Not unlike puberty, most children at one point experience a “dinosaur phase” — a period of time when dinosaurs seem like the greatest, coolest things ever produced by the universe. As we grow up, we eventually learn to tone down our boundless love for the original owners of the planet, although most wise adults still recognize dinosaurs are totally awesome.
?It’s not hard to see why dinosaurs capture our imagination; they’re gigantic, crazy-looking monsters with awesome names — and they have the benefit of actually being vaguely educational, so parents don’t mind blowing their cash on dinosaur toys (as much, at any rate). Toy manufacturers understand this, and have been producing dinosaur toys since… well, mass toy production started. Here are 11 of the best.
11) Imaginext Dinosaurs
?It took an unusually long time for perenniel toddlers’ toymaker Fisher Price to figure out that kids love dinosaurs. Of course when they did, they went all out and made a preschool line that a few adult nerds probably own as well. After all, Imaginext Batcave would complete without a giant T. Rex.
10) G.I. Joe Dino Hunter
?G.I. Joe has always been about cashing in on trends without paying for the licensing. When the Six Million Dollar Man was hot, Hasbro put out the “Atomic Man;” during the first Star Wars era, Joe went into space and became “Super Joe.” So it’s no surprise that suddenly in the mid-1990s, Hasbro added some Precambrian action to the Real American Heroes. Alas, RAH was already circling the drain by this point, and even dinosaurs couldn’t save it.
9) Prehistoric Playset
?Believe it or not, kids before the dawn of the action figure were a rather content bunch, mostly because they had the full-scale environments such as these playsets created by the Marx Toy Company. This prehistoric set took various forms for decades but never left the company’s staple of items — a true testament to the eternally popular nature of the subject matter.
8) Little Yellow Dinosaur
?This prehistoric version of “The Ugly Ducking” takes place in the kick ass 3-D world of Viewmasters, utilizing models that looked better than what could be seen in most dinosaur movies at the time. Every kid should be given one of these via government Issue when he or she turns 4.
7) Jurassic Park
Kenner really went full-out with the toyline based on the hit movie series. Not only did the dinosaurs make sounds, but they had chunks of flesh that were removable — it was practically toy porn for little boys. With cool features like this it was easy to forgive the glaring JP logos on the dinosaurs, and the Denis Nedry figure that looked absolutely nothing like actor Wayne Knight.
Giant remote-control robot dinosaurs. ‘Nuff said. The only thing that sucked about Milton Bradley’s Robotix was that it took a crazy amount of time to put your truckasaurus/thingee together. That and it was most definitely in the Christmas and/or birthday-only price range, unless your parents were splitting up and trying to buy your love.
5) Transformers Dinobots
Given that the Transformers are supposed to be “robots in disguise,” the Dinobots make no sense. Dinosaurs are just as likely to call attention to themselves nowadays as giant robots, and the Dinobots still looked robots even when they were in dinosaur mode. However, this is easily forgiven when you realize that dinosaurs are by and large, incredibly stupid — and so were the Dinobots. This made sense to 7-year-olds in the ’80s, but now keeps adults up at up night while writing their ret-con Grimlock fan fiction.
4) Definitely Dinosaurs
A happy series of pre-school dinosaurs that sold for almost a decade, Playskool’s Definitely Dinosaurs is one of the most successful prehistoric toylines created. As a bonus, the caveman figures looked a little like the strong man from some sort of weird midget circus show on TLC.
Zoids were fun little robot model kits of everything kids like, from spiders and scorpions and, of course, dinosaurs. And when they’re built, they usually have a wind-up feature to go walking/crawling/slithering across the kitchen floor. A Japanese toy favorite, Zoids have been on weird back shelves in smaller American toy stores in the ’80s, but they got their biggest push in America in the early ’00s, when an actual Zoids cartoon aired on Cartoon Network and the Zoids toys got to hang out with the big boys at Toys R Us and Target and the like.
2) Stone Age Dinosaurs
?Chap Mei toys is the “generic supermarket”-brand toy company that makes incredibly fun toys that not enough people collect. That’s a shame because the majority of their lines are great toys for a low price. For the price of a single Star Wars figure, you can buy the above set, which contains an action figure buffet of dinosaurs, cavemen, caves, and what looks like a catapult made out of a giant skeleton hand. Look, it’s called “Stone Age Dinosaurs” — they’re obviously not that concerned about historical accuracy.
1) Dino Riders
On the surface, Tyco’s Dino Riders is just yet another cookie cutter ’80s premise featuring Aryan good guys called the Valorians facing off against the evil Rulons (which is a terrific band name, by the way). What sets Dino Riders apart is that everyone Rides Dinosaurs. The accompanying cartoon didn’t fare very well — only 14 episodes were made — but the toys were so accurate that the Smithsonian had Tyco make their dinosaur figures for years afterwards.