An unfortunate case of science outpacing merchandise, this highly-detailed and articulated dino-bird still has many merits.
Balaur bondoc is a good example of how quickly scientific understanding can change, as well as how risky reconstructions from partial fossil remains can be. Discovered in 2009 on Hateg Island in Romania, the “stocky dragon” was initially described as a robust dromaeosaurid with double sickle claws. Not everyone agreed with this analysis, however; by 2015, the evidence was leaning strongly towards the animal being a flightless primitive bird. Meanwhile, David Silva, a regular sculptor for NECA and an independent designer, was beginning plans for his articulated, scientifically accurate dinosaur toy series know as Beasts of the Mesozoic, among which Balaur was included. By the time he had committed to all the genera, however, Balaur‘s reclassification had been instated; thus, although a few tweaks were made before final production, Silva’s rendition of this unique genus was obsolete long before it even reached retailers.
This isn’t at all to say the figure is bad, though. The BotM Balaur is, in its own right, a fine representation of a dromaeosaurid specimen, while also depicting the unique traits of this genus. As its name suggests, Balaur’s bones suggest a more robust build than other dromaeosaurs of similar size. This is conveyed in the figure via additional (mostly rubber) pieces on the neck and chest, plus larger shin pieces, giving a thicker body appearance than some of the other raptors in the line. “Robust” is a relative measurement, however, Balaur was likely still a fairly sleek animal in skeletal and muscular frame.
The figure has a narrow, velociraptorine snout, a slim body, and long hind legs. A full coating of feathers adorns the body, and a fan of feathers runs down the length of the tail. The forelimbs are of modest length, with extra-large primary feathers in reference to the reclassification, and only two visible fingers, as evidenced by the initial fossil evidence. It is set in the 1:6 scale range, with a length of just under a foot (29 cm) and a height of 3.5″ (9 cm) at the hip.
Detailing is exquisite on this figure. The feathery coating is rich in texture, down to the vanes on the primaries. The talons have a glossy sheen to them, as does the inside of the mouth. Unfeathered sections of the feet and snout are smoother overall, but still feature tactile scales. The color scheme is based on the anhinga, or snakebird, and I do say it looks quite nice. Black plumage with a tan underbelly and blue and white highlights make a high-contrast but naturalistic appearance, one fitting a modestly-sized dinosaur/bird. It’s not as complex as some of the other figures in the line, but it’s very aesthetically pleasing, at least for me.
As with all of the BotM raptors, there are more than 20 points of articulation for the Balaur. A range of ball & socket or swivel/hinge joints supplant the head, neck, limbs, tail, torso, and even the tongue. The main length of the tail is also rubber with a wire for more nuanced posing. For the most part, the articulation works well. However, not all the joints are equal, and even with the sleek body design, some of them simply don’t have the range I would have really liked. That said, most traditional active and resting poses for a dinosaur are easily achieved.
A small selection of accessories are included: a display base and stand, and an alternate pair of toes. The toes allow for the difference in planted or raised feet. The ankle hinge joints aren’t always steady, though, so I recommend using the stand and base to support the figure, which tends to be slightly front-heavy. The stand has two pieces for supporting the figure: one to rest on and one to grip the hip bone. The latter piece can be hit-or-miss in function, but if you’re flexible with positioning, you can still get a good range of poses with the items supplied.
Balaur isn’t quite the sensational creature it was first presented as, but it’s still a very interesting example of Mesozoic fauna. Similarly, the BotM Balaur isn’t necessarily the best or most accurate raptor of the line, but it’s still a fine figure that is well worth adding to one’s collection. I’d say it’s a favorite of my own. You can purchase it along with the rest of the line directly from David Silva’s Creative Beast site, or you can try specialty retailers like Everything Dinosaur, Dan’s Dinosaurs, and Minizoo.