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Mister Potato

Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato which can be decorated with a variety of plastic parts that can attach to the main body. These parts usually include ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth. The toy was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949, and first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television and has remained in production since its debut. The toy was originally produced as separate plastic parts that could be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable. Government regulations forced Hasbro into including a plastic potato body within the toy set.

Over the years, the original toy was joined by Mrs. Potato Head and supplemented with accessories such as a car and a boat trailer. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head may be best known for their appearances in the Toy Story franchise. Additionally, in 1998 The Mr. Potato Head Show aired, but was short lived with only one season being produced. As one of the prominent marks of Hasbro, a Mr. Potato Head balloon has also joined others in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Today, Mr. Potato Head can still be seen adorning hats, shirts, and ties. Toy Story Midway Mania at California Adventure Park in Disneyland California also features a large talking Mr. Potato Head.
In the early 1950s, Brooklyn-born toy inventor George Lerner came up with the idea of inserting small, pronged body and face parts into fruits and vegetables to create a "funny face man". 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.

In the beginning, Lerner's toy proved controversial. With the war and food rationing a recent memory for most Americans, the use of fruits and vegetables to make toys was considered irresponsible and wasteful. Toy companies rejected Lerner's creation. After several years of trying to sell the toy, Lerner finally convinced a food company to distribute the plastic parts as premiums in breakfast cereal boxes. He sold the idea for $5,000. But in 1951, Lerner showed the idea to textile manufacturers Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who conducted a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Brothers (later changed to Hasbro). Realizing the toy was quite unlike anything in their line, they paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and bought the rights for $5,000. Lerner was offered an advance of $500 and a 5% royalty on every kit sold. The toy was dubbed Mr Potato Head and went into production.

Mr. Potato Head was born on May 1, 1952. The original toy cost $0.98, and contained hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces resembling facial hair. The original Mr Potato Head kit did not come with a potato "body", so parents had to provide their own potato into which children could stick the various pieces. Shortly after the toy's initial release, an order form for 50 additional pieces was enclosed in every kit.

On April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised directly to children on television. Before this, all toy advertising had been directed at parents. This commercial revolutionized marketing, and caused an industrial boom. Over one million kits were sold in the first year. In 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added, and soon after, Brother Spud and Sister Yam completed the Potato Head family with accessories reflecting 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, a plastic potato was added to the kit in 1964.

In the 1960s, government regulations forced the Potato Head parts to be less sharp, leaving them unable to puncture vegetables easily. By 1964, the company was therefore forced to include a plastic potato "body" in its kit. Little children were also choking on the small pieces and cutting themselves with the sharp pieces. About this time, Hasbro introduced Oscar the Orange and Pete the Pepper, a plastic orange and green pepper with attachable face parts similar to Mr Potato Head's. Each came with Mr Potato Head in a separate kit. Female characters Katie Carrot and Cookie Cucumber also made an appearance.Hasbro also made a fast food based line called Mr.Potato Head's Picnic Pals.Some characters where Mr.Soda Pop Head and Franky franky frank. The friends and pals were later discontinued, but Funko revived Oscar and Pete as bobbleheads (along with a Mr Potato Head bobblehead) in 2002.

In 1975, 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. This change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily. 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 1986, Mr. Potato Head became "Spokespud" for the annual Great American Smokeout and surrendered his pipe to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in Washington, D.C.

In 1995, Mr. Potato Head made his debut in Hollywood with a leading role in the Disney/Pixar animated feature Toy Story.

In 2000, Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, NY.

In 2006, Hasbro also began selling sets of pieces without bodies for customers to add to their collections. Some of these themed sets included Mermaid, Rockstar, Pirate King Princess, Firefighter, Construction Worker, Halloween, Santa Claus, Chef, and Police Officer. In the same year, Hasbro introduced a line called "Sports Spuds" with a generic plastic potato (smaller than the standard size) customized to a wide variety of professional and collegiate teams.

In 2011, Mr. Potato Head got his first new look in nearly 30 years.

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