I came across this Parenting in Progress post: My Neighborhood Is Not Animated yesterday & the following is my response:
I do love everyone’s passion. I am also a passionate fan of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and I am involved in creating the new spinoff of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, called Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Of course, I take all of your concerns to heart and I want to keep the conversation going.
Here are some answers to your questions:
Out of the Blue LLC with myself, Angela Santomero, and The Fred Rogers Company with Kevin Morrison. I have an MA in Child Development and Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University, Teachers College. I created Blue’s Clues in 1996 that changed the way preschoolers watch tv and helped teach them kindergarten readiness skills as supported by a Univ of Alabama longitudinal study. I created Super Why! for PBS Kids which teaches kids reading skills based on the National Reading Panel and was proven to help teach kids to read by a longitudinal study done by Univ of Penn.
Because there is no way that we could find a new Fred Rogers. He was born, not hired. And I know. Because I looked at 5,000 actors for Blue’s Clue and I hired Steve and Joe. And as much as I love them, they are not Fred. With animation, we can more clearly see the characters emotions in their faces and give little ones a more visual way to experience the curriculum. We are carefully animating the show using textured, hand made elements that give it the “reach out and touch it” look and feel created by Traci Paige Johnson, my co – creator on Blue’s Clues. And for what it’s worth, we have been working on this show for the past four years, and I can tell you that our level of animation is more expensive than a live action/puppet set, a style which I had chosen on many earlier projects.
Neighborhood of Make Believe:
As a fan of the show, I loved that Prince Tuesday was a baby puppet and then “grew up” and was a teenager puppet in later years. I thought, it would be so much fun for me to go back and play in this world, now. But what would the Neighborhood of Make Believe look like? Well, everyone would have grown up and have had preschoolers of their own in their lives. Daniel, the son of the original Daniel, is the star, because as Fred’s first puppet, he was the one closest to who Fred was as a person. Four year old Daniel Tiger wears a little red sweater and little sneakers, calmly talks directly to the home viewer about his feelings, takes rides on the trolley, goes to the Neighborhood of Make Believe school and visits the neighborhood shops with all of his friends. The nostaglia elements are in the show for us, fans. Because, I for one, get very upset when a spin off doesn’t acknowledge where it came from (90210?).
Joanne Rogers (Mrs. Rogers), who, as you can imagine, is the closest to the original show and she loves Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. She said, “I dare anyone to not fall in love with Daniel”. And I do too. This show has been lovingly researched, written, cared for, fretted over and is the sweetest show for preschoolers in years. It incorporates beautiful music based on Fred’s musical style that I dare you not to sing and it will undoubtedly get stuck in your head. It has a celebration of love between Daniel and his parents and his friends. It has gentle reminders for little ones about how “grownups come back”, “when something seems bad, turn it around and find something good” and a variety of other prosocial, emotional tips.
I hope you give our show a chance. Because, I promise you it is THAT good.