Review and photos by Strawberry Crocodile, edited by Suspsy
Hadrosaurs are often relegated to the role of “supporting cast” in dinosaur media. Despite their success as a group, they simply don’t grab people’s imaginations as much as deadly theropods, record-shattering sauropods, or the absolutely bizarre shapes their ornithischian cousins have taken. More often than not, they show up only to get eaten by the local large theropod, or perhaps a colossal crocodiliform. Parasaurolophus is the only one to gain any respite from this role. Its crest is the most famous of the hadrosaurs, likely due to being discovered at the right time to get famous. Most infamously, creationists have chosen them to be the inspiration for fire-breathing dragons, their hollow crests credited with storing bombardier beetle-like chemicals to let them spit fire at predators (Notably, bombardier bettles spray a caustic fluid, which is decidedly not fire, but that’s neither here nor there). Looking at this toy, I can imagine it being a fantasy creature of great beauty, rarity, and danger, akin to a reptilian unicorn or phoenix. Despite being a theropod-oriented child, this toy has always charmed me. So much so that when most of my dinosaur toys were relegated to a box in my basement, it got to stay upstairs as a decoration for my bedroom.
The toy itself is made from a solid but flexible plastic; the body is thick enough that it can’t really bend, but the tail can to a reasonable amount and the crest is especially bendable. I’ll venture a guess that this toy would bounce if dropped, but I don’t see the empirical data being worth the risk. It measures 7″ long and 5.25″ tall.
The base color of the toy is a sort of light, saturated orange-brown, laid bare on the underbelly and semi-visible on the side. It gives a bit of a naturalistic look to what is otherwise a very vibrantly colored toy. Speaking of which, the paint is primarily a pastel blue, getting lighter at the crest and darker along the small spinal ridge. The toy’s left flank, neck, and right thigh have faint purple stripes that add further dimension to the paint job; this is finally accented by bright yellow eyes that draw your attention to the face and, in my opinion, complete the color scheme. Note that my paint job is a little worn; this is a toy that has experienced a lot of love.
Just as the paint job brings a fantastical look to the creature, the sculpt gives it the appearance of both beauty and strength. The limbs are powerfully muscled, as are the tail and neck, and the body is almost barrel-shaped. The arms are in what is not quite an action pose; I could imagine it grasping at foliage, but the impression I get is that it’s posing for a camera, rather than engaging in natural behavior.
My favorite part of the sculpt, however, is the face, which has a gentle, welcoming quality. Hadrosaurs are one of the few dinosaurs to have evolved cheeks for chewing, and this toy shows it off with the kind of chubby cheeks that would drive an affectionate grandmother wild. The eyes may be a piercing yellow, but their expression is peaceful, almost welcoming. This is a very soft-looking reptile.
Unfortunately, the toy is not quite up to date with our modern understanding of hadrosaurs. The easiest criticism to make is the classic tripodal stance. Rather than a stiff balancing rod, the tail curves on the latter end, forming an almost complete 180 degree turn from the base. The hands have issues as well; their four digits are each tipped with a claw, a notably non-dinosaurian trait. The biggest issue, though, is the proportions and shape of the body. The toy’s back is a gentle slope like the rolling Appalachian hills, while real hadrosaurs more closely resembled the plateaus of Monument Valley; that is to say, nearly rectangular. The toy’s body is also woefully small compared to the head, with real hadrosaurs being incredibly bulky.
That said, this Parasaurolophus is still gorgeous, and if it cost only fifteen or twenty dollars, I would absolutely recommend it to someone looking for more conventional beauty in their collection. Unfortunately, however, that is not the case. AAA as a company is gone, and its unique sculpts gone with it. This sculpt has been out of print for years now and I don’t see it coming back any time soon, meaning it now sells secondhand for prices like $80 or even $100 on sites like eBay. At that range, I really question if it’s worth it; it’s not especially large, detailed, or up-to-date, so the biggest reason I can see someone buying it is because they want to collect something rare. Or perhaps you, like me, are simply enraptured by its beauty.