mister rogers, fred, google doodle, neighborhood, won't you be my neighbor

I Was Not Ready for This Mister Rogers Google Doodle

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51 years ago today, Fred Rogers walked into the WQED television studio in Pittsburgh to tape the first episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Even then, in what we tend to think of as simpler, calmer times, there was doubt that the show could hold children’s attention. It was just a man, dressed in sweaters knitted by his mother, with some somewhat crude puppets, who wasn’t even interested in entertaining children, but rather wanted to engage in genuine communication with them.

As one of his colleagues said in the recent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?“If you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

But, of course, it was a success. Children connected with the show and felt seen in a way that no television show (or even, for many, no real-life experience) made them feel before. Fred Rogers’ gift was making kids feel seen and important. When he said we were special, we knew he meant it. He wasn’t just talking to all children; he was somehow, magically, talking to every child, individually, one on one.

That’s the inspiration behind today’s Google Doodle, which I was fully not prepared to see when I opened my browser this morning. (If you can’t tell, Mister Rogers stirs up some feelings in me.) Set to the show’s iconic “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” theme song, the video shows a puppet version of Rogers strolling through his neighborhood, meeting children, as well as taking a trip into the Land of Make-Believe. The whole thing has a bit of a surreal twist to it, with Rogers also interacting with versions of familiar elements of his home—like the fish tank and the piles of letters he received from children across the country—manifested out in the world.

According to Google, “The Doodle aims to be a reminder of the nurturing, caring, and whimsy that made the show feel like a ‘television visit’ between Mister Rogers and his young viewers. Everyone was welcome in this Neighborhood.”

“Through his honest words, thoughtful songs, and imaginative Neighborhood of Make-Believe stories, Mister Rogers took us by the hand, helping us feel good about who we are,” the site continues. “He encouraged us to find positive ways to deal with our feelings, to treat others with respect and kindness, and to appreciate the world around us.”

In addition to the finished video, Google has released some behind-the-scenes looks at how the whole thing came together. The video was created in collaboration with Fred Rogers Productions, The Fred Rogers Center, and BixPix Entertainment. Over on Google, you can see early storyboards, character drawings, and pictures of the puppet creation process.

And check out this awesome video showing how they recreated Rogers’ neighborhood:

What’s your favorite Mister Rogers memory?

(via Google, image: YouTube)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.