Monday, July 4, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The First Invicta Poster

Starting in the 1970s and continuing until surprisingly recently, Invicta Plastics of Leicester, England produced a line of (mostly) 1:45 scale plastic figures of dinosaurs and a handful of other prehistoric creatures (and a blue whale). For most of their run, the figures were only available in monochrome, each figure typically having its own associated colour of plastic (with some variation). For example, the Tyrannosaurus was usually a threatening deep red, while Brachiosaurus was green. Still, as you're reading this blog you probably know all this already, and likely own a few of the figures yourself - they are among the most eminently collectible of all the plastic dinosaur lines.

A couple of posters were produced alongside the line, both of which pictured a panoramic scene that showed the passage of time, with the sky graduating from red to blue as the millions of years went by. It's the earlier one that I happen to own, picturing decidedly retro creatures dating mostly from the 1970s. With apologies for the reflective glare/camera shake, as it's hangin' on me wall and I didn't want to take it down like.

The various illustrations are very faithful to the look of the original figures - right down to the poses and some of their more peculiar quirks. Starting in the Mid Jurassic, we come across this tail-dragging lizardy Megalosaurus. None of the Invicta figures had open mouths - when it came to the theropods' teeth, they were either concealed by scaly lips (as here) or very discreetly on show as in the case of the Tyrannosaurus (I'll return to that one). Note also that the right hand on this strange beast resembles a cat's paw, presumably because the earlier figures didn't have separated digits either.

was the first of three marine reptiles produced for the line, the others being Ichthyosaurus and Liopleurodon (or 'a pliosaur'). Here it's delightfully illustrated clutching a fish in its jaws, displaying the classic swan-neck posture that we now know the animals couldn't actually achieve in life. The head here is pretty strangely shaped, more resembling a generic theropod dinosaur complete with non-retracted nostrils.

The Invicta Iguanodon, with its kangaroo pose and willowy skin, looked like it had stepped straight out of a Neave Parker illustration, and it's worth contrasting with the later quadrupedal and straight-tailed Muttaburrasaurus. Here its weirdo wrinkly look has been quite faithfully recreated. The left leg merges somewhat with the tree behind, making it look like it has an horrific tumour.

Triceratops, then. The pose is identical to the figure, which I just so happened to review once, and its unlikely tail-dragging always reminds me of the rather historic mount in London's Natural History Museum (take time to check it out if you visit, it even has only three toes per foot). Notice how the frill appears to join the neck, a feature of the original figure that was probably to make moulding easier.

The poster features quite a few incidental details that one can easily miss at first glance. For example, here's a non-descript dinosaur corpse being consumed by a non-descript scavenging reptilian creature. At the far right of the poster, there's also a rather scrawny gentleman attempting to clamber up some palm trees, and I like to entertain the possibility that it's a self-portrait of the artist. In which case, granted, he was probably a mad hermit living in caves in Dorset and subsisting on fish and seagull innards.

Penultimately - Tyrannosaurus. This one's one of my favourites. I love the cheesy grin, the big lower lip, the impossibly meshed teeth, and the ear immediately behind the eye. Although the figure shared these flaws, the (dragged) tail was at least straight and the animal had a dynamic, striding posture bordering on modern (see my review, cough). This one, however, is standing around with its tail snaking all over the place. Note also that, just as in the figure, the head is far too narrow.

Finally: a happy mammoth. He's one cheery lookin' mammoth, that's for sure.

The artist's name, as it happens, was Ian Coleman, and very talented he was too. This is a real treasure, just as much as the (now) retro figures that were its inspiration.

If you want to find out more about the Invicta prehistoric creature models, try pointing your browser at the Realm of Rubber Dinosaurs, the Dinosaur Collector site, and of course the Dinosaur Toy Blog (whoever THEY are).


  1. This was the dinosaur toy line I grew up with and I remember seeing this poster advertised everywhere. Looking at them today, I love some of the really strange design choices: check out the "alligator back" on the Triceratops!

  2. Hey Marc,

    By chance, on the far right edge of this poster, is there a "caveman" climbing up the tree? I don't know why or how I stumbled across this post (you know how one thing can lead to another when surfing online) but I think this may be the poster I had as a child. This is the only picture I can find of it, but it looks very familiar. I'd love to know if this is actually it! I loved the poster I had and looked at it all the time for many years.



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