Mr. Potato Head has gone gender neutral as toy maker Hasbro announced it is changing the name of the 70-year-old figure because it needs to break free from gender norms.
The change – which will drop the ‘Mr.’ from Mr. Potato Head – has sparked debate on social media, with many saying toy company Hasbro has bent to ‘woke’ culture by changing a cultural icon that’s been on toy shelves since 1952.
But Rhode Island-based Hasbro, which revealed the change in a presentation to investors Thursday, said the gender-neutral name comes as societal roles are changing – with more single-parent households and same-sex parents coming into the picture.
The Mrs. pronoun will also be dropped from the toy’s spud spouse, Mrs. Potato Head.
Now, the new Potato Family Pack ‘Create Your Potato Head Family’ kits will include two non-gendered adult potatoes, one baby potato and 42 accessories.
Children will then be able to make gendered or non-gendered characters, and same-sex or single-parent potato families in line with what the company says are changing societal roles. Of course, children can still use the potatoes to make traditional families, too.
The rebranded toy will hit shelves in the fall. Hasbro didn’t give a suggested price, but current gendered Potato Heads go for around $5 at Walmart – with whole potato families running upward of $30.
OUT WITH THE OLD: The old-style potato family, pictured above, will be retired. The change will appear on boxes this year, Hasbro said
IN WITH THE NEW: The new Potato Family Pack ‘Create Your Potato Head Family’ kits, pictured above, launching this fall will include two non-gendered adult potatoes, one baby potato and 42 accessories so children can create opposite-sex or same-sex parents
IN THE MOVIES: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head appearing in Toy Story 2 in 1999, which propelled them to renewed popularity. No word from Disney on whether the rebrand would affect the movies
‘Launching this Fall, the CREATE YOUR POTATO HEAD FAMILY is a celebration of the many faces of families,’ Hasbro said.
‘Hasbro is making sure all feel welcome in the Potato Head world by officially dropping the Mr. from the Mr. Potato Head brand name and logo to promote gender equality and inclusion.’
The name change will come with a fresh branding look with a ‘whimsical color palette and more inclusive messaging’, the company said.
Hasbro Senior Vice President Kimberly Boyd said the toy’s current gender identities were ‘limiting’ to children and were in need of a modern makeover.
‘Culture has evolved. Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences,’ Boyd told Fast Company.
‘The way the brand currently exists – with the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ – is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure,’ she contended.
Boyd said the toy is a ‘sweet spot’ for children aged two to three years old.
‘Kids like dressing up the toy, then playing out scenarios from their life. This often takes the form of creating little potato families because they’re learning what it means to be in a family,’ she said.
The rebrand will now mean children from non-traditional families can create potato families that are more in line with their own, she said.
The traditional Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head dolls will still ‘live on as part of the brand,’ a company spokesperson told Bloomberg. The company did not elaborate on what this will entail – or what the dolls will be called now that their gender honorifics have been yanked.
In a nod to even more of-the-moment thinking, Hasbro also claimed the toy will be more ‘sustainably’ made – with less plastic packaging and with the toy itself made from plant-based plastic.
The new look: The new Potato Family Pack ‘Create Your Potato Head Family’ kits will include two non-gendered adult potatoes, one baby potato and 42 accessories
Children will then be able to make gendered or non-gendered characters, and same-sex or single-parent potato families – along with making traditional families
The rebranded toy will hit shelves in the fall and aims to cater to changing societal roles
Both Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head were still listed on Hasbro’s website under their gendered names as of Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear how the rebrand will impact the Toy Story film series where Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head have starring roles.
DailyMail.com has contacted Disney for comment.
The rebrand has sparked debate on social media with some people calling the move ‘woke’ and ‘absurd.’
‘What planet is #hasbro on? No Mr. potato Head? Absurd I say,’ one person tweeted.
‘Mr. Potato Head will always be… a potato. Hasbro can’t take away the genitals of a spud that never had any to begin with. #thiscountryisNUTS,’ another person tweeted.
‘Take your gender correct pronouns and stick them in Mr. Potato Heads rear. #mrpotatohead #wokepolice.’
Another fumed: ‘Woke-o Haram strikes again. How soon will Toy Story have to be re-edited to get rid of Mrs Potato Head?’
Many people questioned what this means for the future of Mrs. Potato Head as well. She will also be retired.
‘What I want to know is are they retiring Mrs. Potato Head?’ one person tweeted.
‘Does Mrs. Potato Head know?’ another person asked.
One social media user shared a clip of Toy Story when Mr. Potato Head corrects the character Woody when he fails to address him as mister.
The new range will also include box sets that don’t present the traditional family structure so children can make same-sex or single-parent potato families in line with changing societal roles
A 2011 Mr. Potato Head range. Hasbro Senior Vice President Kimberly Boyd said the toy’s current gender identities were ‘limiting’ to children and were in need of a modern makeover
‘Throw back Thursday to when Mr. Potato Head admonished Woody when he wouldn’t respect his pronouns. ‘That’s Mister Potato Head to you, you backstabbing murderer (Hasbro)!’ they tweeted.
One person pointed out that Hasbro’s name could also do with a rebrand to make it more gender neutral.
‘Mr. Potato Head is now gender neutral! They will go by Potato Head! I want to know if HasBRO can go gender neutral too?’ they tweeted.
Another also suggested a revamp for the toymaker: ‘Hasbro will now also be going by ‘Has-sibling’.’
Meanwhile others welcomed the move to become more gender neutral.
The rebrand has sparked debate on social media with some people calling the move ‘woke’ and ‘absurd’
Many people questioned what this means for the future of Mrs. Potato Head as well
Others welcomed the news and called for the toymaker to also face a rebrand
‘If your masculinity is so fragile that you are offended by Hasbro renaming Potato Head, that’s sad dude,’ one person tweeted.
The rebrand of the childhood favorite comes as toy makers have been updating their classic brands to appeal to kids today.
Barbie has shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes.
Thomas the Tank Engine added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll.
However, many toys continue to promote heterosexual relationships and family structures.
Mr. Potato Head arrives at the world premiere of Toy Story 3 in Los Angeles in 2010
A history of Mr. Potato Head: From a post-war toy (minus the potato) to a Disney star – and now a gender-fluid family
Mr. Potato Head was the brainchild of Brooklyn inventor George Lerner, who came up with the idea children could create fun characters by putting features on fruit and vegetables.
But despite its future worldwide success, the idea wasn’t an instant hit.
It was 1949 – just after the rationing of the Second World War – and playing with food was thought of as a waste.
Lerner made the first set of silly face parts and sold the idea to a cereal company which gave out the plastic parts in a box as a promotion.
In 1951, the inventor met the Hassenfeld brothers – who would go on to rebrand as Hasbro – who bought the rights from the cereal company for $7,000.
A child playing with a Mr Potato Head in 1953. Mr. Potato Head first hit the shelves in 1952 as a kit of plastic body parts and accessories for children to stick onto a real potato
The toy manufacturers struck a deal with Lerner to give him 5 percent royalties for every set sold and a $500 advance.
Mr. Potato Head hit the shelves in 1952 as a kit of plastic body parts and accessories for children to stick onto a real potato to create a character.
The original toy cost $0.98.
The first toy kit included 28 features such as a nose, mouth, mustache and pipe as well as a Styrofoam head for children to practice on.
It did not come with the ‘potato head’ body but recommended children use a potato or other vegetable.
Mr. Potato Head made history as the first toy ever to be promoted through its own television commercial.
Classic Mr. Potato Heads are displayed February 5, 2002 at a 50th birthday party for the popular children’s toy at Hasbros showroom in New York City
The advert, which premiered on April 30 1952, directly targeted children rather than parents.
It revolutionized the marketing industry as, before this, commercials only targeted adults.
It was an overnight success with more than one million kits sold in the first year and more than $4 million in sales in just the first few months.
The next year, Mrs. Potato Head was born with a feminine accessory kit including high heels and hair bows.
There was also vegetable friends for the kids including Kate the Carrot, Pete the Pepper, Oscar the Orange, and Cookie Cucumber.
The kits also soon expanded to include an additional 50 pieces.
The popular toy came with its first plastic potato body in 1964.
The major development came as parents were complaining about finding moldy potatoes under their kids’ beds.
Around the same time, child safety laws were coming into effect including the Child Protection Act of 1966 and the 1969 Child Protection and Toy Safety Act.
Hasbro created larger plastic features for the toy and removed the sharp ends as parents were concerned about their kids swallowing small pieces and cutting themselves on the points.
Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story 2 with Slinky, Rex and Buzz Lightyear
The toy regained popularity when Mr. Potato Head became a central character in the Disney Pixar film Toy Story in 1995 with comedian Don Rickles doing the voiceover
The lovable figure even enjoyed a brief political career receiving four write-in votes in the mayoral election in Boise, Idaho in 1985.
The campaign saw Mr. Potato Head enter the Guinness World Record for ‘most votes for Mr. Potato Head in a political campaign’.
In 1987, the company dropped the pipe accessory from the toy amid concerns of promoting smoking habits to children and became the official face or ‘spokespud’ of the Great American Smokeout.
Five years later, the company starred in an early Public Service Announcement for the Presidents’ Council for Physical Fitness promoting fitness by renouncing its role as a ‘couch potato.’
In 1996, both Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head featured in an advertising campaign for the League of Women Voters.
The toy regained popularity when Mr. Potato Head became a central character in the Disney Pixar film Toy Story in 1995 with comedian Don Rickles doing the voiceover.
Mrs. Potato Head appeared in the sequel Toy Story 2 in 1999. Both characters also appeared in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4.
A Disney Store Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head playset. Mrs Potato Head first appeared in Toy Story 2
The toy has taken on other guises over the years such as in the role of a pirate
The film sparked a revival of classic toys such as the Mr. Potato Head range, as well as Slinky and Etch A Sketch.
In 2000, Mr. Potato Head was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York.
In 2012, Hasbro released a 60th wedding anniversary edition of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.
Mr. Potato Head continued to evolve over the years and take on other guises years such as a pirate, mermaid, rockstar, construction worker and Santa Claus.
It has also branched into themed characters such as Star Wars’ Darth Tater and Spiderman’s Spider Spud.
As well as the signature toy, there are branded puzzles, board games and video games among other potato-themed toys.
But it has always stuck with gendered roles until now.