In quest for growth, German toy makers keep it real

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In an industry upended by the changing play habits of tech-savvy children, German toy makers are pinning their hopes for growth on traditional, real-world toys - with some help from the big screen.

At the world's biggest toy fair in Nuremberg this week, it was a large panel showing a bearded Playmobil figure peeking from behind a curtain that perhaps best exemplified an industry in flux.

The teaser for the first Playmobil movie may not seem like much - rival Lego has been doing movie tie-ins for years. But for a company that has hardly tweaked its recipe for success since 1974, it marks a sea change - evidence of the upheaval in the sector as toy makers compete also for the attention of children glued to tablets and phones.

Toy companies have in part responded by joining them in the digital world, with apps, online games and YouTube videos. They have also chased licensing deals with Hollywood studios, hoping that links with popular movie or TV characters will win fans in new markets.

But some of Germany's toy brands are bucking these trends, keeping the focus on the physical products.

"Parents are getting bored of all these tablets," said Schleich chief executive Dirk Engehausen, whose company is best known for hand-painted animal figures.

"It is much easier for a child to really understand the fascination of an elephant, giraffe or cheetah by having it in your hand instead of just swiping over the surface of an iPad." - AFP