In late 2020 Safari Ltd. teased their upcoming dinosaurs with silhouettes of the figures, with two particularly interesting ones, the “fantasy” T. rex and Triceratops. Since Safari Ltd. had just acquired the rights to produce merchandise for the television show Dino Dana, it was assumed by many that those dinosaurs were part of that line. I was excited about this because the T. rex from Dino Dana is unabashedly one of my favorite Tyrannosaurus depictions ever put to screen, and it deserves its own unique sculpt. The excitement was short lived however, those teased fantasy figures turned out to be figures of mediocre armor-clad dinosaurs. The Dino Dana merchandise we did get was a retooled Safari 2011 T. rex with augmented virtual reality. A disappointment, to say the least.
Flash forward to just a few weeks ago when we were all caught off guard by Safari’s spontaneous release of a repaint of its 2017 feathered T. rex, this time painted to look like the animal depicted in the Dino Dana movie and including the augmented reality thing. It’s still not a figure of the actual Dino Dana T. rex, which in the series lacked feathers but, in the movie, has them, although it’s not as extensively covered as the Safari toy. That said, the 2017 T. rex with a striking new paintjob was enough of an excuse for me to finally cave in and buy this incredible piece, one I always intended to buy but had neglected to. Now I finally own the legendary Safari Tyrannosaurus, and since it has a new paint job that means I can review it as well.
Blog regular, Suspsy, reviewed the original release of this figure back in 2017. If you haven’t read it already, then I urge you to take the time to do so, he covers a lot of stuff that would be redundant for me to go over.
First off, lets be clear. Despite the feathers the Safari T. rex is still one of the most definitive Tyrannosaurus toys ever produced. Sculpted by Doug Watson and based directly on Sue, it succeeds where a lot of T. rex toys have failed, in depicting T. rex with its gastralia taken into account. Gastralia are the belly ribs that are often forgotten in reconstructions but show us that T. rex was a deep chested and robust animal.
The head is wide in the back with a narrow snout, creating a T shape when viewed from above and allowing for the binocular vision we know T. rex had. The arms are appropriately small when they’re often sculpted too large, the tail base thick and muscular, and the beautifully padded feet are some of the best I’ve ever seen on any dinosaur toy. They look like the feet you would expect on a biped of such considerable size. By in large, the toy still stands up to scrutiny on virtually every front and is still one of Safari’s best figures ever produced.
Touching on the feathers for a bit, when this figure was first released in 2017 the consensus seemed to be that Tyrannosaurus had feathers. The discovery of feathered tyrannosauroids like Dilong and Yutyrannus seemed to support the hypothesis that perhaps all tyrannosauroids had feathering of some kind. But 2017 also saw the release of a new paper on T. rex, one that described skin impressions showing patches of scales on various portions of the body. The conclusion was that T. rex may have still had feathers, but if it did then the covering was probably not as extensive as what we see on reconstructions such as the Safari 2017 T. rex.
I personally have no horse in this race. Although I tend to now favor less feathered reconstructions, because of that study, I also understand that there are still too many balls in the air to take a firm stand either way. Science must be flexible, and I try to be as well. If T. rex didn’t have feathers than that makes the Safari T. rex inaccurate, but still an important piece in illustrating the history and progression of science with how we understand these animals. It’s very likely that every accurate dinosaur reconstruction you now adore will be obsolete and inaccurate given enough time. It’s best not to get too attached to dinosaur reconstructions of any kind, that’s my advice.
The most important thing to focus on here is what makes the figure different from its original counterpart, the coloration and patterning. The figure is primarily gray on the face, flanks, and underside, with yellow and orange feathering running down the back, and a purple-colored pattern that runs down the sides, creating a striped pattern that runs both up and down. In addition, there is a darker gray mask that runs across the face and transitions to stripes down the neck, and darker spotting on the back of the neck. The spotting on the yellow coloration of the neck has led to some calling this the “pizza rex”, due to its resemblance to a pepperoni pizza. Red scarring around the face is still highlighted on the toy, but since the movie’s T. rex gets in a few tangles it seems fitting.
Overall, I find this coloration and patterning quite nice, and a bit refreshing. It’s not the traditional sort of design choices you might expect for a T. rex. And yes, it’s a bit fanciful, but let’s remember the source material here. I will say that in the Dino Dana movie the T. rex coloration appears more subdued than it does on the toy, aside from that and their anatomical differences it’s a close enough match. Close enough that upon seeing it my 6 year old daughter exclaimed “it’s just like in Dino Dana”. The only thing I don’t like about this color scheme is the red outline around the mouth, which makes it look like the T. rex is wearing lipstick.
Along with the T. rex, Safari also repainted five of its baby dinosaurs to match the dinosaurs from Dino Dana. Although I would prefer to see Dino Dana toys produced with their own unique sculpts, I’m not opposed to the alternative, painting existing dinosaurs to match the show. Ironically, Dino Dana and it’s Dino Dan predecessor used dinosaur toys as props in the show, painting them to match the show’s dinosaurs. I recall a painted Carnegie Beipiaosaurus used to represent the show’s Dromeosaurus in one episode. It will be interesting to see if down the road Safari releases an orange Triceratops, blue Stegosaurus, and purple Brachiosaurus. Also, if you’re wondering why I know so much about Dino Dana keep in mind, I’m a parent. The Dino Dana feathered T. rex is new for 2021 and retails for about $30. It makes a great companion to the older T. rex, or a nice alternative to it if you don’t already have it.