Posted: February 19, 2018
By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
It’s been “a beautiful day in this neighborhood” for 50 years.
Feb. 19, 1968, was the day that PBS aired the first episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and the lessons that Fred Rogers taught still resonate today. A re-imagined tales of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” several televised tributes and even a feature-length movie remind us of the legacy of Mr. Rogers.
According to his official biography from the foundation that carries on his mission of education, Rogers was born in 1928 in the small town of Latrobe, Penn., east of Pittsburgh. After getting a degree in music composition, he was hired by NBC in New York as an assistant producer and eventually a floor director for some of the network’s programming in the ’50s.
History was made in 1953 when WQED in Pittsburgh asked Rogers to come up with their first schedule. He produced a show called “The Children’s Corner,” where he introduced characters such as Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat.
Those characters have found new life on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” where children now learn those positive messages not in puppet form, but from cartoons.
Fred Rogers’ belief in kindness led him to seminary, where he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Instead of moving toward a traditional religious calling, his charge was “to continue his work with children and families through the mass media.”
In 1963, he was offered the opportunity to start a show in Canada called “Misterogers.” Three years later, he went back to Pittsburgh and created a new show called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which went national 50 years ago, on what would become PBS.
Fred Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003, in Pittsburgh and was survived by his wife, Joanne, and their two sons and three grandsons.
Rogers’ message of love and kindness still resonates today. When there is a national tragedy, memes or video clips of Fred Rogers telling children and adults alike to “look for the helpers” gives those who need it a moment of reassurance that everything will be OK.
A lot of people are sharing this quote after the heartbreak in Manchester. It's also the 50th anniversary of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. 1/ pic.twitter.com/zDnTrTcJ8v— Anthony Breznican (@Breznican) May 23, 2017
“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” also helped launch the careers of some current stars.
Actress Ming-Na Wen, known for her role as Agent Melinda May on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and as the voice of Disney’s Mulan, appeared on the show.
Rogers also introduced kids to various genres of music, thanks to guest stars who dropped by, including Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma and Tony Bennett, Entertainment Weekly reported.
Michael Keaton, who went by his original name at the time, Michael Douglas, had one of his first jobs working as a stagehand on the show. He helped operate the iconic trolley, CBS News reported. He was also one of the “Flying Zookeeni Brothers,” Parade reported.
Keaton will host a one-night-only PBS special that pays tribute to Rogers on March 6. “Mister Rogers, It’s You I Like” will feature Keaton and cast regulars, including Joe Negri, who portrayed Handyman Negri, and David Newell, who portrayed Mr. McFeely.
Rogers will also be remembered by guests Judd Apatow, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Silverman, according to PBS.
But that’s not the only remembrance planned for Mr. Rogers. Starting on Feb. 26, PBS Kids will run a weeklong tribute to Rogers, PBS announced.
"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."
Just hearing those words can take many adults back to their childhood, an afternoon, when there were only a few channels, no streaming, no dvrs and being greeted with "Hello neighbor."
You knew what was next, the jacket came off, the sweater went on. The dress shoes changed into tennis shoes ready for serious play.
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March 20, which is coincidently the first day of spring, was everyone's neighbor, Fred Rogers, or Mr. Rogers to many generations all over the country, was his birthday. He would be celebrating 87 years, if Pittsburgh, and children wouldn't have lost a public television icon in 2003.
But kids in 2015, and their families, still are being influenced by the message of "you are special," learning all you can learn, and loving one another thanks to technology that wasn't even a flicker when "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" was on the air in 1968, all thanks to "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," introduced in 2013 and based on one of his beloved characters Daniel the Striped Tiger, and services like Amazon Prime or YouTube, where you can stream the classic episodes all the way back to the first one.
Pittsburgh still celebrates Mr. Rogers and his birthday.
The Pittsburgh Children's Museum was free Friday to allow children to play, if they would donate a gently used book, WPXI reported. The museum is home to Roger's puppets, Daniel the Striped Tiger, X the Owl, King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday.
<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/happy-birthday-neighbor/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/happy-birthday-neighbor.js?header=false&border=false"></script>[View the story "Happy Birthday neighbor!" on Storify]
A life-size bronze statue of Fred Rogers was unveiled Saturday morning in America’s beloved neighbor’s hometown.
The statue was dedicated during a public ceremony at James H. Rogers Park, named for Rogers’ father.
Originally scheduled to be dedicated in June, the statue's debut was put on hold when the sculptor, Jon Hair, became ill. Hair was in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony, as was Rogers’ sister, Nancy Rogers Crozier.
"I am so excited about this," Crozier said. "We've been waiting a long time."
Fred Rogers died Feb. 27, 2003, after a battle with stomach cancer.
The United States Postal Service will release a Mister Rogers stamp in 2018, a year that also marks the 50th anniversary of PBS's “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.”
Fred Rogers is among the icons, such as Lena Horne, John Lennon and Sally Ride, whose faces will appear on stamps included in the postal service’s 2018 stamp program.
The USPS described Rogers as “a beloved television neighbor to generations of children” whose television series “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity and honesty.”
A sneak peek of the stamp showed Rogers posing with “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” character King Friday.
The issuance date has not been revealed, and the USPS noted that the design of the stamp is preliminary and could change.
Tom Hanks will play beloved public television personality Mister Rogers in an upcoming movie.
Variety reported the Oscar winner will play Fred Rogers in a story that is loosely based on Rogers’ friendship with journalist Tom Junod. The movie, called “You Are My Friend,” will show how Junod, a cynical journalist, begrudgingly takes an assignment to write a profile on Rogers. He gains a different perspective on life in the process, according to The Hollywood Reporter. TriStar pictures has distribtion rights to the film.
Junod called the news of the movie being made “well-timed.”
“It is finally happening, and in the best of ways: a movie, very loosely based on the article I wrote for Esquire 20 years ago, with Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, two innovative screenwriters from ‘Transparency’ scripting, and Marielle Heller directing,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I’m thrilled to be making ‘You Are My Friend,’” Heller said in a statement. “The script knocked me out with its message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit. As a mother, I am so inspired by the teachings of Fred Rogers and as a human, I am in awe of his life’s work. I can’t wait to bring his story to the public and be a part of such a thoughtful, smart group of people who are all coming together to make this film, which truly feels to me like an antidote to our very fractured culture.”
Production on “You Are My Friend” is set to start this fall.
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