Rest in Peace Playmobil dude


Inventor of Playmobil, Hans Beck died a couple days ago at the age of 79.

via, Material Interest

From the Playmobil Website

Hans Beck is born as the oldest son of a self-employed trader in Thuringia in 1929. He likes watching his younger siblings at play, and soon he takes up some tools to create toy animals and figures for them.

After his apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker he applies at the Zirndorf company of geobra Brandstätter for a position as a toy developer (then called “sample maker”). The company’s owner, Mr. Horst Brandstätter, with a golden hand selects Mr. Beck from among a number of applicants. One of the main reasons for his decision is Mr. Beck’s hobby – he is an avid designer, engineer and pilot of model aircrafts.

Thus, Mr. Beck designs innovative products for the company from the start which considerably contribute to the company’s success. His masterpiece, however, is created 13 years later, in 1971. Mr. Brandstätter wants Mr. Beck to design a system toy. What he is thinking of is a line of buildings and vehicles in which, according to his opinion, figures could be placed as well. This starting point seems too simplistic for Mr. Beck. He is thinking of something completely new.

At first he develops a single figure to perfection: It is exactly 2.9 inches high and thus ideally proportioned for a child’s hand, it has moving arms and legs, hands capable of gripping and holding objects and, which is especially important to Hans Beck, makes a likeable impression. In pure manual work he then proceeds to make a number of like figures which differ only in their coloring and in several accessories added to each one of them.

The small size of fewparts forbid the use by small children for safety reasons. Consequently the further development is focused on children of age four years and up. He gives these models to children at every occasion that presents itself, watching them at play to get to know the toy requirements of children in as much detail as at all possible.

At the same time the company, which also manufactures large plastic items for daily use apart from its traditional toy assortment, fights severe sales problems. Added to this strain are the consequences of the oil crisis at the beginning of the 70´s. Brandstätter wants to release the figures series and asks Hans Beck at short notice to prepare a set of samples for the imminent 1974 Nuremberg Toy Fair. Hans Beck succeeds, even though the task seems insurmountable, and the toy figures, called PLAYMOBIL, can be presented. However, with the exception of a Dutch customer, buyers react hesitantly. Their behavior is in marked contrast to that of children and parents when the first boxes hit the shelves of toy stores in fall 1974. At the end of the year geobra Brandstätter has achieved a turnover of three million marks with PLAYMOBIL.

The company was blessed with a magical combination: The idea and knowledge of Hans Beck, the production capacity required, the uncompromising readiness to take risks on the part of the company owner and the need of the young consumers for a system toy which, for the first time ever, focuses not on a technical building element but on figures.

The success story is pre-programmed for the figures do not stay alone for long. Hans Beck and the quickly growing R & D department design whole play worlds. They create buildings, additional vehicles and animals, all of them scaled and designed to fit in with the figures. Especially the animals, designed by Hans Beck in a completely new style, attract attention and praise: He wanted each kind of animal to be recognizable at a glance, at the same time reducing design to a minimum but with each animal capable of conveying emotions.

The degree to which children appreciate this love of detail with which each toy is designed becomes obvious, among others, in the many letters sent to PLAYMOBIL by children around the world every day. The young fans send their ideas, make suggestions and also unconcernedly ask for war and horror items as well. These, however, are consciously avoided by the company.

Even if requests come for PLAYMOBIL to hang on to current toy trends these are vehemently rejected by Hans Beck. Short-lived trends do not fit in with the long-term system strategy of PLAYMOBIL which is founded on the perfect satisfaction of its young consumers. For example, Hans Beck watches with eagle eyes to prevent a PLAYMOBIL box to show anything which might indicate contents of play value not actually contained in the box.

Ever since its market introduction in 1974 Hans Beck has been PLAYMOBIL’s “Corporate Conscience”. He went into his well-earned retirement in 1998. The R & D department, now lead by Bernhard Hane, continues his life’s work to make many more children around the world happy. For the children’s joy with PLAYMOBIL is the nicest way of saying “thank you” that he can imagine.

February 2006

One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. Matt


    u made me happy…in life you were awesome in death you are still good

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