Late in 2016, it seemed stores all of a sudden decided to not want to carry Playmobil's bagged animal lines - I don't mean the add-ons, I mean the ones that look like a bag of snacks like the Penguins. I saw some deep discounts followed by extreme clearances leading into 2017, at which point I don't see these around in big chain stores anymore. I was tempted to hold out and wait for one of the little zoo enclosures, but those are $20 or more. And who am I kidding? I just want some penguins on my desk. I'm not going to build out some giant zoo diorama.
Like any child, I loved penguins as a kid. I had the blank white Playmobil penguins which came with black markers so you could "paint" them yourselves, which was a process I did not like, and they were actually kind of expensive. I found the box for it, and it was around $6 at Little House Toys back in the 1980s for about a dozen of the blank white birds. With no articulation. And no deco. The plastic quality was good, and the molds were later rereleased, cast in black, and given white highlights. These were nicer - multiple colors of plastic were squeezed together to bring more colorful, more charming little creatures. While the original penguin molds had 3 different adults and 1 baby, this new one has 2 adults, 2 babies, and doubles up on each hatchling.
Sometimes Playmobil will mold a figure in multiple colors of plastic, and that's how the adult penguins seem to be here A mostly black figure has a white belly and an orange neck squeezed in, giving you a sturdy, durable figure with no articulation and, for some reason, a hole in its bottom. One is standing looking ahead, and the other is looking at its feet - or baby, or egg, or food - and was made using the same techniques. These ones are slightly taller and come in more realistic proportions than the originals, which had fins out and were generally smoother items based on designs that are more in line with the line's original ethos - kid drawings. We've come around the other side and now most new non-human things are looking increasingly realistic, but obviously not perfect representations of the actual thing in question.
The babies are similarly tiny, barely larger than the original oddly-shaped blobs of feathers. These ones look less melty and have more personality - the original one just sat there, and one of the styles matches the original pose. There's also a "feed me!" pose, with a slightly open mouth that would almost imply you could put a fish in there were there a small peg jutting out of its mouth. (No such piece was included.) It seems to be white, grey, and black plastic pieces smashed together to make a fairly durable little penguin. There are no moving parts.
Compared to the other sets, the Penguins rely on their charm rather than what they do. The Flamingo bag has 6 birds in 3 colors with articulated legs and a display stand for each. Granted, the flamingo is rarely a child favorite, and everybody adores penguins - heck, I even bought them. If you see this set for around $6 it's probably worth getting to add to your desk toy stash, or to antagonize your otters, or whatever else you had planned. I'm fond of these guys even though they don't do much, thanks mostly to the fact that since 2000 Playmobil has made things I would've wanted when I was 6. Otters, dinosaurs, a big whale, better penguins, pyramids, Ghostbusters, and the like are relatively recent entries in the line I'm buying some anyway. I don't necessarily need penguin toys scaled to dinosaurs, werewolves, vampires, ninjas, or dragons, but here we are. At this point just hook me up with some manatees and armadillos - the latter of which you can pack in Dracula's Castle as a bonus, which should make sense to people reading this who are nearing 100 years old.
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