Fashion and dinosaur, what an odd thing to try and weave together in a toy review. If you grew up in the 90’s like me, or is interested in fashion, I’m sure you are familiar with the reign of the supermodels in that decade. In the fashion world the 90’s is often referred to as the era of supermodels for good reasons: models were everywhere. They dominated the scene, strutting the world’s runways, gracing the cover of magazines, and welded great cultural influences. These supermodels were beautiful, polished, idealized, coveted, and very expensive, and every single designer wanted to feature them in their collection each season.
Today’s prehistoric model market reminded me of that era. More than ever, we are now confronted with overwhelming new choices as new brand enter the market with exquisite work of art that leaves us stunned. Each of these new models try to outdo each other as they complete for our attention, adoration, and yes, our money. These models are pieces of art, one that is based on science and the current trends, and the results of artist creativity and imagination.
These days discussion about a new model often focus on its accuracy, barely considering these models as work of art.Any mention of the artistic side is often just an afterthought. As an artist, I find myself more and more fascinated by the whole artistic side of the process in making these prehistoric models in today’s fast-paced world where changes are happening quicker than a blink of an eye.
No other Dinosaur mirror these rapid changes than Spinosaurus, an animal that has undergone drastic and dramatic changes to its appearance within the last six years, seemingly morphing into something different every few years and the tail is just the latest in this evolving saga. And when it comes to figures, this new Spinosaurus model from CollectA easily encapsulate all of these changes making its review the perfect opportunity to touch on art. It’s ‘a regal looking model that is of a good size measuring in at 15″ inches long and 3.5″ tall at the highest point, easily fits any 1:40 or 1:35 scale range depending on what size you want to base it on.
Spinosaurus easily rivals T. rex in popularity, but unlike the king, it has undergone radical changes to its appearance in the last few years that it was not surprising that companies would be playing catch up every few years. CollectA may not be the first one this time around to release a Spinosaurus based on the latest findings, but they managed to make their version stand out from all others.It is this crowded field that artistry and artistic licenses come into play. The sculptor and artist’s imagination and creativity must conjure up a vision that not only make their model unique, but also to make it come alive and perhaps more importantly, survive the inevitable accuracy scrutiny that each new model is put through the first second it is announced.
The first three models featuring the new tail have their own unique look to them, but they all have one thing in common: the pose, or more specifically the land-based posed. This gave CollectA the perfect opportunity to not only make their model stand out, but to also spotlights, front and center, the very unique semi-aquatic lifestyle of this enigmatic dinosaur. Giving their new Spinosaurus a swimming pose is a risky one as it’s often difficult to fully capture this without the model looking contrived or awkward, or hard to read what exactly it’s supposed to be doing as we saw in some of its predecessors. The swimming pose is a smart move on CollectA’s part and they were able to successfully conveyed that clearly in this model.
The head is nicely sculpted and shows very little signs of shrink wrapping unlike its 2016 predecessors . The fine details are visible all around even the little pits on the tip of the snout. The scales on the face are small and vary in sized, delicate lines encircle the small eyes which are painted a glossy black giving it some life. The teeth are individually sculpted and retain some of the pointed forms, these tiny teeth are cleanly painted in an off-white color with no bleeding. The jaws are articulated so you can open or close the mouth and inside the mouth is the tongue clearly visible and delicately sculpted, and for those of you who are pro-lips, well I’m glad to report that this model shows some lips.
The crest above the eyes connects with a low ridge that runs along the top of the snout. The tiny nostrils are also clearly visible just before the bulbous tip of the snout. The neck is held straight forward and show wonderful musculature. You see subtle skin folds as well as loose skin where you would expect to see them. The model is given a sizable throat pouch that bulges out suggesting elasticity and even perhaps the presence of a fish. The scales on the throat are different from the body, here you see small square shaped scales of varying sizes.
Integuments or ornamentation on a long extinction animal are rarely fossilized. This lack of fossil evidence leaves a lot of room for speculations for what could be possible, a great opportunity for artists and designers to indulging in some artistic license. CollectA’s artist and designer added some speculative integuments to their Spinosaurus and the most striking example of these are the dorsal spike and osteoderms. Starting with the neck, you see three rows of spikes beginning at the back of the head. Now, dorsal spine on theropods is nothing new, what makes these spines so unique and original is that there are three rows instead of just one.
The two rows of spines on either side are short while the dorsal/middle ones are longer and show great variations in sizes. These spines then meet up with the base of the sail where the middle row continues up the sail all the way down the tail. The two outer rows shrink in size and blend in with the large rows osteoderms as it reaches the body. The scales on the body are a mosaic of different shapes and sizes, here you see small round scales packed in-between larger ones. In addition, you see large round osteoderms mixed in all over the body and tail. While some may feel that these scales are too textured, I feel that it’s not and doesn’t really detract from the overall beauty of the sculpt.
The artist was able to capture that graceful swimming form in this model. When I think of Spinosaurus, graceful is not the first thing that comes to mind. But like many extant animals today like walrus, crocodiles, penguins that look awkward and clumsy on land, but then transform into a stealthy and graceful beings as they swim underwater. I imagine Spinosaurus being the same and this model fully embodies this successfully.
The stealthy pose has many nuances that add and emphasize that feeling of truly being at home in water that few models have achieved. The legs and arms are folded backwards close to the body while the head and neck is held straight out like a torpedo cutting through water. This orientation clearly suggests that the animal is in the act of pushing itself forward as it swims. The musculature seen on the model suggests tension which adds to the feeling of action. The front arms are not webbed but the back legs are and you can see it clearly as the toes are spread out.
The tail, the newest development in the ongoing transformation of this animal, is very well done. Here, the designer and artist faithfully followed the fossil and the tail on the model is one of the widest I’ve seen. The distinctive dip on the top base of the tail is there, the base also is muscular as it should before tapering as it moves down towards the tip. The flatness of the tail is an adaptation for living a semi-aquatic lifestyle. The tail has a slight curve to it that is not extreme as the tail is believed to be not as flexible as once believed, but enough to add a sense of motion which is very pleasing.
The dorsal spines that started at the neck continue down the tail where it begins to get bigger and longer as it moves down towards the tip. The overall results of these spines, speculative as these may be, are unique and easily make this model standout and by far the spikiest looking Spinosaurus model out there, perhaps only surpassed by the original PNSO museum line figure from a few years ago.
Like speculative integuments, colors of long extinct animals are also largely unknown . Once again, it is up to the designers and artists to come up with a color scheme that would be both visually pleasing and plausible. CollectA is known for bold patterns on their models and often take risky color choices. This model at first glance could look deceiving bland especially knowing CollectA’s long history of bold color choices. But this is far from boring and in fact could very well be the most complex colors scheme seen on any CollectA model to date.
The color brown forms the base body color, then a light reddish hue is used as a wash to settle this darker color. Topping it off, a yellow-gold color is dry-brushed over it to bring out all the scales and skin details resulting in a really nice and multi-layered look that has a lot of depth to it. The underside of the model is given a beige tone which starts at the throat all the way down the base of the tail where it then continues down create and creating a waterline that separates the upper darker colors from the much lighter one. The color transition from lighter to dark is beautifully blended and there are no hard edges between each color hue.
The sail of Spinosaurus, like ceratopsian frills, is something that I often thought of as a missed opportunity. Like a blank canvas, it begs to be painted, and likely sported some spectacular colors and designs. Unfortunately, most artists , at least when it comes to toy model, opt for a more simplified scheme perhaps due to accommodate the constraint production on a massive scale. On this model, the sail is on the more conservative and is given a reddish color that contrast with the various earth -tones. Despite lacking any outlandish patterns, it does however have some tan spots that form a vertical column beginning at the base of the tall neural spines. These are actually the larges scales that are painted a beige color. As minimal as the sail design may be, it hasn’t completely lost that exotic tribal look that we have come to expect from CollectA and for me the simplicity and colors remind me a lot of aboriginal Australian art. Overall, I really like the colors on this model and fits nicely to the overall feel of what a large predatory, semi-aquatic animal may have sported.
This new Spinosaurus from CollectA signals a new direction for them in many ways. There was a time not too long ago when all of the toy models we collect were all done using the traditional way of sculpting a prototype from clay or other sculpting mediums before it is then casted and molded. But technology has moved on quickly and today, the new sculpting software is becoming more of the norm as we have seen with the higher-end pvc models like PNSO, Nanmu, iToy just to name a few.
With new sculpting software like Zbrush quickly gaining dominance in the industry, companies like CollectA have to adapt and find ways to integrate this new technology into their production. There are many reasons and benefits to using this software like expediting the sculpting process and making adjustments and corrections easier. But this technology also has an unintended consequence: the loss of that distinctive character, that artist’s unique signature sculpting style seen on more traditionally sculpted models.
If you look at all the models from other brands that are now exclusively sculpted using software, you start to see the monotony as each one starts to look very similar to each other that it’s hard to distinguish which figure belongs to which brands no matter how polished they all look. It is this monotonous look, as exquisite as these models may be, that is edging out the distinctive, signature feel of the traditionally sculpted models.CollectA started integrating the software Z-brush in sculpting their models which I believe started just a few years ago (2017 perhaps?). The change is subtle and gradual yet noticeable especially when you compare the models from pre-2017 to those that came after. While the models start out as designed and sculpted using Z-brush, there is still some old-style sculpting involved in the final stage.
CollectA’s Sculptor Matthias Geiger creates and sculpts them, then makes a 3D print of it that then gets sent out for the final design fine-tuning. At this stage, the artist then uses the traditional sculpting method to fine tune details such as skin, scales, integuments, as well as add any other missing elements. This traditional style of fine-tuning preserves some of the original feel of the classic art of hand-sculpting which also allows the distinctive style of the artist to show. It’s a good hybrid in this modern-day age I think, one which still allows room for the unique signature of the artist and brand to shine and still utilizes the new technology. Once the model is fully fine-tuned, it is then sent to Anthony Beeson who is the designer, for one last visual check and ultimately approval. Once he gives the final approval, then the model can now begin its long journey that is production. I don’t know how long the entire process takes for each model exactly, but it’s a fascinating look into the entire production and I’m grateful that CollectA shared a little bit of it.
In closing, I am very impressed with this new swimming Spinosaurus from CollectA. It is a well-researched figure that successfully captured that graceful look of an animal that is fully at home in water. The jaw articulation is well executed and the mouth open/closes smoothly and is able to hold a pose securely. It has the distinction of being the only model based on the latest findings that is done in a swimming pose which sets it apart from others and beautifully highlights the unique semi-aquatic lifestyle of the animal. With popular species like Spinosaurus it’s always a welcome to have a model that offers something different from all the other out competing for our attention. The beautiful fusion of artistry and scientific accuracy is evident in this model and is a worthy, eye-catching addition to any collection. Only time will tell if Spinosaurus has yet another surprised for us.
Hope you enjoyed this review and thank you for reading. Until the next one, stay safe and healthy, cheers!
Epilogue: When I signed up to review this model I knew that I wanted to highlight the artistic side of the process. What I never would have expected was that it would turn out to be a review that I would dedicate to the memory of Anthony Beeson, CollectA’s prehistoric line designer who suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in early May. Anthony was instrumental in pushing CollectA to a new direction, to new heights ,one that would ultimately lead them to become one of the best in the industry, a force to be reckoned with. His remarkable legacy will live on not just in the CollectA brand but in many collectors collection around the world.