Although these figures might fall short of Dinotales’ best, they are still delightful and unique representations of the famous Jurassic pliosaur.
Dinotales (in Chocolosaurs) were something of a hidden gem for me; despite an extensive production series, the Japanese capsule toys haven’t ever been marketed much at all overseas, at least that I know of. I suppose that’s the result of their particular style of vending machine toy. It’s a shame, really, because once found, it’s hard for one to resist their charm. Although we have a number of reviews for figures in the series here on the DTB, many others still remain untouched; so let’s scratch another off the list here.
The Dinotales line has covered a variety of genera, both famous and obscure. Liopleurodon probably sits somewhere in the middle, gaining minor fame from the BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs back in 1999 (good grief, that sounds old now). Released as the 11th figure of the first series, the Liopleurodon has two variants, which I will address as versions A and B, respectively. Unlike most Dinotales figures, which have to be assembled, each Liopleurodon comes as a single piece, molded in a plastic that feels almost glassy in nature. The figure is quite small, measuring just 8 cm (3.17 in) long.
Although released roughly around the same time frame as Walking With Dinosaurs was hitting the airwaves and becoming famous, both figures in the Dinotales line avoid the color scheme used in the show which other, later figures have been “cursed” into imitating. Both color schemes are quite pleasing to the eyes, recalling real-life sea creatures today. Real Liopleurodons likely would have had their own unique colors, but for the figurines, these colors work nicely. Version A has a modest, dolphin-like pattern of light grey-blue and white, with black highlights for the eyes and nostrils, and pinkish highlights for the mouth (actually, there’s a faint pink tinge to the belly too).
Version B has a higher-contrast color scheme involving a dark brown gradient on top, a yellow-white gradient underneath, and black contour lines dividing the two. Version B also has faint grey scars painted along its face and the sides of its body, a neat detail that gives the figure a little more character. What fearsome prey has this hunter been battling?
Curiously, although Dinotales figures are often highly accurate to contemporary science, these Liopleurodons actually fall a few points short on inspection. L. ferox was relatively stout in the body, but the figures appear rather slender. The skull is also considerably less broad dorsally than what is known from fossils, and the back of the skull slopes more prominently than fossils suggest. I suspect Kaiyodo’s sculptors might have referenced the lengthier genus Kronosaurus, rather than Liopleurodon itself. On finer details, the minute eyes, nostrils, and teeth are all visibly sculpted and (mostly) neatly painted, although the teeth are uniform in shape rather than varying in size as known from fossils (remember, these ARE millimeter-long teeth on the toy!). When held in hand, one can also notice the musculature of the animal, carefully shaped in certain areas such as the chest and face.
Although Dinotales’ Liopleurodon figures might fall short of their best, due to anatomical issues, both versions are still delightful additions to a collector’s shelf, especially for those interested in prehistoric marine life. Both are long out of production, but keep your eyes out on eBay and you can probably find one for a decent price.