In their decades of existence, Playmobil toys have been made in all sorts of themes. From space to country to zoo to pirate, all of the necessary childhood fun is represented. More recently, Playmobil has released branded sets including Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, and How to Train Your Dragon.
However, within the more humble themes are invariably some very weird sets. Playmobil are generally appealling for their creativity, scope for play, and attention to detail. But to this America’s eyes, the past five decades have proven that those German toymakers sometimes get a little weird.
- Little girl brushing her teeth. Playmobil has released bathroom sets for their doll houses, both modern and Victorian themed. But just one little girl, her sink, and her humorously large toothbrush was an odd choice for a single set. Is this just pro-tooth brushing for parents? Did the dentists pay off Playmobil? (And yes, there has been more than one dentist set over the decades).
- Medieval executioner. This spooky character looks ready to end someone’s tenure in the Tower of London very quickly. When I was little, I loved to get real with my toys, but not this real.
- Castaway on a deserted island. It’s the details that take a Playmobil set from good to great. Pirate sets explain the reason for a bearded man alone on a tiny island. But not only do you get the man, you get a few crabs, a palm, and a message in a bottle so that the poor marooned fellow can sent out a plea for help. (There were also at least two castaways on a dubious-looking raft sets.)
- Vulture and carrion remains. This rare mid ’90s set of so-called “Special” Playmobils (usually individual figures) is humorously simple. You get a vulture, and you get the bones of a nondescript animal. Yes, you could add it to any number of Western sets (imagine the sight intimidating Playmobils as they head out west in their covered wagon), but it is still weird to have carefully packaged and sold a toy with such limited appeal.
- Stanley Cup presentation set. Okay, this one makes perfect sense. Playmobil now makes NHL figures. Lord Stanely’s cup is the highest honor in hockey. But somehow the set itself with the two besuited figues (probably being booed by the Playmobil crowd) and the shining cup makes me laugh.
- Hazmat guys cleaning up a chemical spill. I mean, they call it “City Action” and this qualifies, but I have some trouble thinking up the larger context for this set. Maybe they’re trying to prevent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- Bomb squad guy complete with robot and cartoon dynamite. I mean, this figure is kind of bad-ass, but its existence implies that there are some Playmo-terrorists out there, does it not?
- Construction worker and Port-a-potty. Yeah, some kids (and adults) think construction sites are fascinating, but was anyone hankering for this detail? And yet, the worker coming with his own newspaper for reading makes it funny again.
- Playmobil TSA. Those in the Playmobil know might have expected that this early 2000s set would be number one. So annoyed were Americans by this little bit of plastic security theater that the New York Times wrote about it in 2009. The appeal of other controversial sets such as SWAT is more obvious. It’s the humble oppression of the TSA set that renders it darkly hilarious.
- Victorian hobo and cop, complete with park bench, bindle, and suspicious green bottle. This is the perfect Playmobil set: random, dark, but funny, and who would ever think of it? I had it as a child, and the many pieces were useful in countless hours of play. My mom, sensibly, put it away in her closet for 25 years where it still sits. I have been trying to resist stealing it for at least as long.