Mr. Potato Head is a plastic toy that is shaped to look like a potato. It includes several pre-made holes where plastic eyes, ears, shoes, hats, noses, mouths and arms can be attached. The customizable toy was invented by George Lerner in 1949 and began production by Hasbro in 1952. Over the years, several versions have been released with varying accessories.
There are few people that have been born in the last 50 years that don’t know what Mr. Potato Head is. The childhood staple has been released dozens of times in standard and limited edition kits. The kits contain eyes, noses, mouths, shoes, hats and more. By mixing and matching pieces, kids can create limitless combinations for imaginative play.
I remember spending countless hours playing with Mr. Potato Head. My parents loved it and they encouraged me to play with it. At the time, I thought they liked seeing the combinations I could come up with. Looking back, I know they just liked because it didn’t light up or make noise.
One of the selling features of Mr. Potato Head was that you could store the parts in the back. There was a trap door in the rump that would open for easy access. Unfortunately, the hinges weren’t of great quality and I can remember the door popping off almost constantly. The idea was that kids could put their own toys away because the trap door was easy to open. That would teach them responsibility. In reality, it was just one more thing mom had to constantly fix for me.
Mr. Potato Head came in a variety of styles over the years. There was a regular version with generic accessories, a Toy Story edition and even a Mrs. Potato Head. You could purchase boat trailers, cars and other embellishments to give your potato a luxurious life. Mr. Potato Head even made a cameo in several movies. There was a brief television show called The Mr. Potato Head Show that debuted in 1998, but the pilot season was never picked up. Mr. Potato Head is still a quasi-celebrity and enjoys a balloon in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Mr. Potato Head also enjoys great popularity in preschool classrooms. The toy makes a great first lesson on anatomy. Kids can learn through play by naming the parts as they put them on the toy. The convenient in-doll storage makes Mr. Potato Head hard to pass up for a lot of teachers.
Despite the lack of electronics and the length of time that Mr. Potato Head has been on the market, the toy continues to demand top dollar. Sets frequently retail for $20 or more and parents readily pay as a way to connect with their own childhoods and give their kids a little bit of the carefree childhoods they remember.
He is the only creature in the world who would allow you to re-construct his face (and actually love it!). He is Mr. Potato Head, and yes you will find yourself entertained for hours!
Fun Fact: Did you know that Mr. Potato Head is the first-ever toy that was advertised on television and has remained in production ever since?
In this article, you will learn more exciting trivia about our good old Mr. Potato, how he came to be, and why the world couldn’t seem to get enough of him. Read on!
How Mr. Potato Head Came To be
It was on May 1, 1952 when Mr. Potato Head was first released by Hasbro Inc., an American international toy and board game company. The plastic toy was invented by George Lerner in 1949. He came up with the idea of turning vegetables into playmates which, as we all know now, paved the way for one of the longest patronized toys in history.
Originally, the toy was sold as a pack of separate plastic parts with pushpins that can be attached to real potatoes or other vegetables. At $0.98, the package came with removable body parts such as feet and hands, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes and four noses as well as three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces that resemble facial hair. But because of complaints regarding food waste coupled with new government safety regulations, Hasbro included a plastic potato-shaped body in the toy set in 1964.
A day before the addictive toy’s market release in April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first-ever toy advertised on television. It was also the first commercial campaign addressed directly to kids (during that time, advertisements are mainly addressed to parents).
Mr. Potato Head went through various transformations. First was the plastic body in exchange for the real potatoes that parents provided for their kids to play with. In 1975, the main potato body was enlarged alongside its accessories to follow through with the new toy safety regulations of the U.S. government. This change led to an increased market, with younger kids being allowed to play and to come up with their very own face sculpture.
It was also then that the holes where the body parts should be attached were turned into flat slats. This was to ensure that each part is attached to their rightful places.
By the 1980s, Hasbro released kits that included a reduced range of accessories to one set of each part. In turn, the toy company re-introduced round holes on Mr. Potato’s body. This also brought the fun back of putting wrong parts in the wrong places.
It came as no surprise to anyone when this potato-shaped toy transcended boundaries from being a kiddie toy to a popular character that made its way into the small and big screens, collector’s shelves, and even on the streets of Lima, Peru.(Reference)
During the first year of its release, Mr. Potato Head already sold over one million kits. A year after, Mrs. Potato Head joined her husband which soon led to the birth of Brother Spud and Sister Yam and completed the Potato Head family. The family’s lifestyle easily reflected that of the 50s and includes a car and a boat trailer, along with their kitchen set and stroller. They even have a pet called Spud-ettes.
The surge of small and big screen appearances expectedly came for Mr. Potato Head. He starred in his first Hollywood leading role in Toy Story in 1995 and returned for Toy Story 2 and 3, respectively.
Though short-lived, Mr. Potato Head also had his own TV series on Fox Kids, The Mr. Potato Head Show. The show only had one episode.
In 1985, Mr. Potato Head received the “Most Votes for Mr. Potato Head in a Political Campaign” recognition as verified by the Guinness World Records. This was after receiving four postal votes for the mayor position in Boise, Idaho.
In 1987, Mr. Potato Head surrendered his pipe to a Surgeon General in Washington, D.C. and became the “Spokespud” for the Great American Smokeout, an annual event that encourages Americans to stop tobacco smoking.
In 1992, Mr. Potato Head received an award from the President’s Council for Physical Fitness. This special award is in line with his role as the spokesperson for the Great American Smokeout for several years.
In 1996, he joined League of Women Voters’ “Get Out to Vote” campaign, alongside Mrs. Potato Head.
In 2000, Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame .(Reference)
Why We Still Couldn’t Get Enough Of Him
Initially, George Lerner had a hard time selling the design to toy companies. His first breakk came from a food company. The potato-inspired toy was first distributed as premium in a box of breakfast cereal.
After over 60 years (and counting!), pop culture still couldn’t get enough of Mr. Potato Head. We see him printed on shirts, bags, wallets, and every other apparel you can think of. The question is, “What makes him so special to have this power over the human race?”
There’s even a website that chronicles the adventures of this popular toy. In Spud’s Travels, you can check his travel archive and browse through the places where he’s been. For 17 years, he has traversed different countries like Hong Kong, Iceland, Spain, Singapore, and a whole lot more.
Don’t be shy and don’t stop yourself either. We also laughed while staring at those cute Mr. Potato Head selfies. What’s your favorite? Hit that comment box now!