When I was a child, if you wanted a T. rex toy, there were many choices available, but if you wanted a Jurassic Park T. rex toy, there was only one place to go: Kenner. After all, “If it’s not JURASSIC PARK, it’s EXTINCT.” Because I grew up in the later 1990s, Kenner’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997) and Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect toy lines were more prominent than the preceding “Jurassic Park” Series 1 and Series 2 toy lines that came out in 1993 and 1994 respectively. As the Kenner “Jurassic Park” T. rex was the centerpiece for the first movie’s toyline, a figure affectionately called the Red Rex by fans, Kenner would come back and follow suit with the second movie’s toy line: making the film’s two adult Tyrannosaurus rex the stars of their film toy line. Dubbed by Kenner the “Thrasher T-Rex” and the “Bull T-Rex,” these two figures have become long time fan favorites since the fans were children themselves… including me.
Unfortunately, as a child, I never got the Thrasher T-Rex toy. It was just something that never happened. Fortunately, however, I had friends who did, and it was the most coveted “Jurassic Park” dinosaur toy that I’d ever encountered. I was ecstatic the day mine arrived in the mail from eBay. It remains today, the most favorite toy in my collection. The other day, I was rifling through my collection looking at this or that for some photos, and I pulled out my Thrasher T-Rex while I was in there. As I was turning it over in my hands, a memory came back: when I was a kid, this toy was, I felt, the closest thing there was to the actual animal in the movies. When I was a child, I thought that this was what was in the movie. Due to the T. rex mostly appearing in rainy night scenes in the first two Jurassic Park movies, the image of a dark, jungle green and black striped tyrant lizard was embedded into my mind. It wasn’t until many years later than I started researching the male Tyrannosaurus rex and discovered how much more colorful the animatronic was in real life.
It was at this point that I remembered something: Kenner had retooled a cast of the Stan Winston Studio 1:16th maquette to create the Red Rex and the Thrasher T-Rex, and so in effect what I was holding in my hands was the closest thing I could ever get to holding the real thing. While the battle between which of the three big Kenner T. rex figures were the “best” is still contentious to this day, there is one undeniable truth: Kenner recast an SWS 1:16th T. rex maquette to create their Red Rex and Thrasher T-Rex, making them among the most faithful toys ever created for the first two movie’s toy lines. We are going to explore just how close these two toys were made to the source, and where Kenner took their artistic license. We will be focussing solely on the Red Rex and Thrasher T-Rex, as the Kenner Bull T-Rex, despite being created under heavy study of the animatronics from the first movie, was an original sculpt by Kenner and not derived off a genuine Stan Winston Studio source.
Some background first…
In 1992, in preparation for the upcoming toy line, Stan Winston Studio sent Kenner’s design team one of their 1:16th maquettes of the film’s upcoming Tyrannosaurus rex. Kenner photographed and created a cast of this maquette (a process referred to as “recasting”) before sending it back to Stan Winston Studio. From here, Kenner warped, stretched, resculpted, and hacked apart their cast, hollowing it out for electronics, and a fun – if not fragile – roaring mechanism that moved the head and jaws and emitted a generic stock roar sound when an internal lever on the side of the abdomen was squeezed. More on the specifics of what and where changes were made to accommodate this and other features will be presented later in the showcase. This resculpting process was still progress when advertisements and packaging graphics were created for the release in mid-1993, resulting in Kenner using the actual maquette in-box photos and some advertisements, which they still had on hand at the time the photos were taken. This swap led to some fans being surprised and even disappointed when receiving the actual Red Rex toy when they were advertised an original Stan Winston maquette.
Another interesting feature of Kenner’s first T. rex toy was that it was stark red, hence its fan name. The Tyrannosaurus rex in the movie, like the maquette, was a mixture of molted browns, with a creamy underbelly and dark stripes down her dorsal. Due to the secrecy that naturally surrounds movie productions, Kenner used details from Michael Crichton‘s book, and some of their imagination to fill in dinosaurs species and what they may look like. This created book originals in the toy line that would eventually get cut from the final film such as Stegosaurus (originally the book involved a sick Stegosaurus instead of a sick Triceratops), and a young T. rex (the book had a younger sub-adult Tyrannosaurus rex in the same paddock as the Big Rex). And original additions included Coelophysis, Dimetrodon (actually a synapsid closer to mammals than to dinosaurs), and Pteranodon (its inclusion was possibly inspired by Cearadactylus from the book). Not only did they take book animals, but their book descriptions as well. The “Dino Screams” Electronic Velociraptor was yellow, with darker markings on its back, like the caged Raptors from the book, while both the large T. rex and the young T. rex toys gained reddish hues, the animals in the book being described as the color of dried blood (which is more of a reddish-brown, but whatever, it works). The toys were cast in hard plastic and latex rubber (which Kenner advertised as “Real Feel skin”), with the Real Feel skin being one of the most durable latex rubbers ever used in a toy – resisting rot long after roughly being handled by children and retaining its supple, soft nature since 1993. Thus, the Kenner Red Rex was born.
SWS Maquette v. Kenner Red Rex:
The Kenner Red Rex is a fan favorite, no doubt, but it is not a perfect representative of Jurassic Park’s most famous predator. It’s noticeable at first glance. The entire thing is “stretched,” and anatomically looks warped. This is entirely aside from its blatant miscoloration. The body and neck are longer and thinner, both to accommodate the interior play feature mechanisms, and the tail is longer to counterbalance to a larger body. Meanwhile, the legs have been entirely resculpted from the knees down in an attempt at better balance. Unfortunately, the small feet still make balancing the figure on them a challenge, especially because the thigh area is soft latex, making it prone to warping and further imbalance.
The head area on the Red Rex is one of the most noticeably altered areas. The teeth and gums have been entirely replaced by an uneven, generic snaggle-toothed plastic design, abandoning the smooth arc of the upper jawline. The face itself, although retaining generally crisp details from the maquette cast, has become elongated, and the wide split between the gumline and the mandibular joint exacerbates the design differences. The mandible’s stretched appearance does not aesthetically benefit it at all, and where the mandible meets the neck, the details have softened, worsening the stretched look of the jaws. The eyes are also a highlighter yellow-green with slit pupils. The neck, while retaining all the details of the original maquette, has itself been stretched, and thinned to create better compression for the internal roar mechanism that opens the jaw upon activation.
Taking to Photoshop, I’ve attempted to reshape the face back into the classic Jurassic Park T. rex face. It’s only a rough concept with some additional attempts at color correction, but it comes out looking like this. Stronger mandible line, a shorter snout, browner coloration, a more curved upper jawline, a more arched tooth line, create a much closer look. I will note that it was incredibly difficult to get this look and that the reshaped Thrasher T-Rex I will present at the end of this showcase was much easier to reshape. The Thrasher T-Rex as a whole is less mal-proportioned and therefore easier to edit back into shape.
A top view from the head on down shows off some of the nicer proportions of this figure. Nice and crisp details in the face, the toy was not stretched in width much. In fact, from this angle, it almost appears as if the figure, and particularly the head and been compressed inwards. You will also notice that the head, while retaining the sharp arc down the spine flanked by osteoderms as with the maquette, Kenner has added in sculpted warty bumps at the top of the head. Warty bumps would be a detail that Kenner would later incorporate into their Bull T-Rex sculpt, which was originally slated as a 1994 Jurassic Park: Series 2 release, only to be shelved and later brought back for their “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” toy line representing the male T. rex from that film.
This angle also shows off one of the figures’ nicest details and one of it’s more drastic divergences from the maquette: the arms and legs. The arms are almost a perfect cast from the maquette, with only some slight resculpting to better improve the position of the fingers. From the side, you will notice that the chest retains its “barrelled” qualities.
The legs, however, are a different story. A detail of the sculpting process from Stan Winston Studio is that the legs became flared. It is unknown if this was intentional for an unknown reason or a defect that was never amended to, but it was completely cut from Kenner’s toy. Instead, the legs on the Kenner Red Rex were cut off at the knees, and new legs were sculpted and cast in hard plastic for better stability. In many of the maquette shots, you will see posted in this showcase, you will notice that the flared legs of the maquette made it more difficult to stand in a neutral position, and so Kenner simply photographed it in a tripod position, using the tail as additional stability. Unfortunately, Kenner’s new legs are both longer and thinner than the original maquettes, resulting in less stability than if they had simply positioned the maquette legs into a new pose.
The feet themselves, being an entirely new sculpt, contain only a portion of the original maquette’s detail. Sculpted presumably with the maquette in hand, some detail of the original maquette sculpt are retained such as the overlapping scutes down the toes, and rear of the shank. However, the new feet are smaller than the originals, and to compensate, Kenner added a kind of small heel to the back of the feet to improve stability. In the end, the Kenner Red Rex’s feet come off as being more chicken-like than Tyrannosaurid-like.
The underbelly of the Red Rex is the most faithful area of the entire sculpt, and indeed shows the least amount of alteration. The pattern on the belly is dubbed the “crocodile belly” due to its overlapping scale pattern resembling the belly of a crocodile. The most striking difference is right between the legs in the location of the battery pack access. The details to the cover for the battery pack was sculpted separately after this area was chosen to be the location for the battery cover. The crocodile belly pattern flows opposite from the rest of the scales, and to make them flow together, the cover must be reversed, which disrupts the proportions of the skin folds in this area. Also in addition to the cover, this area is marked by 15 holes. Two for the screws to access the battery area, and 13 more to release the roaring and stomping sound effects that this figure featured. Regardless, the 14 rows of exponentially increasing scales on the belly pattern before the torso crease on the toy are precisely the same as on the maquette.
A view underneath the barrelled chest of the mighty Tyrannosaurus shows where some of the details falter. While the chest details are still the same, they are fainter and less prominent than on the maquette. This is not an uncommon occurrence, as a latex casting mold will lose detail over time, but in conjunction with the underside of the throat, it makes for a lackluster area. The throat’s elongation has stretched the details as well, fading them.
The thigh and torso area on the Kenner Red Rex is also rather faithful and remains relatively untouched by the resculpting process. Although the thighs on the Red Rex is slightly widened, the sculptural details are intact and very crisp. This is the same as in the torso. Both have likely been enlarged to create room for the housing of the sound effect voice box and source of the release lever to activate both the sound and jaw action feature. The seam separating the torso from the pelvis, tail, and legs is one of the few on the figure, the other being at the knees where the latex Real Feel skin becomes hard plastic, and the articulated joint in the figure’s shoulder, where the arms (the only articulation on the Red Rex) meet the rest of the toy.
While a great figure, the overall malformed nature of it makes it an acceptable, if a greatly inferior substitute for the Stan Winston maquette. In an attempt to reshape this figure in Photoshop, the figure had to be entirely compressed horizontally, especially in the head and neck area, where the resculpting process caused the most damage. The legs had to be widened, and the heel on the back of the foot shrunken. Finally, the base of the tail had to be stretched back out to the area of origin as it was in the maquette. This entire process was arduous and tedious, and in the end, I feel it still provided somewhat unsatisfactory results. But creation is an act of sheer will. Next time, it will be flawless…
SWS Maquette v. Kenner Thrasher T-Rex:
Much like the Red Rex, the Thrasher T-Rex, released in 1997 to coincide with Steven Spielberg’s 1997 Jurassic sequel “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” is a fan favorite. It was, in a way, Kenner’s second attempt at a “Jurassic Park” T. rex toy based on the Stan Winston Studio 1:16th maquette. However, there are some distinct differences between the three amigos, and the Thrasher’s differences will be covered in this section. Keep in mind, as I said in the last section, the more you use a mold, the less detail you get out of it, and the Red Rex and Thrasher were both retooled from the same mold. Because Kenner had to send the maquette back to Stan Winston Studio when they were done with it, they were incapable of making a new cast for their “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” toy line and had to recast off of their original. This caused a decrease in detail in the Thrasher’s Real Feel skin. Another difference in the skin itself is that the skin used on the Thrasher T-Rex is thicker than the skin used on the Red Rex in 1993. Despite having no difference in the durability, this did bloat details on the Thrasher, resulting in a general bloated look in some of the more cramped area in the figure, such as the head.
For their “The Lost World” toy line, Kenner began using more natural colorations in their dinosaurs, as well as making them closer to concept art and their on-screen companions. Due to having better material on hand for references, such as early scripts, finalized concept art, and storyboard excerpts, Kenner created a much more faithful toy line that some even consider being better than the first movie’s. Indeed, Kenner’s “The Lost World” toy line won a host of awards and has aged very gracefully.
Included among the new natural-inspired dinosaur toys was one Thrasher T-Rex. While not faithful to the female’s on-screen brown, cream, and dark dorsal striped colors, the Thrasher was instead colored with a pickle-green base and featured an array of black stripes criss-crossing across the figure’s back, tail, neck, head, and legs. Due to multiple factories churning out these green machines, a variant in the paint arose. While one version of the figure came out with a browner base tone and pink gums, a second came out with a greener base tone and tannish gums. Regardless the color, these camouflaged tones could allow one to almost mistake the Thrasher for being a second male T. rex in the toy line, and if it weren’t for the description on the back of the box stating she’s the female of the pair I would assume she was male myself. Indeed, as a child, the Thrasher was the male to me, as I thought “she” was the father T. rex from the movie.
One of the first things most apparently different between the maquette and the toy is the enlarged neck area. The Thrasher had a variety of play-action features that influenced its design and made it superior to its red predecessor. One of them was its namesake “thrashing action.” By pivoting the base of the tail side to side, the neck on the Thrasher would “thrash,” allowing her to break out of the containment gear that came with the toy. Another noticeable feature is that the legs, like on the Red Rex, are long, but far more muscular. We’ll get more into those later.
For now, the head sculpt is, as is on the Red Rex, malformed. As is with the Red Rex, the lower jaw is elongated, however, the issue with the teeth has been fixed, and they are now more uniform with pairing large teeth near the front of the mandible, as it is on the maquette. The upper teeth have also been fixed, with a nice curving arc, matching the mouth area on the animatronic and maquette. One will notice that in an attempt to counteract the elongated face, Kenner also bloated the snout, creating an enlarged area here. The gums sticking out beneath the skin do not help matters either, and it creates this over-bloated look on the face of the toy. Kenner did fix this gumline issue with the re-release of the Thrasher T-Rex, repainted for their Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect toy line. Also fixed on this figure is the eyes, which are now yellow, instead of bright yellow-green and have round pupils instead of slitted ones. Kenner has also retooled the jaw joint, make it more enclosed and natural with no gap.
As mentioned before, the neck has been grossly enlarged to accommodate the thrashing action feature, however, the toy had another action feature in this area: a spring-loaded bite. By pulling back the top of the head, the tongue locked into place and was pressure released when weight was placed on the tongue, causing the jaw to snap shut. This was a fun, albeit sometimes easily breakable feature, and like the Red Rex’s roaring mechanism, it is rare to find a Thrasher with the spring-loaded bite still functioning. Together, these features create a “beefcake” look in the neck of the toy, making the animal look as she was using steroids.
To correct this look, I again took the images to Photoshop. By comparison to the photos done with the Red Rex, these Thrasher T-Rex photos were a breeze. The Thrasher, as a whole, is less mal-proportioned and thus easier to edit back into shape. The neck is the most out of proportion part of the Thrasher, and it’s generally an area easier to reshape. By shortening the head, thinning the neck, shrinking the snout, un-exaggerating some of the details, and widening the mandible, everything was back into place in a jiffy. Unfortunately, this was little I could do for the large gums.
From a top view, you can see where this toy’s faults lie. This area in the face is especially bloated and lacking in detail. This is where you can also see that the general “maquette” idea is fading away. Areas like the arms and feet are entirely new sculptural details and do not stick out away from the body as the arms do on the Red Rex. You can see, however, how the Thrasher’s more faithful facial anatomy allows the bottom jaw to stick out under the upper jaw at this angle. You can also see the high arch along the spine is more prominent as it was more subdued on the Red Rex. The head is also wider, being more faithful to the maquette. The general width remains less changed than on the Red Rex. One area of notice is that the Thrasher lacks the warty bumps to the back of the head that was added to the Red Rex.
The arms on the Thrasher, as mentioned, are an entirely new sculpt not derived from the maquette, unlike the arms on the Red Rex. While the shoulder area around them is derived from the maquette – showing little warping or resculpting – the arms are now beefier, the fingers are fleshier, and all around they portray the appearance of having been sculpted using images of the animatronic as reference rather than the maquette’s arms. While this detracts from the Thrasher’s closeness to the maquette, it does improve its accuracy to what we see on film.
The new legs have become something entirely else. While many fans criticize this figure for its abnormally long legs, the legs are an improvement from those on the Red Rex. Despite their stretched length, the legs appear to be derived from the maquette itself. The thighs are reshaped, and indeed the entire hip area is enlarged, likely to accommodate the hip/leg articulation that did not appear on the Red Rex. The muscular calves are directly from the maquette with the same knee texture. The feet, too appear to be retooled from the maquette’s feet and are much more faithful to the source material. The soles of the feet even have a texture very close, if not the same, as the maquette. Due to not having images of the maquette’s feet, I cannot be certain of this, however, I can compare the footprints left behind by the Thrasher to those left by the animatronic. They are quite similar.
Unfortunately, a defect of the feet is that they are still too small to fully support the balanced weight of the toy in most environments. Despite the added accuracy of the feet both sculpturally and in size, it takes additional counterweight in the tail to balance the figure. Due to the added weight of the two internal action features, the tail of the figure is too small and too light to properly act as counterbalance without additional weight added to the tail.
The belly of this beast, like that of the Red Rex, is among the most faithful areas to the maquette of this entire figure. Once again the belly features 14 layers of crocodile belly scales expanding exponentially down the abdomen before coming back around between the legs. The Thrasher’s belly is, however, superior to the Red Rex’s in that it has no electronics and thus has no battery pack cover or audio outlets that disrupt the flow of the sculpt. Unfortunately, due to the increased thickness of the latex Real Feel skin, and decreased detail of the sculpt from the unavailability of a fresh cast, the details here are not as crisp, and again everything appears bloated.
The pelvic area of the Thrasher is less accurate to the maquette than the Red Rex, but it is also more complex. While the tail is still sculpturally the same it is thinner to better compress the grip for the thrashing mechanism. The additional height added between the base of the tail, and the pelvis is also due to the aforementioned hip swivel joint. Because the Red Rex had no articulation here, it was able to retain more faithful detail in the thighs and pelvis. Regardless, the torso and dorsal are still both very detailed and faithful to the source, with the sculpted pronounced ribs on the figure, like those of the Red Rex, still a noticeable feature.
The Thrasher T-Rex is the superior figure, but not by a lot. It has a lot of defects but is still structurally and visually superior. It has fewer faults that make it defer from its source, and while it’s more of an amalgam of the maquette and images referencing the animatronic, it all together makes a more idyllic figure aesthetically. To reshape this figure in Photoshop, there was not that much of a hassle. The neck was shrunk, the face unbloated, the legs shrink slightly, the base of the tailed pulled up, and the back hump made less… humpy. This figure more than satisfactorily can be converted into the definitive “Jurassic Park” T. rex toy with minimal reshaping efforts.