Before we begin the review, I would like to extend my gratitude towards Happy Hen Toys for sending this figure along as a review sample. Happy Hen Toys is a U.S. distributor of figures by Safari, Papo, CollectA, Schleich, and other similar companies. In the case of CollectA they’re often the only place that sells their products at a reasonable price within the United States. I’ve bought many products from them in the past and am thrilled that they’re now collaborating with the Animal Toy and Dinosaur Toy Blogs.
The early Cretaceous nodosaurid Gastonia is somewhat of a paradox. Although more material exists for it than for any other basal ankylosaur it is difficult to reconstruct the genus because all that material is largely disarticulated in a jumbled mess, which makes assigning material to individual animals difficult. Gastonia was described in 1998 by Jim Kirkland and its remains have been found in the Cedar Mountain formation of eastern Utah. It would have lived alongside Utahraptor and as such featured in Robert Bakker’s novel, Raptor Red. Aside from that small claim to fame Gastonia hasn’t achieved much popularity and until this year only one other figure of it existed, produced by CollectA. Dan LoRusso also sculpted one for Battat before his passing, but sadly it was never released. This year Schleich has released their own Gastonia, and that’s the figure we’ll be looking at today.
The Schleich Gastonia measures 7” (17.78 cm) in length and stands 3” (7.62 cm) at its tallest point. Gastonia is estimated to have measured between 16-19’ (5-6 meters) which puts the figure within the 1/30 scale range. It is presented in a striding posture with the left forelimb slightly lifted and tail posed in a gentle upward arching S curve.
In terms of accuracy things look pretty good on the surface. Gastonia was closely related to Polocanthus and the similarity between the two is apparent with the prominent spikes above and along the shoulders, sacral shield over the hips, and the lack of a tail club. The head appears to be a close match to the skull and the number of digits are correct. Four on the hindlimbs and five on the forelimbs, although digits four and five on the forelimbs shouldn’t have claws.
Pros aside, Gastonia would have been significantly wider than what we see here, especially in the hips, to the point where the sacral shield would have been nearly flat. The legs are also too long and the belly not as rotund as it should be. These are all common mistakes in ankylosaur toys but also perfectly avoidable and keep this otherwise great toy from ever being a five-star figure.
This is a rare instance where I’m going to compare Schleich to Papo (when at their peak) because even if inaccurate the figure still looks convincingly lifelike and is phenomenally detailed. Starting at the head you’ll find some fine detail around the mouth in the form of creases around the beak and the sunken-in cheeks give it a somewhat gaunt appearance. The eyes are somewhat sunken and squinted and the mouth is frowning at the corners. All together it gives the impression that this Gastonia is an elderly and cranky individual that has perhaps missed a few meals.
Fine scale detail and larger osteoderms adorn the entirety of the body. Larger plate-like scales atop the head give way to pebbly scales between the larger osteoderms and spikes, themselves being detailed with keels and grooves. The sacral shield has randomly distributed osteoderms amongst the finer scalation and wide, plate-like scales are sculpted under the tail. No cloaca is present, I guess Schleich hasn’t jumped on that bandwagon yet.
The head is looking slightly leftward and so on the left side of the neck you get bunched up skin creases while on the right side the skin appears stretched. Saggy skin folds are sculpted along the torso, around the limbs and elsewhere on the underside. Underlying musculature and the overall flow of movement are all exceptionally well executed. Accuracy aside, this is a fantastically sculpted and realistic figure.
The figure is predominately a brick red color, and I guess this will be a popular color choice for nodosaur figures thanks to preserved Borealopelta pigments that indicate it too was this color. The red nicely fades to tan color on the underside. The black eyes and brown beak have a shiny finish and the bottoms of the feet have a brown wash that make them appear dirty. The nails are painted gray.
Some of the spikes and armored bits are painted off-white with a brown wash but the paint application here is terrible in most places. If you look at any individual spike or osteoderm you’ll see obvious paint runoff or incomplete application. There are also a lot of osteoderms that aren’t painted at all, like those between the spikes on the back and sides, and about half of them on the tail. In life it is likely that these osteoderms would have been covered in skin anyway, so maybe they shouldn’t be painted, but whatever the case Schleich should have just gone all or nothing with them.
Overall, the Schleich Gastonia is held back by avoidable inaccuracies and a sloppy and inconsistent paintjob. That said, it is also a beautifully sculpted, lifelike, and exceptionally detailed figure of an obscure dinosaur. It is also the standout figure from Schleich this year and well worth acquiring if you can look past its flaws. The Schleich Gastonia is new for 2023 and available widely in stores and online. If you live in the U.S., you can purchase it at Happy Hen Toys and if you prefer CollectA’s Gastonia they also have that one available.
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