Okay, we see the red sweater connection. . . but how else is the PBS KIDS hit animated television series, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, related to the one and only Mister Rogers?
In plenty of ways, actually. Not only is the show based on the same tenets of childhood development curricula that Fred Rogers pioneered, but it has also given his trademark Children’s Corner puppets and their Neighborhood of Make-Believe a story of their own in real life—or animated life, anyway.
But how, exactly? Let us show you.
Daniel Striped Tiger
With his little wristwatch and his “grandmother clock” home, Daniel Tiger was the first and instant favorite of Mister Rogers’ puppets. Now all grown up, in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood he is the tiger dad in his tiger family and has a tiger son—also named Daniel, who sports a red hoodie in tribute to Fred Rogers, himself.
X the Owl
X was a doleful looking owl with a long face in shades of blue, but he was filled with happiness and an enthusiasm for learning, and held Benjamin Franklin in high esteem—as all owls do. Now X the Owl is uncle to O the Owl, Daniel’s light blue-feathered friend, who has a penchant for books and reading, just like his uncle. “Nifty galifty!”
King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday
Yes, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe still has its royal family, but it’s grown a bit. Filled with big words, a proclivity for trumpets and birds, and a resistance to change, King Friday ruled his kingdom with pride. He and his wife, named after Mr. Rogers’ own wife, were the ruling family of Make Believe. Now their son, Prince Tuesday, is a little older and has a younger brother, Prince Wednesday. Fitting.
Lady Elaine Fairchilde
“Hey toots!” Typically the antagonist in whichever Make-Believe story line was playing out, she was the cantankerous (and a little scary looking) director of the Museum-Go-Round. Named for Mr. Rogers’ adopted sister, Lady Elaine now has a family of her own and works at the crayon factory. Her daughter, Miss Elaina, likes doing things backward—an obvious allusion to her mother’s “Boomerang-Toomerang-Zoomerang,” which could turn the Neighborhood upside down in the original show. Her husband, Music Man Stan, runs the local music store.
Perhaps the puppet whose physical manifestation has aged the worst, Henrietta was originally the governess to some “nice mice” and frequently punctuated her sentences with a “meow.” Now she says a few more words—she keeps “meow meow” as a trademark—and is still the Owl family’s next-door-neighbor with her daughter, Katerina.
The essentials are there, but Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has grown significantly from Mr. Rogers’ beloved Children’s Corner. There are many more references to Mr. Rogers than immediately meet the eye, in the colors, the items, the look and feel of Make-Believe and its residents—and that’s why it attracts children and parents alike. With new additions to established families and a mix of the old, the new, and the slightly wacky, Daniel Tiger is a pretty solid tribute to the Man in Red—THE Fred Rogers, who first taught us to tie our shoes, and the beloved icon of a whole generation of kids—some of whom are now parents, themselves.
But don’t let the magic stay on television! Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE! is headed to the Long Center. So why not spend an afternoon in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe for real?
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE! hits Dell Hall stage for two showings Sunday, October 16. Tag along!