It all began with a friendship, an illness, and the return to my favorite franchise. It is actually a sad story, but I feel like I must tell it because today is the 22nd anniversary of Jurassic Park III’s release in the United States, which is where I am writing this review from. I can talk about the movie, why it is divisive among fans, and my disappointment surrounding the whole affair, but I think it is best if I tell you what was happening in my life when this movie came out and why, as absurd as it may sound, Jurassic Park III ended up being more meaningful to me than the previous ones. I mean, they all did add some clay to the mold that is now me, Emperor Dinobot, but Jurassic Park III fills me with a nostalgia that neither Jurassic Park nor The Lost World did. This is the story of how my life ended, and how I was forced to “man up” and face the music.
I have been internet savvy since 1998, and I mostly used it to keep track of my Batman and Jurassic collections. When I moved back to the United States in 2000, we moved into a college apartment near the airport in Pullman, WA, and one of the tools which was indispensable to us was the internet. It was probably the first thing we did after moving in. This was the era when people had a dial-up connection, and we all had to hear “the sound” multiple times of day. Our main computer was in a small pantry right next to the kitchen and the dining area. It was a small apartment, but it fit all five of us pretty well. Naturally, most of my time was spent in that room playing old shareware games, and playing with some of my figures. What kind of 11-12 year old still plays with toys? Well, I did. It was therapeutic, given the numerous health challenges I was facing at the time. I needed a bone marrow transplant, and I was getting weaker by the day due to bone marrow failure. This was probably our main reason for returning as dad still had ties to the university, and we were there to spend a year on sabbatical leave.
We moved back to Pullman, Washington in the summer of 2000. I say back because my dad was working on his doctorate at the university there in the early 90’s, and we moved back to Caracas, Venezuela in 1994. Once fully settled in, I entered middle school late summer/early fall of 2000., By fall I miraculously reconnected with an old preschool friend from when we lived there in the 90’s. This was the boy who got me hooked on dinosaurs while we attended preschool together at the university’s education building, named White Hall after someone who was either faculty at some point, or thanks to a donor to the university. This was late 1993, which was also the time when Jurassic Park was all the rage. I remember my parents not taking me as I was deemed too young to watch it since it was supposedly a scary movie. I could handle the gratuitous violence depicted in Batman 1989 and Batman Returns when I was 3-4…to an extent, but late 1992 my dad took me to see Aladdin, and I freaked out majorly because a giant blue Robin Williams was just too much for me to handle. Robin-Genie is still too much for me to handle, but dinosaurs eating people were not as overwhelming as Robin Williams was, and I did eventually see it when I turned six at a movie theater in Caracas. By now my dinosaur fever had really come into place. Anyways, to continue the story I was telling, it turned out my old preschool pal was a classmate of mine during math class, and while it took us a few classes for us to really recognize each other, we eventually did. He knew it was me because of my red hair, and I knew it was him because he would comment on my Jurassic themed artwork with detail (I have always drawn in class, even as an adult), and he still looked the same as he did when he was five, except much taller. I lost contact with my pal after 1994 when we moved back to Caracas, but miraculously he was still in Pullman. We both remembered each other very well due to some other details: I was the kid with a never ending bloody nose, and he was the person I would talk about in Venezuela when family, friends and acquaintances would ask why I loved dinosaurs so much. He is tied to my origin story in the same way Uncle Ben is tied to Peter Parker’s story. Eventually we became best friends, and our families did too, so we became like family, in a way, and naturally they too were aware of my health struggles. Our collections were at the time made up of the following: He had all of Kenner’s Jurassic Park Series 2 figures, which I did not have a single one of, most of JP1, some Lost World, some miscellaneous dinosaur figures, and the elusive Command Center, while I had most of the Jurassic Park Dinosaurs sets with me at the apartment; toys that were exclusive to WalMart in 1999-2000. The rest of my figures were in boxes at the time in Caracas, and they were comprised mainly of JP series 1, most of The Lost World (he had a Thrasher, and I had a Bull, which he’d meet later in the future), tons of chinasaurs, a large portion of Carnegie Collection figures and more. I eventually got the Mobile Command Center while I was in that apartment, and that was something great because it complemented our collections together. I had more Lost World stuff that he did, while he had more JP than I did. However, the rest of mine were boxed up, as we were to spend just one year in Pullman. Our intention was to return to Caracas once my treatment was over, and once my dad’s sabbatical year ended. As such, I could not bring EVERY toy with me. We would send for them a few years later. Returning to the main story, I spent a lot of time at his place playing with his figures (I’d bring some of mine, of course), his giant Lego collection, reading dinosaur books, chatting up dinosaur discoveries, playing with his dogs, and he a spent some time at my apartment, though not as much because it was a smallish apartment, so it felt stuffy even during winter. Either way, I have always been the kind of person who hates having people over, even if they happen to be my best pal. But he was welcome any time. He also visited me several times at the hospital when I had blood transfusions, playing with dinos (he would bring some and I would too for my stay) and keeping me much needed company. Sometimes it is better to just hang out with your best friend than with your parents.
During the fall of 2000, a teaser trailer of Jurassic Park III dropped. Naturally, we were stoked, and we would spend countless hours in my little pantry trying to stream the slow video on my dial-up internet. Once the stream had completed, we spent hours analyzing every aspect of it, making up theories, and playing with our toys accordingly. I brought back the kid in him (while he still had his collection, he did not play with it much), and he gave me more reasons to survive what was a soul-crushing treatment during a time when I was facing certain death,
ToyFair came with the trailer too, and Hasbro’s JPIII figures were front and center, and upon viewing them for the first time, WE HATED THEM. Everything was out of scale and incompatible with Kenner’s toys! We thought that maybe the Ultra Tyrannosaurus rex, the raptors and the Pteranodons would be ok enough. 2001’s summer came around, and JPIII was closing in. It was the end of the school year, too. The toys were out now, and while we were not too happy with them, we still got them. My first JPIII figure was the Reak Atak Alpha Velociraptor, which continues to be one of my favorite figures from that line. However, the posed legs made it difficult to stand on its own and this is a never-ending annoyance. I like it mostly out of nostalgic reasons, and because it scales well with Kenner’s raptors and humans. The mold also has 4 excellent repaints. But the truth is that I cannot even sell them in my ebay store, even at $10 with free shipping. Nobody wants them or the equally fantastic female raptors.
Since we are on the subject, I especially hated the humans, who are in 1/18 scale. I did not collect anything at the time in that scale. Sure, I had my little Jonny Quest figures which I still own, but they were super articulated and had tons of well scaled accessories. These figures came with giant, unwieldly guns, and Eric did not even have leg articulation. I mean…wow. Hasbro got cheap, and Hasbro also owned Galoob, which made the JQ figures. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Hasbro was producing the Star Wars: Episode II figures, also known as the “Saga” collection, which were reviled by collections anyways due to their mostly useless gimmicks (they did not work properly most of the time), the over-the-top poses (a posed yet neutral stance was welcomed in earlier 90’s SW lines), and ultimately they just did not have the charm the Episode I figures had a year previous, nor did they have the charm that Power of the Force I and II figures were universally known for. But the worst parts about the whole debacle was that 1. They were completely incompatible with Kenner’s figures (Kenner now being owned by Hasbro, and I discovered this because of information found on the internet back then, and because it so happens that I was an avid Batman collector, and they were now making…er…repainting Batman figures, all under the Hasbro logo). and 2. The hatchlings were replaced by these terrible mini dinosaurs. These figures lacked not just the charm that the Kenner figures had, but the functionality as well. They weren’t even in scale with the raptors, the Brachiosaurus, the other Reak Atak dinos… and they were not compatible with Kenner’s dinosaurs either. The baby dinosaurs from Kenner’s run were not just cute, but they added to the story, and they were a great play element. I would sometimes mix-match my Batman figures with my Jurassic figures, and these new figures failed at being compatible with them as well due to mismatched scaling. Kenner’s dinosaurs and humans were compatible with Kenner’s Batman stuff because they were the same scale, and figures would fit in each other’s vehicles, use each other’s weapons, etc. You could also use Jurassic figures as villains with villainous (see: stolen) armed vehicles. Batman even has a robot T.rex in the Batcave, and my red T.rex was the stand-in. Remember when I brought up Galoob’s Jonny Quest figures? They weren’t compatible even with those despite the fact that they were in the same scale, since the Jurassic figures were kind of “ultra-specific” to this particular movie. They just ended up looking odd and generic. Even GI Joe or Corps figures work better with JQ figures. I would rather take my Jonny Quest figures to Star Wars land than to JPIII land. Even the AT-DT vehicle was awful because it was out of scale with these figures. The AT-DT vehicle looked enormous, and you could not sit a 4.5 inch tall Kenner figure in it either as the driver’s seat was made for 3.75 inch tall humans. The only ok figures were the Military Diver with the mini Aqua Spinosaurus figure, and the Helicopter Pilot, because they are generic enough to fit with everything such as GiJoe, the Corps, Chap Mei and other military themed figures. I spoke too soon though. The Military General, which received not just one but FOUR REPAINTS was an especially bad figure since not only was he NOT in the movie (he kinda looked like he was supposed to be a villain of some sort), but he’s stuck in a pose that makes him look absolutely terrible and useless with his weapon, which is not just oversized. It’s HUGE! His cannon even looks bad on other action figures due to the angle of the holster. The holster is smaller than his hand, so standing him with the weapon is impossible as the cannon just rolls inwards, causing him to fall. I mean, why? Do they not test these figures before they are given the green light for mass production? He does not even work with Godzilla 1998’s military themed figures. This is just how BAD this particular figure is. OH, nope, wait, the mini T.rex it came with is just as terrible, regardless of whether you have the version with the slippers (which was repainted like…I don’t know, ten times perhaps?) or the version without them, which is incidentally rarer, due to the awful-as-it-is mini T.rex having balance issues on top of it all. The awful looking slippers did not help achieve stability either. It will fall over with a gentle breeze, causing a domino effect if it’s near your other JPIII mini “hatchling/adult” figures which also have issues standing. They must all be destroyed!
Hasbro should have never been allowed near anything “Jurassic” ever again after this…but they were invited back for Jurassic World, and we all know EXACTLY how that went, and it is a pity they were allowed to go that far. I understand that they were focusing 99% of their attention to Star Wars, and sometimes Transformers, which at the time (2000-2003) were being made almost exclusively by Takara for Robots in Disguise, and The Unicron Trilogy. I completely understand all of that, but this endeavor was pretty embarrassing, and it was especially bad for me since Batman was also suffering in terms of quality. And just like i said above, it was all for nothing because nobody liked the “Saga” line from Star Wars, save a few toys here and there, making them worthless then, and worthless now on the secondary market as they warmed store shelves for YEARS. .
There were some saving graces, such as the Alpha Raptor and the female raptors, as I mentioned above. The movie’s main villain was Spinosaurus, which had been picked for the role due to a rediscovery and re-examination of the few fossils science had left over for the long animal (the holotype was destroyed in WWII), which had been widely publicized at the time in various magazines such as National Geographic as being a very big carnivorous dinosaur able to compete with T.rex, Carcharodontosaurus and Giganotosaurus. But even then, the reconstruction was outdated, and it looked like a generic theropod with large arms, a semi-circle sail, and a skull that resembled the reconstructions given to popular media since 1998. The infamous Animatronic Spinosaurus was a good toy, though. Too bad they are all broken now. Mine are not because upon getting this figure, I knew it would break if not handled carefully. Even as a brand new figure, it was plagued with issues, such as the batteries needing to be worked a little bit so the electronics would work, and even then the animatronic feature was problematic. As it turns out, the figure also has a variant, and I acquired mine by random chance in a lot of JP figures that I purchased sometime within the last ten years. I was about to list it on ebay when I realized the colors were different than mine, and I ended up keeping it. Miraculously, it still worked. The version I got on my 13th birthday was the one with the brown teeth, which was part of the first run. I always thought this was strange, but I was not going to complain, since it was one of the few friends I had in that cold morning in 2001. Even though for the first time in my life, my parents were not there together to sing me happy birthday to wake me up as they had every year, this was a pretty good present to wake up to. I had actually bought it personally on September 10th, as it was the last time I would be able to go outside before my chemotherapy began. I had to wait almost two months to open it, as mum and I had decided I would open it in November for my birthday. We went to a Walmart in Renton, where they had an entire shelf FULL of them at clearance prices! I wish we could have taken a picture, but all we had was a pager. Life would change afterwards for me, my family, and the world, and while we were prepared for me to get a bone marrow transplant as soon as I was ready, we were definitely not prepared for the remainder of that week, or its aftermath.
Another saving grace were the pterosaurs. The Deluxe Reak Atak Pteranodon had its issues, such as the legs being weird, and I cannot believe I’m saying this, but they were inaccurate as their beaks sported no teeth, which they clearly had in the movie! Not having them made them better than the movie version though! They also had a very cool Tapejara figure that was an entirely new sculpt for wave 2. They were all incredibly oversized, of course, but they were the same size as the Steel Beak Pteranodon from The Lost World, and the Fire Beak Quetzalcoatlus from Jurassic Park Series 2’s infamous repertoire.
There were two Ultra class figures. The awful posed “grinning” Ultra T.rex (this figure has a funny story of its own, but too long for this JPIII celebration, and this is already getting too long anyways), and the other villain nobody talks about: The Alpha Pteranodon, which will be the recipient of this review!
First off, let me begin by saying that this was an incredibly hard photoshoot. I had to use a telescoping tube, otherwise known as a “selfie stick” to take these. I knew we had one, but my newer phone does not have an audio jack, and the stick has to connect to a jack in order for it to work, so I had to use my mom’s pone for this. The tube has lost its tightness due to age, or because my mom’s protector case is heavy, but it kept flipping over…and over…and over again. It was also very difficult to navigate as there are other pterosaurs occupying nearby airspace, so not only did I had to be careful to knock other pterosaurs off, but I also had to be careful as to not change their position. The hardest thing about hanging them was the fact that trying them up required a lot of them to remain in only one position so they would look balanced. I would not have done this review had it not been a personal request from a friend at the forum, but I did get some very interesting shots from the birdcage, as I promised in an older pterosaur review. Now that the display is completed, I might as well show what it looks like from up there. I did not even know what it looked like from an aerial perspective! Well worth the effort, in my opinion.
This figure is ENORMOUS. The wingspan measures 23 inches, and it is 10 inches from break to feet. We would not see a Pteranodon this big until the basic sized Pteranodon figures Mattel made for Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom and Dominion, which I reviewed here. The colors are great, too. This was one of the first time we ever got to see that multi-color plastic effect that gives the wings this wonderful black pattern atop the dark indigo blue plastic, with some white spray on the rear part of the membrane. It looks like the sea at night. The body is hollow, and it is cast in some very fragile plastic. It is especially fragile around the neck, which is prone to chips, which is the reason why so many used individuals have lost their head. It is unfortunate, and it means finding an intact specimen will become more difficult as time goes on. The back is sprayed with some copper coloring, which takes us back to the brown or dark goldenrod colors that the Reak Atak Pteranodon come in. The legs are also molded in black and blue plastic.
The often lost head is molded in the same plastic. The crest has mottled lighter goldenrod painted on it, once again taking us back to the smaller Reak Atak figure. The eye is yellow, and the orbit around it is burgundy. The bottom of the body (never mind the screw-holes, this is when it became tradition) is sprayed cloudy white, and the bottom of the wing membrane has the same cloudy white stripe towards the back. They could have just kept the bottom of the animal completely devoid of color details, but I am always going to love this figure for featuring this strange new multi-color plastic, and for having great paint applications. That is also one of the good things about this line. The color applications were very well done across all figures, and it made them rather unique. The molds were generally well done, and very detailed upon closer inspection.
Oh, yes, another thing I forgot to mention is that Hasbro got rid of were the numbered JP tags. All of the figures had the JPIII slash logo on them. It is not that much of a big deal, but the earlier figures having numbers just added to their uniqueness.
By now we all know what the main gimmick was for the JPIII dinosaurs. One of the things that put us off almost completely was the fact that these dinosaurs were all permanently wounded. Dino Damage was back, but not in a pleasant way. Before, we could cover the wounds. Now they were permanently exposed, except now they had buttons which activated a secondary sound. Pteranodon’s sounds were activated by pushing the wound button, pushing the head a little, which made it very trigger sensitive, and pushing the very obvious rectangular button on the back, which also made the giant wings flap. The wings were very heavy so the flapping mechanism was a bit tighter than in regular pterosaurs. But back to the exposed wounds, they were horrible then and they’re horrible now. Hasbro did not learn from their mistakes and carried the permanent wounds over to their Bashers and Biters from Jurassic World, except they didn’t have a button this time and just existed to further disfigure their uh….figures.
Another thing that I did not like about this figure is that the body is too big. It does not have shoulders. The wings seem to appear midway throughout the trunk. The legs are articulated, but they are weird, and articulated through the protopagium, which is not unusual among pterosaur figures, but this figure takes it too far. The wings can be folded inward for easy storage, and the neck can rotate 360 degrees, so the crest won’t be jutting perpendicular to the body. This makes the figure very flat and easy to ship.
The mold did produce two more repaints, whose best attributes are once again their colors, but those are the positives about this mold: Color, sculpt details, and size. The rest is unquestionably bad.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pterosaur toys have not changed much in 40 or so years. They always have the same moving parts: Neck, jaws, and have a flapping mechanism. JPIII at least tried something new with the smaller Reak Atak Pteranodon figures which had ball jointed shoulders instead of the flapping mechanism that most pterosaur figures have. It is traditional at this point.
I was not able to take comparison shots with the JPIII Amber Collection Pteranodon, but that figure is not much better either due to the easily ripped rubber wings whose articulation is then rendered useless. Some modern figures like the Singular Point Rodan from S.H. Figuarts which uses a classic pterosaur body have demonstrated that articulated wings are possible, but I am sure that we will be stuck with this type of pterosaur figure construction for a long time.
For better or for worse, the events of 2001 changed me completely. My faith in toymakers and moviemakers decreased. The JPIII line was just as terrible as the movie, and perhaps this was no accident. But at least I had my best friend forever with me, and we had fun discussing how bad this whole thing was. I had my bone marrow transplant, I survived, and I returned home in 2002, and despite the millions of setbacks, I survived. We survived. But our friendship eventually did not. Some things just are not meant to last forever. This fight was so bad that it spilled onto our parents, as they also stopped being friends. I started high school without my best friend. I felt alone. Our happy memories were shredded in my mind. I looked at my large Jurassic Park figure collection, and all I could think about was him and our history together. I really did consider him more than a friend. He was like a brother. He got me through some of the worst times in my life. My collection has grown ten times bigger since then, which can only mean that I overcame all of that trauma somehow, but I look at it with a bit of sadness, and when I look at my JPIII collection, or if the movie is playing on the telly, a painful twinge is triggered on my chest. That does not stop me from watching it though! It may have been a bad movie, but it was fun then, and it is still a fun watch. Not everything has to be sad.
Mattel was kind enough to give us figures of Ankylosaurus, Ceratosaurus as pictured, a Brachiosaurus based on the JPIII version, and a Corythosaurus, as well as numerous raptor figures based on their JPIII depictions. Trevor would have liked seeing those back then, though I would have probably been more excited, since I was the more excitable of the two. I always try to put my care and soul into everything I do, like my collection and these reviews. I love sharing my dinosaurs with everybody, and this was something that I learned from him almost three decades ago. Despite all the hurt, all of the pain, life found a way.