I, Emperor Dinobot, recently posited a question around, and it was the following: Could Mattel be designing dinosaur figures and naming them afterwards? We already have an example: Roarivores Sinoceratops is actually a Pachyrhinosaurus, but it got a name change due to the fact that Universal wanted to market Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to the massive Chinese audience, and Pachyrhinosaurus was substituted by Sinoceratops, a dinosaur which represented China. I mean, they are similar enough, right? Now, the animal chosen to represent Piatnitzkysaurus, which I reviewed earlier, is definitely NOT a Piatnitzkysaurus. One could say that “well, it is a random theropod, the designers took numerous artistic liberties with it, and do not forget, nothing in Jurassic World is natural. The animals are genetically spliced in order to fill in the gaps and holes left in incomplete DNA sequences by using different extant animals, as explained in Jurassic Park. Not to mention that it is cool to have some of these more obscure names immortalized in plastic”, right? That is the beauty of picking dinosaur names out of a book. Sometimes they are known from incomplete remains, sometimes they are poorly described, and artists can take artistic liberties with them, and make a “generic dinosaur”, in this case a generic looking theropod. The thing is, Piatnitzkysaurus is known from well preserved fossils and nearly complete skeleton. Xuanhanosaurus, on the other hand, is not, and it is presented here as a generic theropod. Middle Jurassic “carnosaurus”, as they were once called, are the quintessential generic theropods. Then, why was Piatnitzkysaurus designed in the way that it was? One could easily say that the figure of Xuanhanosaurus better represents Piatnitzkysaurus. The figure Mattel made of Xuanhanosaurus looks more like a real dinosaur. In this essay, I will discuss this idea, while reviewing the figure that Mattel made to represent the very obscure Xuanhanosaurus. It is possible that there are unknown hybrid dinosaur designs which were made at Universal, and given to the designers at Mattel. We now think Piatnitzkysaurus‘ figure is based on some unknown hybrid dinosaur, likely to be featured in Camp Cretaceous or some other form of media.
Xuanhanosaurus was a 4-6 meter long theropod hailing from China. It has been studied quite poorly, despite it being an interesting theropod. What makes it interesting is that it had a vestigial 4th metacarpal on its hand, which is a rather primitive feature, especially for a tetanuran. The upper limbs were quite robust, and for a while it was thought to have walked on all four limbs, which is not something theropods usually do, but that idea is now gone. It is placed as the basalmost member of the allosaurid family.
As for the figure, it has the standard seven points of articulation: rotating tail, hips, shoulders, ball jointed neck and jaws. Like all dinosaurs in this class, it is 6 inches long, and at 4-6 meters long, it scales well with other 1/18 scale figures. As usual, the size of the feet are very large, but that is to give it stability. The robust upper limbs are perfectly on par with the species.
The coloration is one of my favorite features of the figure, them being a light grey body with the usual darker speckles in the plastic, with the feathered back and neck being pure brown. The forelimbs are cast in pure brown as well. The snout has a black streak, as do the orbits. The eyes are yellow, tongue pink, teeth are “teeth colored”, and the claws, as usual, are unpainted, which sort of bothers me.
The feathers are a bit of a problem though. Feathers are usually associated with avetheropoda, and not so much with carnosaurs. Mattel keeps giving feathers to the wrong dinosaurs, but I will interpret this being as integument for a dinosaur living in the Arctic Biome according to this particular line of dinosaurs.
Personally, I love that we now have figures representing all kinds of obscure taxa. I would have never imagined owning what Mattel thinks passes for a Xuanhanosaurus/Piatnitzkysaurus/mid-Jurassic generic theropod. They could do something similar and name it Poekilopleuron for the laughs. They already did Neovenator, which has been represented in plastic form, though this Neovenator has a cartoonish look, and embraces that generic theropod idea I spoke about earlier. Xuanhanosaurus could very well pass for Piatnitzkysaurus, and nobody would have batted an eye, but this can also pass for a Szechanosaurus, Saltriovenator, which is thought to have been very similar, even Metriacanthosaurus, but we already have a few figures of that, and sources say a Megalosaurus is already out! It truly is a good year for generic looking, mid-Jurassic theropod figures. They all have very distinctive features that make them all very unique; the devil is in the details, but the outward classic theropod is hard to beat because it is easy to recreate artistically.
For collectors, I suggest to you, the ever-faithful reader, to go out to stores like Wal-mart or Fred Meyer and look for this figure. I only ever saw it once, and grabbed it immediately. But I think that the figure would hardly be of interest the dinosaur model collector because of the issues I discussed before: the feathers on a random allosauroid, the big feet, and the somewhat bland colors. Personally I love it, I love having a Xuanhanosaurus at home, and I love how Mattel is making some interesting theropods, even if the toys are somewhat strange. But again, under closer inspection, I think some of these figures are supposed to be something else sometimes, and I do believe that Mattel designs some figures first, and slaps them with a random name they pulled out of The Big Book of Dinosaurs’ A-Z section later. Rest assured, most of the dinosaurs were designed to BE that dinosaur that is represented. The upcoming, or now out Megalosaurus was designed to be a Megalosaurus, Dominion’s Yangchuanosaurus was meant to be Yangchuanosaurus, and so on. Hopefully we will see more concepts of hybrids released by Universal too, that way we can corroborate these beliefs. (When will they make a figure of Spinoceratops?)
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