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What European Toys Say About European (And Increasingly Many American) Views

Posted Aug 25 2008 6:42pm

An interesting story about European toys appeared in the Economist this week, What European Toys Say About European Views.

The two toys they talked about are ones that I constantly trip over in my house are some of my favorites – Playmobil and Lego. As opposed to the US and other English speaking countries, made in China, plastic toys, licensed from movies and TV shows and featuring Pentagon approved weapons, are not popular on the continent.

Examination of Playmobil figures reveals interesting things. Europeans are squeamish about warfare and armies. American shelves groan under tanks and muscle-bound action heroes; European parents are less keen. Playmobil tanks and warplanes “could certainly make big money,” says Mrs Schauer, since children write in demanding such things. But Playmobil will not make them. Europe's history, especially Germany's, rules it out. The firm also avoids links with violent licensed brands, such as Spiderman, saying it prefers older stories that leave children's imagination free to roam.

Perhaps I’m a bit squeamish too. Both Lego and Playmobil offer knights, pirates and such but, as I learned at The Waldorf School:

The difference is philosophical…There are no more knights and pirates, so their combat is a “resolved story”. Modern war is “really horror”. .. “it is more honorable to fight with a sword, somehow.”

As Lego goes more and more “American” expanding their licensed products and increasingly adding violent themes, I mourn and tend to be more careful buying them. (Does anyone see shades of my rant about Scholastic here?) We stick to Lego City and other non-licensed offerings.

And, Playmobil more and more turns out to be my toy of choice… and that of many moms whose children are slowly growing out of the wooden toy stage. OK- so we move them to plastic but, at least they are not made in China and are a little less commercial.

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