In the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of Dunkleosteus figures from all kinds of companies, from masterpieces like Favorite Co’s rendition to worthy-but-flawed efforts like CollectA’s to fairly bad ones like the subject of today’s review. It’s the most popular prehistoric fish in plastic, eclipsing the huge but otherwise utterly boring C. megalodon. Today’s review concerns this newly released Toys “R” Us exclusive by Chap Mei.
It comes with an awful lot of wasteful packaging, a small human action figure, and lots of diving accessories. We don’t care about these, right?
On to the fish. It’s hard to miss the resemblance to Schleich’s Dunkleosteus, from the armor that looks like tarnished metal to the sturgeon-like scutes on the flank. The scutes are a completely invented, implausible feature, and I’m not sure whether Schleich invented it or if they got the idea elsewhere. Either way, this toy and the many Schleich knockoffs suggest that the scutes are now an entrenched meme. Chap Mei’s figure is cruder than the Schleich, but they have at least managed to improve the tail, which looks satisfyingly sharklike.
If you press down on the dorsal fin, the jaw clamps shut, and the side of the face flares outward at the rear edge, like the gill cover of a bony fish. This would be a really cool feature in a toy of a bony fish. It would demonstrate not only how they eat but also how they breathe. But Dunkleosteus didn’t really work that way–if the cheek plate had a free edge, it would have been the lower edge, not the back edge. Not only that, but the opening and closing of the mouth was driven at least as much by the rotation of the head armor relative to the body, so that feels like a missed opportunity. I have the same complaint about the CollectA and Schleich models, both of which have articulated lower jaws but not upper jaws. If you’re going to make an action figure, might as well go all out.
Like many animals, Dunkleosteus had sclerotic rings, a series of small bones inside the eyeball that help it keep its shape. Lots of Dunkleosteus toys make the mistake of squeezing the eyeball inside the sclerotic ring, but Chap Mei messed up the eye in a new and unexpected way: they made the eyeball look like a donut, with the iris a raised ring and the pupil a concavity at its center. Points for originality?
This figure is only sold new at Toys “R” Us stores, at least in the United States. You can’t even buy it on the web site now. With the future of Toys “R” Us being uncertain as of this writing, if you must have this, it’s probably best to get it soon. The same goes for a similar set that Chap Mei released concurrently, featuring a chomping goblin shark.
That said, I would only recommend this toy to committed collectors of prehistoric fish or of Chap Mei figures–even I don’t plan to keep it in my collection. There are plenty of better Dunkleosteus figures out there, and I’m not sure the potential loss of Chap Mei’s Toys “R” Us exclusive Animal Planet line will cause much sorrow.
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