It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood for kids who grew up watching PBS. In honor of the late Fred Rogers’s 90th birthday, Focus Features has released a trailer for Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about the life and work of the beloved children’s television host. Long before he was a meme or his puppet creation Daniel Tiger had a television show of his own, Rogers helmed the long-running, low-budget program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Directed by Morgan Neville, who won an Oscar for the similarly feel-good documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, the film explores Mr. Rogers’s quietly revolutionary philosophy of educating children with compassion and honesty.
“I always felt I didn’t need to put on a funny hat or jump through a hoop to have a relationship with a child,” says the entertainer, whose show aired on public television for over three decades and nearly a thousand episodes. Since Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood premiered in 1968, a year of political and culture upheaval, its host addressed such difficult topics as death (“What does assassination mean?” asks a child in a clip), divorce, and segregation. African-American actor Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons for 25 years, explains in an interview that he and Fred shared a kiddie pool on the air — a direct response from Rogers to the segregation of American swimming pools. “My being on the program was a statement for Fred,” he says.
And all of this in a show that battled conventional wisdom at every turn. “If you take all of the elements that make good television and do the opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” says producer Margy Whitmer. Watch the trailer above.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? opens in theaters this summer.
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