Our recent review of the 2017 Bullyland Archaeopteryx prompted me to search through the Dinotoyblog archives to compare the new version with the old…only to discover that we’ve never reviewed the original Bullyland Archaeopteryx. That immediately helped me settle on which figure to review next. The original ‘version 1’ Archaeopteryx was released in two iterations. A blue version was released in 2002 and retired in 2005, and was replaced by a short-lived green repaint in 2007 that was retired the next year. In my estimation the blue version is the more aesthetically pleasing of the two and this version is my main focus here. However, the excellent Toyanimal Wiki has a nice comparison shot of the two, which suggests that the green version might also be a touch larger. I’d appreciate confirmation of this from anyone who has both versions.
Rather appropriately, I bought my Bullyland Archaeopteryx toy in the Jura-Museum Eichstätt, Germany, home to one of the few (and best) Archaeopteryx fossils in the world. I try to buy a souvenir whenever I go to a museum, as a memento of my visit, in this case back in 2002. It is a small model, just six cm high and with a wingspan of 11 cm. The toy is 1:5 scale and it says so on the base.
The Bullyland Archaepteryx bares its teeth through a closed mouth, so it was obviously important to show off this ‘first bird’s’ toothy grin. Another characteristic of Archaeopteryx at odds with other birds is its hands, and these are also very clear in this model. And accurate, too. Actually, the arms and wings excellent overall, especially for a toy from 2002.
The arms/wings are stretched out upwards and outwards, as if the creature has just landed and is adjusting itself before folding up its wings. The feathers are differentiated into primaries and secondaries and overlap/underlap each other accurately. There is as much detail on the underside of the wings as on the more clearly visible upper parts of the wing. There are no sculpting detail on individual feathers but at this scale you wouldn’t see much detail anyway.
The colouration in this version is interesting. The head is orange, in stark contrasts to the blue plumage on the rest of the body. The tips of the wing feathers and tail feathers are white, with additional bands of yellow and dark blue on the wings. These bands of colour have clearly been sprayed on, which make the figure feel high quality, although some additional olive paint seems to have been dry-brushed onto the chest.
The model’s feet have four large functional toes, three that face forward, and one, the hallux, that points straight backwards. In this regard the feet look like those of modern passerine (or perching) birds. However, the hallux in Archaeopteryx is actually similar to non-avian theropods and probably did not protrude backwards like this, and was therefore unfit for perching. This error is corrected in the 2017 version.
Its feet are moulded onto an oval base to ensure it stands confidently without the need to rest its tail. The base is simple and green and does not detract or distract from the model. On the underside it reads: “©BULLYLAND, MADE IN GERMANY, ARCHAEOPTERYX, SCALE 1:5. There is no date. I like that the base provides a way to hide all of these markings from view.
This is a lovely little Archaeopteryx model, sculpted by someone with a real understanding of how to make a sculpture look biological and dynamic. To be frank, I think it puts the new 2017 version to shame, which is all the more surprising given that this version 1 was released a decade and a half earlier. As pointed out in our review, the 2017 model is more of a caricature of Archaeopteryx than a restoration, and its articulations can’t save it from an awkward pose and cartoony appearance. So, despite version 1’s minor anatomical flaw, it remains superior to the larger 2017 version 2. So, in conclusion, if you only get one Bullyland Archaeopteryx, make sure it’s this one. You might have difficultly finding it, of course, but keep your eyes peeled on ebay.com and you might get lucky.