Vagaceratops (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd.)

4.7 (24 votes)

Safari have really performed excellently with the Wild Safari line this year. While their bipeds have attracted criticism from some quarters for having oversized feet (the Ceratosaurus being particularly irksome in this respect), it’s clear that the production values have really been ramped up – maybe even (whisper it) to Papo standards. This Vagaceratops is one of their most aesthetically pleasing figures yet, and unlike Papo it’s clear that Safari are serious about making their figures as anatomically correct as they can.

Vagaceratops was discovered in Alberta, Canada, and was a chasmosaurine ceratopsian – well-built and with a long, rather rectangular neck frill. In fact, it was originally described as a new species of Chasmosaurus before being reassigned to a new genus by Sampson, Loewen, Farke et al. in 2010. This sculpt reflects the animal’s stocky build very nicely, the frill with its overhanging hornlets being immediately distinctive. It’s excellently proportioned, too, with the large head, limbs and relatively short tail all agreeing very well with scientists’ skeletal reconstructions.

Much more than that, though, it manages to look lovely with it. As has become standard for the Wild Safari line, the model is completely covered in scales, with larger tubercles scattered over the flanks, while skin folds and flexing muscles indicate movement. Particularly impressive are the creases on the ‘cheeks’ and the surprisingly delicately sculpted eyeballs. The paint application, which has been occasionally haphazard on Wild Safari figures in the recent past, is completely flawless. The subtly highlighted spots on the frill, pink nostrils and nicely graded striped tail are particularly pleasing.

Even quite minor anatomical details, while not absolutely perfect, show that the development of this toy was taken Very Seriously Indeed. Most notable are the forelimbs; not only are they slightly bowed out in accordance with modern thoughts on ceratopsian posture, the hands correctly show five differentiated digits, only three of which have claws (compare with the Triceratops from a few years ago). While the fingers are bunched together (presumably to make manufacturing easier), it’s easy to tell what the sculptor was aiming for from surface detail and the fact that the backs of the hands are concave. Granted, the palms could do with facing inward a little more, the tail’s way too weedy (as always), the horn may be a little bit oversized and it looks like they’ve put the ear in one of the skull openings, but for what is ultimately a pretty cheap figure the sculptor has done a really decent job.

Ultimately this is one of the best, and most easily overlooked, dinosaur toy releases of this year. It’s not especially large, it’s not a slavering theropod and it doesn’t represent a highly popular species. It’s just well researched, sculpted and painted. It’s…lovely. And not enough dinosaur toys are lovely.

Available from Amazon here

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