Figure 8: Dino-Riders

The PoP!-Stars give their take on the latest and greatest in Action Figures and Toy-lines in eight (succinct) parts.

It’s 1988 and the major toy companies have got all the bases covered:  There are soldiers, transforming robots, and superheroes all over the place.  But Tyco, purveyors of fine remote controlled cars and crappy Lego knockoffs, had a plan.  The ultimate trump card.  Mother-lovin’-dinosaurs!  But not just dinosaurs… dinosaurs with armor.  And guns!  And little minifigures to ride them!  That’s right… little, tiny – Dino-Riders!

dinoriderslogo1

So what was so great about these prehistoric pieces of plastic?

Click the pic to see what's inside!

Click the pic to see what's inside!

The packaging – Not usually what I’d lead off with, but sweet mother of GOD! these toys had some gorgeous box art.  I was just a kid and in no way, shape, or form interested in displaying my toys mint-in-box – hell, I didn’t even know it was something one WOULD do – but damn, these toys were designed for it!  On the outside, the box displayed stunning art featuring the dinosaur and rider within.  Open the flap and see the figures and their accessories clearly displayed, along with a blow by blow of the toy’s many action features.

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Series 1 and 2

The toys – Most companies would’ve been happy to sell you the dinosaur as a toy in and of itself.  These figures were so accurate (well, as far as we know), that the Smithsonian later commissioned Tyco to re-release the dinos themselves branded as Smithsonian replicas.  Each dino was highly detailed, beautifully painted, and pretty well articulated.  But that wasn’t it!  It came with removable armor (usually loaded with weapons) and its rider, who also came with a whole slew of weaponry.  These little dudes were about in scale with MASK figures, just to put things in perspective.  And the flyers came with what looked like little clear plastic dixie cups to be used as flight stands!  Seriously, you’re talking bang for your buck, here.  But, to quote the late, great, Billy Mays, THAT’S NOT ALL!

Most of the Rulons came with a trap.  These were disguised as rocks, logs, and other innocuous bits of nature, but each sprung into action to capture a poor, witless dinosaur.  Honestly, these may have been the best part of the toyline.  But wait – as Billy would say – there’s more!  Each toy also came with a mini-comic.

The story – Between the mini-comics and the cartoon, we got a pretty good idea of what was going on here, and to be frank, it was fairly decent.  I mean, at least as far as 80’s cartoons were concerned.  The evil Rulons, led by Krulos, were in pursuit of the Valorians when Questar activated their STEP Crystal and teleported the Valorians to prehistoric Earth.  Of course, the Rulons flagship was dragged along with them, and the two ships crashed in a world over-run by dinosaurs.  Both groups came to the same conclusion – enslave the massive beasts.  While the good guys decided to use their telepathic powers to trick the dinosaurs into helping them, the Rulons thought it was much more sound to establish a manufacturing system for “brain boxes” to place on the dinos and subjugate them through force.  This is why their toys came with traps… to capture the naked dinos before enslaving them to their will.

This... uhh... this pretty much sums it up.

This... uhh... this pretty much sums it up.

Either way, the end result was dinosaurs strapped with guns, and it was awesome.  The only real difference is that while brain boxes could be removed, freeing the captive dinos from their cruel masters, there was no way to save the heroic dinos from the oppression of the Valorians’ telepathic powers.  Thus, nearly every episode ended with the removal of the brain box from the T-Rex – Krulos’s own personal transport – and the subsequent routing of the Rulon forces sans their greatest weapon.

brontosaurus_-_2The big guns – Speaking of the T-Rex, he was one of the three largest sets in the Dino-Riders collection.  Released alongside the Diplodocus – the Valorian’s tactical battle platform, the T-Rex was a monstrous toy that demanded respect.  With gun stations on either side and a tail gunner in the rear, saws mounted to each leg to cut through the brush in its way, a command turret for Krulos, and tiny robot arms on the creature’s front – mimicking the dinosaur’s own diminutive appendages – the T-Rex was a force to be reckoned with.  How could the Diplodocus’s limited arsenal ever compete?  When series two hit, it became clear that it couldn’t.

Then we got the Brontosaurus.  An upgrade over its amphibian cousin, the Brontosaurus was humongous and weighed in at roughly $75, a fairly hefty price tag in that day and age.  The Brontosaurus was so large, however, that along with the standard weapons and armor, in included a flight deck equipped with three small Pterodactyls.  Oh yes, this was the USS Flagg of Dino-Riders, my friends.

The action features – Each dinosaur (except those at the lowest price point) had some sort of push button action feautre.  Dinonychus ran/kicked.  The Pteranodon flapped its wings.  Pachycephalosaurus butted its head.  But the larger dinos like the Triceratops and the big three above?  Battery operated walking action, all the way.  What else would you expect from Tyco?

For my part, I always took the batteries out.  What can I say, I was a lazy kid who didn’t want to turn on his toy only to have it walk away from him.  I can’t imagine how many children developed some sort of complex when their Dino-Riders slowly toddled off to freedom; even their toys didn’t want to play with them.

"Lord Krulos!  That rock's looking at me!"

"Lord Krulos! That rock's looking at me!"

The Commandos – Somehow, amidst a toy line predicated upon dinosaur gunships doing battle with one another, some of the greatest and most memorable toys were the single packed Valorian Commandos.  Each figure had a specialty and accessories commensurate with their particular field.  Glyde, for instance, had a hang glider, a staple of toys in the 80’s.  Then there was the camouflage specialist, Kameelian.  I’ll let that one sink in for a second.

The Ice Age – The final wave of Dino-Riders toys featured no dinos at all, and was clearly the death knell to the line.  Comprised of assorted mammals and their caveman riders, the new toys were feautred in a single episode aired as a “special” after the completion of the Dino-Riders series.  What little logic existed within the confines of this universe went straight out the window given that the cavemen were neither telepaths nor using brainboxes, lending one to wonder why the sabertooth tiger in this assortment didn’t simply roll over and consume its cruel master.  ::shrugs::

Perhaps the next wave could've included a manatee, a dragon, and a toaster...

Perhaps the next wave could've included a manatee, a dragon, and a toaster...

The voices – It was, after all, the 80’s, and Dino-Riders did have a cartoon.  That meant two things.  Peter Cullen and Frank Welker.  That’s right, Optimus Prime and Megatron were amongst the cast here, with Welker lending a particularly Dr. Claw-esque growl to Krulos while Cullen took up the voice of Gunnur, who was apparently Ironhide’s second cousin by marriage.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look, and a listen, for yourself – then leave us a comment and let us know how much you just spent eBaying back this long lost part of your childhood.  It’s okay, we understand.

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Who ARE these people!?

Jason Kerouac is a co-founder of Panelsonpages.com. He spends roughly half of his waking life in servitude to the Giraffe. Raised in a town in New Hampshire you've never heard of, he now lives in Indianapolis, IN and is pretty sure that's a step in the right direction.

Comments (6)

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  1. Robert Eddleman says:

    “For my part, I always took the batteries out. What can I say, I was a lazy kid who didn’t want to turn on his toy only to have it walk away from him. I can’t imagine how many children developed some sort of complex when their Dino-Riders slowly toddled off to freedom; even their toys didn’t want to play with them.”

    You say that like they were fast or something. I had the T-Rex and the Triceratops, and the weren’t exactly swift. Especially not on carpet.

    • JasonKerouac says:

      Hey! I said I was lazy, what the hell do you WANT from me? I think it was more the psychology of it, honestly. You’re sitting there, and you turn your toy on, and it starts its trek to freedom. But hell, I also took the batteries out of toys with annoying sound effects just so I could play with them normally. Maybe I was adopted from an Amish family.

  2. Ric Magnum says:

    These were awesome. I had tons of them! I still have the first episode of the show on VHS. The episode ends with a battle between the Stegasaurus (good guys) VS the T-Rex (bad guys), if I remember correctly. Awesome toys, awesome cartoon.

  3. anonymous says:

    For your information, the Dino Riders didn’t oppress dinosaurs. Instead, they influenced them. By calling the Valorians’ telepathic powers oppressive, you make it sound like the humans are villains when they really aren’t.

    If the Dino Riders’ telepathy was oppresssive, they’d control the dinos as much as the Rulons did.

  4. anonymous says:

    Also, the Vlaroians never enslaved dinosaurs. Instead, they befriend them. So don’t try to make a false assumption that would make you paints any heroes as villains ’cause doing that might cause you to ruin fun for those who like and love things that you blogged and blog about.

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