- Iconic characters like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head won’t be going anywhere, but new playsets will let kids create their own types of tater families
- Toys like Barbie have expanded their offerings to include different skin tones, while American Girl now sells a boy doll
Toy company Hasbro created confusion on Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the Mr. Potato Head name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.”
It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads.
But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top.
“While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted.
“They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.”
Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe.
“It created a lot of excitement,“ she said about the reaction.
This photo provided by Hasbro shows the new Potato Head world. The company announced that it was dropping Mr. from the brand in an effort to make sure “all feel welcome in the Potato Head world.” Hasbro clarified in a tweet that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still exist, names and all, but the branding on the box will say “Potato Head.” (Hasbro via AP)
GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset.
“Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement.
Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families.
“It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.”
Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll.
Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato - kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud.