Mr. Potato Head
Original 1952 Mr. Potato Head Funny Face Kit
Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato, which can be decorated with a variety of plastic parts that can attach to the main body. These parts usually include ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth. The toy was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949, and first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television and has remained in production since its debut. The toy was originally produced as separate plastic parts with pushpins that could be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable. However, due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body within the toy set in 1964.
Over the years, the original toy was joined by Mrs. Potato Head and supplemented with accessories such as a car and a boat trailer. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head may be best known for their appearances in the Toy Story franchise. Additionally, in 1998 The Mr. Potato Head Show aired but was short lived, with only one season being produced. As one of the prominent marks of Hasbro, a Mr. Potato Head balloon has also joined others in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Today, Mr. Potato Head can still be seen adorning hats, shirts, and ties. Toy Story Midway Mania! at California Adventure Park, in Disneyland, also features a large talking Mr. Potato Head.
In the early 1940s, Brooklyn-born toy inventor George Lerner came up with the idea of inserting small, pronged body and face parts into fruits and vegetables to create a "funny face man". Some speculate he got the idea from his wife's nephew Aaron Bradley, who was seen placing sticks inside of potatoes in the family garden. Lerner would often take potatoes from his mother's garden and, using various other fruits and vegetables as facial features, he would make dolls with which his younger sisters could play. The grape-eyed, carrot-nosed, potato-headed dolls became the principle idea behind the plastic toy which would later be manufactured.
In the beginning, Lerner's toy proved controversial. With the war and food rationing a recent memory for most Americans, the use of fruits and vegetables to make toys was considered irresponsible and wasteful. Toy companies rejected Lerner's creation. After several years of trying to sell the toy, Lerner finally convinced a food company to distribute the plastic parts as premiums in breakfast cereal boxes. He sold the idea for $5,000. But in 1951, Lerner showed the idea to Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who conducted a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Brothers (later changed to Hasbro). Realizing the toy was quite unlike anything in their line, they paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and bought the rights for $5,000. Lerner was offered an advance of $500 and a 5% royalty on every kit sold. The toy was dubbed Mr. Potato Head and went into production.
Mr. Potato Head was "born" on May 1, 1952. The original toy cost $0.98, and contained hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces resembling facial hair. The original Mr. Potato Head kit did not come with a potato "body", so parents had to provide their own potato into which children could stick the various pieces. Shortly after the toy's initial release, an order form for 50 additional pieces was enclosed in every kit.
On April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy advertised on television. The campaign was also the first to be aimed directly at children; before this, commercials were only targeted at adults, so toy adverts had always been pitched to parents. This commercial revolutionized marketing, and caused an industrial boom. Over one million kits were sold in the first year. In 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added, and soon after, Brother Spud and Sister Yam completed the Potato Head family with accessories reflecting the affluence of the fifties that included a car, a boat trailer, a kitchen set, a stroller, and pets called Spud-ettes. Although originally produced as separate plastic parts to be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable, a plastic potato was added to the kit in 1964.
In the 1960s, government regulations forced the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, leaving them unable to puncture vegetables easily. By 1964, the company was therefore forced to include a plastic potato "body" in its kit. Little children were also choking on the small pieces and cutting themselves with the sharp pieces. About this time, Hasbro introduced Oscar the Orange and Pete the Pepper, a plastic orange and green pepper with attachable face parts similar to Mr. Potato Head's. Each came with Mr. Potato Head in a separate kit. Female characters Katie the Carrot and Cooky the Cucumber also made an appearance. Hasbro also made a fast food based line called Mr. Potato Head's Picnic Pals. Some characters were Mr. Soda Pop Head and Frankie Frank. The friends and pals were later discontinued, but Funko revived Oscar and Pete as bobbleheads (along with a Mr. Potato Head bobblehead) in 2002.
In 1975, the main potato part of the toy doubled in size and the dimensions of its accessories were similarly increased. This was done mainly because of new toy child safety regulations that were introduced by the U.S. government. This change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily. Hasbro also replaced the holes with flat slats, which made it impossible for users to put the face pieces and other body parts the wrong way around. In the 1980s, Hasbro reduced the range of accessories for Mr. Potato Head to one set of parts. The company did, however, reintroduce round holes in the main potato body, and once again parts were able to go onto the toy in the wrong locations.
In 1985, Mr. Potato Head received four postal votes in the run for mayor of Boise, Idaho in the "most votes for Mr. Potato Head in a political campaign" as verified by Guinness World Records.
In 2006, Hasbro also began selling sets of pieces without bodies for customers to add to their collections. Some of these themed sets included Chef, Construction Worker, Firefighter, Halloween, King, Mermaid, Police Officer, Pirate, Princess, Rockstar, and Santa Claus. In the same year, Hasbro introduced a line called "Sports Spuds" with a generic plastic potato (smaller than the standard size) customized to a wide variety of professional and collegiate teams.
In recent years, Hasbro has produced Potato Head sets based on media properties that Hasbro produces toys for under license. These include the Star Wars-themed "Darth Tater", "Spud Trooper" and "R2-POTATOO", a 2007 Transformers film-themed "Optimash Prime" (the look is based on the original Optimus Prime from the original television series), a pair of Spider-Man-themed "Spider-Spud/Peter Tater" (both red suit and black suit, to tie in with Spider-Man 3), an Indiana Jones-themed "Taters of the Lost Ark" set (which, despite the title, was released as a tie-in to 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), an Iron Man 2-themed "Tony Starch", and a "Trick or Tater" version for Halloween in October 2008. An additional five Star Wars-themed potato heads were sold exclusively through Disney theme parks: "Luke Frywalker," "Yam Solo," "Spuda Fett," "Princess Tater," and "Darth Mash."
In 2009, "Bumble Spud" was produced based on the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. A Kiss version of Mr. Potato Head was produced recently. Disney, in cooperation with Hasbro, also released "Chipbacca", "Mashter Yoda", and "C-3PotatO" in October 2009 at Disney Parks. To celebrate Toy Story 3, five new Mr. Potato Heads were unveiled including Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Mrs. Potato Head, and the classic Mr. Potato Head. To promote The Looney Tunes Show, Hasbro unveiled Bugs Bunny-, Daffy Duck- and Tasmanian Devil-themed Mr. Potato Head dolls.
In 2011, it was announced at the New York Toy Fair that a second Elvis Mr. Potato Head (based on his 1968 TV special) would be released, as well as sets for The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion), the Three Stooges, and Star Trek (Kirk and Kor). These were all released through PPW toys. From Hasbro, there will be a SpongeBob SquarePants release as well.
Since 2011, new models of the Mr. Potato Head toys, commonly referred to as Jason, have been produced. The Mrs. Potato Head version of the toy was also brought out in early 2012, commonly known as Rachel, and has a baked bean-like head. In 2012, Hasbro and PPW Toys released Mr. Potato Head in Batman form for the movie The Dark Knight Rises. The model, known as "The Dark Spud", features Mr. Potato Head dressed up as the Caped Crusader. Before the release, the model was unveiled at the 2012 New York Toy Fair. In 2014, to celebrate The Simpsons 25th anniversary, there will be a Homer Simpson Mr. potato head.
In popular culture
Mr. Potato Head's popularity has led to some appearances in films and television. In 1985, Mr Potato Head played a supporting role in Potato Head Kids, his first dramatic television appearance. In 1995, Mr. Potato Head appeared in the Disney/Pixar film Toy Story, voiced by Don Rickles. He returned between 1999 and 2010 in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 alongside Mrs. Potato Head. In 1998-99, he had his own short-lived Fox Kids series, The Mr. Potato Head Show. In addition to film and television, the character has been the subject of a comic strip created by Jim Davis. Cartoonist Gary Larson included the character in several of his The Far Side cartoons. In commercial for Bridgestone tires during Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Mr. Potato Head is driving a car and Mrs. Potato Head is nagging him.
Mr. Potato Head has also acted as spokesman for several causes. In 1987, Mr Potato Head surrendered his pipe to become the spokesperson for the American Cancer Society's annual "Great American Smokeout" campaign. He performed the role for several years. In 1992, he received a special award from the President's Council for Physical Fitness. In 1996, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head joined the League of Women Voters and their "Get Out to Vote" campaign. Mr. Potato Head is also the inspiration/main character of an upcoming fan film, Potato Headed.
Mr. and Mrs Potato Head also star in commercials for other brands starting in the 2000s. An example is an ad for Lay's Potato Chips where Mr. Potato Head comes home to see Mrs. Potato Head eating them although she's a potato. At the end Mr. Potato Head joins in and tells her to keep it their "little secret".
Role in Toy Story Series
In the original Toy Story movie, he served as a minor antagonist. He is the first character seen. His then owner Andy Davis (John Morris) is pretending that Mr. Potato Head is the western outlaw One-Eyed Bart. Luckily he is stopped by Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Andy's sister Molly bashes his parts off. Later during the staff meeting, it is shown that Potato Head isn't happy that Woody is Andy's favorite toy. Later after Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) arrives, Potato Head antagonizes Woody that Andy has replaced him. Later after Andy's mom (Laurie Metcalf) tells him that they're going to Pizza Planet and he can bring only one toy, Woody tries to knock Buzz down the deck so Andy can't find him. However he accidentally knocks Buzz out the window instead. Potato Head, Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Sarge (R. Lee Ermey) accuse Woody of getting rid of Buzz on purpose and attack him. However at that moment, Andy enters and takes Woody away. However right before they leave, Mr. Potato Head draws a Noose with Andy's Etch A Sketch, which Woody sees. Later after Woody doesn't come home with Andy, Potato Head prides himself, thinking Woody was guilty after all. The following day while playing Battleship, Potato Head and Hamm see Woody in the house of Sid Phillips (Erik Von Detten) and show Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Woody tosses Slinky some lights which Potato Head grabs away, still thinking that Woody purposely got rid of Buzz. Woody tries to tell them that Buzz is there with him, however he accidentally shows his severed arm, making them think Woody killed Buzz, when actually he jumped and it broke off. Potato Head then tells Woody that he hopes Sid pulls his voice box out and he and the other toys leave them to his fate. Later after Woody and Buzz (Who is now fixed) escape Sid's house, Sid's dog Scud corners Buzz under a car and Woody hops into the moving van, takes out RC Car, pushes him out and sends him to rescue Buzz. Potato Head and the others think Woody has now gotten rid of RC and attack him. Mr. Potato Head orders Rocky Gibraltar to toss Woody overboard, which he does. Luckily Buzz and RC, having escaped Scud, pick Woody up and they drive after the moving van. The others then see Woody riding on RC and Buzz with him in one piece. They soon discover Woody was telling the truth and Buzz is okay. Potato Head soon realizes his mistake and tries to help the others save the toys. Andy's toys are unsuccessful in saving them. Luckily Woody and Buzz use the rocket on Buzz's back to catch up with the truck. Woody even tosses RC into the van and he knocks down Potato Head. Later at Andy's new house, Mr. Potato Head is thrilled to learn that Molly's first Christmas present is a Mrs. Potato Head, and he then removes his mustache.
In Toy Story 2, Mr. Potato Head has become softer and sweeter now that Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris) is in his life. Later after Woody is stolen by Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight) the owner of the Al's Toy Barn Toy Store, Potato Head joins Buzz, Rex, Hamm and Slinky on their mission to save him. After a series of mis-adventures, Buzz, Potato Head, Rex, Hamm and Slinky, along with another Buzz Lightyear action with a utility belt (Tim Allen) arrive at Al's apartment where Woody is being held. There Woody learns he's part of an old TV show called Woody's Roundup and that Al plans to sell Woody and his co-stars Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye and Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) to a museum in Tokyo,Japan. When the toys arrive in Al's penthouse via the vents, Mr. Potato Head tries to attack Jessie with his angry eyes but puts his spare feet in his eye hole instead. However having learned the sad story of how Jessie's first owner Emily and abandoned her and having been told by Stinky Pete that Andy will do the same thing to him one day, Woody tells Buzz and the others he doesn't want to go home with them. Although after watching himself sing a song on TV, Woody decides to go home with his friends and invites the round-up toys to join him. Jessie and Bullseye agree but Stinky Pete seals the vent shut so they can't follow Andy's toys, revealing he wants to go to Japan. After Al takes the round-up toys to the airport and Andy's toys follow him there in a Pizza Planet truck. Three Green Aliens (Jeff Pidgeon) are there in the truck and almost fall out the window. Luckily, Potato Head saves them and pulls them back in. The Aliens tell Potato Head "You have saved our lives! We are eternally grateful!" The toys see both Al's suitcase and another suitcase that looks like Al's. Buzz and Slinky go after Al's suitcase and Rex, Hamm, Mr. Potato Head and The Aliens go after the other. In the other case, they find some cameras. They later help Buzz and Slinky confront Stinky Pete and rescue Woody, Jessie and Bullseye. Woody, Buzz, Potato Head, Rex, Hamm and Slinky later return to Andy's house with Jessie, Bullseye and the Aliens. There The Aliens tells Mrs. Potato Head how Mr. Potato Head saved their lives. Mrs. Potato Head decides she will adopt them, much to her husband's dismay.
In Toy Story 3, Mr. Potato Head is first seen playing One-Eyed Bart again in Andy's realistic playtime. Years Later, Mr. Potato Head is one of Andy's remaining toys, along with Mrs. Potato Head, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Hamm, Slinky (now voiced by Blake Clark), Bullseye and the Aliens. The Aliens are still grateful to Potato Head, who still rejects them. Later Andy must pack for College. He decides to take Woody with him to college and puts the other toys in a bag for the attic. Andy's mom thinks the bag is trash and puts it on the curb. The toys escape the bag and think Andy doesn't think anymore so they go to Sunnyside Daycare with Barbie (Jodi Benson). Woody comes with them to try and convince them that Andy was putting them in the attic but they don't believe him. After Lots-O-Hugging Bear (Ned Beatty) assigns Mr. Potato Head and his friends to the Caterpillar Room, Woody tries to go back home to Andy but is found by a Sunnyside student named Bonnie Anderson (Emily Hahn). Meanwhile the other toys are played with by the children. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are mashed and bashed. Later after a long rough day of play, Buzz plays to go find Lotso and ask him to allow him and his friends to move to the Butterfly Room. Jessie, Slinky and The Potato Heads launch Buzz to a transom with a wheeled toy. While Buzz is away, the others learn via one of Mrs. Potato Head's eyes, which is back in Andy room's, that Andy does still want them. The toys get ready to go home when suddenly Lotso and his henchmen enter with a now-brain-washed Buzz and imprison Jessie and the others in baskets while Mr. Potato Head is tossed into a sandbox. The following morning, Woody, having learned from Bonnie's toys that Lotso is evil, returns to rescue his friends so they can all go back to Andy. The toys put together a plan to leave via the trash chute and get Buzz back. Mr. Potato Head distracts Lotso's gang so Slinky can leave to help Woody turn off the security cameras. Mr. Potato Head is later returned to the sandbox where he takes off his parts and puts them on a tortilla. However it breaks apart and he must put his parts on a cucumber. He later meets up with his friends and puts his parts back on his potato body. The toys arrive at the dumpster where Lotso and his gang catch them. Lotso ends up in the dumpster and pulls Woody in with him. The others try to save Woody and they all end up at the dump where Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Slinky, Hamm, Lotso and The Potato Heads end up on their way to an incinerator. Lotso sees a stop button and climbs up the ladder to reach it, but then runs off and leaves Andy's toys to be burned. Thinking the end is near, Mr. Potato Head joins hands with Mrs. Potato Head and Rex. The toys are about to accept their fate when suddenly The Aliens scoop them up with a giant claw. After being rescued, Mrs. Potato Head tells the Aliens "You saved our lives." and Mr. Potato Head says "And we are eternally grateful." He finally accepts The Aliens as his sons. The toys then head home to Andy, and Woody heads for the College Box while Buzz, Mr. Potato Head and the others hop in an Attic Box. Mr. Potato Head tells Woody that Andy could use a haircut. After Woody realizes he doesn't want to leave his friends, he writes Bonnie's address on their box and joins them. On his way to college, Andy gives the Potato Heads and his other toys to Bonnie so she can play with them.
In Toy Story of Terror!, Mr. Potato Head accompanies Bonnie and her mother (Lori Alan) on a road trip with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Mr. Pricklepants Timothy Dalton and Trixie (Kristen Schaal). After the car breaks down near the Sleep Well Motel, Potato Head disappears, prompting Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Mr. Pricklepants and Trixie to go find him. One by one, Trixie, Mr. Pricklpants and Rex all disappear and Woody, Buzz and Jessie find one of Potato Head's Arms. Woody and Buzz soon disappear and later Jessie disappears. Jessie meets with a now one armed Potato Head and the others in the office the motel manager Ron (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is stealing toys with his iguana Mr. Jones and selling them online. Luckily Jessie escapes and manages to reveal Ron's scheme to Bonnie and her mom, who reclaim the toys and call the police. Mr. Potato Head recovers his lost arm and suddenly all his parts fall off at once, which makes his friends laugh.
Mr. Potato Head also appears Toy Story That Time Forgot, however with a much smaller role.
It has been confirmed that Mr. Potato Head will return in Toy Story 4 and Don Rickles will reprise the role.
Mr. Potato Head has also appeared as the host in all installments of the popular video game series Hasbro Family Game Night. He has also appeared in several Toy Story based video games along with Toy Story Activity Center.
- "Mr Potato Head". Museum of Childhood website. V&A Museum of Childhood. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
- Walsh, Tim (2005). Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Made Them. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0-7407-5571-4.
- History of Hasbro: Mr. Potato Head at the Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2008)
- "The Adventures of MR. POTATO HEAD". Children's Museum Indianapolis Website. Children's Museum Indianapolis, 3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208-4716. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
- "The Mr. Potato Head Show". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
- Suddath, Claire (November 27, 2008). "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade". Time.
- "Toy Story Mania! | Walt Disney World Resort". Disneyworld.disney.go.com. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- "Is Mr Potato Head to blame for 'pester power' ads?". BBC News. April 30, 2012. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
- "Vintage Original Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head commercial 1960's". YouTube. 2009-01-26. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- d. martin. "1960". Mrpotatohead.net. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "PPW Toys". Sports-spuds.com. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Conradt, Stacy. "The Quick 10: Our 10 Favorite Mr. Potato Heads". mental_floss. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Optimash Prime Mr. Potato Head Transformer". Uncrate. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "Taters of the Lost Ark". Uncrate. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "browse". Hasbro.com. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mr. Potato Head.|