Friday, 05 August 2011
By Justin at Faith and Geekery
I’ve made no attempts to hide my admiration and occasional fanboyish mentality when it comes to Mr. Rogers, in life or on this site. The man saw the mess that children’s television had become and instead of complaining about it or cursing the garbage, he created one of the most memorable, touching, and creative programs on television.
The program ended in 2000, but PBS stations have been running repeats in the years since, even putting them at odd hours in the night for those longtime fans and their children. Now, eight years after Fred Rogers’ death, the company he founded is prepared to make a follow-up program largely based on the puppets of the original series:
PBS was slated to announce this morning at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that production has begun on an initial 40 episodes of the animated series, which will air weekday mornings, including on Pittsburgh’s WQED.
Set in the same Neighborhood of Make-Believe popularized by Mister Rogers during 33 seasons of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the new series focuses on the children of that show’s famous puppet characters.
The show is going to be based on the child of Daniel Striped-Tiger as the main character (who will dress in a Mr. Rogers-styled cardigan, complete with the ritualistic shoe changing), but others will show up as well. It will primarily be animated, as opposed to Rogers’ puppets, but will also be mixed in with live-action parts:
The live-action segments are still in development but will likely include some “Picture Picture” elements from Mr. Rogers’ program, including new factory visits. There also will be scenes of 4-year-olds talking about their experiences with whatever the episode’s theme happens to be, such as “I like you because you’re you” or “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.”
Some of those live segments in the original show were quite memorable – there seems to be a generation of children who learned how crayons were made from this video.
The creators did an interview with one of the heads of the Fred Rogers Company (which was called “Family Communications Inc.” during the show’s duration), and gives us a few fun tidbits about the new show: the Trolley will be back (yay!), and even Mr. McFeely will make an occasional appearance. They didn’t touch on every question one might have — just how does the child of Lady Elane turn out? — but they give you a good indication that their new show will follow the ideals that Fred Rogers had with his original show nearly 45 years ago.
And speaking of those ideals, other fans of Fred Rogers should check out a book if they can find it. The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights From the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor came out in 2005, and it chronicles both Mr. Rogers’ life and beliefs. Here’s a longer review, but the book gives a lot of insight into why the show was a very religious exercise for Rogers, one that was a charge given to him in seminary. The book gives evidence to one of the things that was often said about the man: what you saw on the screen was very much what people saw in real life.