Review and photos by dinoguy2, edited by Suspsy
Deinonychus was hot in the 80s’ – a relatively new, small, fast, vicious theropod that was beginning to catch kids’ attention in books and TV specials, and therefore made an obvious choice when it came time to fill in the small dinosaur slots in a toy line. Two major lines came out with Deinonychus figures at about the same time – Playskool’s Definitely Dinosaurs, and Dino-Riders. The designs of both figures seem to be inspired by the same source: John Sibbick’s rendition of Deinonychus. But they wound up being very different looking toys. (Actually, there’s a derivation of Bakker’s Deinonychus with this exact color scheme in some 80s’ kids’ book or other.)
The Playskool Deinonychus definitely lacks something in terms of dynamism. It can’t really achieve any action poses, and usually looks like it’s just standing there. The slightly open mouth amplifies this effect, I think – maybe Playskool didn’t want this dinosaur to look too threatening for young kids.
The Deinonychus measures 23 cm long and 12 cm tall. Its sculpt is definitely old school, and as mentioned above, seems based on both Bakker and Sibbick’s paleoart, with skinny arms ending in too-small hands, and a relatively short tail. The wattles and baggy skin around the neck mirror those artists work, but also make the figure look much chunkier than a lot of other renditions, including the Dino-Riders one. The skin texture is minimal: mostly smooth, with a series of smooth, rounded wrinkles and a few bumps here and there.
Like other Playskool dinosaurs, the Deinonychus has a somewhat cartoonishly colorful paint scheme. It’s made from yellow plastic, with a green stripe painted down the back and white painted on teeth. The teeth are not separately sculpted and are painted in a continuous row, almost giving this Deinonychus the appearance of wearing false teeth.
The arms are long and thin, a little too human-like, but typical of 80s’ era paleoart. They articulate at the shoulder, but both arms move as a single unit. This works fine for making the Deinonychus cling to the side of a hapless larger dinosaur. The legs move separately, but they’re a little short. The claws are curved, but have rounded tips. This, combined with the small size of the feet, and the fact that the inner sole of the foot is actually concave, plus the front heaviness of the figure, make it pretty unstable in anything but a tripod pose. You can get it to stand with its tail off the ground, but it will take some careful balancing.
As part of the Playskool small dinosaur assortment, the Deinonychus didn’t come with any accessories beyond a storybook and the included caveman, or “Cavester”, named Druze. Druze was a guy with a bushy blonde mat of hair and a red fur toga. He didn’t have any saddle to ride the Deinonychus. I don’t have his storybook anymore, but I’m guessing the Deinonychus was an antagonist to him. Either that, or the little guy was a prehistoric version of Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer from Jurassic World.
Overall, this was a nice addition to the small figure line by Playskool, and added some variety beyond the “standard” well-known dinosaurs of the time. Despite the drawbacks mentioned above, this was my favorite Definitely Dinosaur as a kid, but only because I was already a huge Deinonychus fan, and this was the first Deinonychus toy I ever had – indeed, among the first Deinonychus toys in history. It hails from a special time when Deinonychus’ star was rising fast, destined to join Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus as a “classic” dinosaur standard.
That is, until its rise was cut short by that dastardly usurper Velociraptor.