Playmobil 5753 Seasonal Photo Santa Claus Figures Playmobil, 2004
Day #2,368: December 13, 2021
Photo Santa Claus "Lots of Presents"
Item No.: No. 70576 Manufacturer:Playmobil Includes:3 human figures, 1 pre-decorated tree, 1 camera sprue with 2 cameras and accessories, cardboard boxes, 1 chair Action Feature:The big upsell Retail:$9.99? Availability: ca. August 2004 Other: I had this for a very long time
I got this one after Christmas 2004 on clearance, probably for three or four bucks. Photo Santa Claus was a US mass-market exclusive, sold at the likes of Target and Toys R Us - you can tell because there's an English-language set description on the front of the box, which was extremely uncommon for the sets sold in Europe (more importantly, globally) at the time. If it had an italic English set name on the front, it was probably meant just for the USA.
Back then - especially after Christmas - I would buy pretty much any Playmobil set if it met a certain pricing threshold, basically "if the boxed set amounts to $2 per figure on average, buy that set." I opened this set around 2005 because I wanted the chair Santa came with and the decorated tree - but I left the figures, camera, and presents in the box until November 13 of this year. (It might be the longest I've waited to open a Playmobil set.)
Playmobil is no stranger to making regional-specific sets for holidays, and the store "mall Santa" photo op was a pretty big tradition for quite some time. Playmobil also made some sets specific to the Netherlands, but let's not talk about that right now. Currently this set sells for about $45 - I think it was close to $10-$15 originally, which isn't bad for what you get. You get a full camera with tripod and flash, another camera with a grip, Santa, a chair, a pre-decorated tree, and three cardboard giftwrapped boxes. I'm not a big fan of paper accessories other than backdrops.
In this set you get Santa Claus, some kid, and a store employee to take the photos. This particular Santa was sold from at least 1995 to at least 2011, although other versions were made that were arguably better. This one has a red hat with no trim - it'd probably look just as good on a pirate - with a white beard that spreas out to the sides. The white gloves hands have clip-on fur trim at the wrists, and the black boots just clamp over the 1974-style nondescript red feet. It works! It has a jacket, and printed buttons and a painted belt. I'm not crazy about this one, but it does the trick - he can sit in the chair next to a tree. That's really all you ask from a figure like this, an you get it.
The photographer is a reused figure that was sold in some bus sets around the time of its original release - she's neat. Her shirt has buttons, she has a yellow scarf that's effectively not removable since her head holds it in place, and she has real shoes. (Not like Santa.) She has no problems holding or setting up the camera, and is a perfectly nice Playmobil figure with a hairstyle piece you don't see much anymore.
The kid wears a green and yellow striped blue shirt with green pants. He also has molded shoes, and a removable yellow hat with ear flaps and a scarf. The figure was sold in multiple sets up until 2011 - so you may have a few of him if you buy a lot of older sets. He can't sit on Santa's lap - a limitation of the figure designs - but he can stand around and steal some presents.
The Christmas Tree is the centerpiece of the set. Better ones have since come along, but this is pretty much like their regular trees, with some red ornaments, white garland, and yellow candle-like lights on it. There's a star on top, and it looks vaguely like the kind of thing you might see in a home or department store. Playmobil has since made more realistic trees, electronic light-up trees, and so on. This one assembles pretty easily and the decorations more or less stay put. It's not bad. It's not terribly convincing, but it gets the general shape and colors right, and stands nicely.
The armchair was released in three sets - and just announced to be rereleased next year - and is pretty good. The mustard yellow upholstery has brown plastic underneath, making it pretty distinctive. The chair has no problems seating any figure, and the texture of the "fabric" part looks a lot different than the "wood" part. Given the countless folding chairs, stools, booths, and so forth we've received in Playmobil I dare say this is my favorite. I've had this chair on my desk for years and new figures tend to take turns sitting in it. I'd totally recommend buying this set just for the chair.
The camera is a multi-piece affair, with two actual cameras and all the parts on one big model kit-style sprue. You pop them out like you would any kit, put it together, and presto - lots of cameras.
I don't find the paper boxes to be particularly special, but the complete set is a pretty nice one. Sadly there's no mall Santa court or department store with a big place to set him up, but it's a neat toy and is arguably more interesting as a collection of cool parts than a cohesive set. These would have made great parts in an advent calendar, and of course Santa figures have been in quite a few of them. So have trees. As one of my great post-Christmas clearance buying spree items, I still very much like this one - even if all I played with before last month were the tree and the chair. The chair is still better than a lot of recent newer designs after all these years, and it was a 1999 debut piece. But enough about the chair - there's probably no better department store Santa toy that I can think of buying.
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