Institutional 2017

Institutional Award: The Fred Rogers Company

In the history of American television personalities, few have been as universally loved as Fred McFeely Rogers. As creator and host of his iconic children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Rogers inspired his audience with gentle lessons on the importance of mutual respect and the fun that comes from being good, warm, caring people. Clad in his trademark cardigan sweater and sneakers, the ordained Presbyterian minister guided his young audience through subjects as tangled as divorce, death, and racial equality, implementing heartfelt and sometimes underappreciated ideas on how to speak to children. The show earned a Peabody Award in 1968; Rogers himself was given a personal Peabody many years later in 1992. Those awards joined a legacy that included the Presidential Medal of Freedom, appearance on a postage stamp, and credit for stopping plans by the Nixon administration to cut funds for public broadcasting through a heartwarming appearance at a Senate subcommittee hearing.

American television lost one of its best when Rogers died in 2003. But Rogers’ company, Family Communications Inc., took on the daunting task of continuing his legacy as a children’s TV pioneer, renamed as The Fred Rogers Company. They have succeeded marvelously, producing high-quality, thoughtful educational television that cares not only about the children who watch it, but the adults they will become. Working with Out of the Blue Enterprises, Sinking Ship Entertainment, 9Story Media Group, and Schell Games, the company has developed several top series for children, including the delightful “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”, “Peg + Cat”, and “The Odd Squad.”

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” passed on Rogers’ iconic red cardigan to Daniel Tiger, now in his seventh decade on American television, an animated character on a multiplatform series alongside friends Prince Wednesday, Katerina Kittycat, O the Owl, Miss Elaina, and of course Trolley. Sharing a litany of ditties and songs with its listeners ranging from “clean up, pick up, put away, clean up everyday” to “keep trying until it works for you, you get better, yes it’s true,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” approaches the world with the same enthusiasm, good will, and big heart that Rogers did, and Daniel similarly ends each episode by reiterating to his preschool fans “it’s you I like.”

“Peg + Cat” beautifully renders on graph paper the animated adventures of young Peg and her talking cat, both of whom spend each episode trying to solve “a really. big. problem” with math and logic. Aided by the multi-talented Ramone, an opera-singing pig, 100 chickens, pirates, giants, Big Mouth the space monster, and Ludwig Van Beethoven, Peg makes math infectiously fun. In this she is joined by the quirky “XFiles”-for-kids team at “The Odd Squad”, who use math to solve problems ranging from a town stuck in slow motion to all of the agents turning into cakes. The live-action series and its characters Ms. O and Agents Olive, Otto, Olympia, Otis, Oscar, and Oona are odd, yes, but also outrageously original, observant, optimistic, and outstanding.

Through these shows, and through their many associated apps, websites, and other platforms, the legacy of Fred Rogers gloriously endures, educating and engaging new generations of kids. For offering so many children and families such a good feeling, a really good feeling, and so many things to talk about, we thank and commend you, The Fred Rogers Company, as recipients of an Institutional Peabody Award. Truly, it’s you we like.