It’s a Beautiful Day For a Tiger

Blogger’s Note:  It’s the last blog of 2012!  I want to wish you all a joyous holiday season.  In the words of Eeyore, “Thanks for noticing me” and reading the blog.  And thank you to everyone at CMA who put their kind hearts and brilliant heads into creating such wonderful programs for our members.  I’ll see you all in the new year with a new post on January 4th! 

If you haven’t had the chance to check out the amazing Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS do it now.  I’ll wait.

My friend Chris is gonna chill with Daniel while we wait.

Ready?  Good.  We were fortunate enough to be treated to a behind-the-scenes look at this amazing show with a screening and panel discussion.  Our esteemed panelists were show creator and executive producer Angela C. Santomero, Kevin Morrison – Executive Producer of the Fred Rogers Company and Linda Simensky VP of Children’s Programming at PBS.  Our panel was moderated by Leslie Rodenberg, Sr. VP of children’s media at PBS. Star studded indeed!

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood debuted in September and was watched by over 3.8 million kids (and me).  It was ranked #5 in its first month, not bad for the new kid in the neighborhood.  The series focuses on a social-emotional curriculum.  Each of the two 11-minute segments model the same strategy which is presented as a short, singable bit of advice like, “Grown-ups come back.”  (Imagine that sung)

After getting a sneak peek at an upcoming episode about “Thank You Day,” a fictional holiday which I am totally going to celebrate this year, the panel spoke about the origins of the project.  Kevin said they were looking to do something “Fred-ish” and they worked on several concepts before hitting on Daniel.  To give you a sense of the timeline, he met Angela in ’07, they went to PBS with the idea in ’08, did a pilot and the series premiered this September.  So what elements of the original series were important to keep in Daniel’s revamped neighborhood?  Why the castle, the tree, the clock with no hands, Daniel talking directly to camera and of course Fred Rogers’ social-emotional curriculum.  Angela said there was never a question that Daniel would be the star, he was Fred’s first puppet.  For Linda, she said the series was a development exec’s dream.  The animatic of the pilot made her weepy.

Then they put out two mics for people to come up and ask questions – totally intimidating for your introverted blogger.

But the overall vibe coming from the panel is that everyone working on this show has nothing but reverence for Fred Rogers and his mission.

Main Takeaway: To me, Daniel is not so much a re-imagining of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood but a continuation of it, so when you watch you have no doubt that all the characters in the Neighborhood of Make Believe have always been there living their lives, you have just been invited once again to come for a visit.  And it’s such a very good feeling to be back.

Personal Takeaway:  Incidentally, the strategies work with baby walruses as well.  I volunteer at the New York Aquarium where I sometimes get a chance to keep an eye on our new five-month-old baby walrus, Mitik.  Mitik doesn’t like to be left alone and tends to cry if any of his keepers step out of sight.  That’s right, you know where this is going.  I sing the “grown-ups come back” ditty to the little guy all the time.  I think he likes it.  I know I do.

“So, uh, I…uh…guess I’ll just uh, wait here?”

Inappropriate Takeaway:  Why did Mr. McFeely have to work on Thank You Day?  Speedy Delivery really needs to unionize.

But seriously, about those vacation days.