When Angela Santomero was a child, she watched "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." "I was Fred's No. 1 fan," she said. "I could not sit any closer to the television set when the show was on."
It proved to be an inspiration. Santomero is the founding partner and CEO of Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC, and the creator/executive producer/writer of shows like "Blue's Clues" and "Super Why."
Her career has come full circle. Working with the Fred Rogers Company, she's bringing a bit of the old "Neighborhood" back to PBS "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" debuts Monday across the country, including on KUED-Channel 7 and KBYU-Channel 11.
It's sort of like "Mister Rogers: The Next Generation." Daniel is the 4-year-old son of the original Daniel Tiger, Rogers' first hand puppet, and the new show contains bits and pieces of the original show, which ran from 1968-2001 and influenced generations of American kids.
The new "Daniel Tiger" looks a lot different than "Mister Rogers" did it's animated, not live action but there are nods to the original for those who remember it fondly.
"If you are a big fan of Fred, you'll see his little red sweaters," Santomero said. "You'll see the little traffic light. There's a lot of love in there that kind of goes back to the nostalgia, but it also works for today's kids."
The show stands on its own, said executive producer Kevin Morrison, from the Fred Rogers Company, as it's being introduced to a new generation of children who haven't seen 'Mister Rogers.' "
Yet the intent is the same. "The series is designed to meet the social and emotional needs of today's kids," said Lesli Rotenberg, PBS' senior vice president of children's media, "building on the philosophy of love and respect for children that Fred Rogers pioneered."
Rotenberg, Santomero and Morrison use terms like "exploratory learning opportunities" across learning areas, such as cognitive, social, emotional and physical all possible learning areas.
None of that is going to matter to the 2- to 5-year-olds the show is designed to reach. Yet it will probably matter to their parents, many of whom watched "Mister Rogers" when they were young.
"Fred was an architect of PBS," Morrison said. "He spent 40 years making a landmark piece of children's television, and we wanted to do something for 21st-century children that was something Fred would have approved of."
Rogers' widow, Joanne Byrd Rogers, certainly approves, saying the show is "a wonderful legacy for Fred."
Although he might be somewhat surprised that, nine years after he passed away, he's inspired a new show aimed at new generations of youngsters.
"I do think that he would have been amazed at the love that's been shown and all the different tributes that have been made to him since his death," Rogers said.
'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood'
Beginning Monday, Sept. 3, the new series will air weekdays at 10 a.m. on both KUED-Channel 7 and KBYU-Channel 11.