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Desert Dragon

Safari Ltd.
by yo go re

You may not know the name "Safari Ltd." They produce solid PVC toys, so you could have seen their products without being aware of it. And while they're not the category of toys we normally review here, if a company asks you if you want some free things for review, you say yes!

Residing only in arid, uninhabited deserts, the Desert Dragon is feared by all who travel the endless scorching sands of the world's great deserts. Its armored scales and powerful pincers have ensured its survival to the present day.

That's only part of the information Safari Ltd. has on their site about this beastie. They've also provided a scientific name (Draco desertum), characteristics, history, a story... the only "packaging" the figure gets is a tag around its neck and a plastic tray to keep the legs from getting warped, so dumping out tons of info digitally is an unexpected bonus!

So yes, as that says, this is part of Safari's Dragons line, even though it doesn't look much like one. It definitely owns the "desert" part of its name though, since it looks like nothing so much as a massive scorpion. A massive, monstrous scorpion, not just an oversized version of the bug. It's got eight legs and two claws, but there is no mistaking this for a scientific model of a real-world creature. For instance, real scorpions don't have toothy underbites, mandible spikes, or six red eyes beneath bony brows.

The dragon's scales are not small, individual bumps, like a lizard would have - rather, each is a single scalloped plate that's as wide as its whole body. The striations run lengthwise, rather than following the shape of the scales, suggesting that they grow in straight lines, rather than getting bigger in every direction. Think of tree bark vs. a turtle's shell. It suggests that as the desert dragon gets bigger with age, it proudes more scales. Maybe you can tell how old it is by counting the ridges? One year per segment seems too young, but one century seems too much; maybe one new scale every decade? That could work. He'd be around a cetury old, by that measure.

The upper surface of the dragon's body is tan, and there's a gold drybrushing that catches the edges of the scales. The claws on the end of each leg (two on the front leg, one on each leg behind that) are gold as well, keeping the theme going. The underside is a dusty blue, for some reason - it makes a great contrast, but I'm not sure of the kayfabe reason for it. What evolutionary advantage would a blue belly serve?

There's no articulation, of course, but the figure has a nicely dynamic pose. Its head and shoulders are twisted to the left, like it's suddenly rounding on an enemy that was trying to sneak up on it. One leg on each side is raised off the ground, creating a feeling of movement - this is not a dragon standing still in a display pose, it's been captured mid-action, like a snapshot.

Like any good scorpion, the desert dragon has claws and a stinger. The tail isn't just a simple stinger, but gets the added benefit of barbs on the top and sides. It would cause some massive trauma stabbing into something, even before we even start thinking about venom. The claws look pretty fearsome, but since the dragon has a longer neck than a scorpion would, they don't stick out any farther than his face, limiting their usefulness as weapons/tools.

It's not really clear what scale the desert dragon is supposed to be in - the toy is about 6½" long and 3⅞" tall, but how big is a mythological creature? Maybe it's just because the awesomeness of the Clash of the Titans trailer is permanently ingrained in my memory, but I associate giant scorpions with Greek myth, so I got this toy for Wonder Woman or Kratos to fight. It may not be as big as the ones in the movie, but a scorpion the size of a motorcycle would still be pretty scary, right? Imaginative monsters are more fun than real-life replicas, and Safari Ltd. came up with a great beast here.

-- 06/10/17

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