Monday, April 18, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Panini Dinosaur Stickers

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Thanks to the efforts of reader Ryan DeLuca, today I'll be sharing a really cool piece of dinosaur print ephemera from the 80's: a sticker album printed by the Italian company Panini. On Flickr, Ryan writes that it "cost $.35 for the album which was blank and you bought random packs of stickers (usually from the grocery store checkout aisle) to complete the album." The artwork is a mix of styles, and likely a few different artists were employed, but they are not credited in the book.

The book introduces the reader to all sorts of prehistoric animals, and is notable for just how gonzo some of the depictions are: though there are some static, lateral views of the animals, it also features wild predator-prey interactions. Witness the Ceratosaurus feeding frenzy below.

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In addition to lurid depictions of ancient life, red in dentition and unguals, the book includes some hilariously wrong copy coupled with excessive exclamation mark usage. Read this account of the earliest reptile life.

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"It's a gigantic tyrannosaurus, as big as a tree and a ruthless killer!" Also of note is the swimming Dimetrodon, about to go ballistic on a Diplocaulus, who the authors want you to compare to extant animals with sails on their backs. I love the wonderfully overheated caption for image 72, which describes a Cynognathus "brutally attacking the peace-loving kannemeyeria, tearing at its back!"

The pages devoted to sauropods and pterosaurs (sorry, "flying dinosaurs") show, predictably, a mix of Knight and Burian influences, some blatant ripoffs, others somewhat modified.

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Despite the way the writer plays fast and loose with the evolutionary relationships between aquatic reptiles, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs, they oddly make a point of stressing that birds are not the descendants of pterosaurs.

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The "flying dinosaurs" naturally have counterparts in the sea. Meet the "dinosaurs in water," a mix of aquatic reptiles of various stripes and true-blue dinosaurs like the lambeosaur Parasaurolophus, here using its impressive crest as a snorkel.

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Not even the scientist who coined the term "Dinosauria" is immune to the illustrators' penchant for tracing Burian's work. I speak of Richard Owen, in the middle of the bottom row here, whose face resembles Burian's portrait a bit too closely for comfort.

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Likely working on a tight deadline and for little money, it's not too surprising that the illustrators basically picked from a grab-bag of old artistic and behavioral tropes. Still, I must admit that I find it a little shocking that the makers of a sticker book for children wouldn't devote the time and effort it takes to depict ancient life according to the best contemporary scientific understanding. If this project doesn't deserve that devotion to the facts, what does?

Thanks again to Ryan for sharing this piece of childhood memorabilia with us. You can find the rest of his scans at the Vintage Dinosaur Art Flickr group. Feel free to scan the old dinosaur books in your collection and share them there, too.

11 comments:

  1. This is amazing! I think I had this book when I was little. The whole "First Reptiles" page is... well, it sure is a thing isn't it?

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  2. i had that sticker book too. I even hung on to the little figures that came in each packet. I remember getting the packets (as you noted) in the checkout aisle. This was in the early 90's, when sticker books like this seemed to have been on their way out.

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  3. Ha! Look at that "oviraptor"! I fondly remember having this book and collecting the stickers when I was little in the '80s as well.

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  4. I'm glad more people remember this! I also got another sticker album from Panini in 1992 which had about 40 fewer stickers in the complete album but a lot of different artwork from what is shown on these pages. The descriptions were still as mind numbing though. haha

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  5. I remember these!
    The Flesh-Eating Dinosaurs page is simply awesome.

    Consider that for the time these animals are being portrayed as energetic and vigorous instead of slow lizards.
    Brutal! Nicely rendered too!

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  6. Yes! I fervently collected these stickers and forced my mom to order the missing ones so I could complete the book..
    I also remember the figures that accpaleo mentioned. You could order a cardboard display, so that all the little dinosaurs could hang out together. Good times :)

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  7. Lol, I love how instead of "attacking" the stegosaur, the Allosaurus is "destroying" a stegosaur.

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  8. Me and my bro had this and we collected all the stickers ...its so amazing to see someone still has this book ...!!!

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  9. I fell in love with Dinosaurs for the first time when my mother bought this for me as a gift. I wish I still had it, I think I needed 3 more stickers to complete the album. Thanks for reminding me about a bit of my childhood.

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