Vault Tales 99 Safari toob Champsosaurus

Not a croc–but it was in the toob! And now you’ll know how!

We’re going to look at one of the oddest figures in an odd toob today, from Safari’s Prehistoric Crocodiles toob (item number 679804). Strange because it’s not really a crocodile at all, and strange because they’re such weird animals overall! I am speaking of course of the choristodere Champsosaurus, one of 10 figures in the Safari toob that was available from 2010 until 2017…yes, another toob that I will complain about no longer being available.

Okay, that mouth is weird. But from this angle the not-croc nature might stand out more.

This toob was released at the same time as the Safari Prehistoric Sharks toob, and I had a small hand in the development of both. My main purpose was suggesting species and giving some information about them. The original lists were probably 12-15 species, but this was when Safari moved to quality over quantity in their toobs (until this point, 12 was pretty standard). It was fun to oblige of course, and to have a hand in it. Among the crocs were some weird outliers–like our champsosaur friend here. It was almost cut in favour of something else (I can’t remember what…nothing cool though) but I managed to keep it in. Not only because I wanted a champsosaur figure–but because my museum was creating a new display featuring Champsosaurus gigas and other local Paleocene fauna, and hey, tie-in merchandise! I also made the argument that it makes a great educational moment regarding convergent evolution with its toob mates–and at least a few other figures are more croc-adjacent anyway, although more closely related.

Back view. A bit easier to see the wide, triangular head and long narrow snout.

It goes without saying that I have a few of these figures. Some are stored, but there’s of course one on display with the rest of the Safari figures. I personally like this model, although it could use a few tweaks–the tail seems a bit too tubular when it was probably a little flatter, and the legs are bit hefty–really, the whole animal past the neck feels a little thick in general. But maybe the more familiar interpretations are more shrink-wrapped, hewing too close to the skeleton. And, of course, the mouth is a bit rough–but it’s a toob figure, they can only capture needle-like teeth so well at this size, in this material. Finally, the paint scheme is…boring. There could have at least been a brown or light green wash over it, if not a pattern of some kind. Also…while I can’t find it now, I’m pretty sure it’s based on existing artwork from somewhere else. One thing that is great is that this figure has no scutes or plates, instead having a pebbled texture that reflects it’s more basal reptilian ancestry.

Cretaceous crocodile-like reptile hunter!

The figure is about 10cm long, so depending on species, the scale can vary from about 1:15 for the smaller species to 1:35 for the very large Champsosaurus gigas. Which means that it can fit in with dioramas or collections from a variety of age ranges and size ranges! Or it’s just great to have a little more taxonomic diversity. Honestly, I would expect that many fans of prehistoric figures probably have this toob already. It’s not quite to the level of the Prehistoric Sharks one (the Desmatosuchus isn’t their best) but the range is wide and, again, makes for some interesting small-scene potential. Again, my major complaint is that the toob is now out of production, but I would think that there are still some out there. So if you don’t have one, you should find one (either the whole toob or just this figure. Either way.)

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