Ah, Animal Planet. In an era when almost every channel has succumbed to Network Decay, we can always count on Animal Planet if we want real, informative documentaries on… dragons? Dammit. Yeah, Animal Planet did a show on dragons. I mean, sure, it’s cool and all, but it feels like Cartoon Network running live-action sitcoms, The Learning Channel doing Honey Boo-Boo (though you can learn from that one. As a cautionary tale), History running Ice Road Truckers, or anything MTV has been doing since 1993.
And now they have toys! A boxed set of six dragons, available at pretty much any Toys R Us for $20. You can find it in the aisle with all the animals and dinosaurs – not among the expensive animals and dinosaurs, butabout halfway down the aisle, next to the generic ones.
It’s an open-faced package with ANIMAL PLANET branded across the front, just in case you doubted! Really. Animal Planet. The documentary – Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real – wasn’t bad, though that may be because Patrick Stewart narrated it more than anything else. But no, these dragons do not resemble the theoretically sorta-realistic CGI creations of the show. They’re pretty generic, but if you want to toss some dragon toys at your kids, you could do much worse. For one thing, they are durable – my cat has fallen in love with these figures, and they aren’t the worse for wear no matter how many times she assaults them with her razor-sharp claws. I personally like dragons, so I think they’re cool, but adult collector mileage may vary. Children, however, will probably eat these things up. So, let’s take a look at them, shall we?
Red and green dragons are usually your most “normal” in an assortment, and the red dragon is a pretty basic winged, horned scaly dude. His pose is fairly animated, but hard to photograph properly – he’s rearing up and turning around, which looks far better in-hand than in a two-dimensional photo. This is a common issue with toys, actually.
The green dragon is more of a turquoise, and differs from “basic” by having a beard. There are no explicitly asian dragons in this line, and his tiny beard is the closest they will come to a reference. By virtue of color and sculpt, green and red are the most “normal” of the group, though there is another dragon coming up pretty close behind them.
Purple is the last of the straight-up normal winged dragons. Without the beard, his shape is actually the most generic, though the curve in his back is more pronounced than green’s, making him appear slightly more like stylized art. Nearly every purple dragon I’ve seen has been more “magical” or fairylike than the others, though that clearly does not hold true here.
The yellow dragon has two heads. Now, two-headed animals do exist in the real world, though it’s a rare birth defect. It seems to be common with dragons. So, do they both have control (like with that snake in the video), are they conjoined twins? Is it one consciousness with two heads, or is one just kind of brain-dead? The world may never know.
The blue dragon, with three heads and no wings, is the epitome of cool. And the peitome of mutated genes and health problems, and will probably not live long, but that’s beside the point. There is actually somewaht of a dearth of figures like this or the yellow dragon, which is quite a pity considerng how creatively-designed one of them could be. The blue dragon is really very striking, with the heads arranged in one of this set’s better action poses. Two heads are clearly focused on the task at hand, while that third one got distracted by a butterfly.
And finally, there’s the black dragon. No wings, one head, but he’s the only one actively breathing fire. Now, people have made genuine scientific studies to see if it’s possible for something like that to work, and have developed a few theories based on the Bombardier Beetle, but I can’t really comment on that. The fire suffers from being a huge chunk of non-translucent plastic, but it’s sculpted and painted fairly well for what it is. You know, those solid eyes are kind of creepy in that color.
As generic as they are, these really are a fun set of dragons. My main rubric for judging a toy is, “Does it do what it sets out to do?” And not every figure has to be a high-end collectible. For what they are, they look great, the colors and poses are visually striking, and you get some variety for your $20. Considering their size, each dragon averaging out to a little over $3 is not a poor value, and these are toys kids could actually enjoy.