Last year when I wrote my review for the Hammond Collection T. rex, I stated that “I can finally say with some degree of confidence that I will never buy another Mattel T. rex, certainly not from the main line.” Well, I guess I’ll have to eat those words, because here we are. Although in my defense I also stated in my retro Gallimimus review that “I’ve sworn myself off of getting anymore Mattel Tyrannosaurus toys but if they were to release their own Red Rex, I would be hard pressed to ignore it”, so I guess I am absolved.
The Mattel Electronic Real Feel Tyrannosaurus rex is part of their Jurassic Park ’93 Classic collection, it is a direct homage to the Electronic Tyrannosaurus rex released by Kenner 30 years ago. The latter needs no introduction from me, it’s a holy grail toy for many dinosaur and Jurassic Park collectors, and for some people the best Jurassic Park toy ever made.
To properly review this product, we must look at the unique packaging it has received. What we get here is a presentation that mimics the Kenner packaging of old. You’ve got a black, red, and yellow color scheme overall. The classic Jurassic Park logo is depicted on the front left while the toy stands on a base behind it, the JP gates and palm trees are silhouetted against an Isla Nublar sunset behind the figure. The ‘93 Classic designation is presented in the upper right corner in the iconic Jurassic Park font. The back of the packaging has a diorama that features the toy as well as smaller images showing action features in use and the other toys in this collection. Overall, this is a beautiful presentation. Since I already have the identical Track & Explore packaging on display I don’t know if I’ll display this T. rex in its box or not, but I’m definitely keeping it.
The Electronic Real Feel T. rex stands 8” tall to the top of the head and measures 22” long. Rexy from Jurassic Park is officially stated as being 40’ long (the same length as the actual T. rex) so that would put this toy at 1/21 in scale.
Much to the chagrin of many collectors this T. rex is not an entirely new sculpt. It is a scaled down version of the Super Colossal T. rex. The SC T. rex was never produced at this scale, so it is kind of new, but I understand the desire for a completely new sculpt or a repaint of a better one, like the Hammond Collection or Epic Roarin’ T. rex. This toy has the same shortcomings as its larger doppelganger, including oversized feet (of course) and a sunken chest but it is still a decent JP T. rex overall.
Although this is a retool of a preexisting sculpt this toy does come with some fun action features. Like the Electronic Bull T. rex produced by Kenner for their The Lost World: Jurassic Park line this toy has a “gulping” action feature. The mouth is articulated both at the jaw and cranium and can swallow smaller toys, including human action figures. Whatever it swallows can then be retrieved through a slit in its belly. This is different from the Super Colossal toys which have a hinged door on their underside to retrieve toys from. The scan code is hidden behind a hinged door on the left leg which is visually similar to the Dino-Damage feature of the Kenner toys.
Articulation is limited and like what you would see on a mainline toy. The arms can swing in and out and rotate around and the ankles can also rotate. The legs can rotate too, as well as pivot outwards. There is a bendable wire inside the tail but it’s mostly worthless, the tail naturally wants to return to a neutral position. The toy has a button hidden under the skin, just above the hips, and pushing it activates four different roars and grumbles and 3 of them are canon, but none of them are the iconic roar we hear when the T. rex breaks out of its paddock. All well, they’re still better than the generic roar that the Kenner T. rex had. And no, there are no stomping sound effects.
The detail work is the same as what you get on the Super Colossal T. rex, which mostly consists of various wrinkles and skin folds with tarsal scutes on the toes. The fine detail on the head is excellent though, with a full covering of fine pebbly scales on the lower jaw and various large scales along the mouth and around the eyes, horns, and bosses. The teeth are separate pieces from the head and cast in white rather than painted, which means no paint scuffs or runoff and they look excellent as a result. The pink palate is textured with ridges and the tongue has a rough texture. My only complaint when it comes to the details is that there are no plate-like belly scutes like those on the original Kenner T. rex. They’re an iconic feature of that toy and should really be replicated here.
Mattel T. rex toys are a dime a dozen but what obviously makes this toy desirable is the combination of its rubbery skin and retro paintjob. The legs and head are made of hard plastic, but the rest of the toy is rubbery, including the arms. If you have the Mattel Mosasaurus then you have an idea of what to expect. It’s amazing how a difference in material can elevate a toy and this T. rex is the most pleasing to handle of all the Mattel T. rex toys. Hard plastic legs might seem disappointing, but they definitely help with stability.
Like its Kenner forebearer this toy possesses a red paintjob different from the movie’s T. rex. If you’re wondering why the Kenner toy had that inaccurate paintjob it is because it’s based on the novel’s description of the T. rex and not what we see in the film. Many of the Kenner toys used the book as a guide, since a finished movie didn’t exist when production of the toys began. Although different from what we see on screen the Kenner “Red Rex” is iconic in its own right, hence why Mattel is replicating it here.
The shade of red used on this toy is more vibrant than what we see on the original Kenner T. rex. It also has dark red splotches distributed across the body and the underside is greenish yellow. The toenails are painted black, but the fingernails are not painted (neither were Kenner’s). The eyes are yellow with black pupils. Of course, I love the coloration applied to this toy, it’s my main reason for wanting it. With so many brown T. rex toys out there it is also a breath of fresh air, and I must wonder what other color schemes might convince me to buy another T. rex at this point, original or inspired.
Some folks have expressed concern over the flaps of skin coming off the head that overlap with the neck. I’ve even seen it compared to the Kenner Velociraptor which has a similar and off-putting effect going on. I can happily report that these overlapping flaps are nice and flush with the neck, making them barely noticeable. They aren’t thick and don’t awkwardly bend outwards. They blend the head and body together rather well. More alarming is the gap between the body and attachment site for the legs, although this doesn’t really bother me personally.
So, I guess it’s time to answer the inevitable but perhaps trivial question. Which is better? The Kenner or Mattel red T. rex? My answer might surprise you, but it is important to note that I never had the Kenner T. rex as a kid. I was aware of it, and wanted it, but I didn’t get one until I was in my 20’s. Nostalgia is not much of a factor here.
The Kenner T. rex was far from perfect. It had a spindly neck, awkward arms jutting out to the sides, a pitiful and artificial sounding roar, instability, no articulation, and a tail that would almost always end up sagging, resulting in an unsightly kink. Mattel’s version has none of those flaws and the few it does have are minor by comparison.
What makes the Kenner T. rex special is that it was one-of-a-kind, and cast directly from Stan Winston’s maquette. There’s nothing else like it. Even later Kenner T. rex toys used completely new and distinct sculpts. This one from Mattel is just more of the same from Mattel, who have released a slew of virtually identical T. rex toys over the last five years, making it somewhat less special. Although an argument could be made that this one is better than Kenner’s, it lacks the uniqueness, charm, and personality of the original. We wouldn’t care about this T. rex if the older one never existed. Based on its uniqueness and factoring in age, my preference is for the original Kenner toy, but if I were completely unbiased, or a kid and forced to choose which to play with, the Mattel is easily the better of the two.
The Mattel Electronic Real Feel T. rex is not meant to replace the Kenner T. rex though, it’s a tribute to it. It is recognizing that the original toy is special and worth remembering on the 30th anniversary of the film and we don’t really have to pit one against the other. If the Kenner T. rex was special to you during your childhood, or you wanted one and were never able to acquire it, this figure makes for a suitable alternative to it or partner to pair with it.
All the ’93 Classic toys are currently available and in the United States exclusive to Target. This toy retails for $50 but sales on Target’s website are frequent and this one has already gone on sale twice since its release. I can’t say that it’s worth $50 but if you can grab it for 25-50% off you won’t be disappointed.