Vintage Dinosaur Art: Oviraptor (Dinosaur books from The Child’s World)

Vintage Dinosaur Art

One month on from the last entry, here’s another slice of the early ’90s dinosaur book series from The Child’s World, this time featuring everyone’s favourite misunderstood, misnamed, cassowary-casqued* weirdo, Oviraptor. Diana Magnuson, who illustrated the Megalosaurus book, also provided the artwork here. In the main, it’s a considerable improvement over her work on Megalosaurus, although that might have been because up-to-the-minute reference material and illustrations of Megalosaurus were hard to come by at the time, while Oviraptor was enjoying a decent amount of popularity – probably because it was a birdy dinosaur that epitomised the Greg Paul, Bakker’s beard, hot blooded Dinosaur Renaissance that had broken through to popular culture.

Child's World Oviraptor cover

The cover (which also appears inside) is a beautifully composed piece featuring a gang of wonderfully spotted and striped Oviraptor against a lovely watercolour sky. Although the general nakedness and curling, Predatory Dinosaurs of the World-style hands are very much of their time, there’s still an emphasis here and throughout this book on Oviraptor‘s birdlike qualities. In fact, you’ll note that there’s actually a ridge of feathers down the animal’s neck, which might not be going as far as Greg Paul did at the time, but was quite daring for a kids’ book in 1991. I distinctly remember every last Oviraptor in my beloved Dinosaurs! magazine (the Orbis partwork) being completely scaly, perhaps because David Norman didn’t approve of all that feather nonsense.

Archaeopteryx by Diana Magnuson

In any case, before we’re informed of the life and habits of Oviraptor proper, we are first introduced to the bird-dinosaur connection. Again, very commendable. This includes an illustration by Magnuson of Archaeopteryx, which I mainly included because it reminded me of some sort of medieval heraldic creature. It’s possible to imagine it posed next to a shield, opposite a unicorn, with some stupid pompous slogan like ‘GOD AND MY RIGHT’ (but in Latin) hovering somewhere. Also, its colours are reminiscent of the more recent phenomenon of ‘bisexual lighting’, which I learned about thanks to Gemma.

Best not think about what those fingers are doing there. Remember, bird wings are a completely different thing to forelimbs and modified fingers have nothing to do with their function.

Hesperornis? by Diana Magnuson

Other Mesozoic birds feature, too, including what appear to be a pair of the happiest hesperornitheans I’ve ever seen. Just look at their adorable smiley beaks! That one in the background seems overjoyed at its friend’s fishing success. How sickeningly wholesome this image is. Not to worry – they’ll all be incinerated in a cataclysmic asteroid strike before too long.

Oviraptor head by Diana Magnuson

Finally, we reach Oviraptor itself. This illustration in particular appears to be based on a model head-and-neck that can still be viewed in the Natural History Museum in London, and appeared in various Dorling Kindersley books. I’m not absolutely sure who the sculptor was – please leave a comment if you know. Magnuson adds more vibrant colouration and a fuzzy, feathery neck, which is an improvement if you ask me (and I’m sure Luis Rey would be on board, too), even if it’s fairly obvious what she was copying. Incidentally, that head crest is likely based on a specimen of another oviraptorosaur that wasn’t Oviraptor proper, but I don’t have time to go into all that. Who am I, Jaime Headden?

Troodon and Oviraptor by Diana Magnuson

Introductions out of the way, we’re treated to scenes from Oviraptor‘s life. These include run-ins with other, nastier Mongolian theropods, including an unnamed troodontid that I presume is supposed to be Saurornithoides. Quite what Oviraptor is doing back there, flailing its arms around, I’m not sure; the tasty ceratopsian carcass has certainly grabbed its attention, though. While the attempt at depicting the animal’s head from such a tricky angle is certainly commendable, it does end up looking a little goofy. To be fair, Magnuson probably didn’t have much in the way of 3D reference material. The simple flowering plants are a nice touch not typically seen in ‘prehistoric Gobi’ illustrations back in the day.

Oviraptor and Protoceratops by Diana Magnuson

Naturally, Oviraptor is also assailed by Protoceratops after trying to raid its nest. It’s just what they were compelled to do back in the ’80s and early ’90s. That bite from the Protoceratops looks really nasty here – even moreso than the chomp that one Velociraptor is known to have received. In fact, this piece does remind me of depictions of the Fighting Dinosaurs, and may well have been based on one or more of them; I was reminded of Mark Hallett’s, but it’s actually a poor match for his. The plant being pushed aside adds a nice sense of movement.

Oviraptor, Saurornithoides and Velociraptor

When not engaged in a full-on wrestling match with furious hornless horned dinosaurs, Oviraptor had to dodge rather more predatory and toothy theropods that might have viewed it as the perfect protein-rich meal to fit into their fitness regimen. The two in the above piece are rather Sibbickian, particularly the troodontid and the Velociraptor‘s head, although the body might have been borrowed form elsewhere. Oviraptor looks suitably startled and a little like a plucked chicken, which is actually rather fitting, as I mentioned when reviewing Wayne Barlowe’s work (ELEVEN YEARS AGO).

Oviraptor and Saurornithoides by Diana Magnuson

While running away was certainly the sensible option, Oviraptor wasn’t defenceless when cornered by a predator, as seen in the above piece that I’m quite sure owes a fair bit to Greg Paul. The Oviraptor isn’t too bad here (and I still love those colours), but the troodont suffers from a fair bit of the ol’ perspective fudging. That’s a lovely fallen log, mind you; as I’ve said many, many times at this point, we here at LITC do love a lovingly painted fallen log.

Oviraptor skeleton by Diana Magnuson

And finally…Oviraptor isn’t around nowadays, but you can go and view its skeletal remains in a museum, where perhaps they’ll have been mounted in a really, really strange pose. As seen above. Just look at those kids in the background – you can tell that they’re laughing at the silly posture on show here. The outfit of the one on the right is so early ’90s that it’s probably fashionable again right now. Which I think is very silly, but then, I’m getting rather old. At least I have all these Vintage Dinosaur Art posts under my belt. Time well spent! Probably.

Coming up next time: definitely no existential angst!


*Sort of.

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