Approximately 73 million years ago, Shendong Province of China was a land of rich floodplains that abounded in dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. These included the ankylosaur Sinankylosaurus, the titanosaur Zhuchengtitan, the diminutive leptoceratopsids Ischiceratops and Zhuchengceratops, and the larger ceratopsid Sinoceratops with its royal frill. Also present was the prodigious Shantungosaurus, hugest of all hadrosaurs. And preying on all these herbivores was the formidable Zhuchengtyrannus magnus. Although a complete skeleton has yet to be discovered, the currently described fossil material indicates that Zhuchengtyrannus was around 10-12 metres in length and six tons weight. This makes it one of the biggest of all tyrannosaurs, perhaps second only to Tyrannosaurus rex.
Feast your eyes on Lu Xiong, PNSO’s 2022 take on Zhuchengtyrannus. He’s not the first figure of the great Zhucheng tyrant, but he’s easily the biggest so far at 30 cm in length and 11 cm in height. He is sculpted in a dynamic striding pose with his head glancing to the left and his tail swinging to the left. His right foot is firmly planted while his left one is raised in mid-step with the tips of the claws touching the ground. Now, we all know how challenging it is to get theropod figures to stand properly without bases or support rods or tail tips, but in Lu’s case, PNSO has performed a hole in one. He stands firm and tall, to the point where I can gently rotate him with my finger for a full 360 degrees in either direction on a smooth surface. As with previous theropod figures, he comes with a clear support rod, but I reckon I won’t be using it, at least not for the time being.
Lu’s base colour is a shade of pea soup green. Muddy dark green covers the upper half of his body as the front of his arms and legs and faint splashes of orange decorate his flanks and his underside from the throat to the tail. His feet are medium brown with very dark brown wash and there is also some minimal dark grey wash on his neck, back, and thighs. His tail stripes are dark brown and his claws are black, although unfortunately not very well painted, especially the ones on his fingers.
Lu’s head is medium brown with very dark brown wash on his muzzle, reddish-orange for the postorbitals and the small ridges running atop the muzzle, pink nostrils, and yellow eyes. The inside of his mouth is a dull light pink and his teeth are a very light grey (and again not as well-painted as one would like). Overall, it’s a perfectly plausible and very practical colour scheme. Lu looks like he could blend in fairly well in both forested regions and open country, and his striped tail could envisioned as being utilised for display and communication. That all being said, I’ve long felt that PNSO’s colour schemes are too bland overall, and while Lu is definitely one of the more colourful theropods they’ve churned out yet, I still would have preferred a more vivid and striking ensemble.
But I certainly can’t say anything negative about the sculpting on this figure; indeed, I reckon I’d be a fool if I did. The skin texture on Lu’s body consists of miniscule rounded scales which are largely concealed by wrinkles ranging from thin to thick. The result is an appearance that resembles more a large bird’s than a reptile’s. Larger, thicker scales run in rows on top of the feet–as is typical for most theropod toys, and the soles feature tiny scales and large wrinkles to denote the phalanges. The biggest of all scales are to be found covering the front of the muzzle, just like with Chuanzi and Wilson III. Finally, the palate, gullet, tongue, and surrounding tissue inside Lu’s cavernous mouth are all beautifully rendered and the many teeth are pleasingly pointy.
Being a PNSO theropod, Lu naturally boasts a hinged lower jaw which enables him to open his mouth to nearly a 50 degree angle. It all looks pretty good when open, although there’s a pretty noticeable seamline when it’s shut. The holotype specimen of Zhuchengtyrannus only consists of a nearly complete right maxilla and most of the left half of the mandible, which isn’t enough fossil material to carry out any proper study of potential jaw strength. But given the animal’s size and lineage, it probably boasted a devastating chomp.
Two of the main diagnostic features of Zhuchengtyrannus are a shelf of sorts on the anterior section of the maxilla and an unusual rounded notch in the maxillary fenestra. However, these and all other unique traits cannot exactly be discerned when the bones are covered up by muscle and skin, so the result is that Lu bears a very strong resemblance to T. rex. Indeed, with his T-shaped skull and forward-facing eyes, he is a much better ringer for his iconic relative than many toys which are actually billed as such. I wouldn’t fault anyone for looking at this figure and immediately assuming it’s the tyrant king. Or should we say king or queen or emperor? 😉
There does exist an assortment of teeth, vertebrae, and limb fragments in Chinese museums which may well belong to Zhuchengtyrannus, but to the best of my knowledge, they have not yet been positively identified as such. Thus everything on Lu besides his head is speculative, although there’s no reason to think that his anatomy differed significantly from that of T. rex and Tarbosaurus. However, Zhao Chuang explains in this video that Zhuchengtyrannus may have had proportionally longer legs than either of its cousins and Lu is indeed a little bit lankier than Wilson and Chuanzi. He also has larger arms than the latter, albeit naturally still miniscule. And like any good heavyweight tyrannosaurine, he features a massive neck, a bulging torso, and impressive musculature. And I have to say again: I really love his pose and how stable it is. It looks natural and not at all overly dramatic, and it makes him appear to radiate power, confidence, and grace. If only all theropod figures were posed as well as this one.
In addition to the aforementioned support rod, Lu comes with a booklet containing a biography, a photo gallery, information on both the PNSO Scientific Art Projects Plan and the New Aesthetic Education Project, and a chapter entitled Learn to Draw Dinosaurs with Zhao Chuang in which the artist offers his tips on drawing Zhuchengtyrannus body part by body part. The booklet also contains some artwork depicting a partially feathered individual. PNSO has done the same thing with their T. rex figures in the past and personally, I’m not fond of such inconsistency. If you’re going to go with a featherless figure, that’s fine, but use featherless artwork in the booklet then.
Lu also comes with a 42 cm x 29.5 cm mini-poster depicting three orange and grey Zhuchengtyrannus gathered around the remains of an unidentifiable carcass. As you can see, it’s quite an impressive piece of paleoart, particularly the individual on the left with its fiery glaring eyes.
I’ve been wanting a Zhuchengtyrannus figure for a long time and there can be no doubt that Lu Xiong delivers in spades. This is one of the very best tyrannosaur figures I’ve ever seen, and it will be difficult for any other company to come out with a better version, or even one matching it for that matter. But like all PNSO products, Lu absolutely does not come cheap. You can currently find him for sale at all manner of online retailers, including Amazon as well as Dan’s Dinosaurs, Everything Dinosaur, and Minizoo, so best to do some price comparisons before clicking that purchase button.
I can only reiterate what others have said before me: having held this figure in my hand, I can confidently say this is one of the most beautiful tyrannosaur figures I’ve ever seen. There’s a power and even grace captured that few other toys accomplish. This model is well worth the purchase – at least for the right price!
The PNSO zhuchentyrannus is masterfully good, honestly it is superior to many tyrannosaurus rex by far that exist on the market.
Nice to see this one gets its review. Love this model and really display well with PNSO’s other theropods and rexes.
Indeed. Part of me hopes PNSO doesn’t continue to tackle tyrannosaurids, as it would be virtually impossible for me to resist them!
Like virtually all who have acquired this figure to date, I’m thoroughly impressed. I’d rate it as the one of the best mass-produced tyrannosaurids ever, at least on a on a par with the great Battat version 1 or 2 T-rex or the splendid Safari feathered one.
Yes, I would agree with that assessment.