Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Postcards from my childhood

Who doesn't adore a load of loveable lizardy dinosaurs dragging their tails through a bland, generic desertscape - especially when said dinosaurs are endearingly retro, carefully sculpted models? Back in the day, Toyway (known now for filling the Natural History Museum gift shop with awful tat) produced a range of postcards with just such a subject matter...and here are some of them.


I collected these back in the early 1990s, and they were all purchased from Wisbech Museum in Cambridgeshire (East England); my grandparents lived in the nearby town of March. The first one I acquired was actually the "Trachodon" (below), I believe in 1993 (when I was five years old). I remember being convinced that it was a Baryonyx when I saw it in the shop, based on the long snout alone. Of course, Rexy (above) will always be the favourite - with his rather large, dark, wet, puppydog eyes, he's actually surprisingly cute.

Never you mind those suspiciously humanoid arms.
Being rather obscure, I haven't been able to find any further information on these postcards on the internet. Who sculpted the models? Who took the photographs? When were they first published? I've seen hints that they're considerably older than the 1990s (which makes sense, given the retro nature of the models), but there's very little to be found on the back of the cards themselves. The reverse of each card is divided in two with space for a stamp (it's a postcard after all), with a short paragraph on the animal in several languages at the bottom and the text "TOYWAY, LETCHWORTH, HERTS, 0462 672509". Brits of a certain age will note the missing 1 after the 0 at the start of the phone number, dating these to the early '90s at the latest.


Over on Facebook, Billy Sands mentioned getting some of these when he went to see The Land That Time Forgot, which came out in 1975. The postcards certainly have more than whiff of the old-school B-movie about them - the ultra-generic desert landscapes remind me a great deal of Hammer's 'prehistoric' films, which were inevitably filmed in more barren regions of the Canary Islands. The lack of imagination displayed in the scenery seems to extend to the models themselves. They're beautifully sculpted, but you'd have thought that they could've at least given the "Trachodon" and Iguanodon different colours...


That said, they still would have looked fantastic in a dinosaur book from the '60s. They are very typical of that era, from the Louis Dollo/Neave Parker-style Iguanodon with permanently flexed elbows, to the Godzilla-pose Rexy and extremely squat, short-tailed Ankylosaurus (above). This isn't the entire set, of course - I remember there being a Triceratops, a Triceratops v T. rex scene, and more. If any of you have some of these cards, or know more about them, please let me know - I'd love more information about where they came from and who was behind them. Besides Toyway.


And finally...this Triceratops postcard comes from a different (seemingly later) Toyway series, featuring a number of similarly stylised illustrations of dinosaurs. It appears to be heavily based on the Invicta toy, which isn't too surprising; today, it'd be a Papo instead. The trees look a bit like they're out of a Playmobil set.

But that's enough for this little diversion. Next time, whenever I can be bothered: a proper Vintage Dinosaur Art!

6 comments:

  1. At first I thought they were the dinos from the vintage Dinosaurs view master reel (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/e6/5c/25/e65c2523d786a23146ea4a314ceaf90c.jpg). Just similar style though.

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  2. These look very familiar. I'll have to dig through my bookshelves to find it, but I'm sure I have a book using these or a very similar style.

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  3. I suspect paleoartist Arthur Hayward, see also https://chasmosaurs.blogspot.nl/2015/05/vintage-dinosaur-art-superbook-of.html

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  4. I'm pretty sure the book Thomas Diehl is referring to is Ellis Owen's 'Prehistoric Animals - The Extraordinary Story of Life before Man' from 1975, which is full of photographs of models of prehistoric animals.

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  5. I have a suggestion for your Vintage Dinosaur Art feature: "Explore the World of Prehistoric Life" by Dougal Dixon and Tim Hayward (https://www.amazon.com/Prehistoric-Life-Tim-Hayward/dp/0307156079/ref=sr_1_24?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484363424&sr=1-24). If it's the one I remember from my childhood, it had an illustration of Troodon (referred to as Stenonychosaurus) that used to freak me out.

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  6. These images were very prevalent in the 80's I had a big poster of the Triceratops vs Tyranossurus Rex image and possibly another one of Stegosaurus from the same set. They would have come from the Australian Museum in Sydney, circa 1981. At 5 years old it was the first time I ever visited a museum, and just to sweeten the deal, they played Land That Time Forgot on the TV the night before we went- my Dad let me stay up and watch it, and that was the first time I'd ever seen dinosaurs come alive on the screen- what a classic! I was a big Doug McClure fan after that, following up quickly with Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and Warlords of Atlantis.

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