Kenner (and later Hasbro) love certain trends-- trends in color, trends in design, trends in synergy. In the late 1990s, Kenner's big idea was fusing together creatures to come up with strange hybrid animals. With Beast Wars, we got Fuzors. With Jurassic Park, we got the brightly-colored Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect action figure line. The idea here was that DNA from various animals were swirled up into freakish and stylized new molds and repaints that were a unique mix of black and, generally speaking, neon. Some dinosaurs looked like electric watermelons, while others like this one are genuinely bizarrely colored. The neon orange tongue mechanism offsets the pale blue skin, which has black and yellow stripes that seem to have more in common with last year's TRON Legacy or the early 1990s Hasbro toy lines like G.I. Joe and Transformers. It's just a bizarre toy, so naturally I fell in love with the line and made it a point to scoop up the new molds like Compstegnathus here.
Kenner crammed a lot of toy into a blister card in those days, and this Compsognathus/Stegosaurus/African Tree Frog hybrid measures in at a whopping 10-inches long. For a basic carded figure, that's pretty darned good. Since the tongue mechanism requires the body to be long, straight, and lacking in articulation, it's no surprise that the figure ultimately has only 5 meaningful joints. The tail can twist, the arms and legs can swivel, and as an added bonus, the mouth flies open in conjunction with the spring-loaded tongue. In an interesting twist, the tongue doesn't lash out-- the idea here is you push a lever forward, click a button on his torso, and it snaps back in the head. If Kenner engineers thought ahead there might be a mini-figure or small accessory he could "eat," but instead it just looks really cool in motion. (Also, it's about the right size to hold a pencil.)
As a plaything, it's a pretty simple figure-- mouth opens, arms move, and it fits my major criteria of what makes a good toy. It can stand-- a three-point stance, actually-- plus you can play with it and it looks cool. As action poses go, this on is pretty nice, and it certainly stands out in a crowd. I remember seeing these on the toy store shelves and being really impressed with these insanely garish monsters, and then being depressed when I discovered that several of them-- including one which appeared in product photography-- would never make it out. There were even entire follow-up assortments with glow-in-the-dark toys that, sadly, never made it to store shelves. Granted, these weren't super-popular either, I remember seeing many on the clearance racks but I bought this one at full price on or around my birthday in college. Because that's sort of always how I rolled.
I like this guy. I doubt he's going to delight hardcore dinosaur collectors, but for fans of the weird, it's an amazing piece. Colors this bright, plus the level of contrast in his deco, weren't particularly common in Kenner toys in those days so it always stood out as something special. And you can use "special" in the sense of any of its many definitions there, I think they'd all be appropriate.
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