Gwangi (X-Plus/Star Ace)

4.3 (6 votes)

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Review and images by GiganotosaurusFan, edited by Suspsy

The year was 1969 and everyone was talking about the new show-stopping dinosaur movie made by Ray Harryhausen. It was The Valley of Gwangi, an epic tale of how the last living Allosaurus was found, captured, and eventually met a grandiose, spectacular, and tragic end after a cathedral crashed down on top of it with a bang. Naturally, the film was a success, and that iconic, menacing Allosaurus would remain in many people’s hearts for years to come.

Flash forwards 53 years and Ray Harryhausen has sadly passed away, however, his legacy persists on in many forms, and one of those is through X-Plus, a Japanese company which obtained the license for making Harryhausen-related memorabilia. They fared pretty well with some of their figures, like the Allosaurus vs. Tumak set, the Ymir, the Triceratops, and more. Let’s see if their take on the legendary dinosaur Gwangi holds up to the high standards they’ve set!

First of all, I’ll say it now: it’s huge. Although the curved tail makes it only slightly longer than the Nanmu Giganotosaurus and a few centimeters longer than the Safari Feathered T. rex, it’s much bulkier than either, and much taller too. And this thing is heavy to boot! This is going to be one real biggie in your collection, and you better provide some space for it on your shelf!

The head is characteristically that of Gwangi. It’s also heavily detailed, with pebbly scales covering most of the upper jaw, smaller ones on the bottom jaw, and some wrinkles underneath. A skin flap covers the entirety of the top of the head, with the largest scales appearing there, giving Gwangi his signature look of a T. rex from the 1960s. The eye is made of three layers of decal, one beige, one red, and one black. The skin flap on the top almost shadows the eyes, and since it slants downwards, it gives Gwangi a sour and nonplussed look. 

I’m the cool one around here!

Moving down the body, it is filled with scales of different sizes and shapes, all with that traditional Godzilla look, with ridges on the top of the back, a new kind of scale pattern on the bottom of the belly, and accentuated flanks. The tail has multiple rings on it, also very much like Godzilla, and is extremely long and curvy, which is accurate to the real deal. The excellent texturing continues down, right down to the tip of the tail, with once more, very large and deep scales lining the entirety of the tail. The feet switch to an armoured texture, and a large toenail proudly protrudes from each of the six toes. The hands are smaller, yet they sport the same kind of detail as the rest of the body. Shorter, sharper claws are present on the three fingers of each hand. The tongue is smooth, a stark contrast to the rest of the body. The top of the mouth has texture, not just blandness seen in common knockoff vinyl figures. The teeth are sculpted individually and slightly dulled, with varying degrees of length, width, and straightness.

The scales on the figure are not as crisply sculpted as on the Nanmu, PNSO, or W-Dragon figures. This is a minor issue because the original latex model had crisp texture, however, it doesn’t detract from the overall look of the model. The posture is hunched, just like in early retro depictions of theropods. Gwangi’s head is raised up in the air, proud and high, shining teeth exposed in the air, eyes looking forwards, arms slightly raised, both feet firmly on the ground. What he is up to is left to the imagination. Maybe to catch a pterosaur snack?

Size comparison.

The paintwork looks simple but in fact, it is very complex. It seems as if it is a bland shade of dark grey, however, there are actually blue tones to the figure which you can see in natural lighting. Drybrushing with a light grey is also very common here. It should be noted that there is a lower amount of drybrushing on the flanks. Hopefully it’s only present on my copy. The mouth is completely red with a little bit of a pink at the bottom. The teeth are a dirty white with brown at the roots, similar to the style of W-Dragon, and one I really prefer to the common bland white used in most other models. Personally, I prefer the yellowed clearness a la Nanmu, but this is just as fine, and just as justifiable.

Boy, haven’t dinosaurs evolved!

Now turning to film accuracy – a lot of people have complained that the head of Gwangi wasn’t accurate to the film. It’s relatively film accurate, however, there are some stylistic differences. Rather than giving Gwangi a dragging tail, they lifted it partly from the ground. Other than that, there’s also the head, which is too serpentine, too draconian compared to Gwangi himself. The lower jaw should be a little more rounded, as well as the top jaw being too thin, but other than that, it isn’t too far of a miss. This may be distracting to some, but personally, I actually prefer this look. I leave it to you to make your choice for yourself. 🙂 

Measurements: it is around 44 centimeters long, but this is not accounting for the curve, and with the curve, it would be almost 55 centimeters. It is 25 centimeters in height, towering over most other models, other than the other X-Plus/Star Ace models and some articulated figures. Being made of hollow vinyl reduces the weight of this figure, while reducing the cost as well. It will be less susceptible to cracks and breakage once dropped from the table or falling from a shelf.

NOW STARRING: ALLOSAURUS IN THE DESERT.

There is a base for this model, one of a Pteranodon lying dead on the ground, with a severed wing that is attachable to Gwangi’s mouth through a magnet. Since I ordered the Standard version, it does not include the base. If you want the base, seek out the Deluxe version instead, but be aware, it’s growing rarer and rarer because it’s a limited edition of 800. Don’t give into the scalpers on eBay who charge lots for just the base. Gwangi is good enough, the base is optional.

One last tribute to a bygone age with bygone dinosaurs.

Overall, I would recommend this figure if you have the shelf space and the funds. Keep in mind that the license makes this much more expensive than it would normally be, and it will hurt your wallet. However, if you want to save up for this dinosaur, it will be worth it. This is one good-looking model, one that gives off a feel of craftsmanship and handiwork, and truly captures the feel of the original Gwangi. 

The Standard version retails right now for around $225 USD, or about $300 Canadian, and the Deluxe version retails for $275 USD, which is about $360 dollars Canadian. 

See you in the next review!

You can support the Dinosaur Toy Blog by making your dino-purchases through these links to Ebay and Amazon.

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Comments 5

  • You would think this piece would be a mandatory buy for me but it’s way out of my price range. I have several X-Plus figures, including the 1933 King Kong T. rex and none of them cost anywhere close to this much. Hopefully we’ll get a more budget friendly Gwangi someday. Great review, and I’m happy to see someone cover this figure. Despite its anatomical inaccuracies it is still recognizably Gwangi.

  • It’s cute, and huge, though the price and the hollow vinyl material (I prefer solid PVC, honestly I’m not that excited about it. It’s a great figure anyway.

  • Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but bipedal dinos were, in 1967-68 (when GWANGI was being made), still being depicted as diagonal tail-draggers, certainly in commercial media. That’s why Harryhausen’s stop-mo model & animation here are so extraordinarily intuitive & forward-looking. For purely dramatic purposes — not for a scientific postulate that was yet to come — Gwangi is a superactive, raised-tail-lashing, horizontal-bodied, forward-charging predator that embodied “hot-blooded dinosaur” before the phrase was even invented.

    For those who, like me, can’t afford Star Ace’s finished figures, i.e. like the one reviewed above, it is worth mentioning that they have begun to offer far cheaper pre-orders of their current Harryhausens in the form of unpainted, unassembled vinyl model kits. I know that Rhedosaurus (BEAST/20,000 FATHOMS) & the Sinbad Cyclops are already becoming available, with more surely on the way. Perhaps check sideshow.com or bigbadtoystore.com for updates.

    • You are correct actually. Harryhausen was, in some ways, actually quite ahead of his time in depicting his theropod dinosaurs as very active, quite agile creatures. I think this was done mostly for dramatic, cinematic flair rather than out of scientific knowledge as his herbivores tended to be very much of the era, but it’s still important to give credit where it’s due. As for the model itself, as someone who watched the movie innumerable times as a kid I’m not a huge fan of it, the little inaccuracies compared to the stop motion puppet from the movie bug me enough to put me off purchasing it, although the Rhedosaurus from the same line is a slam dunk.

  • What a beautiful (though expensive!!) cast of a classic dinosaur design. It’s almost criminal how little Harryhausen merchandise there is on the market.

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