Electronic Battling Dinos Set A wealth of cheap, dumb fun in a box
Animal Planet Target Exclusive?
Item No.: n/a Manufacturer:Blip Toys Includes:Tyrannosaurus Rex, Spinosaurus, Feathery Raptor, Less Feathery Raptor, Dimetrodon, 2 Humans, Fort Playset, Helicopter, Paleontology Accessory Rack Action Feature:The two big dinosaurs light up and roar, the playset has an opening door and a winch Retail:$39.99 $19.99 Availability: 2021? Other: It's dumb but it's fun
Toys R Us used to have a massive aisle with Animal Planet toys produced by Chap Mei and a number of other vendors. Target now houses most of the brand, and this particular Electronic Battling Dinos set was a big holiday aisle toy special that I got on what may or may not be clearance. For $19.99, you get two fairly large - if dopey - dinosaur toys, three smaller ones, two humans, a playset, and a little helicopter. I doubt anybody would say any single part of these sets is worthy of massive praise, but it serves as a reminder that there are many off-brand (or in this case, branded) toy lines of cheap explorers, adventurers, or other 3 3/4-inch action figures out there that you're ignoring. Most of the figures tend to fall under the umbrella of "some dude" and you don't see a lot of diversity in ethnicity or gender - and even less in "alien-ness" or time travel or monsters - but they're all still being made. Some day some weird kid is going to catalog all of this stuff and you're going to go "wow, holy crap I missed a giant squid and a sperm whale somehow."
These toys are by no means amazing, but they're toys, and there are plenty of boats and cars and other things for your figures to drive. But they're not X-Wings or Batmobiles, so you don't care. Lanard also makes some super-cool stuff, although as of late it's much harder to track down if you're an American toy shopper.
The set's focus are dinosaurs. A Tyrannosaurus Rex is molded in red and has a Godzilla roar which I'm sure Toho is annoyed by. The legs are jointed, and the arms activate a nifty feature where the jaw moves, the eyes light up, and you get your roar. The Spinoaurus has all the same features, but also features a ridiculous light-up sail. Each of these giants is over 15-inches long, and plays up the "monster" part of the dinosaur toy world. They're not realistic, nor are they meant to be. They're silly, with somewhat soft details - but they do have details. The skin is warty, you'll see all kinds of sculpted wrinkles and warts, with the T-Rex being arguably the more detailed of the two. Both have an unusual charm that, it pains me to say, will probably make no toy collector smile like they should.
If you painted a vinyl sofubi figure in these colors and charged $150 for it, fans would bemoan the run selling out in 30 seconds - but in a kid's box in a store for $20, people just keep on walking. Just one of these dinosaurs is a bigger toy than anything Mattel would sell you in its Jurassic World lines, but they're not branded right - and they're a little silly. So you passed on them. I think you may have missed out because it's not like anybody makes those amazingly garish Jurassic Park: The Lost World: Chaos Effect toys anymore. The Spino is pure 1990s colored schlock while the T-Rex seems a little more timeless. Heck, if Hasbro put out these colors in the Animorphs line, you wouldn't have blinked an eye.
The smaller dinosaurs are an amazing leap forward from what I played with as a kid, but will probably not elicit squeals of delight in a post-Jurassic marketplace. The dimetrodon has excellent sculpting with detailed skin and a weird yelling expression, and the action-posed sail implies he's ready for battle. But he has no articulation, and odds are he won't be as loved as the ones with jointed legs that sell for $15 on the "good" toy aisle. I'd argue the sculpting is just as good with sharper detail, however the paint job is a little schlocky. The red eyes are of the same quality of the 1980s toys I had, the painted teeth are no big deal, and a subtle spray alongside the body and the tail only barely highlight the detail put in to this bizarre creature.
The smaller, feathery raptor has a jointed neck, arms, and legs. It's not bad! It looks a bit more like a roadrunner, complete with bird-like legs, and its head is one of true horror. The blue coloring with orangey crest looks fascinating, but the head looks less like an animal and more like someone opening a wrench. It is a sight of horror, and doesn't really fit in well with the other guys in the set. Naturally, I love it. He's joined by a post-Jurassic-style raptor with very limited feathers on the forearms and, er, dong? It looks like he has a weenis. The green raptor has no articulation and the paint job is surprisingly good for a cheap toy, but it's a cheap toy. There are dark highlights on the head, painted claws and teeth, a painted tongue, and again - weirdly - bright red eyes. I don't know why Blip Toys decided four of the five prehistoric animals in this set need bright red eyes, but there you have it. They all stand well without assistance and are seemingly sturdy little fellows. Sophisticated adults expect a higher level of detail and quality, but if you're a child of the 80s (or 70s, or 60s) these are arguably better than the bulk of what it was you bought from Marx or Ajax or "Made in China" at the grocery store. They're superior to - but cousins of - your skee-ball prizes.
With any playset, you're going to expect some sort of human figures. And you get two of them! It's kind of amazing, because 3 3/4-inch action figures remain a standard of the cheap, not-name-brand toy world and are only just barely clinging on to life on the fancy toy aisles. Much like other Animal Planet toys, they also kind of suck. The paint on the eyes of the brown figure would be generously described as utterly crappy, with stumpy little arms and as little paint as you could get away with. His back has a rectangle to plug in a backpack or other accessory, which is not included in the set. I'm surprised they bothered to paint his eyes, and from his expression, you can see he was as well.
He's joined by a figure in black pants and a black vest with blue sleeves. He also has the black port on the back, and looks a bit better at first glance. This fellow has pronounced lips, under-painted sunglasses and headphones, and seems to be a pretty economical figure in terms of where the paint isn't. Neither of these guys is going to win any awards - I can't really say either offers much of note - but it's nice to have something for the dinosaurs to attack. Also you'll need them for the playset and the helicopter.
I'm always on the watch for 3 3/4-inch vehicles, mostly because they're far and few between. Sure, you'll get a Batmobile, and many expensive military vehicles are in the Jurassic World movie-year lines, but you don't see a lot of lower-priced ones. Hasbro is doing a cheap/retro Ghost Rider bike this year, and that's $25. This whole set was $20 and you get a little blue Animal Planet chopper in it. It's a soft plastic goofy little thing that's bigger than old Kenner Mini-Rig vehicles, which shows someone out there could probably make a new toy inspired by an old Kenner sci-fi vehicle for a fair price. I found the two included figures could fit in the seat just fine, as could random Toy Pizza or Kenner or Healey Made guys I had sitting around.
It can do things! For what I assume are safety reasons and reducing manufacturing labor costs, a "capture claw" has no string but instead employs a two-part arm to hang. Nobody's going to choke with this, and it falls off pretty easily - but the spring-loaded capture claw is a tried-and-true action feature on kid's toys dating back decades. Also, the rotor spins... just not very well.
And we're still not done - the reason I bought this was because I saw that it had some sort of playset backdrop and I wanted that. While it is 3 3/4-inch scale, it is not 4-inch scale. Your 1970s-1980s Kenner figures and Healey Made figures will fit - so will your old G.I. Joe figures. Unfortunately, your Knights of the Slice figures and bigger 1990s Star Wars figures like Chewbacca are too big to fit on some of the shelves. It's a hollow display piece with some shelves sculpted on the "interior" for more figures, but it's a simple little thing that probably won't impress any kids. But if you saw this at a thrift store for five or ten bucks, you'd probably buy it. There's a moving radar dish, a winch elevator, an opening door, and some sort of camera cannon thing and for the life of me, I don't know what it's there to do. It looks like it'll be fun, though.
You can see little stairs and ladders, a computer monitor, plus a number of flat surfaces for stickers that aren't in the box. The greenery is molded in color, as are the gray elements. Like a lot of "cheap" toys, it walks the line of almost being pretty cool. If they added a few more shelves, or dropped the opening door in favor for a couple more steps, you as a collector might have more you can do with this toy. But if you're a kid, you can drive your Hot Wheels through it like it's a garage door. It's a toy, and there are lots of things to play with if you're willing to look at it as a legit plaything. It's not as good as what kids of previous generations got, but consider the price tag.
I could probably have done a full review on each element of the set, but I'm on deadline. It's a weirdly satisfying set and I both love it because it's weird and wish I didn't like it - I actually intended to throw the dinos up on eBay to get back five or ten bucks. But they're too weird, I don't want to sell them yet. The human figures are a waste, but the chopper is cool and the playset is better than what we get in most toy lines - which is nothing. If the "levels" were just a little bigger I'd probably recommend it just because we no longer live in the era of the Terrordrome and Ewok Village. We don't even live in the era of the Creature Cantina. Action figures were originally positioned as accessories to bigger vehicles and playsets, and we pretty much lost our way - but this set gets it. It's ridiculous, but it goes to prove that for $20, or for $40, you can still give kids a ton of toy if you want.
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