The “Giganotosaurus carolinii 1:35 Scenario Set” is the first model of the Vitae line and the first attempt by the sculptor Cheung Chung Tat to enter the PVC figure market, since previously his only sculptures available to the public were resins produced in quantity. limited. The works of this paleoartist can be seen in his deviantart gallery or on his Facebook page and have appeared in numerous publications.
Upon its release in 2017, the model was available in two versions: Standard and Limited. The Limited version had more elaborate coloring, additional elements in the base and was accompanied by a print of a numbered illustration by Cheung Chung Tat, depicting the animal. In the 2021 Reissue there are two versions (Regular and Cheap). This review is for the Regular version, purchased in 2017.
The model, made of TPR, is sold inside a cardboard box, which presents on the outside a black and white illustration, photo of the model and a brief description of the animal. The packaging does its duty to protect the figure: despite having received it slightly dented, the contents did not present any damage. The model is packed in white foam, and consists of five pieces: Giganotosaurus itself, the base, a PVC trunk and two metal pins.
Giganotosaurus carolinii (Coria & Salgrade, 1995) is a mid-Cretaceous (Cenomanian) theropod from Argentina, which rose to the limelight upon its discovery as it was presented as “larger than Tyrannosaurus” (in reality, the two animals seem to have a similar length, while Tyrannosaurus was more massive). This “spectacularization” did more harm than anything else to Giganotosaurus: copies of the skeleton were immediately made that can now be observed in various museums, but with distorted and exaggerated proportions to make it appear more imposing. An article by National Geographic also contributed to this, advertising what has become the infamous reconstruction of the skull: this version, unfortunately still used today in several models – even the famous Eofauna! – presented a postorbital window deformed in a way that does not resemble that of any Allosauroidae, clearly to give the impression that the skull was longer. Only in 2013 Scott Hartman presented a new reconstruction of the anatomy of Giganotosaurus, this time made on the basis of phylogenetic inference with related genera such as Acrocanthosaurus and Mapusaurus – whose remains do not at all support such a deformed postorbital window – and it is precisely on the reconstruction of Hartman based the Giganotosaurus Vitae: As can be seen from an image released by Cheung Chung Tat of the digital model not yet posing, Hartman’s skeletal has been literally traced. This is one of the very few models of this animal to have a correct skull, and the only one with the correct skull to have no other serious anatomical problems.
As I said, the head may appear strange to those accustomed to the reconstruction of traditional Giganotosaurus, but it is much more likely that the animal’s skull had this shape, compared to the deformed and elongated one. Two of the characteristics that distinguish Giganotosaurus from related genera such as Mapusaurus and Carcharodontosaurus are the presence of lacrimal crests (i.e. the horns in front of the eyes very evident, for example, in Allosaurus) and roughness along the nasal bones (which run along the top of the muzzle. ) which probably supported a keratin coating, and both are faithfully reproduced in the Vitae model. The nostrils and auditory openings are present in the correct position, and when viewed from the front, binocular vision is poor (i.e. the eyes mostly point sideways, as seen in the reconstructed fossil). The scales on the skull are very fine and I doubt they would be visible without the coat of paint that was applied over it without covering the interstices. On the back of the mandible, which compared to the fossil is rounded to consider the presence of the adductor muscle, there are some larger and more pointed scales. The teeth terminate correctly before the lacrimal bone; are one of the few criticisms that can be leveled at the model: although they are in an appropriate number, based on various reconstructions, some appear too straight and needle-like. Perhaps a limitation of the material used? In any case, given the size, this is a fairly negligible detail. Inside the mouth you can see the tongue, which is wide and flat: this is based on comparative studies with crocodiles and birds. On the palate there are the choanas, which connect the oral cavity with the nostrils: this is a detail that is often ignored or forgotten in favor of a cavernous mouth that Jurassic Park has accustomed us to – but, once again, in in line with what we observe in crocodiles and birds. Both the nostrils and the auditory openings are present, in an appropriate position.
A row of irregular spines start from the nape and continue to the tip of the tail, accompanied by a double row of small tubercles (similar to those of Carnotaurus) that reach up to the pelvis. The neck is suitably massive and on the underside is full of carefully sculpted folds and wrinkles. On the body there is a thickly incised skin, vaguely similar to that of a pachyderm of today, alternating with areas of coarser scales. The yield is extremely realistic, if we consider that the millimeter scales we know in theropods, on an animal from a dozen meters, would be practically invisible.
You immediately notice that the body is extremely robust: this is not one of the shrinkwrapped reconstructions of G.S. Paul. One of the criticisms leveled at Hartman’s skeletal is the presence of an incomplete scapulocoracoid, which – if reconstructed on the basis of related species such as Tyrannotitan – would be more in line with what one would expect from an Allosauroidae. This is not a problem with the Vitae model, as the mass of the torso is such that this bone – which would be visible in other shrinkwrapped reconstructions – is completely hidden by the soft tissues. The pubic foot, which many reconstructions insist on protruding from the abdomen for no real reason (Scipionyx clearly shows its role in supporting the intestine) is also integrated into the animal’s musculature here. The thigh and tail area, another sore point of many models – which ignore the presence of the caudofemoral muscle, the largest muscle in current reptiles – is equally adequately massive: the tail is almost circular in section! This is extremely appropriate, given that this is the area where today’s reptiles tend to deposit reserve substances. The presence of the caudofemoral is also noted in the way in which the hind limb continues in the tail, without sharp detachments. The cloaca is present, even if not very visible (it was pointed out to me by Cheung Chung Tat himself, whom I thank). Another detail is a tip of the tail that is rounded, instead of having to continue pointed as in most reconstructions: I have not found scientific evidence against or in favor, but it is in line with today’s reptiles with protuberances along the tail – such as crocodiles – not to mention that the tip would be a rather fragile area and prone to receiving damage that would not have great consequences for the animal (we have hadrosaurs and a specimen of Triceratops with the tip of the tail damaged). In any case, this is an interesting speculation.
The forelimb is suitably short: although Giganotosaurus is often represented with legs worthy of Allosaurus, partial remains of the forelimb of the related Tyrannotitan indicate an arm reduced almost as much as that of Tyrannosaurus. The hand of the derived carcharodontosauridae is unknown, but phylogenetic inference suggests that three fingers were present as in Acrocanthosaurus. You can check the formula of the hand, and correctly this is two phalanges for the first finger, three for the second, four for the third. In sculpting the figurines it is often overlooked that the claw of the first finger should be longer and stronger, but this is not the case with the Vitae model.
The hind limb is, as reported talking about the tail, adequately robust, with most of the musculature concentrated in the upper part. Tibia and metatarsals are perhaps too long, but in any case it would be an error present in the skeletal used as a base and not attributable to Cheung Chung Tat. Along the metatarsals and toes are scutes similar to those preserved in the well-preserved Concavenator and in present-day birds. It is difficult to count the phalanges of the first finger, but the second has three, the third four and the fourth five, and is the correct formula. The length of the three fingers touching the ground is also appropriate (in order of length: third, fourth and second). Under the feet there are the housings to insert the metal pins that fit the model to the base: I suggest to insert the pins first in the feet and then the feet in the base. The pins can be removed effortlessly if you want to repack the model or expose it without a base. A really noteworthy detail is that the feet are just the right size and are not oversized to help stability: truly remarkable considering that, for theropods of that size, carcharodontosauridae have rather small feet. So we come now to one of the true miracles of this sculpture: when placed on a flat surface, the Giganotosaurus Vitae holds up perfectly, even without the aid of the base. It may seem like a small thing, but there are many models that, while presenting feet worthy of Pippo – in some cases really ridiculous – are inevitably destined to fall. A praise to Cheung Chung Tat’s sculpting skills.
The model has three points of articulation: the mandible and both forelimbs. The mandible opens up to about 30 degrees, but it is impossible to close completely (as, for example, in the Tyrannosaurus standing Papo), remaining permanently ajar (as, for example, in the Spinosaurus Papo). As for the jaw joint – like Collecta – Vitae needs to refine in this particular field. The forelimbs rotate at the shoulder, however – given the way they are sculpted – if moved too far from neutral they can give an unnatural impression. The quality of the coloring is very good, however I recommend to be careful in handling the model because it can easily be damaged by bumps or rubbing (after all, this is not a toy).
The Giganotosaurus Vitae is 16cm tall and 38cm long, and is presented in 1/35 scale. However, when compared to 1/35 scale models, there is a distinct flashback of Dino Crisis 2, where Giganotosaurus is a twenty-one-meter-long monster. Based on the metric bar, the Hartman skeletal skull used as a base would measure 156 cm. The Vitae model’s skull measures 6cm, resulting in a 1:26 scale.
The base measures 28x14x16 cm and, unlike the theropod, is made of resin. About two thirds of its surface represent the dry banks of a watercourse (the Deluxe version instead has a more luxuriant base), while the remainder consists of the submerged portion of the beach. The level of sculpture is amazing: in addition to a fallen branch, on the emerged part there are small depressions filled with collapsed sediment, while under the surface of the resin that represents water there are branches and plant remains. Two footprints indicate the points where the legs of Giganotosaurus are inserted. Unlike the rest of the base, the trunk is made of plastic. It rests – without getting stuck – in a special housing, inside which I suggest storing the pins if you decide not to use them. As it is not stuck, it is sufficient to lift it if you decide to disassemble the base. The base is heavy, making it nearly impossible for it to fall from an accidental push. To avoid scratching the shelf, the base is covered with a black velvety fabric, on which the silhouette of the Giganotosaurus, the name of the species in Latin and (presumably) Chinese characters and the Vitae logo are printed in clear color.
Summing up, Vitae is probably the most accurate Giganotosaurus commercially available. The base embellishes it, elevating it from the status of a toy in which low-cost and tens of euro models are found and giving it an air of professionalism. By purchasing it, you find yourself in your hand not only a work of one of the most famous contemporary paleoartists (author, I remember, of numerous scientific illustrations, such as the one that accompanied the announcement of the scansoripterygidae Ambopteryx), but also a valuable object that does not look bad. on a shelf or a naturalist’s office.
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Coria, R. A.; Currie, P. J. (2006) A new carcharodontosaurid (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina. Geodiversitas. 28 (1): 71–118.
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