Review and photos by Patrx
The publication of Dakotaraptor steini by DePalma et al. in 2015 was a pretty exciting thing. Dakotaraptor is a large (about five and one-half metres long) dromaeosaurine from the well-studied Hell Creek formation of North America. Proportioned more like the famous Deinonychus than the stocky Utahraptor, Dakotaraptor made quite an impression on casual and die-hard dinosaur fans alike, and the fact that its publication included a beautiful reconstruction by Emily Willoughby helped promote current ideas of what dromaeosaurs looked like in life.
With that in mind, why has it taken so long for this big beast to appear in toy form? Maybe it’s the fact that it was initially part-turtle? Either way, 2018’s immersive prehistoric experience Dinosaurs in the Wild brought Dakotaraptor to life in a number of novel ways, giving us 3D animation, full-scale animatronics, and this hulking plastic toy by IVS Group Ltd. That might be the most striking thing about this Dakotaraptor, in fact – at about 19 inches (48 1/4 cm) in length, it’s going to take up a lot of shelf space. It’s quite heavy, too. This is definitely a toy, but one wonders how safe it would really be in the hands of a very young person. Even the claws and teeth appear to have been spared the rounded edges often given to dinosaur figures for safety reasons.
As a toy, it’s got a few points of articulation; at the jaw, wings, ankles, feet, hips and the anterior half of the tail. The jaw can’t be fully closed, unfortunately, not even close. The articulation offers a few variable poses, but it’s definitely tricky finding a posture that allows the animal to stand unassisted, especially without relying on the wings or tail for support. Personally, I don’t mind this, because it means the feet are appropriately-sized, but it’s bound to annoy some.
Stylistically, this design is pretty charming, and a little simplistic. The colouration is stark and bold, dominated by dark grey dorsally and bright white ventrally. White stripes decorate the hips and the midline of each wing, and a rusty red crest adorns the head. The legs are mostly dark grey with a broad, faded band of white across the knees. On the tail fan, the retrices fade to white at the tips, which seems a little strange. Often, long feathers are likely to have dark tips, since the extra melanin helps to strengthen the edges. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a concern for an animal that wasn’t using its tail in flight? Lastly, a bright, friendly green was chosen for the eyes. It’s easy to tell which details were picked out with a manual brush and which were airbrushed, which reinforces the figure’s overall “toyetic” vibe.
So, how does this hold up as a representation of Dakotaraptor? Really well, overall! The animals featured in Dinosaurs in the Wild were heavily researched, and palaeobiologist Darren Naish was called upon for consultation. In a very nearly unprecedented move, the producers appear to have actually heeded the advice for which they paid, as it would seem the DitW Dakotaraptor is essentially Naish’s Dakotaraptor. It has large wings with primary feathers emerging from the second digit of each hand, a dynamic coat of body feathers that give it a sleek outline, and a fleshed-out face with “lips” and forward-facing eyes. The manual digits themselves do appear to lack fuzz, and they’re not “fused” by soft tissue, but those details are pretty tricky to predict for Dakotaraptor at this point.
Altogether, this is an easy figure to recommend. It’s a charming take on an interesting animal, and despite its somewhat simple aesthetic characteristics, it has potential as an educational piece. The difficult bit is actually getting your claws on one–Dinosaurs in the Wild has come and gone, and it was limited to the UK. I had some very generous help from Dinosaur Toy Forum members Halichoeres and ceratopsian in getting my Dakotaraptor stateside. Fortunately, there does seem to be a non-zero chance that DitW could return in some form, perhaps even to a different part of the world.