Mr. Potato Head was invented by George Lerner in the early 1950s. 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 principal idea behind the plastic toy which would later be manufactured.
The original plan was to have it be a prize in breakfast cereal so that the separate parts could be distributed as cereal package premiums. But later, Lerner showed the idea to textile manufacturers Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who did business as the Hassenfeld Brothers (later shortened to Hasbro). They loved it, so they bought back the rights.
When the toy was first manufactured, it came with 70 accessories. A number of the original accessories reflected certain features of the members of Lerner’s own family .
When it was first sold to the public in 1952, it became the first toy to be sold through national television advertising and netted Hasbro more than $100 million in its first year of production. In 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added, and soon after, Brother Spud and Sister Yam completed the Potato Head family. Although originally produced as separate plastic parts to be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable, a plastic body was added to the kit in 1964.
In 1973, 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. 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 1987 the smoking pipe was discontinued.
In 2006, Hasbro also began selling individual pieces as sets to add to a collection instead of having to buy an entire Potato Head set with a body. Some of these themed sets included Mermaid, Rockstar, Pirate, King, Princess, Firefighter, Construction Worker, Halloween, Santa Claus, Chef, and Police Officer.
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", a Spider-Man-themed "Spider-Spud/Peter Tater" and a 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).
Mr. Potato Head first appeared on TV in Potato Head Kids, in which he played a supporting character. He has appeared in both Toy Story movies (voiced by Don Rickles), with another appearance slated for the third movie. He had his own short-lived Fox Kids series The Mr. Potato Head Show from 1998–1999, has been the subject of a comic strip created by Jim Davis, and advertised fries for Burger King in commercials after there was a considerable change in their taste. Currently, in Britain, Walkers crisps has a line of crisps called Potato Heads, featuring a Potato head rendition of Gary Lineker on the packet. An interactive Audio-Animatronic version appears in the queue for the Toy Story Midway Mania! attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's California Adventure.
In the "Critic" TV series,once Jay Sherman's father and the judge had a talk:(Dad):Ah,Judge. I seem to remember appointing you.(Judge):No, you appointed Mr. Potato Head.
Mr. Potato Head was also the first toy advertised on television.
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