Review and photographs by Charles Peckham, edited by Suspsy
Definitely Dinosaurs was a quite popular line of toys from Playskool, produced from 1987 to 1996. Playskool is a subsidiary of Hasbro, and it has become a brand recognizable for its distinct style of cartoonish, yet detailed and sturdily built figures. The line played a large role in helping to shape this image of Playskool, and it remains one of the most distinctive dinosaur toy lines in history. The silhouette of a sauropod found on the bottom of each Definitely Dinosaurs toy is perhaps the most famous symbol in the history of dinosaur toys.
When they were originally sold in stores, each Definitely Dinosaurs set included one dinosaur or other prehistoric animal, one cave person, and a short storybook that featured the prehistoric animal in question. Chronological accuracy was, by their own admission not followed closely by the line, which featured animals like Moschops and Allosaurus living in the same time period, and that’s saying nothing about the human figure included in each set. The Ankylosaurus (which the packaging claimed to be named Lozar) came with a caveman named Thrax who wore a stylish moustache, the likes of which would be quite unlikely to see on any prehistoric person. Clearly the focus of Definitely Dinosaurs was on creative portrayals of prehistoric life, and not chronological accuracy.
Speaking to the accuracy of the Ankylosaurus itself, all things considered it’s not bad. The toy seems to be shorter (relatively speaking) than an Ankylosaurus would likely have been in real life. The hunkered down position is pretty common from depictions of Ankylosaurus at the time. Perhaps the toy was sculpted so as to be squatting down, which would be a logical way for an ankylosaur protect its underside if attacked by a predator. Its legs look a bit strange being bent at 90° angles, but its front limbs indeed would have bent toward the back, while its hind limbs bent forward. This toy has four toes on each foot. We don’t have enough fossils of Ankylosaurus feet to conclude how many toes it would have had, but related genre of ankylosaurids had only three on their hind feet.
Ankylosaurus is probably the most famous of all ankylosaurids, and the two features that it has become known for are its armor, consisting of osteoderms, and its large tail club. This armor, like everything else in this toy, is a product of the time it was designed. The armor sits on top of the toy like a turtle’s carapace. It probably would have looked less rigid and bulky in real life. The rows of spikes along the sides of the torso can be found in related species but weren’t present in Ankylosaurus, and the tail club is missing a couple of bones that would have jutted out behind the two large
osteoderms on the back. In short, this figure was probably considered highly accurate at the time it was made, but we’ve learned a bit more about
Ankylosaurus since then.
I find the coloration of this toy very aesthetically pleasing. Brick red suits an animal that was built like a brick outhouse, and the hints of white along the sides with a soft gray underbelly offer some nice countershading. The main body is made of a soft, hollow plastic, while the limbs, tail, and head are made out of a hard rubber that allows the toy to take a beating (more on that later). The limbs, tail, and head all rotate 360° which allow the toy to move in positions that were far from possible for the animal. This is not that unusual, but when playing with this toy as a kid, I desperately wanted a way to swing the tail back and forth as if it were striking, and being able to turn the tail around is not nearly as much fun.
Still, in spite of its minor faults, this is one of my favorite toys from my childhood. The visual style that has since become a staple of Playskool makes this a very striking toy, and while it has somewhat of a cartoonish appearance, a close look reveals the impressive attention to detail this toy was given. Furthermore, I have owned this toy since it came out in 1987. It has survived my childhood relatively unscathed. In a previous review, I claimed nobody has designed a dinosaur toy that can survive being played with by a dog, but I take that back. You can see marks on my toy where it has clearly been chewed on by a canine, but beyond a few scars, it’s still as intact as the day I took it out of the box. Playskool, as the name would suggest, specializes in toys for young children, but the care they take in manufacturing their toys is something adult collectors can certainly appreciate.
As with any discontinued toy, auction websites are the best way to find Lozar the Ankylosaurus online. Also, yard sales and thrift stores just might have one.