When Hasbro used Takara’s Dinosaur Robo molds to give life to the Dinobots back in Generation 1, they set the precedent for dinosaur Transformers for years to come. Since then, several saurian Cybertronians have stomped across our carpets and stalked our display shelves. I’m personally a huge dinosaur fan (Duh), and by extension, a huge dinosaur Transformer fan. So here’s my picks for the ten best Transformer dinosaur molds.
GENERATION 1 GRIMLOCK
Generation 1 Grimlock on display at the Natural History Museum in London
The most popular Dinobot and the most popular dinosaur combine to make G1 Grimlock an enduring mold that holds up as a great toy even to this day. He’s robust and has a great, well rendered design in both modes. The robot mode is a handsome figure, even if he suffers from the lack of articulation that was the norm back in G1. One of the advantages of the toy is its ability to lean forward into a more scientifically accurate horizontal posture, giving the toy display longevity that most fixed-stance dinosaur toys from the 80’s lack. Complete with the always fun articulated jaws that can chomp down on any Decepticon, this classic Autobot is a must-have for any dino-former collector.
Overkill with Slugfest
Overkill with Slugfest
Packaged with his Ceratosaur partner-in-crime Overkill, Stegosaur Slugfest is the stand-out mold of this duo due to his clean and simple design. As a Mini-Cassette, he’s rather thin, but gains quite a bit of imposing bulk from his solar-powered side guns. The pop-up back plates are a neat little transforming gimmick, and he collapses easily into cassette mode, suffering very little physical wear because of this.
DINOBOT / GRIMLOCK / THRUSTOR / HARDHEAD / DINOTRON
The various Beast Wars brought on a slew of new dinosaur molds. The most prolific has to be Dinobot. This Deinonychus antirrhopus toy seems a bit squat and wide at first, but the quality of the overall toy soon overshadows the concessions made to the beast mode to accommodate the robot mode, which is a well articulated, well proportioned, and well balanced figure with a great pair of completely stowable weapons. This mold was repainted five times (three more Dinobots and two Grimlocks) and remolded three times, with Beast Wars II’s Thrustor and his cybernetic parts being the stand-out. The Pachycephalosaur remolds of Hardhead and Dinotron weren’t all that great from a dinosaur standpoint, but still retained more than decent robot modes.
TRANSMETALS MEGATRON / PREDACON
If this was a top ten list, Transmetals Megatron would be vying for the number one slot. He seems to have it all, a great robot mode with plenty of articulation, a kitschy “flight mode” with in-line skates and VTOL fans, and a superb dinosaur mode that captures the essence and the lines of a Tyrannosaurus rex almost perfectly. Sculpting on the T-rex head alone is praiseworthy. The only disappointing thing about this mold is that the torso arm mountings have a tendency to snap off over time, leaving many of us with armless Megatrons and the rest of us scared to death to transform him anymore. Thankfully, his Armada repaint as Predacon had a few remoldings that help in the overall stability of the figure’s construction, not to mention the pair of Powerlinx points added to the VTOL fans to accommodate Minicons. So now the only real tragedy is that Hasbro hasn’t yet used this mold again for a snazzy repaint, or for a reissue.
TRANSMETALS 2 DINOBOT / RAPTICON
Rapticon repaint of Transmetals 2 Dinobot
The second Dinobot toy for Beast Wars could possibly be better than the first. A skeletal, mechanical monstrosity, the Dinobot 2 mold is all sharp edges and primal fury. It has a great bone-white molding job splashed with shiny vac-metal detailing. The Beast Machines Rapticon repaint, with its sinister dark hues may be even better yet. The robot mode is pretty average however, with its large shoulders and weirdly articulated arms and hands. Still, this is an all-around cool figure.
GUILEDART / KILLERPUNCH / TRICERADON
Part of the Beast Wars Neo line, Guiledart is not only a great Triceratops toy, but he has a fun gimmick as well. As a “trap” he can look like a dead and ripped apart carcass by flipping down panels on his sides that expose bony ribs, pulling his tail out, and tilting his nasal horn back, making his tongue loll out and his eyes roll back into his head. It’s weird, but in a good way. The robot mode does suffer from “animal head as my hand” syndrome, but overall he’s a satisfying toy, even if he can be a little difficult to snap cleanly into beast mode. Hasbro/Takara must like him too, because he’s been issued as a repaint three other times. The remold into the Styracosaurus albertensis Killerpunch is, in my opinion, an even better toy. The launching head weapon takes the place of the head-hand somewhat, and the purple color scheme works surprisingly well for the creature.
SABERBACK / STRIKER / SNARL
Also coming out of Beast Wars Neo is Saberback, a Stegosaur mold that really represents the genus well. Not only is he a great looking dinosaur, but he transforms into a Cybertronian Indian chief! Something is utterly goofy, and yet extremely endearing about that. He’s come in four different colors over his toy-life, but for my money you can’t beat the gray with purple and teal stripes of his original incarnation.
DINOSHOUT / UNDERMINE / REPUGNUS
The best thing to come out of the movie Jurassic Park III was that it brought the modern visualizations of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus into the consciousness of the general public, and it didn’t take long for the crocodile-snouted update to appear in Transformer form. Galaxy Force’s Dinoshout, and his slightly differently hued Cybertron counterpart Undermine are a nice little pair of dinosaurs with better than average articulation, attractive lines, and plenty of fun play value. Its sort of a shame that this mold’s robot mode is so bizarre and abstract, but it works in some weird way. Depending on your tastes, the Autobot repaint into Repugnas might even look better with his menacing black coupled with bold red, yellow and gold. But no matter how you paint him up, this mold is a definite winner and worth having in one form or another.
BEAST WARS 10th ANNIVERSERY MEGATRON / JUNGLE PLANET MEGATRON
Another outstanding Tyrannosaurus rex mold, the Beast Wars 10th Anniversery Megatron toy is interesting in that he slightly edges out the original Beast Wars Megatron figure in coolness. Although possessed of more mechanical detailing than its inspiration, it’s a well articulated and fun mold for the size. This Megatron also possesses the most disturbing Cyber Key placement imaginable, with the key being slammed right into his cloaca to activate a tail weapon. I think if I had a plastic key shoved into my rear, my tail would split in half and fire a missile as well. Repainted and released almost immediately as Cybertron’s Jungle Planet Megatron, you can be excused for thinking that particular toy is supposed to be a new version of Armada’s Predacon because of the suspiciously similar color schemes.
TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED SNARL
Man, don’t you just hate it when Hasbro loses name trademarks. We all KNOW that this is really Slag, and for this list he narrowly edged out the Generation 1 version of Slag. G1 Slag is a great toy, but his robot mode suffers form some bad proportions and his dinosaur mode can look a little clunky and patched-together at times. Animated Snarl, on the other claw, has a dinosaur mode that is compact and cleanly designed. The robot mode is quite the little fireplug and is a bit thick in the chest due to the configuration of the dino head, but overall he’s a good looking figure…even if his weapon seems to be a giant Cheeto.
So you might be asking yourself why Swoop or Terrorsaur or Brimstone isn’t on the list. Well, technically Pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs, so my nitpicky tail left them off. But rest-assured they aren’t forgotten, and may turn up in another feature down the road.
These are just my personal favorites, so I’m interested in hearing about which dinosaur molds that didn’t make the list should have in your estimation. There are still a lot of good ones out there, and all of them deserve some measure of spotlight.