In the world of paleoart and paleomerch, it’s very common to see artists and toymakers draw inspiration from the imagery of other creators. Often this can be a good thing and a chance to reinforce contemporary understanding – consider how many vintage toys drew from Charles R Knight and Rudolph Zallinger – but sometimes it ends up becoming flagrant theft of another’s hard work. Plenty of shoddy knockoff/bootleg dinosaurs run rampant across online stores these days, undercutting companies like Papo and Schleich with crude copies of their products at half the originals’ prices. Such behavior is not unique to dinosaur toys, and plenty of non-discerning consumers will likely never care about which toy they’re buying; but it’s still an ugly side of the toy market, and collectors conscious of these 3rd-party items are typically best encouraged to avoid them.
Having said that, occasionally these 3rd-party companies will release a more intriguing product – something distinct in design from the major brands, or at least derivative in of a more unusual source. With this frame of context, I want to introduce the subject of this review: a plastic unbranded(?) toy of the Early Jurassic predator Dilophosaurus. I’m not sure just how long this toy has existed on the market, and the nature of the toy certainly doesn’t help. Marketed as part of a larger series of dinosaur action figures and sold by a variety of sellers and stores across Amazon, eBay, and other websites, this Dilophosaurus toy’s origin remains vague at best. Most places I see it sold also include the aforementioned obvious bootleg toys of other established brands, so the odds are that this toy hails from a similar birthplace in an anonymous Chinese factory.
I happened to end up buying two copies of the Dilophosaurus from different sources, both of which are featured in my photos for the review. My first copy (we’ll call it “beady” for reasons I’ll explain later) was purchased through a generic Facebook Marketplace shop, and included a “Moveable Dinosaurs” toy line tag with a janky logo for the brand “Wing Crown” on the back of the tag. My second copy (we’ll call it “sloppy”) was purchased via Amazon from the toy company Boley. Boley is a toy brand which carries a variety of different types of children’s toys for play and education, and their bargain-bin Nature World toy line has been given a little coverage here on the Blog before (it so happens they even helped distribute the Invicta British Museum model line once upon a time). No tag was included for the Boley Dilophosaurus, but the set of toys it was included with did come in a neatly-built Boley-branded box. Boley’s own website also distinguishes these figures from their other, cheaper-looking dinosaur toys by labelling them as “Gosnell model” dinosaurs. More research will be needed for verification, but I have seen what appears to be a “Gosnell” stamp on other figures of the same line. For this review I’ll be referring to Gosnell as the (tenuous) company of origin for this figure.
Whatever the true background of these figures might be, let’s review the merits of the toy itself. Gosnell’s “movable toy” Dilophosaurus measures almost exactly 9 in (23 cm) long, not accounting for minor neck & tail curvature; this would be a little over 1:30 scale for a large 7-meter specimen. True to the name, the figure features six simple swivel joints for articulation: one for the neck, one for the tail, and one for each limb. There’s a decent range of motion possible with these swivel joints, although the limbs get impeded somewhat by the shape of the body’s sculpt. The plastic quality is firm, but soft enough to be pliable at the extremities. Both of my figures came with some slight warping issues; “Beady” has a little trouble standing due to the feet squishing too close together, and “Sloppy” has a tail bent around farther than normal. While “Sloppy”‘s tail has been reverting back to bent shape in spite of hot water treatments, “Beady” has thankfully improved standing on its own.
The reason I’m referring to my two figures by the nicknames “Beady” and “Sloppy” is in reference to their paint applications: “Beady”, from the FB Marketplace, is the more neatly painted of the two, with small off-white eyes and black pupils; they’re not aligned, but the left eye makes the figure appear to be looking behind itself, which adds a little personality. “Sloppy” from Boley, meanwhile, has much messier application to the eyes, as well as less-defined edges to the splotchy patterns along the back. To Sloppy’s credit, though, the paint job does seem to have a better finish to it than Beady’s, whose spots started scuffing almost immediately. The general color scheme of the two figures is nice, being predominantly orange with mottled blackish-brown spots along the body and highlights on the neck quills. The underside of the figure has a gentle white wash, and the crests and back have a slightly reddish tinge. The teeth are unpainted, but the claws on the fingers and toes are marked faintly in dark grey. Overall it’s an attractive color scheme that doesn’t look too gaudy. A glossy finish is applied to both copies; Normally I dislike glossy finishes, but in this toy’s case it actually seems to work to the sculpt’s benefit.
Glossiness aside, the sculpting is where the Dilophosaurus toy really shines. The figure is posed in a casual walking position, head and tail raised and curved gently as if on low alert. Subtle striated texture is applied to the skin across most of the body. A small comb of quills/spikes on the back of the neck reduces to a row of raised scales running along the length of the backbone. The skull is excellently modeled after the classic pre-2020 reconstructions, and of course is topped with the iconic twin crests. Shrinkwrapping appears surprisingly minimal on the skull as well. A few prominent teeth are exposed even with the mouth closed; presumably this is a lipless depiction, although the full dentary seems to be missing in that case. The overall anatomy matches the understanding of Dilophosaurus as a slender, but muscular predator, avoiding scrawnier tendencies of some depictions. Proportions of the body also closely match skeletals of the animal (acknowledging that the creature’s appearance has changed to certain extents since 2020), featuring the long neck and tail, mid-sized forelimbs, and shallow belly & hip bone. One critique I might make is that the ridge of the ilium appears a bit large, while the femur appears too short. The feet also appear a bit enlarged, but that’s forgivable given it allows the figure to stand in a proper bipedal position (warping issues aside); this figure’s feet are certainly less exaggerated than those seen on many other theropod toys from other brands.
With all things considered, this moveable toy Dilophosaurus seems almost impressively well-researched and naturalistic compared to other selections on the market, legit brands and 3rd-party brands included. The question is, then: did Gosnell produce a genuinely original toy, or does credit for the design belong elsewhere? The answer, it seems, is closer to the latter option. Although this Dilophosaurus doesn’t particularly resemble any other toys or action figures I know of, it does bear distinct similarities to the high-end polystone model designed by artist Jorge Blanco for Sideshow Collectibles, as part of their Dinosauria Series in 2013 . When comparing the posture of the neck and tail, the clutched shape of the hands, and the arrangement of neck spines and throat tissue, it seems pretty apparent that the Gosnell toy sculptor was closely referencing the male Dilophosaurus from the Dinosauria statue pair. Is the similarity too close for comfort? I’m not sure; this wouldn’t be a direct bootleg of Sideshow’s actual, original mold, which many other knockoffs on the market could be suspected of. Gosnell’s approach is better equated to that of vintage companies like MPC and Larami Corp, who used the designs of more prominent & pioneering companies like Marx and Invicta as inspiration for modelling their own products. Sideshow’s model was also targeted at a very different customer base than this plastic toy is; and with said (limited-edition) statue evidently out of production now, there’s no real competition between these two products on the market anymore. This doesn’t necessarily make the decision on the toymakers’ part “right”, of course; there’s a grey area being danced along here which individual buyers will have to judge for themselves.
Ultimately, I must admit I quite like this toy; original or imitation, this might be one of the nicest Dilophosaurus toys released so far. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, due to its ambiguous background; but for all intents and purposes this moveable figure is a pretty well-made toy for its price point. Boley sells this toy as part of a larger set through their main website as well as the Amazon store page; plus there are a variety of other online stores, including pages on eBay and Facebook Marketplace, where this figure can be bought individually or in a set by searching with the right keywords.
(A word of caution: don’t search “Gosnell” as a keyword by itself; you might get some NSFW results popping up otherwise)