Don Rickles Made Mr. Potato Head The Real Hero Of 'Toy Story'
I wish this was a joke: the legend Don Rickles passed away this Thursday at the age of 90, having reportedly suffered from kidney failure. It's a hard hit to decades of fans because while Rickles had an extensive comedy career that spanned generations of late night shows, millennials remember him fondly as Toy Story's Mr. Potato Head. Both Rickles and Potato Head were icons before they became synonymous, but it was completely essential for Rickles to be the voice behind the sarcastic spud.
Mr. Potato Head is the first character introduced in the franchise via the alias of One Eyed Bart, a crooked robber that grates up against the noble Sheriff Woody. Andy's projection of the plastic fiend isn't entirely off—Mr. Potato Head is certainly prickly, and the first person to grate against Woody's Buzz Lightyear insecurities. He's sharp-tongued and sharp-eyed, a savvier figure compared to the impressionable innocence of Rex and Slink, which is how he's able to manipulate them with his asides. He's also the first to accuse the cowboy of offing Buzz and assert his spudliness when Woody tries to calm him down ("That's Mr. Potato Head to you, you backstabbing murderer!")
Short version: Mr. Potato Head is a baller from the get-go, a power player in the play room. And hey, when Rickle's sass isn't enough, there's no shortage of grand visual gags he implements to send laughter throughout the theater.
He became a little bit more mashed as the franchise went on, softening when he falls madly in love with the bubbly Mrs. Potato Head. Toy Story 2 sees him as more of a team player, running along with the squad in the Woody rescue mission, reuniting with his mustache (10/10) like a boss. It's overall a more comic outing, ending with Mr. Potato Head becoming a reluctant father to a series of alien babies.
Toy Story 3, though, is where Potato Head makes the transition to a fully-fledged hero, coming to the defense of his silenced wife when she gets her mouth taken away. Upon being imprisoned he divides (his parts from his body) and conquers, utilizing that trademark cleverness to reunite with the gang. It's an interesting turn for his arc, especially when the aliens save the day claw-style at the end and he finally opens his heart to them, One Eyed Bart no more.
Also this is objectively hilarious:
Part of the reason the Toy Story franchise became this phenomenon is because of Rickles. Without Mr. Potato Head's cynicism and snark, the film would have had more pre-school level fluff, lacking the cross-over appeal that makes it a series of classic films. It was perfect union that made for a beloved character. We tip our bowler hat at you, Mr. Rickles, wherever you are.