Mr. Potato Head
The Origin Of A Talented Tuber
Once upon a time, Mr. Potato Head was almost nothing more than a forgotten cereal premium. But sometimes, there is just something that magically happens, and a product goes down into history being remembered as a classic. It would be George Lerner's turn to end up making that history! Around the World War II era, George Lerner was successful at being a well known inventor and designer. Just before 1950, he had a brainstorm; he designed and produced a set of plastic face pieces, that were push- pin shaped noses, ears, eyes and mouth. The expression-like piecess could be pushed into any fruit or vegetable transforming food into a play toy.
Mr. Lerner's toy idea wasn't what could be called an immediate hit. People still had the war mentality and to waste something as important as food, especially for a child's toy, would be a "sin." Eventually, George sold the toy, for $5,000 dollars, to a well-known cereal company. The cereal company planned to use the plastic pieces as what is known as a "premium giveaway" in cereal boxes. Remember those days when cereal had cool toys and trinkets stuffed somewhere in the box and you would dig through the sugary goodness to get to the prize, before anyone else could get it?
George knew that his new toy idea was destined for greater fame. That destiny came knocking for George and his toy in the the form of a meeting with a family owned New England manufacturer. Mr Lerner and the manufacturer bought back the rights to the toy from the cereal company for $7,000.
And so was born, Mr. Potato Head, one of the world’s most adored "personalities," created offically in 1952, at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island toy company, by the name of Hasbro, Inc. The talented tuber began making history at an early age as the very first toy to be advertised on television. The original Mr. Potato Head contained only parts, such as eyes, ears, noses and mouths;... parents had to supply children with real potatoes for face-changing fun!
Vintage Original Mr and Mrs Potato Head commercial 1960's
Mr. Potato Head Takes Root
Mr. Potato Head was a bonafide success! Selling over one million kits in the first year. In 1953, the world was introduced to Mrs. Potato Head, and soon enough,the Potato Head family was completed with the addition of Brother Spud and Sister Yam accessories; which was a direct reflection 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, the now familiar plastic potato was added in 1964.
In 1975, due to the new child toy safety regulations that were introduced by the U.S. government, the plastic potato was doubled in size as well as all of Mr. Potato Head's accessories. The bonus to this change in size was the increased market sales. Mr. Potato Head could now be sold to younger children, the new larger sized pieces allowed children to attach the facial pieces easily. Hasbro also replaced the holes with flat slots, which made it impossible for users to put the face pieces and other body parts the in the wrong places, lowering the chance for plastic perversion. In the 1980s, Hasbro down-sized the range of Mr. Potato Head's accessories to only one set of parts. Hasbro did reintroduce the round holes in the main potato body at this time, and once again his parts were able to go into "the wrong locations."
In 1986, Mr. Potato Head surrendered his famous pipe to then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and became "Spokespud" for the annual Great American Smokeout . Later Mr. Potato Head made his movie acting debut in 1995 with a leading role in Pixar's animated feature, Toy Story. Mr. Potato Head is inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2000, and later starred in his own comic strip.
In recent years, Hasbro also began selling individual pieces as sets to add to a collection instead of having to buy an entire Mr. Potato Head. Some of these themed sets include Firefighter, Construction Worker, Santa Claus, and the Star Wars-themed "Darth Tater" not to mention a list of new Mr. Potato Head accessories that are block-buster movie themed. A Kiss Version of Mr. Potato Head is rumoured to be in production.
Mr. Potato Head Commercial 1980's
Trying To Ketchup With Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head's popularity has led to appearances in film and television, including his first dramatic television supporting role in the 1985, "Potato Head Kids." He even had his own short-lived Fox Kids series, "The Mr. Potato Head Show." In addition to film and television, Mr. Potato Head has been on the receiving end of being the subject of the comic strip created by Jim Davis. Cartoonist Gary Larsen has included the spectacular spud in several of his "The Far Side" cartoons.
He has received a special award from the President's Council for Physical Fitness, and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head had joined the League of Women Voters and their "Get Out the Vote" campaign.
All in all, not too bad for a potato of such humble beginnings, when you consider the basis for a popular children’s toy. Especially when you look at the company he keeps...Barbie, G. I. Joe, Hot Wheels, Licoln Logs and Erector Sets. He has survived and surpassed other trendy toys....remember Pound Puppies, and My Little Pony? What else would possess a child to play with vegetables? Even though they won't eat them. But, back in the 1950s an inventor named George Lerner had a vision to transform vegetables into a child's play toy and... he succeeded.
Whether you can recall puncturing potatoes with plastic eyes and ears, or picking up a brand new plastic Mr. Potato Head for your own little ones, this multi-faceted vegetable has made an unimaginable impact on the American public.
Just think, he nearly didn't make it out of a cereal box.