Dinosaur Island

When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure my favorite thing in the world was the giant triceratops outside of the National Museum of Natural History. It was big, and people could climb it. It was fun sitting right behind that big crest. It’s a real object, now on display at — of all places — The National Zoo.

My second favorite thing was probably the bright, multicolored, plastic dinosaurs that my parents would buy for me in the museum’s gift shop. They were, eh, I dunno — an inch long? Molded in bright colors: yellow, red, blue, green, etc.

At home we had a bunch of cardboard bricks in assorted sizes. Basically, I’m pretty sure they were these, except only the red ones.

Anyway, my friend Brendan would come over from across the street, and we’d build a big cool island out of those bricks and we’d organize these huge herds of dinosaurs. I know we were savvy enough to organize them by species — the brontosaurus with the brontosaurus, the triceratops with the triceratops, the tyrannosaurus with the tyrannosaurus … I can’t remember if we were smart enough to organize the herbivores into giant herds, or if we understood why carnivores would probably not live in huge herds with each other.

But then I got older, and I grew out of my dinosaur phase. Jurassic Park — both the movie and the book — briefly sucked me back in. I remember I had a scrapbook where I’d paste every article I could find about the movie, which, as I recall, was making the cover of magazines like Newsweek.

A few weeks ago, needing a quick read, I snagged my well worn eighteen year old mass market of Jurassic Park and stuffed it into my bag. I liked it when I was a kid, and it’s held up well (as opposed to The Relic, which I read back in ’96 and re-read last week and did not hold up well at all). I re-read The Lost World also, which just reaffirmed what I thought the first time I read it, when I was like sixteen: shitty, shitty book. Seriously, it feels like Crichton just said “Eh, easy few million” and spent a couple days in front of his typewriter.

You know what I really hate about it? At the end of Jurassic Park, Crichton specifically states Ian Malcolm is dead. Only to resurrect the asshole for the sequel. Argh.

Anyway, the point of that whole interlude was that I remembered those little plastic dinosaurs I played with as a kid. I stopped by the National Museum of Natural History, but they were no longer sold there (I did buy some larger plastic dinosaurs, which are damn cool in their own right, but not quite what I was looking for).

I was curious to see if I could find any of these dinosaurs, but I was pretty sure I’d have no luck. Imagine how shocked I was, thirty seconds into Googling, when I’d found that the dinosaurs I’d remembered had been cast from molds originally produced by Nabrisco in the 50s and 60s as cereal prizes. And were still being produced under the TootsieToy line!

Well, supposedly. TootsieToy’s website isn’t the most user friendly in the world and I can’t find “plastic dinosaur” on their inventory page anywhere.

Still … I’ll find them. Someday. I’ll find them.

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