He’s no Brad Pitt.
Anyway you slice it, he’s kind of pudgy and his nose is too big. But Mr. Potato Head, born in 1952, was destined for super-stardom.
George Lerner, who invented the tater toy in 1949, had a hard time selling his idea to toy companies. The memory of World War II was all too fresh in people’s minds, and it seemed wasteful to use vegetables for toys. You see, the original Mr. P. was a pile of plastic parts (eyes, ears, etc.) that kids stuck into real potatoes.
In 1952, Hasbro made the first Mr. Potato Head, which sold for 98 cents. But after complaints about kids playing with rotten veggies or getting poked with the sharp pins, Hasbro included a plastic potato to hold the parts.
Not only was Mr. P. the first toy ever advertised on television—he was also the first product marketed directly to kids instead of to their parents. This idea changed advertising forever, and more than a million kits sold the first year. But even with his success as a television personality, something important was missing from Mr. Potato Head’s life.
MRS. Potato Head, of course! Eventually, in a quiet civil ceremony, Mr. Potato Head got married, and the happy couple got their own car, boat trailer, kitchen set, and pets. With the support of his spud spouse, the Mr.'s career really took off.
In the 1960’s, Hasbro introduced Mr. Potato Head’s friends — Oscar the Orange, Pete the Pepper, Katie Carrot, and Cookie Cucumber. In 1966, Hasbro also created Mr. Potato Head's Picnic Pals, including Willy Burger, Frenchy Fry, and Mr. Ketchup Head.
In 1986, Mr. Potato Head attended the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout in Washington, D.C. As National Spokespud, he turned in his pipe to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, to encourage people to quit smoking.
Then in 1995, Mr. Potato Head got his big break in show biz, with a starring role in the Disney/Pixar movie Toy Story (voice talent: Don Rickles). In 2000, he was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY.
In 2006, Hasbro introduced themed sets of potato pieces—Rockstar, Pirate, Firefighter, Santa Claus, etc. And then came movie-themed characters: Optimash Prime, Taters of the Lost Ark, and some high-flying Spuds from Space--Darth Tater, Spud Trooper, and R2 Potatoo! Now there’s even a Mr. Potato Head balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and we have to wonder if there's room in the next Avengers epic for the versatile and well-rounded Spud Stud.
Mr. Potato Head turns 60 this year. Maybe he’s no Brad Pitt, but he’s rich and famous and he brings joy to a lot of children. Perhaps someday he and the Mrs. will retire to Idaho, but for now, he’s no couch potato. No sir. This potato is hot—in a pudgy, nose-too-big kind of way.
|Artwork from Pixar exhibition in Milan|