Yutyrannus is one of the most remarkable paleontological discoveries of the ’10s: a Tyrannosauroidae covered with feathers, ten times larger than the previous feathered theropod size record. No surprise that it was one of the most requested models when David Silva announced the third Beasts of the Mesozoic series, the one dedicated to tyrannosaurs. After more than a year of waiting, the model is finally in our hands.
The BOTM Yutyrannusis sold in a cardboard box with a transparent window, which contains the model itself (with the tail which needs to be assembled), an interchangeable pair of legs, three interchangeable pairs of feet, the two rocks that make up the base, an instruction sheet and a ccollectible card.
Based on the concept art shared by David Silva (unfortunately as far as I know Jacob Baardse, who did the 3D sculpture, has not posted the entire digital model) the Yutyrannus BOTM is based on the GAT skeletal. David Silva then manually sculpted the feathers on the printed digital model (see our previous article about the development of this model). Because of the feathering, Yutyrannus has a unique body compared to other Tyrannosauridae that use body 3 (with some pieces that are reused for Dryptosaurus), and this reduced the need of concessions to shared pieces: Yutyrannus may superficially resemble a feathered Allosaurus, but it has some pretty unique unique proportions, and the model is faithful to them: just have a look at how big the head is!
About the sculpture, there is a distinction between the head and the rest of the body: in the areas free of feathers, the head is covered by a fine work of scaling, except for the nasal, lacrimal and postorbital crests, which instead have a keratin coating (deduced from the roughness present in the fossil), while the nasal fossa looks like it represents naked skin. The scales on hands and feet are less detailed, but it is also true that they are less eye-catching areas areas. The proportions between the phalanges and the formula are respected (although I would’ve liked bigger claws, the keratin adds at least 15% of length), and it may look like a small thing, but it’s not uncommon to do it wrong! This also helps even during assembly, because in the instructions it’s indicated how the second toe (which has two phalanges, ungual excluded) should be on the inner side of the leg.
Given the articulations of the model, the feathering is rather close to the body, but Silva took care to sculpt it in different lengths, with longer filaments along the forelimb and on the back of the neck, where they also look thicker, as if Yutyrannus was straightening it feathers to appear more threatening – or someone had stroked him against the hair.
Even if the problem of balancing a bipedal animal is common to virtually all brands, in an action figure it’s exacerbated. The Raptor series included an acrylic stand, but for the Tyrannosauroidea David Silva went for another solution: interchangeable hind limbs, immovable below the knee, which should provide stability to the model. For the more dynamic poses, the package includes two alternative, movable hind limbs with three pairs of feet each that reproduce the cycle of a step. From the base (composed of two pieces of plastic that simulate a rocky terrain) protrudes a metal pin that can be inserted into the right or left foot of the immovable limb, allowing the other leg to be raised in a dramatic pose. The instructions advise against leaving the model in such action poses permanently: I have not yet had the opportunity to verify if it’s an excessive precaution or if there’s indeeed some risk of bending the fixed leg. Also take note that the metal pin does not fully fit into the foot, leaving the model floating a couple of millimeters above the base.
The remaining articulations allow to bend the model to represent a wide range of poses for Yutyrannus, without sacrificing the anatomy of the animal, although I would have liked a greater mobility for the head: apart from rotating sideways, it looks like incapable to bend it downwards, and I did not dare to force it in fear of damaging the model. I understand tho that there have to be some compromises between anatomy and articulations. Take note that the instructions suggest softening the model with a hairdryer before moving them the first few times. An articulation that I do not understand is the tail one, which is composed of three pieces with just the last one in flexible rubber with wire inside: taking into account the non excessive flexibility of theropod tails, I do not understand the choice not to make it completely rubber, since it’s not thicker than that of other action figures with entirely rubber tails (eg the Neca alien queen).
The rubber neck is a different thing: it looks like in my model – and in many others I’ve seen online, too – it was (for some reason) glued to the nape. Separating it with the help of a pencil was not that difficult, but it left some unsightly white spots on the back of the head. Luckly, the sheer size of the model is such that these spots are not that visible, unless close examination, but it’s a true shame and I wonder how much of this causes reduced mobility of the head I mentioned earlier. The neck itself would have benefited from a greater range of motion (it was definitely superior in the Raptor Series). Another defect I have seen – in varying proportions – in multiple specimens is a mouth that does not fully close.
The pattern, based on that of the Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), is quite simple, but nevertheless well executed, and it was studied so that most poses do not interfere qith the stirping, thus avoiding the “misaligned” effect. While on the body the colour is a simple alternating of dark brown and ivory white, with yellow hands and feet, on the top of the body there’s a darker wash that highlights the feathers, and a similar wash is present – with varying degrees of intensity depending on the area – on the head, adding a remarkable realism to the skull. Unfortunately, the painting is extremely delicate: when I freed the model from its box (keep in mind, I just lifted it, not moved it!) I received a small rain of tiny paint speckles, and every time I touch the model I find some other sticked to my fingers. Now, a somehow delicate paint application may be acceptable in a static model, but in an action figure (which should be created keeping in mind that it will end up to be moved quite a lot) it’s some real nuisance. Another issue is that the tail shows an abrupt change of color, from the ivory white of the body to ice white: this appears in all the models I have seen, so I’m unsure if it’s intentional or a defect of the whole batch, but it’s a fairly obvious defect and the tails looks separated from the body. There is something similar between the head and the neck. I hope that this and the glued plastic will be solved in subsequent productions.
Ultimately, the BOTM Yutyrannus suffers from some issues related to its nature of action figure, but compensates them with the accuracy, being among the best representations this animal: in the right pose, it’s really impressive.