Darren’s Toys

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 4th, 2007

Darren's Toys

Darren Naish, born in 1975, is a vertebrate palaeontologist and science writer, presently based at the University of Portsmouth where he works on theropod dinosaurs, particularly those from the Wealden Group rocks of Early Cretaceous England. Also, it must be noted for our purposes, that parttime cryptozoologist Darren Naish collects toys. Lots of toy animals.

If you visit Darren Naish’s site you will see that the current photo header (not shown here) at Tet Zoo features an assortment of toys produced by the British company Britains Ltd, though there are also a few Safari figures in there too (a walrus and a giant armadillo are visible at his site). Some are produced by the French company Starlux, as well.

Darren owns what he views as a “ridiculous collection of toy and models animals, including prehistoric animals, zoo/wild animals and farm animals. ”

It has been a passion of Darren’s since he was a kid, one I must admit I share. Indeed, to write this blog, I spread out part of my collection, one hundred non-cryptid animals, behind me on a table here, so the herd could be heard, so to speak. Such collections do take on a life of their own.

It should be mentioned that such toy models of known species are great as educational teaching tools in cryptozoology, and as cryptozoological fieldwork aids to see what is ethnoknown. But they are not cryptid toys, and another day I will talk of the specific jungle of cryptid figures and related small scale “Lost World” models (coming out of the Warhammer tradition) that do exist out there. For now, let me trek back to today’s overview of Darren Naish’s “ridiculous” collection, which naturally I think is interesting to cryptozoologists and fellow travelers.

Darren’s written about what he told me he calls his “obsession” on his blog. For his detailed descriptions of what kinds and species he’s collected, please go here, here, and here.

Naish with skull

But I was curious about a more personal angle about his toy animals. I asked Darren if I might interview him, specifically with an eye to learning a bit more about some of his “favorites.” Here’s our exchange.

old giraffes

Above is Richard Lewis Toy Box store’s photograph of various Britains Ltd vintage giraffes. A unique, special toy animal gift begins at a store like this one.

Loren: What’s the first animal (modern, prehistoric, or otherwise) figurine – that made an impact – you remember being given or obtaining on your own?

Darren: The very first toy animal I ever received was a giraffe made by Britains Ltd (a company that specialises in producing toy animals, farm vehicles, soldiers etc): it was given to me on my 3rd or 4th birthday by my grandmother. This is the first object I aquired as part of my collection and I still have it. It now lacks any trace of its original markings, has no horns, ears or tail, and has bent legs.

Loren: What is your favorite known living species representative in your collection?

Darren: That’s a tricky one, as I have a special fondness for quite a few of the obscure creatures I own. I am pretty keen on the Great white shark produced by Safari for the Monterey Bay Aquarium set – that’s ironic, given that there are lots more animals that I find a lot more interesting than sharks.

Darren's Toys

Loren: What animal model/figurine/figure of what extinct species do you regard with special liking?

Darren: I tend to like the models that depict obscure creatures, and yet are at least reasonably accurate in scientific terms. The German company Schleich makes a chalicothere, a glyptodont and a macraucheniid litoptern that I quite like.

Darren's Toys

Again, it’s ironic that I regard those pieces as among my favourites, given that I’m a dinosaur (rather than fossil mammal) specialist. Oh well.

Darren's Toys

Loren: How many cryptid figurines of any note do you have in your collection?

Darren: I don’t have that many, but then not that many have ever been produced. The only figure I have that’s specifically marketed as a cryptid is a plesiosaur that comes packaged as the Loch Ness Monster.

Darren's Toys

Of course, a lot of the models I have depict creatures that are of relevance to cryptozoology, including Komodo dragons, fossil hominids (Safari produces some australopithecines), okapis, gorillas and the chalicothere mentioned above.

Darren's Toys

I did a TV interview on Loch Ness once, and took along a toy plesiosaur, so I’ve even managed to use some of the pieces for educational purposes.

Darren's Toys

A television interviewer plays with Darren’s plesiosaur. Shown above with Darren’s toy is Judy Finnigan, who has been called the current British daytime television’s most popular female personality.

Naish small

Darren Naish continues his search for more toy animals, delighted each day by what he finds are being newly produced.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Darren’s Toys”

  1. forsakenfuture responds:

    Im 24 years old and i love collecting detailed dino toys.

  2. DavidFredSneakers responds:

    I’m a huge fan of tetrapod zoology, it’s great to see this interview.

    When I was younger I collected toy animals, arthropods mainly, which were great to scare my sister with (though my favorites I kept safe).

    I have recently fallen in love with these little puzzle animals by a company called “Fate Master” (or something) which are quite realistic, so far I have a Vespula and Mantis, which are still arthropods, and a Smiliodon.

  3. YarriWarrior responds:

    A man after my own heart! I collect animal and prehistoric animal figures, model kits, toys, ect. And it is such a passion I now work as a paleo/model sculptor full time. Not to mention the cryptozoology resin models I produced myself. I have over 100 godzilla models and toys, 150 zoids(tomy), and over 500 yowies. That isn’t all, every thing I have related to animals/prehistorics/monsters/ total well over 2000 pieces. I have the british museum stuff, and all the safari dinos(and most animals)with the store display made in the shape of a cliff! And then I had to start collecting mega-fauna skull reconstructions. Darren, it is only going to get worse! Craig Woolheater can testify about how choked my office/den is with all the insanity, and there is more than that in storage. I hope your wife is understanding. Jeff

  4. Mnynames responds:

    I think most of us here are just kids at heart, so it would not surprise me if most of us have at least one or 2 plastic “specimens.” I have most of my childhood collection, and have a few dozen from the Monterey Bay company (It helps that I worked for an aquarium for 8 years) and a few others as well. It has been a pleasure to have a 2-year-old daughter obsessed with dinosaurs to share them with, and to serve as an excuse to buy more. Some of the ones out there now look fabulous, far better than the pre-Robert Bakker-era slouching reptiles I had as a kid. As a fan of ceratopsians, however, I’ve found relatively few that look that impressive, but I guess I’m biased. Some company just put out a large T-Rex skeleton that I’m thinking of getting (Perhaps for my daughter, though I suspect my wife will see through that ruse) that looks quite good.
    Not sure what the prize of my collection would be, though I’m quite fond of a Liopleurodon and a Green Crab the size of a dinner plate (A parting gift from my aquarium’s gift shop buyer).

  5. Mnynames responds:

    As for crypto-specimens, I have a small Jersey Devil from a Japanese company that produced a good deal of paranormal/crypto-related beings. He sits proudly next to figurines of Jim Morrison from The Doors and Max Schreck’s Count Orlok from the 1922 Nosferatu.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    Mnynames- I’m with you on the kid thing. I have a daughter who is a little over a year old and she is fascinated with animals (like her dad!). I’m hoping it will turn into a healthy excuse for me to go out and buy cool toys like this when she gets a little older. I’m in the same boat with the wife too, she might see through the whole “It’s, uh, for our daughter” thing! 🙂 I also agree that the toys out nowadays are much cooler than when I was a kid. Sure can’t wait to get my hands on some of them, er, for my daughter of course.  

  7. Saint Vitus responds:

    What is that strange critter with the long snout?

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    The camel-like mammal with the long snout is the macraucheniid litoptern.

  9. DARHOP responds:

    Very kool. I too am a collector of many thing’s. From HotWheel’s to Fossil’s.
    Speaking of collecting. Does anybody know if PEZ ever made a BigFoot PEZ dispenser ?

  10. Sordes responds:

    I have still several chests full of toy animals, but during the last years I bought only two new ones, a belemnite and a Mastodonsaurus, both from Bullyland. About one and a half year ago, I began to sculpt my own animal models, especially of animals from which untill now no other models exist. Most of them are extinct animals, but I made also some unusual living animals like Blainville´s beaked whale and also some crypto-stuff like tatzelworms (with which I won a hoax-contest), a tsuchinoko and a tasmanian globster. Some of them can be seen at my blog: http://bestiarium.kryptozoologie.net/artikel/category/skulpturen/
    I am trying at the moment to make casts of some models, and perhaps I´ll once be able to offer a crypto-collection.

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