1993 was the only year I ever took a break from collecting LEGO sets. That was the year Jurassic Park was released in cinemas, and like so many audience members the world over, I was transfixed. For the first and only time, I asked for something other than a new set for Christmas and my birthday, gobbling up as many of the Jurassic Park action figures and playsets as I could. These were blockbuster toys to go with a blockbuster movie, making a huge mark on the toy industry.
Suffice it to say, fans of a certain age when Jurassic park was released would have loved all of the sets with dinosaurs that LEGO designers have given us over the past few years. So if 1993, when Jurassic Park was released, is too far back, when did LEGO dinosaurs get their start?
Most LEGO fans will be well aware that the most recent outing with LEGO dinosaurs was the Jurassic World theme. This movie based range added two new types of dinosaurs to the menagerie – the movie specific hybrid dinosaur Indominous Rex and the dilophosaurus – although the latter was just the existing velociraptor body and bottom jaw with a new head and top jaw.
It had been a long time, over seven years in fact, since the last LEGO dinosaur had been available when an entire theme based on the subject matter came out of nowhere. The theme was Dino, and while its storyline was a bit thin, the sets were fantastic (the bizarre plot was that aliens opened up a portal to the age of dinosaurs, to spite humanity after having been defeated by mankind). What appealed to many fans was that the sets seemed to channel the Jurassic Park playsets from that memorable movie launch – the inspiration was not too subtle. Dino introduced four great new moulded dinosaurs – the t-rex, velociraptor, triceratops and coelophysis. Dino was something of a re-tread of a previous product line, borrowing ideas heavily from that prior theme. In 2005, the LEGO Group produced the short lived Dino Attack – released as Dino 2010 In Europe. Here the story was that mutant dinosaurs had been created by somewhat overly ambitious scienctists. All of the dinosaurs produced were giant moulded affairs which have remained unique to that theme – and are currently the largest LEGO dinosaurs released. Going further back than Dino Attack, 2001 was the heyday of LEGO dinosaurs. A collection of brick built models, constructed of specialized pieces, were spread across two themes. One was the Jurassic Park III tie in that was part of the Studios theme, the second being the dedicated Dinosaurs line. The very first theme to include prehistoric beasts goes to Johnny Thunder and the third wave of Adventurers. After raiding Egypt and the Amazon, Johnny’s adventures took him to a lost world, an island where dinosaurs had survived. The sets were mediocre at best, and these moulded dinosaurs look rather crude by today’s standards, particularly when compared to those from Dino and Jurassic World. But they fit in with the aesthetic of LEGO animals being produced at the time and are the original giant lizards of the LEGO world.