Cowabunga! Who’d have ever believed a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles product would show up here on the Dinosaur Toy Blog? Well, it’s really not that far-fetched considering that dinosaurs have been included in nearly every single incarnation of the franchise. Today I’ll be looking at one such toy, the “Dingy Dino.”
Dingy, who is clearly intended to be a Triceratops, was released alongside his master Cave-Turtle Leo way back in 1992 as part of the original TMNT line. The following year saw the releases of Cave-Turtle Don and his Trippy Tyrannosaurus, Cave-Turtle Mike and his Silly Stegosaurus, and Cave-Turtle Raph and his Tubular Pterodactyl. These were followed in 1994 by Cave-Beast Bebop and his Bodacious Brontosaurus and Cave-Woman April and her Radical Raptor. Alas, I never purchased any of those toys when I had the chance.
Anyhoo, let’s look at the one I do own. Dingy measures about 19 cm long from the tip of his nasal horn to the end of his tail. His main colour is spring green with sky blue spots, black and white eyes, white teeth, ivory for the beak, horns, and epocippitals, and medium blue for the mask over the eyes and the pads on the elbows and knees. Yes, there’s definitely no question that this is a TMNT toy. Have to say too: “Dingy” was a rather poor choice of name given that this beast looks anything but gloomy or drab. His big head rotates a little from side to side, but that’s it in terms of articulation.
Dingy’s sculpting is better than you might think at first. His hide is covered in crisscrossing wrinkles with a row of heavy plates lining his underside. His head adornment and claws are grooved, his frill is covered in small bumps, and even the soles of his feet are scaly. No amount of detail, however, can conceal Dingy’s glaring inaccuracies. His horns jut out from his frill instead of above his eyes, his body and limb proportions are way off, and his feet only have two digits each. But hey, it’s a TMNT toy. You can’t possibly expect scientific accuracy.
And here’s Dingy’s partner, Cave-Turtle Leo. His nose and arms are exaggerated and he is decked out in animal skin clothing to reflect his rugged Paleolithic life. His weapons of choice are a “Kowabunga Cave Boy Katana” and a “Critter Crushin’ Club.” Don’t look at me, I didn’t come up with those names.
Leo can ride tall and proud on Dingy’s back thanks to a strap-on saddle that even includes holsters for his weapons. There was also a set of reins that could be held in Dingy’s mouth, but that seems to have gone missing. No great loss.
Incidentally, TMNT would take things to an even weirder level in 1997 with the Dino-Turtles. Because why settle for just being a mutant turtle when you can be a mutant turtle/archosaur, right? This series also included the epic arch-villain known as Tyranno Shredder. Yet another toy I really wish I’d snapped up when I had the opportunity back in the day!
Clearly, Dingy Dino and his hero in a half shell partner aren’t the right cup of tea for “serious” dinosaur toy collectors. But in terms of how well they appealed to their target audience back in the day, which consisted mainly children under the age of 10, I think they’re pretty darned swell. And given how much my little boys enjoy playing with them now, they’ve definitely passed the most crucial test for any toy: FUN.