Review and photos by Charles Peckham, edited by Suspsy
Trying to find information about either the creator of these toys, a Chinese company named Yantai, or their American distributor, Learnplay Inc., isn’t easy. According to one of the few sources I was able to find, Yantai has been around since 2011 and their Halftoy line is just one of hundreds of designs they have made. At present, Learnplay seems to only distribute Halftoys, and I’m not sure why that is. I suspect talking about these companies is going to be one of many firsts for this review. I am willing to bet that this may be the only item on the Dinosaur Toy Blog that mentions changing diapers, which is probably a good thing.
The Halfbaby Dinosaur Set comes in six boxes, with one dinosaur for each. The attention to detail is very nice. Each box has a picture of a nuclear dinosaur family that your specific baby came from on the back, and each little sticker that seals the box even has a picture of the dinosaur on it. The set also comes with a postcard thanking you for your purchase. Overall, the design of the packaging is fun and sleek, and despite them just being cardboard boxes, they really are able to add to the overall experience of the toys. I really love the moustaches on the dinosaur fathers.
Each box comes with instructions for assembling the toy and the pieces for both dinosaur and crib individually sorted into a set of plastic pockets. Again, Yantai could have thrown the bits into a box and printed out a black and white set of instructions on a cheap bit of paper (or included no instructions at all; assembling these toys isn’t rocket science), but they chose to go the extra mile, and this effort helps to psychologically solidify what cool toys these are.
The actual toy portion of each package includes one dinosaur, which consists of a skeleton and two halves of soft flesh, a diaper (or nappy), and a crib. A sticker is included for the purpose of writing your dinosaur baby’s name on and then affixing to the crib. I don’t like writing on my toys or sticking stickers as it can’t be undone, but that’s a personal preference.
The flesh and diaper halves are magnetized, so they can be put together and taken apart as much as one wants. The crib is assembled through interlocking plastic bits, and it was not designed to come apart and be reassembled like the dinosaur is. The idea to magnetize the two halves is really clever, and I can’t offhand think of another toy that uses this method. The magnets are concealed within the plastic of the toy, so it looks like the individual parts are just plastic. Being able to release the two halves of the toy so that they connect into place is a really satisfying feeling. On Learnplay’s blog, they mention that their Halftoys can double as fidget toys, and I have certainly found that to be the case. I’ll find myself snapping and unsnapping a dinosaur baby while I’m watching TV or in a video conference just so I have something for my hands to do.
The six dinosaur babies are Baby Ankylo, Baby Para, Baby Stego, Baby Diplo, Baby Tricera, and Baby T-Rex, and while this is never made explicit, they are clearly intended to represent Ankylosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus rex respectively. The design of the toys is obviously quite simple and for the most part, they only really resemble the dinosaurs in question when seen in profile. If we ignore the fact that they are minimalist, cutesy, and intended for all-ages play, the scientific accuracy on these is really not too bad. The only dinosaur that has its tail sloped downward is Baby Tricera, which is the only dinosaur in this set that would have had its tail sloped downward in life. Baby Para is sculpted bipedally. While that’s not a neutral stance for Parasaurolophus, it’s not outright wrong to portray them in this pose.
The skeletons are, on the other hand, not accurate at all. Baby Ankylo has osteoderms that jut out to the sides of the skull that make its skeleton look a bit like a Diplocaulus. The lack of detail is at least in part due to the size of the baby toys. Their adult counterparts have more clearly defined bones. While we’re on the subject of inaccuracy, I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that, just like baby animals that we see today, baby dinosaurs weren’t simply scaled down versions of adult dinosaurs.
You’re probably thinking to yourself that these are very strange little toys, and I certainly agree with you there. What originally drew me to them was my surprise that something like them existed. These are not the first dinosaur toys to make detaching soft flesh from bones a possibility. Baby dinosaurs in cribs wearing diapers isn’t something I can remember being depicted outside of the Dinosaurs TV show from the 1990s. Combining the two is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in dinosaur toys. I tried to find more information on the design and development of these toys, because I imagine whoever thought these up is a very interesting person, but I came back empty handed. These probably aren’t a must-have for every collector, especially not those interested in realism, but they are certainly a unique toy. From the magnetized parts to the box art (again, those moustaches . . .), I put forth that there is no other toy on earth quite like these. Plus, they’re fun. They are both literally and figuratively colorful, and fit in equally nicely on a collector’s shelf or in a child’s toybox. I have to admit I usually don’t display them with the diapers or the cribs though— not my aesthetic.
The Halfbaby Dinosaurs are available both individually and as a set from Learnplay Inc’s website.