Huanghetitan (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

In 2016 the PNSO (Peking Natural Science-Art Organization) line introduced large figures of often under-represented Chinese dinosaurs. The largest of the line is the obscure macronarian sauropod Huanghetitan, which lived in the Aptian age of the early Cretaceous (some time between 125 to 113 million years ago) of what is now China.

Huanghetitan being known only from fragmentary remains, it is hard to judge the accuracy of this figure. However the portrayal is is consistent with known sauropod biology. The hands correctly have only one claw and a slight crescent-moon shape. The nostrils are positioned towards the front of the skull (albeit a bit asymmetrically). Small scales and larger osteoderms, known from other sauropods, cover the skin. Most importantly, there is an appropriate amount of soft tissue – this is one bulky sauropod! No shrinkwrapped fenestrae or neck vertebrae to be seen here, which unfortunately cannot be said for the line’s other sauropods. The only fault  is an errant fourth toe claw on the right hind foot. Sauropods only had three claws on the hind feet, with the fourth and fifth digits being more stub-like. The left foot is correct, but the right foot even has the extra claw sculpted on (not just painted). Perhaps the figure represents an individual with a congenital defect? More likely this was an oversight in the sculpting process or a mistake gone uncorrected.

The combination of bulkiness and sheer size lend this figure a grand presence. Proudly striding along with head held high, this Huanghetitan is large and in charge, a giant in its prime. Depending on the length estimates used, this figure is anywhere from 1:30 to 1:40 scale.

The color scheme is subdued, consisting of varied grays and browns reminiscent of large extant mammals. The upper body’s scales have a white wash between them suggestive of dust caked into the skin (as with a modern elephant), similar to PNSO’s Triceratops. If being picky one could say the wash cuts off rather abruptly along the bottom, but this is only noticeable upon close inspection. The eyes are neatly painted gold with black pupils.

Astute collectors may notice that this figure bears a resemblance to the much more expensive Sideshow Apatosaurus statue, with both being bulky gray sauropods. Given that the Huanghetitan retails for the equivalent of just under $60 USD (discounted at the time of writing to ~$30 USD), how do these two stack up? It’s a fraction of the Sideshow statue’s price, but is it only a fraction of the quality?

Both are sizeable, with the Huanghetitan measuring about 27″ long compared to the Apatosaurus‘ 43″. But the Huanghetitan, being hollow vinyl, is a much lighter 2 lb compared to the Apatosaurus’ 10 lb. Despite being hollow the Huanghetitan is quite sturdy, and its vinyl construction makes it much less fragile than the Sideshow piece. Not having a base, it is much more easily transported than the Apatosaurus.

In terms of quality the Huanghetitan falls short upon close observation. The paint is prone to wear, even in the original packaging, and there are visible seams across the limbs and attaching the tail to the torso. Thankfully the paint application and detailing make these a bit less obvious. Furthermore, the details, while fine and intricate, are not as crisp as those on the resin Sideshow piece. While (naturally) not as high-end as the much pricier Sideshow statue, this is still a fine piece, making a worthy centerpiece (or companion to those fortunate Sideshow owners). At its retail price the detail and size make this figure a great bargain.

This big beauty makes a great addition to the collection of any fan of sauropods or Chinese dinosaurs. The Huanghetitan and other PNSO figurs are available outside of China from various resellers, though usually with some markup. If you are fortunate to have family or friends in China who can order one from PNSO’s Chinese store for you, the price is much more affordable.

Stegosaurus (Wendy’s Exclusive from Definitely Dinosaurs by Playskool)

Review and photos by Takama, edited by Suspsy

For my second Definitely Dinosaurs soft model review, I will be tackling their rendition of Stegosaurus. Right off the bat, this model is downright cute, and it is clear it was made for toddlers because of the bright colours and the hard vinyl plastic it is made off. As with the Ceratosaurus(and every other model I will get to in the line), this model is not made to be taken seriously, as it is clearly for the youngest of children. However, they did managed to get one thing right with this figure: ending the mouth with a beak.

The two colours this model is painted in are teal and bright purple, while the eyes are painted yellow. The plates are all too small to be realistic for an adult, so I’m assuming that this model is made to represent a juvenile. There are also way too many plates on its back to be considered accurate. Instead of 17, there are over 21 plates, not counting the thagomizer. The thagomizer spikes are also way too short to be effective against the mean old Ceratosaurus, whom I see as more of a bully then a hungry animal. The model is made as if it were a heavyset animal, with his thighs up just beneath the plates. This forces his front legs to sprawl out to the sides, and one of them is outstretched so that he can achieve his pose. The feet on this model are nowhere near being as accurate as say, the feet on the Battat Stegosaurus released in the same Decade. But they are not your usual elephant feet either. Instead, they look like blunted claws that stick out of the animal’s feet.

Really, this is not a toy that needs to be scrutinized for accuracy, but I thought it would make this review more interesting if I did anyways. It’s very hard to criticize this figure, as it is still apparent that it was not made for adults. But I’m sure that this little guy will forgive me as he knows I’m just writing a review for him on a blog that scrutinizes dinosaur toys. As always, the only way to get this figure is through eBay, and understand that you may have to settle for one with a duller color scheme than this, as mine was one of the latest releases of these toys.

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.