Review and photos by James Burnside, edited by Suspsy
Though the Procompsognathus had already made its mark on the original Jurassic Park novel, the unassuming ‘Compy’ only truly first scampered into the public conscious in a big way in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park in which it is depicted as a deceptively cute, harmless, and even playful critter right up until it overwhelms its unsuspecting prey with sheer numbers. The public was enthralled by the seeming novelty of a dinosaur actually being a very small animal, and the odd charm of such a humble creature contrasted with the terror of what happens when you cattle prod the wrong one and she leads her brothers and sisters in a bloody revolt certainly left an impact. Today’s model, the 2018 Papo Compsognathus is a damn near flawless recreation of the original 1997 terror.
Accuracy has never been a strong point or even much of a priority for Papo when it comes to designing dinosaurs, so while the real Compsognathus was undoubtedly covered in a thick layer of fuzzy protofeathers and likely had a more robust body structure (it also definitely only ate insects, lizards, and small mammals), this model has been based on the Jurassic Park depiction. The Compy has green scaly skin, pronated wrists, and an extremely slender and narrow body structure. While she doesn’t look much like her real-life counterpart, she does look like she’d right at home on Isla Sorna.
This Compsognathus measures about 19 cm long. Despite being one of the smaller figures in the Papo line, it is very detailed in design and feels very ‘alive.’ Apart from the obvious factor of it being closer in scale to its real-life counterpart (about the size of what a very young hatchling might have been), the level of detail in this model is astounding. There is a subtle genius in the dynamic manner in which the figure is posed, standing at attention with its head ever so slightly cocked to the side in an almost inquisitive manner. Rather than an over-the-top pose or an ‘action’ pose, the subtlety of the pose makes it feel like the moment depicted was just a mundane, every day action this animal was taking. It truly does feel like this is a flawlessly timed ‘snapshot’ of a real animal in mid-action, as though it were frozen in place right as it was innocently peering out of the undergrowth at something ahead of it. This curious expression captured on the model’s face gives it a real sense of personality and just adds to the overall life-like quality of the figure.
For such a small figure, there was no lack of care in designing its features. Every single scale is visible. The subtlety of the paint on the different shades of green across its body and even the way the stripes on its back appear to fade a bit is a remarkable bit of extra detailing. There are visible veins along the creature’s stomach and you can even see the details of what looks like the muscles pulling. Like most Papo carnivores, the mouth can be opened and closed, revealing a mouth full of white teeth and a tongue (though on my model it appears the white paint has spilled). The jaws can open impressively wide, which adds a certain level of ‘menace’ to the otherwise innocent-looking creature. Without question, the eyes are the highlight of the model, with a dark colour and a shiny, wet sheen to them that make them look reflective and full of life. These eyes reflect light surfaces and when you move the model up and down, it can appear as though the creature is ‘blinking’ as the light in its eyes refocuses. Sometimes, when I look at her on my shelf, it feels uncannily like she is looking back. I hope this is a sign of things to come and that future Papo models will feature eyes similar to this style.
With dinosaur toys this detailed, the question often comes from whether it is good for children to play with or just for adults to display on shelves. The Papo Compy is a bit of both to me. Owing to the extensive detailing on such a small and seemingly fragile model has led to me handling it extremely gingerly and with a lot of caution. I worry so badly about chipping the paint or damaging the limbs. It certainly doesn’t help that the model, despite being able to stand on its own with the tail acting as a balance, faceplants more often than a drunk on New Year’s Eve. Fittingly, the feet are very small and often can’t support the whole figure so it does fall on occasion. More often than not, I leave her in the classic ‘Tripod’ pose, leaning back on the tip of her tail. However, when you pose her just right she still looks fantastic and is very displayable.
Additionally, my model has remained undamaged despite falling down repeatedly. Perhaps its small size leads to it being more sturdy than other Papo models. As such, I do think this toy has some playability for older kids; it certainly proved just by falling over a lot that it can take a hit and stay intact. I can imagine kids would get a lot of fun playing with it in a garden because it truly would look like it belonged there. So ultimately, whether an adult collector or a parent with children, I would argue the Compy is a good choice.
In conclusion, this is a fine figure, which manages to do a lot with very little (fittingly) and is one of the best representations of the species on the market. While it is far away from resembling the real deal, if you are a fan of the Jurassic Park depiction of Compsognathus, I highly recommend it. It captures the way it looked in the movies better than even most officially licensed Jurassic Park merchandice has in the past. Once again, Papo has delivered an impressive model.