Back in 1993 I had a dream. It was the one and only year I took a break from collecting LEGO sets. The reason was simple; Jurassic Park. The blockbuster movie blew my mind and for one round of Christmas and birthday celebrations, brick based toys were off my list, I was opting instead to collect as many of the Kenner toys as possible. I loved them to death, through hours of play. My dream, was that those two worlds would merge and that Jurassic Park would appear as a LEGO theme. Alas, 1993 was six years before the first LEGO licensed theme, Star Wars, and decades before my dream would actually become a reality with Jurassic World. While not in time for me to play with as a child, this dream actually nearly came to fruition before the LEGO Group teamed up with Universal for Jurassic World. How is this possible? The Dino theme.
Released in 2012, the precursor to an Jurassic Park theme premiered the modern dinosaurs that have gone on to re-appear in both Jurassic World outings. The premise of Dino was that the aliens from Alien Conquest, a one shot theme from the year prior, had opened a time portal and brought back pre-historic beasts to terrorise the LEGO populace after having been thwarted in their attempts to conquer the earth. For the record, this was dreamed up by those behind the play theme, and referenced in some marketing materials, but most children and collectors would have been completely unaware of this bizarre backstory.
What struck me as interesting about the sets was how they seemed to bear a remarkable resemblance to those old Kenner Jurassic Park toys from my youth. Considering I was now a gainfully employed adult, it did not seem a huge stretch to imagine a peer of mine growing up to be a designer at the LEGO Group and using those same beloved childhood toys for inspiration.
This was the first Dino set I saw and the similarities to my beloved Bush Devil Tracker immediately stuck me. In the first instance, it is a two seater jeep with a single rear seat that operates an overhead gun. This is exactly like the Kenner toy in which the rear compartment allowed an action figure to operate a spring loaded gun not unlike the flick fire missiles of 5884. Even more compelling in my mind, it includes a noose and pole system to capture dinosaurs. Despite the fact that neither a missile launcher nor a noose was part of this vehicle in the movie, they served as the main play features of the Bush Devil Tracker toy. The LEGO version is of course a different colour and includes figures, a raptor and small bit of scenery, all of which were sold separately as part of the Jurassic Park action figure range, but otherwise there are a lot of similarities.
5886 T-Rex Hunter and Capture Copter
Let us first acknowledge that the entire premise of the original Jurassic Park film is our heroes attempting to get on a helicopter so that they could escape Isla Nublar. So this 1993 vehicle, that involves them flying all over the island in a helicopter like dinosaur capturing badasses instead of hightailing it for land, is ridiculous. That ridiculous concept aside, LEGO designers appear to have taken a page from the old playset with their own design. Both are helicopters designed to capture dinosaurs from the air. In the case of the Kenner toy, a large net was included whereas LEGO opted for a claw system that stealthily attached to the included T-Rex’s back
5887 Dino Defense HQ and Command Compound
The holy grail for children who loved Jurassic Park back in 1993 was the Command Compound. Channeling the giant G.I. Joe playsets of the 1980s, this massive hunk of plastic contained an enclose paddock, lab and command center modeled in the aesthetic of the visitor centre from the film. It was the ultimate toy of the line. LEGO designers seemed to channel it in both the largest set from Dino and Jurassic World’s original wave, but the Dino one seems the most similar with the swinging gates, lattice fences and elevated command space looking down over everything. Dino Defense HQ was also notable for including all of the moulded dinosaurs created for the theme, that have shown up in later Jurassic World sets.
Hopefully future dinosaur related sets will be as awesome as what has come before, and not be afraid to mine classic toys for inspiration when building something for the next generation.
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