Where the Dinosaurs Are

(my dance with dinosaurs)  
page 2


As I said earlier, when Glencoe reissued the ITC kits I didn't buy the Tyrannosaurus or Stegosaurus immediately as I already had them and was reasonably satisfied with them despite having been repaired many times over the years.  In 1994 I saw an advertisement in the bulletin of the Dinosaur Society for a collector's newsletter called Prehistoric Times.  It sounded intriguing and I ordered a subscription.  The first issue I received was probably #5 and it was so much fun that I immediately ordered  all of the back issues.   Issue #2 had a picture on the last page  of a model that publisher Mike Fredericks put together.  It was a Glencoe Tyrannosaurus.   In putting the model together, Mike did something that really impressed me.  Instead of making it out of the box in the old-fashioned kangaroo stance, he straightened the tail, drilled out the openings in the skull and cut the leg joints to pose it like a poorman's Ants Allosaurus. 


What a great idea!  I ran down to the hobby shop where I found the Brontosaurus and to my delight the Tyrannosarus was still on the shelf!    I decided to make it as scientifically accurate as possible.  I used Horner's book The Ultimate T-rex as a primary source along with whatever else I could find to guide my modifications.  I used a lot of what I had learned about assembling a skeleton from the Allosaurus, which led me to do a lot of major surgery on that plastic.  Locating slots and tabs pretty much went the way of the dinosaur as I separated and repositioned practically every single piece.  I cut the cervical vertebrae into individual pieces, drilled a hole through each and strung them on a wire support, then added scratch-built laminae and ribs.  I cut the ribcage into separate ribs and detailed their articulations with the spine.  The metatarsals were  altered with epoxy to emphasize the pinched bone in the center.   The leg bones were cut apart and repositioned with pins for extra support as was the tail.  The number of vertebrae in the tail was cut down as the original museum mount on which the model was based had way too many of them.  After drilling out all of the openings in the skull, I made a palate and carefully separated the teeth with a tiny saw before polishing them with fine sandpaper.  Having finally realized that dinosaur skeletons are not bone white, I painted it to look more like a real fossil.  All in all, it took me over two months to get it the way I wanted.  Trying to get this model done "right" has been a popular activity, at least among the small community of kokkalophiles.  On the Tyrannosaur page elsewhere in this website is the happy Christmas tale of another ITC rex.  There is another, sadder story that I'll get to below in my section on Steve Harvey and Wiccart.   Incidentally, you may notice the position of the forelimbs here is now considered antiquated and as of early 2014 they have been revised, a revision I display on page 5.

ITC/GLENCOE TYRANNOSAURUS 1/25      17" (43 cm)




The Tyrannosaurus was not enough.    While I didn't modify it nearly as much as the Tyrannosaurus, I decided to give my Brontosaurus a makeover.  I altered the pose of its legs, used a Dremel to improve the rib/spine articulations and thinned the cervical ribs.  I also painted it to look like a fossil.  A 1/35 scale explorer from a Tamiya diorama kit joined it on the base.  It turned out that the animal called Brontosaurus in the 1950's, when the kit was made, was actually an Apatosaurus and should have had a long Diplodicid type of skull.  The kit, reflecting its era, had a blunt faced Camarasaurus-like skull.  As luck would have it, the Dinosaur Studio offered a replacement resin skull for slightly less than the price of the entire kit.  I bought it, drilled out the fenestrations and mounted it, giving me an Apatosaurus.  My Apatosaurus was a great example of serendipitous timing.  At that time the Tyrannosaurus kit was no longer showing up in local shops and I was now beginning to realize that opportunities may be temporary and subject to disappearing if not grabbed.  While Tyrannosaurus kits show up on Ebay from time to time and the Glencoe Stegosaurus is still listed for sale by Squadron, the Brontosaurus is  rarely seen and that replacement skull is no longer available.  When I found a Glencoe Stegosaurus at a local hobby shop, I bought it after only a moment's hesitation.  While I already had my brother's old Stegosaurus, I was now certain that, as with the other models in the series, I could do a better job of it now.  When I bought it, I planned to make it a more accurate reflection of current thinking in limb and tail positions as well as plate and spike placement.   It took me over a decade to get around to it, but I finally took it out of the the closet and the result is featured on page 5 of this website.  I have other plans for the old one; I just need time...


The original ITC/Glencoe Kit skull


There have been some paths I did not follow, and others were unknown to me when they were there.  In the mid-1990's I got a catalog from Monstrosities and was floored by their offering of Kaiyodo's Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops skeletons.  The poses were dynamic, even if not entirely likely in the case of the rearing and charging Triceratops.  Wow!  Unfortunately, the prices also provoked a "Wow", or was it an "ouch"?  Together, they were around $800.  As exciting as they were, I couldn't pull the trigger on a purchase of that size. Since then I have heard various criticisms regarding the accuracy of those models.  Without having them in my hands to examine, I can't really comment as to how much some variances from academic verisimilitude would bother me.  There are a lot of problems with the ITC models and some of them are fun to correct, but in the back of my mind, I would expect a LOT of accuracy for $800 and it would make me pretty  nervous to start making corrections on such expensive and rare kits.  This sort of concern doesn't stop everyone, as I'll get to later when I introduce Brant Bassam and Brantworks.  However, for now I have to say that I haven't had too much regret over passing on those two kits.  After all, I already have a Tyrannosaurus into which I have invested a lot of time and effort.  I have since acquired a Triceratops as well and I'll talk about that later.  Unbeknown to me at the time, Kaiyodo also made a skeleton kit of a Velociraptor and a Futabarasaurus and I never saw those offered for sale in the United States, despite what I consider to be a fair amount of effort in tracking the inventory of quite a few dinosaur-related magazines and websites.   While many of Kaiyodo's models have been readily available, those skeletons were apparently limited to brief production runs.  For a "garage kit" company, Kaiyodo is big, but apparently at its core, it is still a garage kit manufacturer and scarcity enhances collectability.  Given Kaiyodo's prices, I'm not really sure that I would have bought either of those skeletons, but I sure would have appreciated the opportunity to decide!  At the same time Kaiyodo made some small skulls that were molded in one piece and didn't have much detail, so I had no trouble passing on them.  They also produced a beautiful life-sized Velociraptor skull, but at over $230, I never seriously considered it.  They have also made some very small models that come as prizes with chocolates, the Chocolosaurs.  They are a lot better than any CrackerJack prize I ever got, but they are rather small to attract much attention on a shelf. 


KDeinskel     KAcroskel


From time to time I
have seen model skeletons that didn't seem accessible.  During the 1990's Bob Morales, of Dragon Attack, was a prolific creator of dynamic dinosaur models.  Most of his works featured clashes between extremely fierce looking prehistoric beasts.  He also did a lot of custom jobs and often talked about celebrities who owned his works.  In some of his advertisements he showed himself adjusting the velvet ropes surrounding a model museum display of a Triceratops skeleton.  That never appeared for sale in any of his ads in PT, so I assumed it was a custom piece for a wealthy client.  I never inquired about its availability or price, mostly because I think I didn't really want to know.   Near the end of the book Bob co-authored, SCULPTING DINOSAURS, he had a picture of a Triceratops skeleton with a caption that basically encouraged the reader to keep practicing and maybe they could even make a skeleton like that!   A Triceratops skeleton appeared briefly as a background prop in the laboratory of Dr. Noonien Soong, the "father" of Data the Android in an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation, sometime in the early 1990's.  I never tried to track it down, partly because I had found in the past that trying to get information about props from production companies was usually a futile exercise unless one had friends on the inside and this was well before the age of the Internet when almost anything could be found on discussion boards.  I took some satisfaction in knowing that somewhere, someplace, somebody cared about model dinosaur skeletons, even if it was four hundred years in the future.  However, I still did not have a Triceratops to call my own.



An early issue of Prehistoric Times had an announcement for another dinosaur-related newsletter called the Archosaurian Archive and I immediately subscribed.  AA was the brainchild (I wanted to say lovechild, but that carries the wrong meaning) of Steve Harvey, a UK-anian living in Canada (actually he split custody with an ex-pat American, Gary Williams).  When not taking the time to maintain a regular publication, Steve sculpted dinosaur bones under the company name Wiccart.  I am not sure how he came up with his business model, but his concept was that if someone would provide him him with an accurate reference for a skull or skeleton, he would sculpt a model of it and cast it in resin.  He would give the first model to the person who gave him the reference and then hoped to sell enough copies to make a living as a paleo-sculptor.  Wiccart models were supposed to look as if the animal had recently died of a heart attack and was then consumed by Dermestid beetles before bone-crunching scavengers arrived, leaving only pristine and sunbleached bones.  His first kit was Rhamphorhynchus, a small pterodactyl.  It was around two feet long and consisted of a tremendous number of small, fussy parts that had no locating slots and tabs.  It was designed to be assembled with wire connectors that had to be carefully drilled into each fragile bone.   It was a museum-quality kit that actually did show up in the displays of several small museums.  Now I had wanted a pterodactyl skeleton since  ITC's promised-and-never-produced side panel, but I just couldn't bring myself to jump for this one.  For one thing, it was big and shelf-space was beginning to concern me.  For another, it was over $200 and despite my Ants Allosaurus, that seemed like a lot of money.   I did start a regular correspondence with Steve regarding his choice of subjects, sparked by his concerns that the world wasn't knocking his door down to buy the kits he so laboriously produced.  His next models were the skulls of Riojasuchus and Herrerasaurus.  Both looked pretty intriguing, but they weren't exactly the most famous and charismatic of prehistoric beasts and I kept asking him why he didn't make something that would be more likely to sell.  He kept telling me that he made what people sent him references for, and if I really wanted him to make something else, I should send him a good reference.  Well, that might have been good for me in that I stood to get a free model, but at the same time Steve lamented the expense of resin and continued to fret about the probable paucity of customers that might be expected to purchase the kits after I received mine.  Not too long after that, Wiccart came out with a Styracosaurus and I had wanted one of those for a long time.  After all, it was a ceratopsian, even if it wasn't a Triceratops.  I bought #2 in his run (#1 went to the guy who gave him the reference, but my check allowed him to buy the resin to cast them both).  At the same time I also bought the Herrerasaurus, albeit at a bit of a haggled discount.  The Styracosaurus was a beautiful little kit that almost assembled itself and I painted it to look freshly cleaned.  It took me well over a year to even start on the Herrerasaurus.  It was huge and needed a lot of "adjusting" in order to fit, something apparently common with garage-type resin models and something I had no real experience with at that time.   However, I was happy enough just having it to buy his Riojasuchus skull, his Platecarpus (a mosasaur) and his Oviraptor.   All were well-cast and built up nicely, although by this time I was painting them to look more like "perfect" mineral-stained fossils than fresh bones.   Sometime around 1998 Steve told me that he was starting to work on a Triceratops skull, as someone had given him a reference.  His ads in Prehistoric Times and other magazines touted it as coming soon.  Unfortunately, Steve was never a fast sculptor and after several months of working on it, he found he had been beaten to the punch.  Ants had never made another full skeleton kit, but they hired a young paleosculptor from Georgia (the former part of the Soviet Union) named Lasha Tschondia to produce a line of small and affordable skulls.  Lasha was fast and could sculpt ten skulls in the time Steve could start scanning images into his Mac.  The Ants Triceratops was priced at less than half of what Wiccart planned to ask and Steve immediately scrapped the project, but I found him something to replace it.  While browsing the Yale University website I saw that Ostrom's monograph on Deinonychus was for sale at a ridiculously low price.  I told Steve that he should do a Deinonychus and he told me to get him the monograph so that I could get the free first kit.  While I pointed out that he could easily purchase it himself and save the cost of the resin for that freebie, he insisted that I do it his way.  So I bought it, copied it and sent it to him.  He was excited and while not every bone was covered in Ostrom's work, he was able to get additional information from several cooperative museums and went to work sculpting a 1/3 model of the critter.  Things got even better for him shortly after that.  Ants had a 1/3 scale Deinonychus skull made by Lasha Tschondia, but they weren't entirely happy with its accuracy.  They approached Wiccart with the idea that he could have their skull to modify for his skeleton kit, which would save him a lot of time.  Ants would get a more accurate skull out of the deal and better yet, they offered to cast, market and sell the complete skeleton.  This was great for Wiccart as Ants had a good name among paleo-philes and marketing was never Steve's strongest skill.  Furthermore, as already noted, production was expensive and Wiccart could avoid the up-front expense of the resin and the risk of ending up with unwanted inventory.  Unfortunately, this is another story that ended like a mirage dissolving just as you bend over to drink.  Ants abruptly went out of business and very soon after, so did Wiccart.  Before he shut down I decided to buy the Rhamphorhynchus skull, even if I still couldn't see getting the entire skeleton.   The proceeds of that sale allowed Steve to get the resin to send me the Deinonychus skull, as well as the arm and foot he had made, but the rest of the skeleton was never completed.  He had done a lot of the neck and tail, but I have no idea what happened to them.   Perhaps some day he will finish it, but I stopped checking my porch for a surprise package a long time ago.  I have yet to put the Deinonychus limbs together, although I did assemble the skull.  It took me years to get around to working on the Rhamphorhynchus skull, but that has actually worked out well, as I'll get to later.  A year after Wiccart shut down, I saw a complete Wiccart Rhamphorhynchus skeleton on Ebay and went for it at its original retail price, but I was outbid.  In late 2010 a collector in Singapore sold several Wiccart kits on Ebay, but otherwise I have never seen any of them for sale and as the production was always very limited, it is unlikely that any more will show up for sale any time soon. 

Did a dark cloud hover over Wiccart?  For several years Steve wrote a column in Prehistoric Times called the Modeler's Workshop.   He covered a variety of subjects related to assembling and painting dinosaur models.  On a number of occasions when I wrote letters and e-mails to him expressing frustration or asked questions about some of these subjects when trying to get his models together, those subjects would show up as the basis for the next column.  1998 Steve decided to do a series of articles on modifying the Glencoe Tyrannosaurus in order to make it more accurate.  It was really interesting seeing how someone else approached it.  While I had opened up all of the openings in the skull, he went a lot farther in modifying the shape of the jaw as well as altering the pelvis to make the parts conform to published literature.  At the same time, while I had put a lot of effort into detailing the neck and ribs, he pretty much decided to ignore those areas as being too much trouble to get right without performing major surgery.  As time went on, he found increasing frustration in dealing with the limitations of the original molds and began expressing outright hostility towards the kit, calling it the Glencoe T-wrecks.  Well, there were a lot of flaws, but remember, at the time it could be purchased for around $10, or one fortieth the price of the Kaiyodo Tyrannosaurus model.  His column was usually heavily illustrated, but there were a few times when he couldn't get his film back from the processor in time to meet the PT deadline,  (Mike Fredericks run a tight ship) so some of his articles were limited to text.  This was, of course, in the days before digital photography, which makes it possible to tell immediately how your shots come out and to save them before going on to anther step.  Ultimately, after he had photographed a significant number of the steps he had gone through, he sent his film to the processor and there was an accident.  The film was ruined and unusable.  So much documentation was lost that he scrapped the project entirely.  I wonder if any PT readers ever noticed that the Tyrannosaurus project was lost like other  incomplete works in history, alongside Coleridge's Kubla Khan, Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Puccini's Turandot?  Along with his Deinonychus, perhaps it is most appropriately listed with Mozart's Requiem and Bruce Lee's Game of Death.  What, too much?

RIOJASUCHUS   1/3    4.5"  (12 cm)

OVIRAPTOR  1/2   4.25"  (11 cm)

HERRERASAURUS  1/1    12"  (30cm)


STYRACOSAURUS  1/10      8" HORN TO BEAK  (21 cm)

PLATECARPUS   1/4     7"  (18 cm)

DEINONYCHUS  1/3 SKULL   3.75"  (9 cm)

Rhamclose  Rhamopen

   RHAMPHORHYNCUS 1/1   3.25"  (9.5 cm)

I finally assembled and painted this little kit.  For a bit more on its history and what finally allowed me to overcome a mental stumbling block to working on it, see my section on Oz and Echoes on Page 4.  This model was very tough to assemble.  The pieces were tiny and fragile.  The tip of the lower jaw snapped off several times.  The palate required a lot of coaxing to fit inside the skull.  The hardest part was the teeth.  I carefully inserted them using their sockets as a guide to proper positioning, but then the jaw couldn't close.   I was tempted to leave them that way, but the desire to get it right won out and I had to play oral surgeon, carefully extracting all of the teeth in the mandible.  After having planted them with superglue and kicker, that was not an easy job.  Many of the sockets had to be redrilled to allow the teeth to point in a slightly different orientation and the teeth themselves needed a fair amount of sanding and smoothing to allow them to slide past each other, sort of the way a boar's teeth mesh.  After each tooth was placed, proper jaw motion had to be verified.  It felt like assembling a rosebush and I consider it almost a miracle that I didn't impale myself, break any of the teeth or glue my fingers to the dentition.  Mounting the scleral rings was another challenge as there was no simple way to attach them.  The instructions suggested drilling a hole to attach a wire to each of them and then finding a discrete place inside the skull to attach the wire.  Right.  Rather than taking a chance on drilling into something that was paper thin, I formed a loop in some thin wire, dipped it in sugerglue and attached it to the back of the ring.  I ended up drilling a very tiny hole through the back of the skull on each side, threading the wire into it from the inside and then dripping glue onto the tip of the wire as it exited the back of the cranium.  That held the ring very nicely and allowed me to play with the positioning of the rings until I was happy without worrying too much that they would fall off and be impossible to reattach.  Whew!

For another really nice build-up of this kit, check out the links to Brant Bassam's Brantworks on Page 4!  In an interesting development, Brant has acquired a complete Rhamphorhynchus skeleton kit.  His website features the instructions for it and it is a monster.  Apparently the quality of the casting in the early Wiccart kits was pretty marginal and assembly involved attaching the phenomenal number of tiny, fragile parts to each other with wire after drilling appropriate holes in the fragile resin.  It looks like a daunting task and had I actually purchased the kit, it would almost certainly still be in my closet awaiting inspiration, time and a much younger pair of eyes.  Yikes!

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