Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 4th, 2007
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Darren Naish continues his search for more toy animals, delighted each day by what he finds are being newly produced.