Angela's Answers: Mister Rogers for the Next Generation
photograph by William Taufic
I want you to imagine a four-year-old little girl who would sit in front of the television every day and talk to Mister Rogers. She learned how crayons were made, what to do with the “mad that she feels,” that there are “many ways to say I love you” and most important, she learned that Mister Rogers “liked her just the way she was.” That little girl was me.
Because of Mister Rogers, I grew up knowing how powerful television can be for preschool children. I studied child developmental psychology, like Fred Rogers, and I wanted to create interactive, educational shows that would help kids learn, just as Mister Roger’s Neighborhood did for me.
And now, my life has come full circle as my newest television show, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, the spin off of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, is set to premiere on PBS Kids on September 3.
I have been playing, writing and creating in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe for the past six years. As Fred’s No. 1 fan, I already had a story made up for all of the characters from the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” I just knew that Daniel Tiger grew up, got married, moved to Jungle Beach and had a son named Daniel. Of course, he wears a little red sweater and sneakers, just like Mister Rogers did. Lady Elaine marries Music Man Stan in the neighborhood and has a four-year-old named Miss Elaina who likes to do everything backwards. X the Owl has a smart little nephew O the Owl who says, “Nifty Galifty.” Henrietta has a ballerina daughter Katerina Kittycat who speaks in the famous “Meow Meow” language. And King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday have a rambunctious son named Prince Wednesday. All of the kids are four years old, and play and learn together in the neighborhood.
The show is all about life’s little ups and downs. Musical strategies are sung throughout every episode, which deal with learning how to express your feelings (“When you feel so mad you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four!”), how to share (“You can take a turn, and then I will get it back!”), deal with disappointment (“When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good!”).
They say that everything you needed to know you learned in kindergarten. But I believe everything we needed to know we learned from Mister Rogers. And I’m so proud that Fred’s legacy can live on in a new neighborhood. Joanne, Fred’s widow, has been quoted as saying, “I am so excited about the show because the old feeling is there. I’d been anxious not knowing what to expect, but, oh, Daniel is just so cute. I can’t imagine everybody won’t love him, and I’m delighted.”
The four-year-old girl in me is singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood….” For a sneak peek of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, go to pbskids.org/daniel/; for behind the scenes information go to AngelasClues.com.
Mother of two, Angela Santomero is the creator, writer and producer of children’s uber-hits Blue’s Clues and Super Why! Every month Angela offers her advice and observations on being a mom and an executive in children’s television while balancing and learning from both worlds.