this is sad!! i love playmobil! RIP Hans!
Playmobil’s German inventor Hans Beck dies aged 79
• Created in 1974 in response to high plastic prices from oil crisis
• More than 2bn of the 7.5cm-tall dolls have been sold worldwide
The German inventor of Playmobil toys, which became an instant success when they hit the market 35 years ago, has died at the age of 79.
Hans Beck, a furniture maker and model enthusiast, came up with the toy in 1974 after being asked to create a new and collectible play concept. It was initially suggested he might work on a range of cars. Instead Beck came up with the dolls and earned himself a place in toy history.
He worked according to his motto “no horror, no superficial violence, no short-lived trends”, the Brandstätter Group, owners of Playmobil, said in a short statement.
Beck created a whole fantasy world of figures with moving arms and legs that bend at the hip, wear snap on clothes, and continue to capture the imagination of children all over the world.
More than 2.2bn figures have been produced and sold in over 70 countries. At 7.5cm tall, and promoted as “ideal for a child’s grip”, the figures are meant to represent real life average adult height of 175cm (5ft 7cm).
The original figures were a knight, a builder and a Native American. But the toy empire expanded hugely over the years and, alongside fairies, firefighters, nurses, jewel thieves, Egyptologists, prisoners, police tracking dogs and airport security staff are now part of the Playmobil firmament.
The trigger for the toy’s creation was the global oil crisis of the early 1970s, when the price of plastics increased sixfold. Large toys which Brandstätter had produced up until then became prohibitively expensive and it was forced to rethink its product line.
Beck was asked to develop a “system of play which can be expanded and which through relatively small parts made out of the expensive synthetic material offers a high value product”.
Beck worked for Brandstätter for 40 years until 1998. In that time he became head of design. He lived with his wife near Lake Constance in southern Germany where he died following a serious illness on Friday.
The success of Brandstätter, which employs 3,000 staff and posted €452m ($408m) in sales last year, is based on the continued popularity of Playmobil. The figures have won numerous prizes over the years for their quality as well as their educational potential. The company has resisted calls to equip the figures for the digital age by adding sound effects and mechanised features, arguing that it does not want to betray Beck’s original concept.