This unique independently-produced model is a delightful throwback to older days of dinosaur art and collecting.
One of the various treats we have in this modern-day bounty of dinosaur collectibles is the increasingly easy access to many of the tools and supplies needed to produce toys, allowing a number of independent artists to pursue their own ideal collectibles where established company brands have passed over. One such artist, by the name of Mike Eischen, caught my eye while I was searching eBay for listings of vintage dinosaur figures. Eischen has been producing 3D-printed plastic and resin figurines for a couple of years now, featuring select species of prehistoric mammals and a few other creatures. In my case, the figurine which caught my attention was a retro-styled Tyrannosaurus, modeled after the classic artwork of Charles R. Knight. Our understanding of dinosaurs and their appearances has drastically changed and continued to evolve over the years; yet there is still an unshakable charm to the old-fashioned depictions from paleontology’s earlier days.
Mike Eischen’s vintage-styled Tyrannosaurus measures 13 cm (5 in) from nose to tail down the slope of the body, and stands just under 7 cm (2.75 in) tall at the head. The figure matches the scale of the classic MPC Tyrannosaurus figurine; indeed, Eischen’s description of the figurine explicitly compares it to the T. rex models of Marx and MPC. Eischen explains that he felt the older toys never truly captured the feel of Charles Knight’s original artwork, prompting him to make one of his own. The model appears to be hollow, and is printed out of ABS plastic, the same as a Lego block. Unlike Lego, however – and unlike Marx or MPC – this Tyrannosaurus is delicate in design, and Eischen warns sellers that this piece is not intended for child’s play. If the figurine should break from rough handling, it can still be fixed neatly with a drop of superglue or crazy glue; however this is ultimately meant as an adult collector’s display piece, not a play toy.
I admit, I have very little experience with 3D-printed models, so the detailed and make of this figurine is somewhat novel to me. The model is printed in horizontal layers, producing a very smooth and sleek texture when running one’s finger along the figurine from end to end. The printing process also results in some subtle layering effects along the back and belly of the figure, although the underside of my copy also displays several minor defects (which I imagine are expected of this process). The plastic has a very glossy sheen to it – normally I dislike glossy finishes on figures, but in the case of this model it’s a benefit, drawing out the details of the sculpt without any fine scale texture to obscure. The models are designed with the potential for painting in mind as well, and Mike Eischen assures that even basic Walmart-style acrylic paints are compatible with his models.
With vintage art and toys in mind, Tyrannosaurus print obviously won’t reflect contemporary 2020s-era scientific understanding; instead, if we are to question accuracy, we should compare directly with the primary source of inspiration, which is the iconic artwork of Charles R. Knight. Eischen’s model appears most closely based on Knight’s famous 1919 painting, although similarities to the later Field Museum mural are also evident. The figurine is posed standing in place, body raised and tail on the ground, the animal’s head tilted slightly up and to the side as if curious about an unknown sight or sound. For as small as the model is, the great size and scale of the living animal is excellently captured. Despite the lack of typical “action” traits – no running or open jaws with huge teeth – the figurine does a splendid job at looking alive and alert, much like the realism Knight himself often strove for.
In terms of anatomy and proportions, the model is a nearly-perfect recreation of Knight’s Tyrannosaurus designs. The head is large and lizard-like, with eyes set atop the skull and large lips obscuring the teeth. The neck is laterally narrow but deep in profile, with a pronounced S-curve to the vertebrae and wrinkly jowls hanging underneath. The chest region is diminished, while the hindquarters are quite stout, with a deep belly and slightly hunched back. The tail is curved and very supple, strikingly reminiscent of a real, living lizard’s tail. Knight typically depicted Tyrannosaurus with a more rigid, raised tail (he was ahead of his time in that regard); but considering the more relaxed nature of the figurine’s pose I think this choice is fine. No scale texture is present, but other noteworthy details include ear holes behind the head, distinct double digits on the hands, a backwards-pointing dew claw, contour skin folds along the flanks, and bulging musculature on the back of the neck and on the legs.
This 3D-printed Tyrannosaurus, courtesy of Mike Eischen, is a splendid item overall; it makes a fine compliment to one’s vintage toy collection, and a nice tribute to one of paleontology’s greatest artists. Mind you, it must be reiterated that this is a more delicate model, so households with small children should display the item out of their reach; but whatever shelf it displays on, it will stand proud (albeit short). Mike Eischen tends to have limited availability at any given time, but you can watch his eBay store at tams7prairie for when both plastic and resin copies will be in stock. Eischen also sells downloadable prints of select figures on his Etsy page, PaleoSculpture.