Definitely Dinosaurs! from Playskool (1987)
Release date: 1987
Ages: 2 to 7
Where to purchase: eBay
It is said that nothing is certain in this life but death and taxes.
However, there is a third. One more factual certainty that defines us as a species and keeps this marvellous blue orb a spinnin’ come hell or high water. Children love dinosaurs.
While an exact reason for this fascination is unknown, late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould attributed the popularity of dinosaurs to 3 main qualities — they were big, fierce, and extinct. Now long gone from the face of the planet, these beastly behemoths continue to capture our imagination and have a world constantly looking to shape it’s future glancing back to the past.
Centuries after British scientist Richard Owen first coined the term, dinosaurs are now admired and studied as never before. In addition, they enjoy a rather prominent spot within the world of popular culture, casting an impressive shadow over all major forms of media that is rivalled by none.
Even years before Jurassic Park roared onto the scene and unleashed one of the most powerful intellectual properties known to man, dinosaurs meant big business — especially at the toy store. And it is here, in the uncertain economic days of the late 1980s, that a little company known as Playskool looked to get their piece of the prehistoric pie with a new assortment called Definitely Dinosaurs!
Released by Playskool in 1987, this was a collection of dinosaur toys that offered up numerous prehistoric beasts in varying shapes and sizes. Aimed at younger children, Definitely Dinosaurs! were rather simplistic in their design and made up of tough, durable materials that encouraged play. In fact, Playskool’s advertising campaign assured consumers that their kids could play roughly with the toys without running the risk of damaging them. A big selling point for households with kids under ten!
Looking to further differentiate their product from others available at the time, Playskool stamped each dinosaur toy with a special Brontosaurus shaped mark. This not only gave the line a bit of unique flair but also allowed parents and kids to easily recognize authentic Definitely Dinosaurs! products. Think something similar to what Kenner did with their Jurassic Park figures just a few years down the road.
As mentioned, many different dinosaur species would be offered in the line. Marketed as individual characters, each would be given a unique name and included such popular examples as the three-horned Triceratops, armoured Anyklosaurus, duck-billed Anatosaurus, and the terrifying Deinonychus.
Many of these dinosaurs also included a smaller caveman figurine, as well as some sort of saddle or harness that allowed the character to hitch a ride on their much larger counterpart.
Yeah, I know. Humans and dinosaurs never co-existed. But, this was a line meant for kids.
Additionally, each figure came complete with a small storybook that looked to expand upon the lore of the line. This was a rather ingenious idea and one that would be incorporated within some of the biggest brands of the decade — including Masters Of The Universe and M.A.S.K. to name a couple.
Definitely Dinosaurs! would stay in circulation until 1996, and become one of Playskool’s hottest sellers. Multiple characters and series would be released over the line’s 9-year lifespan, with several of the dinosaurs being re-released before it all came to an end. Many of the caveman figures would also be re-issued on individual blister cards.
Outside of the toy store, there would also be multiple Definitely Dinosaurs! kid’s meal promotions with Wendy’s. Featuring bright colours and limited articulation, one could almost compare them to the sort of dinosaur toys you might find for sale at the local dollar store.
Despite an impressive shelf life, this line never really reached the same level of popularity as its contemporaries. Overshadowed by such heavy hitters as Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Real Ghostbusters, Playskool’s Definitely Dinosaurs! are sadly not given the same sort of love and attention that they so rightfully deserve.
Granted, this does bode well for collectors. Found rather easily on the secondary market, most of the Definitely Dinosaurs! toys can be acquired for as little as $20 – $30 USD. With a few notable exceptions, that is. Larger characters, such as the Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus can be yours with all included accessories for around $75 – $80 USD, while the massive 20-inch Ultrasaurus will set you back close to $200 USD if you’re looking for a complete example. They oftentimes pop up in online auctions, at flea markets, and in thrift stores. And, thanks to their quality construction, most are still in excellent shape with very little wear or tear.
Yes, Definitely Dinosaurs! are dated. They’re aimed at a younger audience and not as popular as Skeletor or Starscream. They’re not really known for being scientifically accurate, never enjoyed the perks of a Saturday morning cartoon, and are not as exciting as Dino-Riders or Jurassic Park.
However, what Definitely Dinosaurs! lacks, it makes up for with strong sculpts and beautiful colours. Add to that plenty of vintage charm and a sense of childlike wonder that calls to mind a much simpler time. A time before social media and smartphones. Before bills and back pain. A time when playing dinosaurs in the dirt really was the best way to spend an afternoon, crashing plastic monsters through the sandbox and imagining what the world was like all those eons ago!
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