Much as I feel bad for peddling nostalgia yet again, here’s a real classic – a toy that will be instantly recognised by anyone who grew up during the 1990s and loved dinosaurs. Just as the movie dramatically raised the bar when it came to on-screen dinosaurs, the original Kenner action figure line was, as my fellow reviewer Dan might say, “a slap in the face” for anyone used to small, poorly-detailed dinosaur toys. Most impressive of all was this towering Tyrannosaurus, still one of the largest dinosaur action figures ever made.
Known among collectors as ‘Big Red’, ‘Red Rex’ and occasionally ‘Rexford‘, the demonic dark red of this beast may not be movie-accurate but it certainly makes it look suitably sinister and fearsome. In spite of the unusual colouration this toy most definitely stands out as a Jurassic Park figure, sporting the distinctive pyramidal eye-ridges and overly-long and puny arms associated with its movie counterpart. The articulated arms on this figure are particularly noteworthy for being bent outwards at bizarre angles, as if the dinosaur is about to do a chicken dance – a feature shared by exactly none of the other Kenner JP tyrannosaurs (not even the ‘young’ version from the same toy line). It’s something you won’t notice when displaying it in profile (as above) but it can be offputting when looking at it head-on.
As long as you are prepared to take serious liberties with scientific accuracy (it is Jurassic Park, after all), this is a very nicely detailed figure, particularly for the time. The head would be refined in the later ‘Thrasher’ rex but is still well done here, with beady, glowering eyes, a well-textured mouth with tongue, nostrils and scales. This toy also had an action figure, whereby pressing a button hidden under its flank would result in the mouth opening slightly more and a rather feeble growl being emitted. Unfortunately this was extremely prone to breaking, with the toy stuck roaring on a loop until it was thrown across the room in a fit of rage (or the batteries were taken out – whatever). I got through about 3 of these as a kid before I gave up and settled on making the noises myself. I was just as sad as a child as I am now. It also made a stomping noise if you bounced it up and down on a surface, but that was just silly.
I’m rather fond of the handsomely-proportioned legs on this figure, even if the hips have been made uncommonly wide in order to house the batteries. The toes are backed by a small ‘heel’ that allows it to stand proudly on two feet without relying on its tail for support – eat your heart out, Papo. In contrast to the somewhat slimmer Thrasher, this Tyrannosaurus is convincingly barrel-chested and powerful in appearance – ready to chase Jeff ‘Must Go Faster’ Goldblum and cohorts into the jungle.
This toy is a must-have for Jurassic Park fans of course, as in spite of the occasional oddly-proportioned body part and those jutting arms it really does look good sitting on a shelf. Its sheer size combined with the quality of the sculpt see to that. For palaeontologists and others who are ABSOLUTELY SICK TO BLOODY DEATH OF HEARING ABOUT JURASSIC PARK, THANKS, there really isn’t a lot to offer, although I would point out that it’s a very common figure that, because the electronics are broken more often than not, changes hands at very affordable prices. Besides which crimson red is a very cool and too often neglected colouration for giant theropod dinosaurs.
Should you now be old and unfortunate enough to have sproglings of your own, this will make a great gift for them as its soft skin and flexible jaws make it highly playable even without the electronics – and kids always love huge dinosaur toys. Just beware that it can’t be handled too roughly over too long a period, as the torn stuffing-leaking neck on my childhood copy (RIP) will attest.
Often available on eBay here