Protoceratops is a staple of classic dinosaur multimedia. What the “first horned face” lacks in size and ornamentation when compared to later ceratopsian relatives, it makes up for with excellent preservation in the fossil record, its discovery dating back to the Central Asiatic Expeditions of the early 1900s. Numerous specimens and at least one genuine nest of eggs (most of the fossil egg specimens attributed to Protoceratops turned out to be of maniraptoran origin) have been described over the decades, providing a thorough picture of this early ceratopsian genus.
Protoceratops also has a surprisingly good track record with toys, even better than some of its larger relatives. Most major companies have tried their hand at the genus (sometimes more than once) in the past; and remarkably, quite a few of the results have ended up being very, very good. One of the latest entries thrown into the ring comes from the Beasts of the Mesozoic action figure line, which had the opportunity to feature Protoceratops not just once, but twice – first in 2020 as a deluxe 1:6 scale figure, and again in 2022 as a revised 1:18 scale minifigure.
Creative Beast Studio is a small company founded by sculptor and toy designer David Silva. For the past several years, Silva has been keeping himself busy with the Beasts of the Mesozoic series, which is an action figure line dedicated to scientifically accurate dinosaurs (and other extinct life). While the line has featured a variety of scales for its dinosaurs so far, the 1:18 range is becoming the predominant scale for the larger genera in the line. The new 2022 miniatures – including Protoceratops alongside a handful of other resized ceratopsians and raptors – offer collectors the choice to display more of their dinosaurs together in a consistent range.
Protoceratops andrewsi – labeled as number “A4” in this sub-series – comes packaged in a collector-friendly clamshell with a cardboard backdrop, displaying splendid artwork of the dinosaur by artist Paul Ramos. The back of the package features a description of the animal, plus a list of the other minifigures available at the time (the second, lesser-known species, P. hellenikorhinus, is also featured in the line as number “A6”). The backdrop can be slid out to disassemble the clamshell and access the toy inside, as well as the instructions for “assembly”. A clear plastic base and a second pair of lower hind limbs are included as accessories.
Although listed as 1:18 scale, this Protoceratops appears a bit on the small side – P. andrewsi could reach sizes of 2–2.5 m (6.6–8.2 ft) in length, with substantially more mass to its body than the gracile dromaeosaurs it lived alongside. The figurine itself measures 10.5 cm (4.25 in) from beak to tail, placing it closer to 1:19-1:23 scale. Technicalities of size aside, though, this is one exquisitely detailed minifigure – a perfect likeness of the much larger 1:6 action figure. Every point of detail is recaptured in miniature, with a fine skin of circular scales that give the figure a pleasantly tactile surface when handled.
One of the main selling points of Beasts of the Mesozoic is the line’s scientific accuracy, and the little Protoceratops is no exception. Proportions on the minifigure align closely to current skeletals, particularly capturing the massive skull and frill of the animal, with its deep snout and hooked beak. The jugal horns are well-pronounced, as is the nasal ridge starting just in front of the eyes. The frill is wide and vaguely heart-shaped, with its main surface featuring the same scaly skin as the rest of the body. The frill also features a rim of rounded osteoderms, which are speculative, to my knowledge; but seem reasonable from evidence of other ceratopsians and looks aesthetically appealing on the figure besides.
The postcranial anatomy of the figurine bears similar dedication to accuracy, barring a few small details. The body is stout and the limbs are slender; although the dimensions seem a little bit on the long side, they appear consistent in proportion to each other. I suspect the torso was stretched slightly to accommodate the articulation joint. The spinous process (i.e., the ridge of the spine) along the back and tail are actually less pronounced than what some specimens indicate, although the tail retains its signature tall & flat shape. A single row of enlarged scales runs down the length of the vertebrae, starting at the base of the neck. All four toes are accounted for on each foot, with about the correct lengths.
Despite the drastic difference in size, the 1:18 Protoceratops retains nearly all of the points of articulation present in the 1:6 version. The jaw is hinged, and can open and (almost) shut. The head, tail and midsection are on ball joints, with a satisfying range to twist and turn. The shoulders and hips also have ball joints, although the hips’ engineering restricts their movement beyond swinging back and forth. The elbows and knees feature swivel/hinge joints; and while the feet lack any articulation (the only difference from the 1:6 version), the extra pair of lower hind legs allows some degree of pose variation between bent or straight legs to compensate. Frankly, I find these legs a little hard to work with, but with patience one can manage some satisfactory results.
The minifigure is colored in the same manner as the 1:6 figure, inspired by the coloration of the modern-day thorny devil lizard. Covered with alternating patches of rusty red and sandy light pink, some detractors have compared the color scheme to raw bacon; personally I think it looks fine, and I can easily envision this animal camouflaging itself among rocky desert terrain. A few patches of light lemon yellow are also featured on the face, potentially a subtle trait for individual animals to recognize each other.
David Silva and his team have produced another impressive action minifigure for their ever-growing Beasts of the Mesozoic line. Despite a few kinks in articulation, there’s plenty to like in this toy, so I certainly recommend it to complement your collection – especially if you’re looking to expand your 1:18-range action figures. Be mindful, of course, that this is still intended as a collector’s item more than a child’s plaything, so treat it with care. Protoceratops and its compatriots can be purchased directly from David Silva’s website at creative-beast.com.