figure has poseable wings! Bendable rods inside the arms allow you to raise, lower, fold, expand, and tilt the wings to your content. Needless to say, this is quite a fun gimmick, one that I would have dearly loved fiddling with as a youngster. And I love fiddling with it now. Indeed, I think it would be great if Safari or CollectA or some other company revisited this gimmick.

And so, while the Safari Pteranodon (or Geosternbergia, if you prefer) isn’t going to win any awards for meticulous sculpting detail, it’s definitely one of the most fun pterosaur figures I’ve come across in my collecting. Recommended.

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 transverse 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