Hans Beck, the designer of the ubiquitous Playmobil figures - little plastic people who can fit into a child's fist and be right at home in a toy medieval castle or a pony ranch - died on Jan. 30 near his home in Lake Constance, Germany. He was 79.
Beck died in a hospital after a long illness, said Michelle Winfrey, a spokeswoman for Playmobil U.S.A.
Beck was the original designer and, for 24 years until he retired in 1998, head of research and development for Playmobil. The company is a division of Geobra Brandstätter, founded in 1876, which originally made ornamental casket fittings and handles. Based in Zirndorf, Germany, it has since manufactured cash registers, telephones, piggy banks, self-watering planters and, starting in 1974, those tiny, round-faced, black-eyed characters with moon-sliver smiles.
The figures have moveable arms and legs, bendable waists and hands that can grasp a pirate's sword, a carpenter's saw or a firefighter's hose. They can be ancient Egyptians building a pyramid, knights defending a castle, police officers in a patrol car, ambulance drivers, circus performers or even members of a wedding party.
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