HANS BECK : THE FATHER OF PLAYMOBIL®
the former Head of Development at Geobra, has often been called
"The Father of PLAYMOBIL®". Before the
very first PLAYMOBIL® toys were introduced at the International
Nürnberg Toy Fair in 1974, he had spend
three years developing the product.
The idea for the PLAYMOBIL® system came to mind after the 1971 oil crisis
demanded a radical new idea that would help to overcome the
problems that the rising oil prices imposed on Geobra Brandstätter,
PLAYMOBIL®s future manufacturer.
In the Golden Sixties, Geobra had been producing hoola-hoops and
large plastic toys, which required a lot of solid plastic
So, the first response to the oil crisis was to develop a line of
much smaller vehicles, which would require less material while
offering children an even more valuable playing experience.
These vehicles would be accompanied by very basic action figures,
which at first, were secondary to the vehicles and were only meant
to be static add-ons to the vehicles. But somewhere down the road,
Hans Beck's focus shifted towards the figures.
At first, these prototype figures did not make a very convincing
impression on Horst Brandstätter, the owner of Geobra. But
Hans Beck was allowed to continue working on them, to prove the
strengths and advantages of his creation.
The design efforts of the basic PLAYMOBIL® figure went through
many stages and the sketches for the figure soon got more complex,
as head, arms and legs became separate parts and were able to
move, so that the figure could assume numerous different poses. On
the other hand, Hans Beck made sure not to make the figure too
complicated, because research showed clearly that too much
moveable parts seemed to hinder the natural course of children's
playing activities. That is the reason why PLAYMOBIL® figures did
not end up with bendable knees and elbows.
The figure also would have to be ideal for a children's hand, and
in such a way that the world constructed around the figure would
still fit into a children's room. These two factors were
determinate for the eventual height of the figure: 7,5 cm.
While fine-tuning the now famous archetypical head of the figures,
Hans Beck paid a lot of attention to children's drawings. When a
child draws a human character, the head is always drawn with
exaggerated proportions. Additionally the eyes and mouth are
always there in children's drawings, but a nose is often omitted.
These valuable observations influenced the design of the
subsequent prototypes for the original 1974 PLAYMOBIL® figure.
And as development continued to evolve towards the final KLICKY
figure, the root concept for the PLAYMOBIL® toy line was also
taken into a new direction: The new goal was to to develop a system of
customizable toys, that were small in scale but had interchangeable
parts which offered unlimited
possibilities for re-combination and expansion. The KLICKY figures now
became the centerpieces for the toy line as configurable
characters with whom children would be able to identify easily. A
large base of accessories
and clothing parts would allow children to put these KLICKY characters in every
imaginable situation and role.
After training a group of product designers that could take his
place and assure the continuation of the PLAYMOBIL® family of
products, Hans Beck retired in the spring of 1999, just before the
celebration of the 25th birthday of PLAYMOBIL®s introduction on
During the World Expo 2000 in Hannover, Hans Beck was among
the 100 German personalities that got a statue within the German
Pavilion, as a recognition for the very successful toy he created
and the educational influence his creation had on an entire
a 1997 interview with Hans Beck, from the Christian Science Monitor