Toys of Yesterday: Kenner's Jurassic Park figures

6:00 PM on 06.03.2009 // Brian Szabelski
  @brianszabelski

Toys of Yesterday is back once again, and this time, we inch a little further ahead in history to spotlight another series of figures you all might remember: Kenner's Jurassic Park series of toys that launched alongside the movie of the same name. While they weren't quite as popular as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or some of the old classics like G.I. Joe, they were still a big part of my childhood, if even only for a few years. Plus, it gives me an excuse to post about dinosaurs on the front page of Tomopop, something I really don't get to do too often.

Hit the jump to flashback to the 1990s with me. You might want to have the soundtrack to the Jurassic Park film queued up.

Ready? Let's go!

Jurassic Park began life as a 1990 science fiction novel by acclaimed author Michael Crichton, one of the favorites authors of my mom. The basic story was one of caution concerning biological engineering, a theme that would appear across many of Crichton's works. Except this one involved dinosaurs, which made it awesome.

Before the book was actually published, though, Steven Spielberg acquired the rights to make a movie based off the book, and that's where the 1993 summer blockbuster comes from. Of course, there were some changes and differences, but it was pretty good and still is to this day.

But what summer blockbuster would be complete without a line of figures based off the film? Kenner took care of that, producing two series of figures based on Jurassic Park. Hasbro later bought Kenner and continued producing figures based of the franchise, but those first figures really were the best of the bunch.

First, there were the figures based on the human characters. The Series 1 figures didn't look like their movie counterparts as the Series 2 figures did, but the Series 1 figures didn't have the ridiculous weapons the Series 2 figures did. The human characters also suffered from not exactly being too articulated, though they did come with quite a bit accessory-wise: most figures had both a weapon and a dinosaur hatchling. I only had one of these, and it was somewhat forgettable, leading me to use my other figures like my G.I. Joes to take on the dinosaur menace. Besides, tanks versus dinosaurs was so much more fun!

Kenner also produced a few vehicles, mostly based on those seen in the film. I was never lucky enough to have any of them, but my friends did, and they were fairly well constructed. They ranged from being rather small to the massive, 60 centimeter long by 20 centimeter tall T-rex, the king of dinosaur figures from Jurassic Park. The best feature these figures had, though, was the fact that they had parts you could "damage," perfect for those trying to recreate some of the scenes in the movie, like the T-rex attacking the Jungle Explorer. Of course, the car itself was able to take a bit of damage itself, too, mostly because Kenner planned ahead and figured most kids would be tossing these vehicles around to recreate the same said scenes from the movie.

Still, the biggest stars and best figures were the dinosaurs themselves. They were a huge step up over the silly hard rubber crap most kids had been stuck with for decades. Some of the figures, including the stegosaurus and young T-rex figures, featured "realistic dino skin" which was basically a softer rubber over the plastic body of the figures. It also made them more flexible, especially the T-rexes, which had adjustable jaws. At age 7, that kind of thing was totally mindblowing when I played with my young T-rex figure.

The rest of the dinosaurs were cast out of plastic, but were actually pretty poseable and of great quality for their time. Almost all the dinosaurs also had some little gimmick that went with them, whether it was the velociraptors' "dino-strike slashing jaws" or the triceratops' head-ramming attack or the dilophosaurus and its "venom spray" that was just water you could shoot out of its mouth. The quality on this part of the series was very hit or miss: for example, the adult T-rex had a dino roar, but it was incredibly wimpy and muted.

Most of these figures are still widely available on eBay, and rumors have been circulating that Hasbro is considering re-releasing the Jurassic Park line in the near future. If they do and it happens to be next year, that would be quite an awesome surprise to coincide with the original novel's 20th anniversary. Until then, though, you can relive the past by checking out JP Toys, an amazing resource for all things related to the Jurassic Park figures and where a great majority of these photos came from.

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Brian Szabelski, Editor-in-Chief
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Brian Szabelski is Tomopop's Editor-in-Chief, stuck with an ever-growing collection of figures and toys. When he's not posting on Tomopop, he can usually be found working on any number of project... more   |   staff directory

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