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Horst Brandstätter, the head of  Playmobil, the German toy company that produces the small plastic figures kids love, has died aged 81.

His death was made public by the company, thorugh a heartfelt and beautiful statement. “With Horst Brandstätter the Playmobil family loses not just its leader, proprietor and patriarch, but Germany’s toy industry has lost one of its most distinguished personalities,” Brandstätter Group said in a statement.

Known as , or to colleagues simply as HOB, Brandstätter was known as Herr Playmobil and he is considered to be the father of Playmobils as he modernized the company’s production process and changed the used material from metal to plastic. Brandstätter was a member of the family firm since 1952, when he was just 19 years old and the company was run by his two uncles.

During the 1970s and due to the high cost of manufacturing plastic products, Brandstätter along with mould designer Hans Beck came up with the idea of developing 7.5cm figurines to save on the plastic usage. With Brandstätter leading, the company began producing three models, a knight, a workman and a Native American, and now has figures from pirates to Star Wars characters.

The company declined to disclose the cause of his death.

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