Playmobil: A German Children's Classic

Jan 30, 2013

The friendly faces of Playmobil figures have been smiling their way into the hearts of countless children all over the world for almost four decades. It all started in a small factory in Franconia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a Playmobil figure holding a euro coin. Enlarge image German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a Playmobil figure holding a euro coin. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

A company making ornamental fittings and locks, founded in 1876 by Andreas Brandstätter in Fürth, Franconia (northern Bavaria), was destined to become the birthplace of an army of lovable plastic figures. In 1921 Andreas's son Georg Brandstätter gave his name to a company called Geobra Brandstätter, which set up its headquarters in nearby Zirndorf. That's where the Playmobil success story began under its current owner Horst Brandstätter. The oil crisis prompted Brandstätter to launch a system toy that was great fun to play with, but required a minimum of raw materials to manufacture.

Playmobil scene - 64th International Toy Fair in Nuremberg (2013) Enlarge image The toy figures 'Ceremonial driving down of cattle from the mountain pastures into the valley in autumn' of the series 'Mountain Life' by Playmobil are on display at the 64th International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, on January 30, 2013. This year's motto of the trade show was 'Toys 3.0'. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

The hour of carpenter Hans Beck, developer at Geobra Brandstätter since 1958, had come. The "father" of all Playmobil figures began by designing one little man. It was exactly 7.5 centimeters (3 inches) high, so it fit perfectly into a child's hand; and it had movable arms and legs, hands that could grip, and a friendly smile. Soon afterwards Beck's development department was designing complete play sets: buildings, vehicles, animals – all to scale and matching the design of the figures.

The result was today's globally successful Playmobil, which was launched onto the market in 1974. Within just a few years, Geobra Brandstätter had become Germany's biggest toy manufacturer. In 2011 the company generated a turnover of 564 million euros with an international workforce of about 3,500. Playmobil set a new company record in 2011, selling 55 million play sets worldwide.

Although about 70 percent of all toys sold in Germany come from the Far East, the company makes its products in its own plants in Germany and Europe. The heart of the company is the Dietenhofen factory in the Franconia region of the southern German state of Bavaria.

Even today, Playmobil developers are still dreaming up around 120 new features every year. For example, Playmobil recently launched four play sets featuring endangered species to mark the 50th birthday of the WWF conservation organization in Germany and Austria.

The annual International Toy Fair in Nuremberg is taking place from January 30 to February 4, 2013.

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Made in Germany

Photo courtesy of Spielwarenmesse eG

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