To start, I want to extend my thanks to Happy Hen Toys for generously offering this review sample for the Blog. Happy Hen Toys has rapidly been establishing themselves as one of the most reliable shops for prehistoric animal collectibles in the United States, and I encourage readers to check out their website for purchasing this and other related items.
Lots of theropod dinosaurs are known for their facial ornamentation, such as ridges, horns, and fully-formed crests. Ornamentation was evidently most prominent in theropods of medium to medium-large size – you have your Dilophosauruses, your Cryolophosauruses, and your Monolophosauruses, to name a few examples. Monolophosaurus is perhaps less familiar of a genus than some of its crested contemporaries, but it did have a small stint in the spotlight during a few episodes in the animated series Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. The “single-crested lizard” is also substantially well-known from the fossil record, with a complete skull, pelvis, and vertebral column described from the holotype specimen. This mid-sized, Mid-Jurassic predator is typically classified as an early member of the tetanuran clade, the branch of theropods which would lead to famous giants like Megalosaurus, Allosaurus, Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus.
There are only a few figurines to the Chinese theropod’s name, the newest of which being Schleich’s 2023 figurine released recently to retailers. Schleich’s model measures 23 cm (9 in) measured straight, or 25.5 (10 in) measured more carefully along the spine. Given life-size estimates of the theropod max out at 5-5.5 meters, the figurine sits somewhere between 1:19-1:21 scale, so it’s on the larger side of dinosaur replicas, so to speak. Like most Schleich toys, the plastic is sturdy, but slightly rubbery for safety of play and resistance to damage. The jaw is also articulated and functions smoothly, apart from some initial paint excess which had to come loose on my copy.
The figurine holds pretty close to recent skeletal reconstructions. The torso, hips, and skull of the figure – the portions of the animal best-preserved in the fossil record – all appear about correctly proportioned to each other. The neck, however, appears scrunched in length, and lacks the standard s-curve theropod shape. Schleich has also scrimped on the body mass in general, resulting in some odd-looking anatomy with baggy skin and wiry muscles. The feet are also enlarged for the sake of the figurine’s balance, although not as extremely so as some of Schleich’s previous models.
Since we don’t have any limb bones for Monolophosaurus, reconstructions of the animal have to extrapolate dimensions based on related dinosaurs. Schleich’s figure bears reasonably long arms and legs like those of other mid-sized tetanurans, and the figure is posed in a basic stride forward. The arms are a little strange-looking, however; the pose is limp, and the musculature is weirdly humanoid. The fingers are all uniform with small, blunted claws – the exact opposite of the dimensions known from tetanurans, which typically bear a short thumb tipped with a claw larger than either of the other two digits. Schleich might have wanted to ensure child safety for the toy, but they definitely overcompensated and missed a chance for the figure to look a little more striking.
One feature Schleich did appear to get right is the skull, which has been completely preserved and thoroughly described. The figure’s head is narrow, but slightly deep, with a level jugal and maxilla (cheek and mouth roof, basically). The dentary features alternating large and small teeth, very much like those described in the holotype specimen, and fairly numerous for the size of the figure’s mouth. The nasal crest is a bit short – it should end over the eyes instead of in front of them – but is otherwise accurate in shape, rising short and triangularly from the brow and running down to the tip of the snout. Monolophosaurus’s skull was highly pneumatic, and the crest in particular seems to have been connected with the nasal and antorbital fenestrae. Schleich could have been a little experimental in the fleshed-out structure on their figure; as it stands, though, a little extra ridged texture in the front section is the most the crest gets, with no indication of the more complex cranial features.
Monolophosaurus is colored predominantly in lime green, with a near-black coat along its backbone and erratic black spots across the face and flanks; the underbelly is an off-white, with a dark wash to accentuate the sculpt all over the body. In person, the color scheme honestly looks pretty good, although it does lend something of a swamp creature vibe to the animal (then again, the Shishugou Formation from where Monolophosaurus hails WAS originally marshland, so “swamp creature” might be more appropriate than one would expect). Capping off the figure are bright yellow eyes, which lend a stern and formidable presence to the toy without coming across heavy-handedly.
Schleich’s Monolophosaurus might not be the best representation of this dinosaur on the market, but for all intents and purposes it’s a pretty decent likeness that will make for good play in the hands of Schleich’s target audience. Not too shabby this time, Schleich. My thanks again to Happy Hen Toys for offering this sample figure; you can purchase the full Schleich 2023 lineup at their website, happyhentoys.com.