Hans Beck, inventor of Playmobil toys, dies

With the global oil crisis of the early 1970s driving up the price of plastics, German toy manufacturer Geobra Brandstätter came up with the economical solution of shrinking its product line. The man they tapped to do it, Hans Beck, was an avid model builder. The company thought, based on its suggestion, that he would produce tiny cars, but instead he invented a tiny universe of 3-inch plastic dolls called Playmobil.

Parents and kids of all ages are familiar with this plastic world of pirates, doctors, Egyptologists, moms and dads, who live in castles, boats, trains, police stations, and circuses.

The toys Beck created for children was shaped by his motto, "No horror, no superficial violence, not short-lived trends."

The company is staying true to Beck's original vision. It refuses to conform the Playmobil dolls to the digital age by adding sound effects and mechanical features.

Launched in 1974, Playmobil is sold in 70 countries and is a $2.2 billion business. Beck worked at Geobra Brandstätter 40 years and retired in 1998 as head of design.

He passed away Friday, from a serious illness, at the age of 79. He was in his home near Lake Constance in southern Germany, where he lived with his wife.
Read Full Story