Monitor Lizard (AAA)

Today’s review concerns a toy that is very near and dear to me because it has been with me for nearly 30 years, and it is one of only a few childhood toys that I kept into adulthood. As such, the specimen in these accompanying pictures has a few city miles on it but that just shows the years of joy it has provided me. It was a birthday gift from my god-mother and made such an impression that I still remember the day I got it as though it was yesterday. Let’s have a warm welcome for this, the 40” (101.6 cm) monitor lizard by AAA.

This lizard is so large and lifelike that it was very easy to pretend it was the real deal when I was a kid. We would wrestle in the yard, hoping passersby would think this kid was battling a real lizard (I must have looked ridicules) and on occasion it would (and still does) elicit genuine scares from people. I would strategically place it around the yard and garden, or in the basement rafters, whenever guests were expected. It never failed to frighten, even if folks were already previously frightened by it. As an adult I had a ton of fun scaring my young nephew with it, and as a parent I now watch my daughter play with it, with nostalgic pride.

The forked tongue that used to stick out its mouth is long gone, scuff marks and paint wear cover the body, there’s a hole in the back where I shoved a tack through its hollow body (which made it so when it was squeezed it would hiss air), it has chew marks on the toes and tail inflicted by my childhood pet rabbit, additional chew marks on the tail inflicted by me, and scratch marks on its back from my childhood kitten.

Some of the various battle wounds inflicted on this toy over the years.

I’ve been keen to review this old fella for a long time now but here’s the catch, I have no idea what species it is. Because it’s a AAA toy the description on the bottom is vague, it’s just “monitor lizard.” AAA is notorious for poorly labeling these toys as I’ve stated in previous reviews (here and here).

Growing up I instinctually thought it was a Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) but looking at it right now it looks more like an Asian water monitor (V. salvator). I long ago asked on the Dinosaur Toy Forum what it was with people suggesting it was a savanna monitor (V. exanthematicus) but that doesn’t seem right. Recently I posted it to a lizard identification Facebook group and they were stumped too, but the clouded monitor (V. nebulosus) and black-throated monitor (V. a. microstictus) were suggested. I knew that if I ever wanted to review it I would just have to cave in and do it without a clear answer. Maybe you, dear reader, will know what species it is? Don’t go by color though, mine is worn and the coloration on other individual toys varies greatly.

EDIT: Shortly after this review was published forum member Lanthanotus made a compelling case for this lizard being a Bengal monitor (V. bengalensis or  V. nebulosus ). You can read it in the comments below.

That I cannot identify it is made that much more frustrating by the fact that this toy is cast from a real specimen, like many AAA reptiles. It’s phenomenally detailed and lifelike down the smallest features. It is convincing as a taxidermy stand in and compliments my collection of actual taxidermy quite well. Since the toy is cast from a specimen also means it is life size but without knowing the species it’s hard to say what size range it would fall in so we’ll just say that it’s 1/1 scale.

The only criticism I can muster for this otherwise exceptional toy is the pose. Although the lizard looks lifelike enough the pose is somewhat static and unnatural. For that reason there is another AAA monitor lizard that I feel surpasses this one and I’ll be reviewing that one at a later date.

This toy is undeniably impressive; you won’t find a larger or more lifelike toy lizard than this, if those factors are important to you. If you want one you’ll have to track it down on eBay where it usually goes for a reasonable price for its size and age. This is a very cool toy and a sure conversation starter that will get people talking for many years, I can guarantee it. Mine is still working hard, scaring neighborhood children and receiving curious stares from parents in my front yard every Halloween.

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Comments 5

  • Impressive! This is one of the more ‘life-like’ AAA casts, meaning that to me, many of them look like specimens that were pulled out of a jar of formalin. But this one looks ‘alive’!

    On the Blog, we also have brontodocus’ review of the AAA mantis shrimp, which is marked Oratosquilla oratoria, which I also think is a misidentification. If cast from a real specimen, it is too big to represent O. oratoria (to me, it is Squilla mantis or S. empusa), but I digress…

    • I agree, a lot of them look like bad taxidermy to me, which is probably what some were cast from I suppose. The uromastyx comes to mind, some of the geckos too.

    • I would love to get my hands on the mantis shrimp and some of the other marine invertebrates too.

  • With the date of release in mind, I speak for this specimen as Varanus bengalensis. This species was divided into two subspecies back then and nowadays is two species, V. bengalensis (western part of the distribution) and V. nebulosus (eastern part). Adults, especially males show that remarkable bulge on the snout aswell as the backfaced, slitlike nostrils, typical for digging foragers. The head of V. albigularis and its subspecies (formerly all subspecies of V. exanthematicus) is even heavier, aswell as the whole body is more stocky than in this figure.
    AAA also released a not nearer specified “young monitor lizard” which is either V. bengalensis or V. nebulosus. Basically, counting the scales around the belly should reveal the identity 😀
    Thanks for the review, shame those figures are so hard to get, would really love to have some of these reptiles casts.

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