Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Kids
Composer, Brian, and his son (aka Daniel Tiger’s first fan)

Can’t get the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood songs out of your head??

 

Meet the rock stars that you can thank!

 

The crew at Voodoo Highway Music & Post are among my favorite people. They “get me” when I say I want a song to sound “pop-ish”, and I want parents to love it as much as kids, & then I give them a “research approved” strategy to work with..Of course, they have been ultra creative & have pushed the boundaries of traditional preschool music to create award winning songs (if I do say so myself) that are hip enough to make it onto my iPod…

 

This week, we’re giving you a behind the scenes peek at the way the music comes together for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood which was created to be a new type of “preschool musical”.  Meet the composers at Voodoo Highway Music, James Chapple, Graeme Cornies, Dave Kelly & Brian Pickett who brought the music and tone to life.   We’re so happy that James answered some questions about the musical process.

So how do you do it? Explain a bit about your process of composing & sound editing?

There are 2 components to writing music for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: 1) the featured songs in each episode (an Imagination Song & a Strategy Song), & 2) the underscore (background music that plays throughout the episode). Before we even write a single note for 1 of the songs, we read over the script for that episode. This helps us understand exactly what the songs should be about, the style in which they should be written, and of course the message that the episode is trying to convey.

Once we have a firm understanding of what the core message of the episode should be, we write a “demo” for each song & revise based on feedback from the producers. We then record all of the talented cast singing. It is a unique process for us because, on most other shows, the music is composed after the animation is completed.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

For Daniel, we write the songs before the animation has even begun, which allows the animators to make the visuals match up with our music. This helps the songs look & sound  fantastic in the final episode! The underscore portion of the show is completed in a more traditional method. We get a copy of the episode once the animation is nearly complete. While we watch through, we make notes about how the music should reflect the action on screen. This process is called “spotting”. Once we spot the episode, we get to the fun part: composing the music! We work hard to help accentuate the emotions of the characters on screen, & ultimately it’s quite rewarding when we watch through the final episode & see how much our music helps tell the story!

 

Of all the (many!) songs you’ve composed for the series, can you pick 1 favorite?

Every song is unique & memorable, but my personal favorite would be the updated version of Fred’s song “It’s You I Like”. On that particular song, it was my job to learn the piano parts so Graeme would be able to add other instruments & vocals over top. It was a real challenge to figure out, as I didn’t have any sheet music & had to learn it all by ear from a recording of Fred singing. It was a moment where I felt very connected to Mister Rogers.

Voodoo Highway Music and Post

What was the most emotional moment for you while working on the show?

For me personally it was when we received the wonderful fan mail from parents across the country. We compose all the music in our studio, sometimes late at night, & it’s easy to become disconnected from the show’s audience. Seeing how our music has affected so many different people, in so many positive ways, was a really meaningful moment for me as a composer. When I started out to write music for a living, I had the hopes of being able to change lives the way music changed my own. To hear all of the wonderful things people have said about our music on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, well, it is simply the reason I got into this career in the first place.

Also, I should note, the moment my mother called me up in tears after watching the first episode was a beautiful moment as well. It really meant a lot to hear how proud she was of our work!

One of my favorites is the potty song – it still cracks me up & I can’t wait to hear my nephews sing it! 

 

What was the funniest moment for you while working on the show?

I often find myself chuckling when we have to record funny characters that appear in the imagination songs. Recording the talented (& hilarious) voice actors pretending to be fish, knives, forks, superheroes, stuffed animals, flowers, or any other of the myriad of interesting characters always leaves me laughing.

The music just keeps getting better and better!  Can you give us a sneak-peek about the music in upcoming episodes?

Well, the music for episode 31 (“Neighbor Day”), is simply going to be out of this world. It’s a very music-heavy episode & we’ve written a lot of cool songs that incorporate many different characters singing. I think we are all very proud of that episode, as we went above & beyond what we normally compose.

 

& let us know what songs are most memorable to YOU & why..

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Good Use of Media, Kids, Parenting
Daniel Tiger & Autism
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has received a wonderful response since we launched in September. However, we’ve received many comments from parents of children with autism. We are thrilled with any connection that we’ve made but receiving messages like this one,  from ASD Mom, make us proud to help however or whomever we can..

Thank you for this wonderful show. I have the honor of being a mom to a brilliant 4 year old with high-functioning Autism. This show is perfect for kids with ASD.

The day after we watched the first show, he wanted to do show & tell. When I told him that he wasn’t supposed to have show & tell until the next day, he immediately said, “I feel disappointed.” He proceeded to sing “When something seems bad, turn it around & find something good” (complete with the choreography of a spin). He then proceeded to tell me that he was excited to see his friends at school that day.

We have seen him be able to quickly translate the lessons from other episodes into real life, as well.  This is the only show he has ever watched that elicits this type of  response.

Thank you!

ASD Mom

 

Sincere thanks to you ASD Mom & to learn more about Autism or to help those who are affected by it visit:

Autism Speaks

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger's ENighborhood

This week, we’re sharing another behind-the-scenes look at the making of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, through the eyes of our fabulous Producer extraordinaire, Sarah Wallendjack.  

Explain your role as Producer & a bit about your creative process.

I am the Producer on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood & am part of a team that oversees the making of the show. I get to participate in all aspects of the show, from brainstorming story ideas, all the way through the end of the process where we put the final sound effects to the finished show. I work closely with the creators & help ensure that their vision ends up on screen.

A large part of my job is communicating between the production company (based in Toronto), PBS, the Fred Rogers Company, the writers, the researchers, the directors & the artists. It’s an extraordinary team of people & I like to think I have the best seats in the house.

Sarah Wallendjack - Out Of The Blue Ent

What is your favorite aspect of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”?

The neighbors! I get to work with all the team members in the neighborhood & I love the collaboration. So much work goes into an episode – it takes almost a full year to execute an idea & turn it into something you watch on TV.

The world feels very real to me & when Daniel turns to camera, it feels like he is talking directly to me. Although I know what kind of trade secrets it takes to pull off this illusion, I always believe.

There is such immense talent in this neighborhood that I couldn’t imagine taking this trolley ride with anyone else. 

 

What was the funniest moment for you while making the show?

There are endless conversations about Daniel’s pants. I hadn’t anticipated that this would be a source of such controversy, but it gets me giggling every time.

Fred Rogers Co.

What was the most emotional moment for you while making the show?

We brainstorm new ideas for the show at the Fred Rogers Company offices in Pittsburgh.  They operate out of the WQED studios, where Fred Rogers originally shot Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Stepping into the studio was like entering a shrine. Fred, through the work he did at that studio, helped shape me & inspired me to pursue children’s television as a career.

It is a real honor to be working on a show that was inspired by the work of Fred Rogers.

We feel a real sense of pride in the work that we do & challenge ourselves every day to create a show Fred would be proud of.

I got to peer through X the Owl’s tree house door & felt humbled that I get to carry on this legacy.PBS

 

Sarah is the Producer of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood & Associate Producer of Super Why! Prior to joining the Out of the Blue production team, Sarah worked on Nickelodeon’s Wonder Pets!, Disney’s Go Baby! & Disney’s Johnny and the Sprites! She is a graduate of American University’s Visual Media and Arts and Cultural Management programs. Sarah also serves as the President of the Children’s Media Association. She enjoys scuba diving, skeeball, the Muppets & jumping on a trampoline.

 

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Super Why!

Becky Friedman | Grouch

There are writers..and then there are WRITERS that breathe such creativity & understanding of their characters into their work, which ultimately leads to an engaged audience. This week we take another behind-the-scenes look at one of our WRITERS for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. We sat down with Writer/Story Editor extraordinaire, Becky Friedman (@That_Girl_Becky) to hear about her experiences writing for the series. 

 

Explain your role as Writer/Story Editor and a bit about your creative process.

My role as staff writer is to write scripts.  LOTS and LOTS of scripts.

Also, as a part of the creative team, I’m involved in the conceptualization of each episode, working to generate the elements needed for a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episode: a social-emotional theme, a musical strategy, the essential ‘Fred’ approach, a dramatic story arc, & of course, lots of imagination!

My role as the story editor is, essentially, to be the guardian of the ‘voice’ of the show.

So for every stage of every script, I do an editing pass to make sure that the characters sound like our characters, that the story feels authentic, & most of all, that the scripts are… you know…good! I try to balance keeping the individual color & flavor of each script with the overall voice & vision of the series.

My creative process moves fluidly between creative collaboration & solitary confinement. Initially, I hammer out the germ of the story idea with Angela. Then, I head off on my own to flesh out that idea into a more full story. We send those ideas out to the Out of the Blue Creative team, & they’re discussed, shaped, & crafted by the group. Then, it’s back to my writer cave to work on the draft one of the script! Back to my boss, & the rest of the team & then back to my writer cave…and so forth, until at last I send the Final Production Script to our producer, breathe a deep sigh of relief…& start all over again.

 

What is your favorite aspect of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”?

I have 2 favorites! From the perspective of a former preschool teacher (which I am) I love that this show is teaching kids how to be people in the world. Essential things like: how to be a good friend, how to deal with mad feelings, how to express love, how to share, & why if you take a highly anxious & neurotic owl camping, you will live to regret it. I take that responsibility very seriously.

From a creative perspective, I love writing for characters with such colorful & distinct personalities. It’s great fun, as a writer, to sit down and think “what can I throw at Miss Elaina that will challenge her?” or “What can we do to turn Daniel Tiger’s world upside down?” or, my favorite, “What would be the silliest possible thing we could make O the Owl do?” Having such great characters to write for really leads to endless story possibilities.

Oh shoot, I just thought of a 3rd favorite aspect.  The music! I really love the music on the show.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

 

 

Which character in the series do you most relate to & why?

 

The character that I’m most like is, without a doubt, Miss Elaina. She’s quirky, she’s silly, she’s  impulsive & quick to react, she’s mischievous, impatient, passionate, & she likes to have things her own way. My parents, my boyfriend, my therapist, my friends, my co-workers, & probably anyone reading this Q&A will pretty much all agree…that’s me. Heck, if it was appropriate for an adult to wear a backwards-dress to work…I’d do it.

However, I’m also really excited about a NEW character we’ll be introducing later on in the season. I won’t say much about her except that her name is Chrissie, she’s a real spark-plug, she has a lot that she can teach kids, & I really went to bat to get her on the show. I can’t wait for everyone to meet her!

 

What was the funniest moment for you while making the show?

You want ONE funniest moment? When your weekly meetings include discussions of how many meows per sentence is intelligible (2), how much glitter is too much (there’s no limit!) & if there’s a way to incorporate more pickles per episode (there is a way, & her name is Becky)…funny moments abound.Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

We pretty much live to make each other giggle around here. 

I just remembered my other favorite character: Daniel’s stuffed tiger, Tige-y. His name is a reference to a beloved stuffed eagle…aptly named Eage-y.

 

Becky Friedman is a staff writer and story editor for Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC.  Becky has written & story edited for the emmy-nominated, PBS hit superhero literacy show Super Why! & is currently writing & story editing for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Becky also writes mysteries for Dramatic Fanatic, & wrote & created “Yoga with Becky,” for Kids Health. Prior to becoming a writer, Becky taught a pre-k program in a full-inclusion preschool in San Francisco.  Becky also contributed an essay for the anthology: When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic & the Difference it Made.

 

 nephewThis week, we’re giving you a behind-the-scenes look at an integral phase of development for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood & Super Why!. I sat down with our Research Director, Rachel Kalban, so she can tell you a bit about the research process & her experiences working on the series.

Explain your role as Research Director & a bit about your creative process.

At Out of the Blue, we believe that the only way to know if children will enjoy or understand a story is to ask them! We start doing this very early on in the process of creating a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episode. The research team creates a storybook based on an early draft of each script, & takes it to where the kids are: preschools, daycare, Head Starts. We sit on the floor with small groups of preschoolers & read them the story, asking questions along the way. In doing so, we are able to assess if & how the kids are understanding & learning from the story.

The time I spend with the kids is not only the most fun part of my week, but also the most important, as the process teaches me so much about how kids think & process new information.  After each research session, I sit down with the writing team & explain what the preschoolers taught me: what they liked, or didn’t like, how they understood the story, how much they were interacting and singing along… & we then work together to rework the script so that it is both maximally educational & appealing. I use the information that the preschoolers give me along with my knowledge of child development to give notes at all stages of production.Rachel Kalban

What is your favorite aspect of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”?

Oh wow, there are so many! As a child that grew up with Mister Rogers, I of course love the nostalgia elements that are woven into the new series. And I love that we push kids to use their imaginations. I think my favorite thing is how we are right where the kids watching are, dealing & grappling with the same issues. I have had parents tell me that their child “IS Daniel!

I love that we take themes like not wanting to share, or feeling jealous, or even not wanting to stop playing to go to the potty as serious issues, because they are for these little ones, & they deserve to have them recognized and dealt with as such. We strive to do so with love & even some humor!

What was the most emotional moment for you while making the show?

I get very emotional when I get to talk with parents of viewers. When the pilot episode premiered, 1 parent told me she overheard her son singing, “Grownups come back” when he was put to bed. Another parent said her son now tells his friends, “You can take a turn, & then I’ll get it back,” (he, like Daniel, also reminds her ‘When you feel so mad you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four!”)

I don’t want to say I was shocked to hear these responses, because we worked very hard on getting the ‘strategies’ just right & that was always the plan, but it really moves me that we have given kids tools they can use in these hard day-to-day situations.

Just recently, an aunt of a child with Asperger syndrome told me that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is one of the few shows he is allowed to watch because of how much it has helped him.  The family had just been to a restaurant, & in this new place, with new people, he knew just what to expect, because he had seen Daniel do it in “Daniel’s Night Out at the Restaurant”. Something that was very hard for him just a few weeks before was now manageable & enjoyable: he looked for the waiter, sat with his menu, waited patiently & had a wonderful night – just like he had seen his friends do.

SchoolSure, I like hearing that we get high ratings, but these stories are the reason I do what I do.

 

What was your most embarrassing mistake while working on the show?

In the beginning I was always saying Prince Tuesday instead of Prince Wednesday & X the Owl instead of O the Owl.  Almost thirty years later, those original characters still stuck with me!

On behalf of  hundreds of thousands of children, Thank You Rachel!

 

Rachel Kalban is the Director of Research & Curriculum at Out of the Blue Enterprises, a leader in children’s educational media.

Prior to her work with Out of the Blue, Rachel completed her Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University & held several positions at Nickelodeon & Penguin Publishing Books for Young Readers. Rachel received her Bachelors from Cornell University.

 

SuperDad

On a typical January day up North, one of our many SUPER talented contributors to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood went shopping at Home Depot with his son. And while typical of many that work in preschool TV, he was naturally dressed in a cape.

To be perfectly fair, his son rarely goes out without his cape & upon realizing that his Dad was without, he simply asked, SuperMan

“Daddy, where’s YOUR cape?” Hence, the matching cape (sans “F”).

The duo’s photo was taken by none other than Mom, and shortly after she posted the photo for friends, it went viral in no time at all. Far be it from us to disclose the secret identities of the fearless crusaders but let this be a lesson to all mortals:

• Super Dad did what he did solely for the enjoyment of his child

• His only incentive was Boy Wonder’s happiness

Take time out of your week to not act your age with your kid, because before you know it, they’ll stop asking you to wear a cape in Home Depot.

 

And to our Super Talented B–, “Sincere thanks for all you bring to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood & simply for the record, You ARE the man!!”

 

“The proof that the little prince existed is..that he laughed and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little PrinceThe Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

 

 

 

by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, PRESS, Stuff We Love

Angela Santomero & Jason Mraz

Earlier in October I spoke about meeting Jason Mraz, for the first time, at a JFK center event in Washington, DC.

I was excited to meet the incredibly successful & talented singer that isn’t too cool to sing a Mister Rogers song at his concerts. But to completely push me over the (happy) edge, he was interested in recording the opening and closing songs of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood for us.

!

I’m sorry, what?!

!!

Sitting on the “this might happen” info for months was painful but we finally got word that, although Jason was on tour, he was able to squeeze in some studio time, to record the tracks for US.

 

While this info didn’t leak until a few months ago, I am so proud to announce that today, on this day o’ LOVE, Jason Mraz has taken us in and out of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood by way of what he does best. I can not thank Mr. Mraz & his team of professionals enough.

Enjoy & let me know what you think of the new version!

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Valentine's Day

Also, be sure to check out the beautiful post that Marshall Heyman, of the Wall Street Journal’s Culture section, wrote about Mraz’s involvement for today’s episode, entitled Mr. Rogers’ Classics & Tiger Love. But did Jason Mraz really “record them wearing a cardigan“?Wall Street Journal

..as well as Jason’s mention, on his blog, about the impact that Fred Rogers had on him.

“It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes you years to know what love is.”
Jason Mraz

Amazon Studios

I am proud to announce that Amazon Studios, the original movie & series production arm of Amazon.com, has greenlit for production our creative arts curriculum Creative Galaxy. Amazon Studios announced today that Creative Galaxy is 1 of 5 children’s test pilots which have been selected.

“Our children’s series come from industry luminaries with credits such as Blue’s Clues, Sid the Science Kid and Dino Dan. We think parents—& our very youngest customers—are going to love the magical combination of entertainment & learning that they’ll discover in these children’s series.” said Roy Price (Dir. Amazon Studios).Amazon.com

My incredible team at Out of the Blue Enterprises and I are thrilled to be working with Amazon Studios & can’t wait to soar into a creative arts curriculum with Creative Galaxy. We know that art can have a powerfully positive effect on children & through our proven signature approach to preschool television, we will actively help young viewers learn how to think creatively in their own lives. Working with Amazon Studios has been fantastic & we look forward to jumping further into the production process.

Creative Galaxy is an animated, interactive art, adventure series, designed to inspire kids’ creative thinking through crafts, story, music and dance. The series was created by Angela Santomero, creator of Super Why! (the Emmy-nominated literacy series), Blue’s Clues and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

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by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Kids, Parenting
(Continued from Yesterday’s Post, Fred Rogers’ Message from a Friend – Pt1)
 

Did you know Fred Rogers personally?
I got to know Fred personally when I met him in 1953. He took a keen interest in my well being, making sure I was not left alone too often & that my school work was being taken care of. Fred & Joanne were kind enough to have invited me to the home of Fred’s parents in Latrobe one day. It is a day I will never forget as the house was so beautiful and the grounds so spacious. Fred & I became very good friends and remained so throughout his entire life.

What impact, direct or indirect, did Fred Rogers have on your life?
I recall sitting in Fred’s office at WQED, just after I began my daily chores as office boy at the station. He & I talked at length about the various paths I might take in order to further my deep interest in TV. Fred explained in detail the routine he followed while working at NBC in NY as a stage manager on many of the top TV programs back in the early ’50’s. Through Fred & connections he made for me in NY, I was able to secure a position at NBC in their news department.

There will never be another Fred Rogers. All that I have today I owe to him, for having given me the chance of a lifetime to have been able to have worked beside him.

Which of Fred’s messages do you think are most important to pass along to the children of today?
From all of the many years I knew Fred & had the chance to spend in his company, he always led me to believe that he was sincerely interested in me and what I was trying to do in life. Fred always went beyond just talking to me as a friend & mentor, but seemed to sense my true insecurities as I was in many ways like him growing up…a very shy and sensitive kid. He always instilled in me a true feeling of support, love & encouragement and often told me how proud he was of all of my achievements throughout the years.

Children of today must have someone like Fred who stands behind them to offer that support, love, & encouragement. It is something that both my wife & I have tried to do in raising our 3 boys. It’s been tough at times, but having been touched by Fred Rogers in so many ways has given me something that’s been very precious to me. That’s the message I’m sure Fred would have wanted to pass along to the children of today.

 

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by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Parenting

With his reassuring tone & direct eye contact, Fred Rogers made every viewer believe he or she was special. He even paused long enough to “listen to” our responses, making us each feel like we knew him. But recently, I had the opportunity to speak with someone who actually did know & work with Fred personally. Joel Dulberg grants us a unique window into the past at WQED, where at the age of 16, he worked alongside Fred Rogers on his live show, The Children’s Corner. Joel explains the immense impact that Fred had on his life, & how even in a drastically different television landscape, Fred’s messages are still as, if not more, significant today.

How did you first get involved with WQED?
In late 1953, I read a small news article stating that Pittsburgh had been assigned an educational TV station, to be located in the offices of the Pitt. Plate Glass Company in Oakland. I immediately started to ride my bicycle every day from high school in Squirrel Hill to Oakland and camped out on the station steps. A woman named Marion Keating, the receptionist at the time, would yell at me almost daily to leave. One day, in the midst of her yelling, the GM of the station (William A. Wood), came out to see what was going on. I explained to him how badly I wanted to get into TV & that I hoped to become a cameraman one day. After going over a host of details as to my grades & availability to work at the station, he offered me the chance to “come inside”..& the rest is history.

Bill Wood took me around WQED & introduced me to the staff as the new office boy. He introduced me to Fred Rogers & Josie Carey who became immediate close friends & supporters of mine in my quest to work behind the cameras. Over the next couple of months, the WQED engineering staff trained me on the art of working a camera. By the time WQED went on the air for the 1st time on April 1, 1954, I was proud to have been 1 of the 2 cameramen working on the broadcast on that eventful night. In the days that followed, I worked on daily episodes of The Children’s Corner until I moved to NY with my parents in ’55.

— How do you think children’s TV production compares today?
There is no comparison in today’s world to those early developmental days when it comes to children’s TV production. First of all, we did not have any of the fantastical technical tools when it came to animation such as exist today. Children’s program budgets in those early days were almost non-existent. Fred once said that the total budget for The Children’s Corner was $150.00 a week… not much to work with! Secondly, the shows back in the late 40’s & early 50’s were all filmed live, so any mistake that took place were seen immediately by the TV audience.

Of more importance, however, was the fact that most early TV programming lacked so many of the teaching tools we now accept in today’s children’s productions. Most shows back then did little or nothing to help educate a child (WQED and The Children’s Corner aside, of course!). There is a much greater emphasis placed on learning than there was back then. Many of those early Saturday morning shows devoted to entertaining kids were, to put it mildly, “just plain silly”. That no longer is true from what I’ve been seeing of late.

(More on Fred Rogers’ impact on his friend, Joel Dulberg, Tomorrow)

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