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Hans Beck

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Hans Beck (AP photo)
FRANKFURT (AP) — Hans Beck, creator of the colorful plastic Playmobil toy figures that sold by the millions around the world, has died at age 79.

Geobra Brandstaetter GmbH & Co., which owns the Playmobil brand, said in a statement that Beck died Jan. 30 after a long illness.

A trained cabinetmaker and passionate model builder, Beck became a pattern developer for Horst Brandstaetter, the owner of Zirndorf-based company, in 1958.

In 1971, Beck created and developed the 3-inch (7.5-centimeter) tall line of figures for the company, which were dubbed Playmobil and brought to market in 1974. A year later, the simple yet visually appealing line went global.

It has since expanded to include everything from farm animals to dinosaurs, along with planes, trains, automobiles and ships. Some 2.2 billion of the toys have been sold since their debut.

"Playmobil is a toy that doesn't impose specific play patterns on children, but rather stimulates their imagination," said Beck, who retired in 1998 after becoming the company's longtime development director.

"(Beck) rendered outstanding services to the company in a special way," the company said. It noted he worked until the end of his career "with enormous craftsmanship talent and great qualification. Hans Beck and Playmobil wrote an important chapter in toy history and made millions of children happy."

Beck once said his main rule for toy designs was "no horror, no superficial violence and no short-term trends."

Originally from Germany's central state of Thuringia, Beck is survived by his wife and son.


Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press
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