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Happy Birthday, Mr. Potato Head

Updated on October 11, 2013

Mr. Potato Head celebrated a milestone when he turned 60 in 2012. Learn more about this iconic American toy from the baby boomer generation.

A modern Mr. Potato Head.
A modern Mr. Potato Head. | Source
A modern Mrs. Potato Head.
A modern Mrs. Potato Head. | Source

The Funny Face Man

An American icon celebrated a major event in 2012: Mr. Potato Head turned 60 years old.

As one of the Hasbro toy company's most popular characters, Mr. Potato Head represented a rite of passage for millions of American preschool kids of the baby boomer generation. He has become a tradition that passes from one generation to the next.

Mr. Potato Head is a plastic model that is shaped like a potato. Children can decorate him with various plastic parts.

The traditional pieces include facial features (eyes, ears, nose, and mouth), shoes, and a hat. The original pieces were designed to push into a real potato to create a "funny face man."

Since the toy's debut in 1952, Hasbro has introduced more than 30 different Potato Head characters with 350 parts and accessories. The famous spud has inspired Potato Head collectibles, television shows, feature films, books, comic strips, Halloween costumes, t-shirts, ball caps, and more.

Mr. Potato Head History

George Lerner (1922-1995) was an American inventor and designer. During the 1940s, he had the idea of creating plastic facial features to apply to fruits and vegetables to make "funny face" toys. His inspiration came from the simple toys he made for his young sisters: silly-faced dolls created from the foods in his mother's vegetable garden.

In 1949, Lerner designed a prototype of pushpin-like plastic parts and sold his idea to a cereal company who wanted the toy for a cereal box premium. When a better deal came around, Lerner bought back the rights and sold the toy to Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, textile manufacturers with a school supply and toy business.

The first Mr. Potato Head Funny Face Kit.
The first Mr. Potato Head Funny Face Kit. | Source

The Hassenfeld Brothers (who later became Hasbro) dubbed the toy "Mr. Potato Head" and began production immediately. The first toy hit the shelves on May 1, 1952.

The first kits included plastic hands and feet; assorted eyes, ears, noses, mouths and hats; several felt pieces resembling hair; a pipe; and a Styrofoam face to practice on. The kits were sold without a plastic body; parents provided real potatoes for kids to decorate.

Mr. Potato Head was the first toy marketed directly to children through television, and the TV commercial revolutionized the industry. Hasbro sold more than one million kits in the first year. The company introduced Mrs. Potato Head in 1953, and the couple tied the knot on Valentine's Day. Brother Spud and sister Yam completed the Potato Head family.

The first Potato Head accessories reflected the affluence of American families in the 1950s. Popular accessories included a kitchen, car, boat trailer, baby stroller and pets called Spud-ettes.

In 1964, Hasbro added a plastic body to Potato Head kit. Along with the kit pieces, the head doubled in size and dimension in the 1970s. The changes stemmed from new government regulations that deemed certain toy parts too small and sharp for child safety. The larger kits expanded the market to younger children.

Mr. Potato Head Milestones

Mr. Potato Head has enjoyed many key moments in history. In 1987, he became the official "spokes spud" for the Great American Smokeout, an anti-smoking campaign sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

He gave up his "couch potato" status in 1992 and received an award from the President's Council on Physical Fitness. In 1995, Disney-Pixar gave him a high-profile role in the animated film Toy Story. He appeared in a 2009 Super Bowl commercial for Bridgestone Tires, and he made an appearance in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

In the social media age, Mr. Potato Head became one of Hasbro's first brands with his very own Facebook page. He and Mrs. Potato Head celebrated his milestone birthday with a year of global adventures, and Facebook chronicled their escapades.

In honor of the toy's 2012 milestone, Hasbro issued a special "Mashly in Love" anniversary edition. The kit features the happy couple holding hands as they renew their wedding vows.

Mr. Potato Head and friends.
Mr. Potato Head and friends. | Source

Mr. Potato Head Collectibles

Hasbro has produced several Potato Head theme kits through the years: fast food, mermaid, pirate, princess, rock star, policeman, firefighter, construction worker and more.

The holidays inspired Santa Claus and Halloween kits. Hasbro customized the "Sports Spuds" line for various professional and collegiate teams.

The toy company has licensed kits for various media properties. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Spider Man, Transformers, Iron Man, Toy Story, The Three Stooges and The Looney Tunes Show are the most popular. New themed releases are in development.

Mr. Potato Head is popular among children, collectors and fans. Hasbro began selling kits without a body in 2006, so people can simply add new features to their current Potato Head collections.

Indiana Jones: Taters of the Lost Ark.
Indiana Jones: Taters of the Lost Ark. | Source

A Pop Culture Icon

Potato Head Kids gave Mr. Potato Head his television debut in 1985. Four years later, he was the star of The Mr. Potato Head Show. His appearance in Toy Story, an award-winning 1995 animated film, earned him returning roles in the sequels.

Additionally, Mr. Potato Head has been the subject of two comic strips. Garfield creator Jim Davis and The Far Side creator Gary Larson included the famous spud in their cartoons.

The iconic toy has endorsed many important causes including an American Cancer Society anti-smoking campaign, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and the League of Women Voters "get out the vote" campaign.

Although the 2009 Super Bowl commercial was a highlight of his career, Mr. Potato Head has appeared in advertisements for Burger King, Disney theme parks and the UK's Walkers Crisps.

Travel writer Bill Bryson mentioned Mr. Potato Head in his 2006 memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. A page in Jon Stewart's Earth (The Book) is dedicated to him.

The funny face character also served as the host for Hasbro Family Game Night, and he appears in other video games based on Toy Story.

Your Turn

What are your memories of Mr. Potato Head? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.

Reference Sources

Mr. Potato Head dons camouflage to help the U.S. Army donate toys to children in 2008.
Mr. Potato Head dons camouflage to help the U.S. Army donate toys to children in 2008. | Source

© 2012 Annette R. Smith

Comments

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    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Greetings, icon pack. Thank you for reading my Mr. Potato Head article.

    • profile image

      icons pack 

      6 years ago

      In it something is also idea excellent, I support.

      BestPictDesign

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Happy Birthday, Mr. Potato Head! Today marks the classic toy's 60th birthday. Was this silly face toy part of your childhood?

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thanks, Hyphenbird! I had fun researching this one. It brought back some great memories.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This is so fun and interesting. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

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