July 27, 2010
I’ve mentioned Safari Ltd. a few times already on this blog (here and here, for example), so I probably don’t need to tell you that they tend to leave any competition in the dust when it comes to producing museum-quality plastic animal reproductions. One of their flagship brands is the Carnegie Collection, a line of toy dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures that first came out in 1989. Originally based on fossils from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the design of these replicas has become increasingly detailed and scientifically accurate over the years. Most of these figures are scaled 1:40, but there are exceptions, such as the 1:10 scale Ichthyosaurus, which just came out last month.
The Safari Ichthyosaurus is 8 inces long and painted with a color pattern similar to the modern Common Dolphin (Delphinus). The coolest feature of this sculpt is, of course, the Mesozoic ammonite gripped tightly in its jaws.
Ichthyosaurs (“fish lizards”) were a group of highly-specialized marine reptiles that dominated the world’s oceans for much of the Mesozoic era. They were most definitely not dinosaurs…but you knew that already, right? Appearing in the fossil record in the first part of the Triassic period (~245 million years ago), ichthyosaurs thrived during the Jurassic, but they went extinct before the end of the Cretaceous period, about 90 million years ago. Their fish-like body shape is often compared to that of modern dolphins as a classic example of convergent evolution. Fossil stomach contents show that some species definitely preyed on ammonites and belemnites, and it’s likely that cephalopods were an imporant part of a balanced breakfast for most ichthyosaurs.
The genus Ichthyosuarus itself, which lived in the Early Jurassic seas that covered what is now southern England and continental Europe 199-189 million years ago, was first discovered in early 1800s. These finds, including many complete skeletons, played an important role in how we came to understand the age of the earth and helped define the then brand-new science of paleontology.
I picked this up from the gift shop of the NC Museum of Life + Science (along with Cryolophosaurus, this year’s other new Carnegie dinosaur) as a birthday present for myself. Suggested retail is $8.99, and if you don’t have access to a museum gift shop or speciality toy store, you can order it online from Amazon.com or directly from Safari.
July 21, 2010
“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
This is Jacen Burrows’ wrap cover for Neonomicon #1. Written by Alan Moore and published by Avatar Press, this tale of modern Lovecraftian horror is the sequel to Moore’s earlier series The Courtyard. I think this book came out today, but I haven’t been getting out the comic shop as regularly as usual these days, so I could be wrong. Despite the amazing Cthulhu-licious cover, I didn’t pick it up today because I had a crap load of back issues waiting for me in my subscription folder. I’ll keep my eye out for the trade paperback compilation of the series, however.
Avatar Press is an independent American comics company that was, for many years, best known for publishing so-called “Bad Girl” comics. However, they’ve currently expanded their scope to include creator-owned titles by some of the biggest names in the field: Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Frank Miller, and, of course, Alan Moore. Find out more at AvatarPress.com.
Seriously, Alan Moore and Cthulhu..what else could you ask for in a comic?
Now for something completely different…
Also sighted today at Chapel Hill Comics, this giant plush octopus! I didn’t see a price or manufacturer on it, but it was at least two feet across and ridiculously soft. I’d like to imagine that Alan Moore snuggles up to one just like it when he’s writing his squelchy tales of cosmic horror.
June 27, 2010
To close out Plush Week, here is, hands down, the coolest plush cephalopod in my collection…maybe the coolest plush cephalopod EVER MADE. Measuring over two and half feet long, Wild Republic’s Gaint Squid dominates the toy box. This awseomely anatomically accurate Architeuthis (although the tag claims it to be simply a “Squid”) was produced in 2005. I picked mine up from a vendor at Dragon*Con a few years back, but it is still available online. For example, Amazon.com.
In addition to its overall size, this toy has many other impressive details. It’s eyes are nearly two inches in diameter, it has a ventral siphon, and there is a well-defined collar separating the head from the mantle. If you part the fuzzy arms and tentacles, you will find a pointy black beak. The only thing this squid is missing are the suckers.
A week ago on Father’s Day, I said I would reveal the outcome of Kid Indie Squid Kid’s encounter with the plush Architeuthis. And the winner is…
Kid Indie Squid Kid clearly had the upper hand (or tentacle, as the case may be me) in this battle. Although he seems to have enlisted the help of a certain ursine ally.
June 24, 2010
I venture to guess that most people are at least tacitly familiar with Beanie Babies, the hugely successful line of stuffed animal toys by Ty Inc. Beanie Babies were first introduced in 1993, and they still being made to this day. At one time, there was a rabid collectors market for the cute little toys, but that has been in decline for some time. Over the years, Ty has produced three different octopus toys, and, as you will see, the accuracy of the reproductions increases over time.
Inky the Octopus (6/03/1994 – 5/01/1998)
Inky’s head is big and round
As he swims he makes no sound
If you need a hand, don’t hesitate
Inky can help because he has eight!
Inky was the first Beanie Baby octopus, and it was your typical cartoony representation that bears little resemblance to any actual animal. Three different variants were produced: two gray versions (one had a mouth and one didn’t) that were pretty rare, and a common smiley pink version.
Wiggly the Octopus (1/25/2000 – 3/27/2001)
Under the sea I travel with ease
I flip and flop – do whatever I please
Being a squid can be lots of fun
Because I swim faster than anyone!
Ty’s next octopus was a vast improvement over old Inky…it actually looks quite a bit like a real cephalopod! The poem quoted above (all Beanie Babies have a little poem printed in their tag) seems to claim that Wiggly is a squid, but it’s abundantly clear that he is, in fact, an octopus. Its coloration is a cool shimmery red with white marbling, and there are these two weird stubby bits protruding from either side of the mantle. I have no idea what these are supposed to be, and I’d like to think that I am pretty well versed in basic octopus anatomy! Still, Wiggly is fine little toy, and the only one of these Beanie Babies that I actually own.
Opie the Octopus (4/23/2005 – 3/27/2006)
I live in the ocean blue
Have eight arms and a siphon, too
I squirt black ink and have two eyes
My body fits to any size !
Lastly, we have Opie, the latest and most accurate Beanie cephalopod yet. I’ve never seen it in person, but from the dark vein-like markings, it looks like it might have been based on the Coconut Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus). The common version (shown here) has blue eyes, but there was also a limited edition version with red eyes that was exclusively sold at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Ty Warner Sea Center.
June 24, 2010
Here we have another excellent toy from Wildlife Artists. It was produced in 1999, and, to my knowledge, it is the only plush reproduction of Vampyroteuthis infernalis ever made.
This little guy is 7″ tall/long, and its arms also span about 7″ across. The detail on this toy is fantastic! Not only is the color dead on (I love the eerie pale blue eyes!), but there are also a number of lighter spots on the mantle to represent the animal’s photophores. If you flip it over, its arms are lined with little dark marks to indicate the cirri, and it has a dark spot for the mouth/beak.
Like the plush cuttlefish (also by Wildlife Artists) featured earlier this week, I got this at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in 2001. That year they had a cool special exhibit about life in the abyssal ocean, and the gift shop was full of cephalopod-y goodness.
I bet you didn’t think I’d be able to figure out a way to tie Plush Week to Wednesday Comics, but with the Internet all things are possible!
Kristin Hogan is the co-creator, writer and artist of a comic book called Dead Squirrel Girl. Squids play heavily into the story, so she came up with an idea to make squid dolls. Her squids are approximately 19″ long and made of a variety of materials in a variety of colors and patterns. “Batsquid” is made from a bed sheet featuring characters from the 1992 movie, Batman Returns. He costs $38 and there is currently only 1 in stock, so if you want it ACT FAST!
Find out more about the comic and Kristin’s art at www.deadsquirrelgirl.com!
June 23, 2010
I have always had a fondness for plush versions of animals that are not, by any reasonable definition, cuddly. I remember a particular stuffed toy vulture that I wanted more than anything when I was about 8 or 9, and one of my favorite recent non-cephalopod toys is an awesome plush horseshoe crab. Sharks, bats, armadillos…the less you’d want to snuggle up with the real animal, the more I want to see a plush of it. Cephalopods, of course, also fall into the traditionally non-cuddly category, and what kind of cephalopod could be less hugable than the most venomous octopus in the world, Hapalochlaena, the Blue-ringed Octopus!
This particular Blue-ringed Octopus was purchased at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum gift shop some time in the mid-90s. It was made by K&M International, Inc., a leading purveyor of nature toys, plush and otherwise. These days, most K&M animal toys are sold under the Wild Republic brand, but this guy was made in 1994, which seems to predate the name change. Once again, I’m using a pen for scale (yes, I took all these pictures on the same day), and the exact measurements are 11″ across and 5″ high—at least twice as big as the real thing. The tag text just describes a generic octopus, and I seem to recall that it was available in a few different colors and patterns. Obviously, I had to choose the one that could cause instant death. Fuzzy, adorable, instant death.
June 22, 2010
Wildlife Artists, Inc is a toy company dedicated to making realistic plush animals. This cuddly cuttlefish is about 8″ long and was produced in 1999. If I recall correctly, I picked this up from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences gift shop sometime in 2001.
The tag doesn’t indicate which species it is meant to be, but based on the brown and yellow coloration, I would tentatively guess Sepia officinalis, the Common Cuttlefish. The Common Cuttlefish (also known as the European Cuttlefish) is found in the Mediterranean, Baltic and North Seas, and it typically reaches a maximum mantle length of about 45 cm—about twice a big as this particular toy.
I know that Wildlife Artists makes at least one other toy cephalopod (What could it be? Stay tuned to find out!), but I don’t know if there are others. You need a Customer Account to access their online product catalog, but, unfortunately, I can’t find any information on their website how to sign up for such an account.
June 21, 2010
Welcome to Plush Week! Everyday this week we’ll look at a variety of stuffed toy cephalopods, mostly from my own collection. I’ve already mentioned a few in past posts, such as Toy Vault’s Cthulhu and friends and the mysterious Tuffed Cuddlestache, and I figured it was finally time to highlight a few more.
Please note that the is is not PLUSHIE week. If you know what I’m talking about, I’m sure you are relived. If you don’t know what I mean by “plushie,” consider yourself lucky. Seriously, you are better off not knowing.
Annnyway…let’s kick off the week with a unique item that might be familiar to you if you’ve ever clicked over to the About Indie Squid Kid page.
This is a one-of-a-kind hand-made stuffed squid in the style of the classic Sock Monkey toy. My friend Stacie made if for me in 2005, and the photo above was taken then. (I look so young!)
The squid is about 24″ long and had green buttons for eyes. In the picture below (with a ball point pen for scale), you can just make out the red heel of the sock where’s the squids mouth would be. Like most of my plush cephalopods, it now lives on a shelf in Kid Indie Squid Kid’s room, but it will probably be a few years before I let him play with this one!