Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Aurora's Prehistoric Scenes exhibit

A couple of years ago, I loaned my Aurora Prehistoric Scenes collection to the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling, WV as part of a special exhibit of vintage dinosaur plastic toys they were developing.  It was quite an honor, and a nice opportunity to spend time with a collection that unfortunately spends most of its time in storage due to their size and fragile nature.
I grew up with the Prehistoric Scenes, although I was introduced to them around 1976, after Aurora had closed shop.  There were so many of the kits manufactured and they were so popular that it still wasn't difficult to obtain them all the way through the end of the 1970s.  They were huge (1/13 scale), complex, and had piles of accessories.  They were also snap-together, articulated, wildly-colored and possessed more of the nature of a toy playset to me than a fragile display model. Several have remained in production even today by successive owners of the kits' molds, and the giant Red Rex was recently reissued.
All but two of my original surviving childhood kits wound-up being given to a neighbor kid when I was in college, to foster an interest I learned he had in dinosaurs.  When I left college, however, and had become an active toy & model collector I managed to rebuild and expand on my childhood collection over the course of about 4 years - just prior to the birth of eBay.  Probably the last couple of items I got on eBay were very inexpensive scores on the Sailback (Dimetrodon), Allosaurus and Mammoth.  As I build them, I like to keep much of them in the unusual colors they were cast in.

I've got a slideshow of photos of the exhibit I took when I set it up.  Click HERE.  Later, the museum's staff delicately spread it out into three cases.  The exhibit was up for about 4 months.

 While my collection is complete parts-wise, many of my kits are unpainted or awaiting full restoration and had to be displayed as such.  I had to spend a couple of weeks stripping kits that I'd purchased built-up.  A few items had to be hot-glued into position on-site for display - a concession I was happy to make to share the kits, but which will give me some extra work to undo some day later.

The display had little informational display cards I wrote up, as well as copies of design illustrations by the late Dave Cockrum - famous comic artist and the designer of several of the kits, including the famous red Tyrannosaurus Rex.  I also included a couple example of the Pyro/Life-Like dinosaur kits which were also contemporary to my original Aurora kit experiences.

If you're interested in the Prehistoric Scenes, check out this excellent website dedicated to the series, and its associated forum of engaged collectors.  Share stories and trade parts! And please don't forget to leave a comment here if you have fond memories of these dino kits...


  1. Geez Ray way to make me feel old. I had the Pterodon and the Ankylosaur (long gone by now). Also interesting seeing the old incorrect poses they had the dinosaurs setup in back in the 70s.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Heh-heh. Well, Aurora was never one for accuracy with these kits. Even then, they knew Triceratops and Ankylosaurus were herbivores, but the kits presented them with nasty, sharp teeth! :-)

      But you can't keep a great dinosaur down! Pteranodon and Ankylosaurus were both just released within the last year by Revell - current owners of the original Aurora molds - as part of their "Dawn of Time" kit series. Although Anky doesn't include both parts of his base, I believe. They didn't get wide distribution and were a bit overpriced, but you can get your Pteranodon (renamed "Klaw") here for under $10:

      Thanks, Rob!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Love the memories of my metallic-green Allosaurus and his orange lava display-base. Many a green plastic army man met his doom facing this drooling lizard! I too loved the play-set feel of these kits as well as the crazy trees and ferns that accessorized them.