Who are those Cartoon Men on German TV? The Mainzelmännchen!!!
Isn’t it nice how the little things can make you so happy? One distinctly German cartoon that brought me endless delight was the Mainzelmännchen! These little animated men on German TV would come on during the commercials in quick animated spots that just made us LAUGH. Over the years, these adorable little guys have appeared in 50,000 spots! They have their own names and personalities, and have developed a huge fan base of their own. But there is much more to them than just silliness… it turns out, they are there for a reason. Learn more about the Mainzelmaennchen, those little cartoon men on German TV.
Mainzelmännchen- The Cartoon Men on German TV
If you’ve watched channel ZDF in Germany any time after 1963, starting right around 3:15 when the children’s programming begins (or began, back in the day), you would see cartoon snippets… anywhere from 3- 6 seconds long… of 6 little men (or boys) called Mainzelmännchen. But they weren’t just there for entertainment. In Germany, the Rundfunkstaatsvertrag (State Treaty for Broadcasting and Telemedia), set standards for all German Television stations forbidding the blurring of Programs and Commercials. The Mainzelmännchen always showed up with a sign that said Werbung! (Advertising!) so you KNEW that you were about to be bombarded with ads for Persil, Mentos (the Freshmaker!) and Fa bath gel.
Watching them in the 1970s was an endless wonder for this kid from California. I was used to American Television, where programs are constantly interrupted with a bombardment of commercials, and many of the children’s shows were just vehicles for selling cereal or toys. Here were some funny little cartoons that were pure entertainment. The boys never fought, never got really hurt, and never hurt anyone. The tales had to be told quickly, but the artists managed to capture the whole story in just a few seconds. And even though they barely spoke, we kids knew EXACTLY what they were saying!
Captured from Pinterest… source unknown
In 2003, ZDF caused a HUGE uproar when they changed the animation style of our little friends. Gerlach’s round animation style was traded in for a more modern look based on Japanese Manga. Most distressing, 2 of them, Edi and Fritzchen, no longer wear caps! The Mainzelmännchen were also given an upgrade in their devices… now you would see them using mobile phones and laptops.
See how they look now
The Mainzelmännchen developed a following of their own.
It’s not a huge surprise that the Mainzelmännchen became a commercial success. You could buy figurines of our little friends, coloring books and story books. There were watches, pillows, and even puzzles, and everyone’s favorite collectible sticker albums, all with the Mainzelmännchen on them. A Mainzelmännchen record album was even released (pretty amazing, when you consider how little they actually spoke). Today they even have a Techno-Album!!!
Their snippet success led to bigger slightly longer videos, and a mini-series of sorts was produced called Sender Nordlicht. This story of a Pirate Radio Station who decides to boost their ratings by kidnapping the Mainzelmännchen came on in the 1970s… for 5 minutes every night before the 7 o’clock news broadcast.
Today, at over 50 years old, the Mainzelmännchen are still going strong, and are more popular than ever. In 2013, the Mayor of Mainz made Anton, Berti, Conni, Det, Edi and Fritzchen honorary citizens (an honor that is normally only bestowed on actual humans). And in 2016, the first Mainzelmännchen Ampelman was put up, and more are coming.
Who Else Collected these Figurines!???
Over 50 Years and 50,000 video snippets later, those sweet little Mainzelmännchenn, Anton, Berti, Conni, Det, Edi and Fritzchen are still delighting people of all ages.
Sing and Dance with the Mainzelmännchen!
Put on your cartoon feet… and go have some fun!!
Which Mainzelmännchen Clip was YOUR Favorite?
The one that sticks out for me… one of them was bouncing on the diving board, dives into the pool, and then bounces back onto the diving board!