As I stated in an earlier post, I want to highlight the real toy characters for the popular Toy Story movies.
First up is probably the most popular and recognized toy pair of the main characters - Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head. The Potato Head couple were great choices for characters in Toy Story because several generations of kids have played with them. Mr. Potato Head can be considered a vintage toy, but is also a current toy and still popular today.
It all began for the Potato Heads in 1951 when a toy inventor named George Lerner from Brooklyn, New York came up with a new idea for playing with food. He designed and developed plastic eyes, noses, mouths, eyeglasses, hats, hair and a pipe that were to be stuck into vegetables or fruit to create fun and silly characters.
These pieces were first available only as a cereal premium because the big toy sellers of the day told Lerner that people wouldn't buy his toy because it promotes wasting food. Lerner didn't give up and approached a pencil box, pencil and stationery company named Hassenfeld Brothers Inc., who had just started in the toy business with Jr. Doctor Kits and Play Vanity kits. Merrill Hassenfeld liked the toy and agreed to sell it. Because of Mr. Potato Head, This little toy company saw its first big success. The company became known as Hasbro and eventually became the most profitable and largest toy company in the world.
After Mr. Potato Head's initial success, Hasbro added Mrs. Potato Head pieces and cars for them to drive. Then Hasbro decided to take it up a notch by doing something that had never been done before. They created the first ever TV toy commercial in 1952. Here it is:
Thanks to that original toy commercial and other Television appearances like on Jackie Gleeson, The Potato head toys made over $4 million in 1953. Hasbro made many advances through the years by adding other characters and plastic bodies to stick under the potato, and then an actual plastic potato head. This is the Mr. Potato Head set that I had as a kid in the early 70's:
In addition to the face pieces, my set came with a blue and a yellow plastic body with hands and some felt pieces that you could stick the eyes through to create eyebrows or stick the nose through to create a moustache. This was possibly the last set before the new child safety regulations in 1975 that caused the pieces to get larger and the two eye pieces to become adjoined with only one peg. This I'm sure is frustrating to kids today who try to act out Toy Story 3 with their own potato heads. Much of the plot of Toy Story 3 had to do with Mrs. Potato Head having one eye in place and seeing through the other eye in a different location. You simply can not do that anymore with today's Potato Head toys.
So fast forward to today. Because of the regained potato popularity from Toy Story, there are many new speciality Mr. Potato Head characters available. Of course for kids you have the Toy Story Classic Mr. Potato Head as well as Mr Potato Head Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Head Woody. Mrs. Potato Head was added as a main character in Toy Story 2, so you can also get the Toy Story 2 - Mrs Potato Head toy.
Kids and adults can enjoy spuds from Star Wars like Darth Tater and Spud Trooper, Artoo Potato and C-3 POtato, Chipbaccaand many more Star Wars characters. They even have a Mr. Potato Head Yoda (What happened to the potato puns?)
There are so many new specialized Potato Heads. There's Mr. Potato Head Iron Man - Tony Starch, Taters of the Lost Ark, Idaho Jones, Sports teams like the New York Yankees Mr. Potato Head or the New Orleans Saints Mr. Potato Head.
So there you have it - The creators of Toy Story made a great choice using the Potato Head as main characters. They have had a storied career. From cereal toy to movie stars and now used in so many special was like the above mentioned sets. There are so many different Mr. Potato Heads that I never knew about that after this post, I'm going to keep looking on Amazon to see all the different ones.
What do you think about Mr. Potato Head? How many have you owned? I'd love to hear about your memories if you had one of the early kits that you used your own vegetables with. Was the potato really the best veggie to use? Did anyone ever try to make a Mr. Potato Head Tortilla like in Toy Story 3?
As my box stated - Mr. Potato Head is your funny lovable friend!