Seventy-one million years ago what is now Alberta, Canada, would have been located next to the Western Interior Seaway with various coastal habitats including swamps, marshes, tidal flats, lagoons, and estuaries. Familiar faces would have swum the aquatic ecosystems, including gar, bowfin, and sturgeon that are all present in North America’s freshwater habitats today. On land there was a different cast of characters, however. Familiar dinosaurs like Pachyrhinosaurus, Ornithomimus, and Saurolophus, among others. And the apex predator, unsurprisingly for Cretaceous North America, was a tyrannosaurid. Albertosaurs sarcophagus, the flesh-eating lizard of Alberta.
I have a soft spot for Albertosaurus. It was a smaller, leaner, leggier, and more agile version of the tyrant lizard king that succeeded it. But those attributes that attract me to Albertosaurus can’t compete with those of Tyrannosaurus in a popularity contest and because of that I’ve waited a long time for a good Albertosaurus model. Older Albertosaurus figures do exist, but nothing that meets our modern sensibilities. And of course, there is the Mattel one, which I have, but it does not satisfy the itch for a scientific figurine for my display cabinet. But all that changed in 2022 when Safari released their figure of the genus, sculpted by the masterful Doug Watson.
The Safari Albertosaurus stands 4” tall to the top of the head and measures about 10.5” long. The actual Albertosaurus measured about 26-30’ (8-9 meters). This puts the Safari figure at about 1/30 in scale. It stands beautifully stabile on two long, muscular legs. The body is held horizontally with the tail swaying towards the right and the head looking leftward.
The mouth is opened wide, to such an extent that it almost looks painful being permanently open like it is. I would have preferred a partially opened or closed mouth but that’s not what the kids want and they’ll appreciate the wide gape. That little nitpick of mine is the only negative criticism I have of this figure though.
The figure faithfully recreates the basic body plan of all tyrannosaurids with its large head, short muscular neck, barrel-shaped torso, long tail to counterbalance the head, and small, two-fingered arms. What makes the figure identifiable as an Albertosaurus is a build that is overall much slimmer than a Tyrannosaurus, Tarbosaurus, or Daspletosaurus. It also has a bony crest above each eye, the most recognizable feature of Albertosaurus. Noticeable on the figure, and questioned by some, is the depth of the maxilla compared to the premaxilla which creates the appearance of what might be best described as a “upturned snout”. Doug Watson, on the forum, confirmed that he did this to match the skulls he referenced.
Fine details include larger scales on the head and along the lips, and finer, pebbly scales across the body. We have skin impressions from Albertosaurus that show a covering of scales like this. These skin impressions also show larger “feature-scales” but they are not sculpted here. At this size however, such scales would be hard to discern anyway, so are not missed. Doug Watson also omitted tarsal scutes on the feet. That’s a feature we normally praise on theropod figures, but they are a feature of birds, and it is thought that on birds these scutes evolved from feathers. If that’s the case then non-bird theropods may not have had tarsal scutes, their presence or lack thereof is still unresolved.
A rough, bumpy ridge is sculpted on the snout and individually sculpted teeth are present within the lipped mouth. Folds of skin are realistically sculpted along the neck and where the limbs attach to the body. The hips are slightly visible under the skin and a sculpted cloaca is present on the underside. Skin folds are also sculpted on the feet, over the toes, and this has become somewhat of a Doug Watson hallmark that I love.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this figure is the paintjob. People either seem to love it or hate it. I’m definitely in the love it camp. Between this and the new Cryolophosaurus, along with the 2023 Majungasaurus, Safari’s color palette has gotten increasingly more varied and interesting. This figure is a mix of brown and minty green colors with a pale underside. These colors weave around each other in such a way that although they’re vibrant I feel like the outline of this animal would be hard to discern in the wetland environments in inhabited, making for effective camouflage. The patterning is reminiscent of marshy habitats as they would appear from above, and I think that adds some of the appeal to it, at least to me.
The eyes are painted a lovely blue with shiny little black, round pupils. The teeth are white and inside of the mouth pink but the paint application here isn’t great, and I wouldn’t expect it to be. The claws on the hands and feet are painted black.
Overall, the Safari Albertosaurus is a beautifully sculpted and scientifically accurate figure of a long overdue dinosaur, and a worthy successor to its Carnegie Collection forebearer. It’s paintjob, however realistic, helps it stand out on a shelf and it beautifully pairs with Safari’s existing assortment of tyrannosauroids. It is my favorite figure of Safari’s 2022 lineup and I love it so much that I even included it in my top ten of 2022 vote on the Dinosaur Toy Forum. The Safari Albertosaurus is currently in production and retails for $14.99.