Mr Potato Head to lose "Mr" title in gender-neutral rebrand

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Image caption,
Toymaker Hasbro said it was rebranding Mr Potato Head to promote "gender equality"

A gender-neutral makeover will see Mr Potato Head become the toy formerly known as Mr Potato Head.

The classic toy's branding is being "reimagined for the modern consumer", its US maker Hasbro announced on Thursday.

From later this year, the toy - launched almost 70 years ago - will be named Potato Head on packaging.

Other toy companies have taken similar decisions in recent years, breaking with traditional gender norms.

"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," Hasbro said of the name change.

The rebranded toy, which can be assembled with a selection of different body parts and clothes, will be released in autumn this year, Hasbro said.

The company said the toy will allow children "to imagine and create their own Potato Head family".

However, in a later tweet on Thursday, the company said the Mr and Mrs Potato Head characters would still be available to buy, but didn't provide more details.

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Mr Potato Head was one of the main characters in Toy Story, an animated film series produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures.

In those films, Mr Potato Head angrily reminds other toys to use his honorific in some scenes.

"That's Mr Potato Head to you, you back-stabbing murderer," the plastic spud said to Woody, the toy cowboy played by American actor Tom Hanks.

What reaction has there been?

The rebrand has been seen as a progressive move by some and criticised as a PR stunt by others.

"There is movement around gender neutrality at the moment," Frederique Tutt, a toy industry analyst for the NPD Group told the BBC. "It's something that Hasbro has been addressing, along with inclusivity."

She said the rebrand shows Hasbro is mindful of people who "want to be gender-neutral, who want to choose".

"So I guess that's where Mr Potato Head is going as well," Ms Tutt said.

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Image caption,
Mr Potato Head was one of the main characters in the Toy Story film series

In an interview with business magazine Fast Company, Hasbro general manager Kimberly Boyd said the Mr and Mrs brand was "limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure".

"Culture has evolved," she added.

Others were less enthused with the rebrand.

"Barbie must be renamed something more gender-neutral. This is imperative," conservative American commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in an apparently sarcastic tweet.

Mr Potato Head first went on sale in 1952. On the back of its success, Mrs Potato Head, along with traditional feminised accessories, was launched the following year.

The move follows other updates to classic brands, including Barbie, who was initially known for being tall, white and blonde but now comes in a range of ethnicities and body shapes.

In 2019, global toy giant Mattel released a line of gender-neutral dolls.

And more female characters have been added to the Thomas the Tank Engine series.

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