March 10, 2008

DTQ: Mister Rogers Merchandise?

Posting may be a little light today. Not pointing any fingers, not playing the blame game, but someone scheduled the kid's hearing test for the first day his wife went back to work. Hopefully, my mom can check out the Bubble trade show before the Federer/Sampras match tonight.

In the mean time, I'd love to hear what people think about the idea of Mister Rogers merchandise. Is it possible? Is it a desperately needed antidote to Sesame Street licensing overkill? Is it in need of help? Or is it blasphemy?

Check out some of the current offerings, and weigh in below.


I wouldn't use the word 'blasphemy', but it does seem antithetical to the Mister Rogers ethos. I wonder if there's more they could do to package and market DVDs of the show? That's the strongest product they have, after all.

I was thrilled to find "What do you do with the anger that you feel" on Netflix, but my Elmo-addled toddler was never very interested in it. I may try again with another Mister Rogers title in a few months.

I mostly agree with Jack's comment on your previous posting; the value of 'da 'hood was never the puppets or ancillary characters, but rather the man himself. For merchandising that value, I can't see doing plush dolls and puppets replicons, but rather other items that reflect Mr. Rogers' ethos.

So, sure, DVD sets of the show might be neat, though I think they're a hard sell. But what about videos like those Stage Fright made? I was trying to get James Durst to rerelease one of his on DVD, but there were several in that catalog of a similar gentle, human, pace. That would seem a logical extension of the different "field trips" Mr. Rogers took us on.

The stuff marketed for our kids is just toxic, Sesame Street included. You're right; Mr. Rogers' values would be a good antidote.

["items that reflect Mr Rogers' ethos," well said. -ed.]

I don't disagree about the lack of merch but living in Pittsburgh, I see evidence of Mister Rogers everywhere. The local children's museum has a "neighborhood" complete with replicas of King Friday's castle, the tree that housed Henrietta Pussycat and X the Owl's homes, Mister Rogers' window seat and moving trolley, and his closet that invites you to try on a cardigan as you enter. An amusement park nearby, Idlewild, has a neighborhood as well. Hedda Sharapan, Joanne Rogers, and David Newell frequently appear at community events and a statute of Fred Rogers is planned for the city's North Shore. My parents even gave me the Holgate trolley as a college graduation present because Fred Rogers was commencement speaker. (And yes, it was a little mindblowing to hear Mister Rogers speak about genocide and war in the same voice in which he spoke about not going down the bathtub drain.)

I guess my point is that in Pittsburgh, at least, the Fred Rogers legacy is powerful but it's more about how parents can communicate with their children than about how they can expose them to the show. Bobbini and the previous posters are right. I grew up in the 1970s and the thing is that Mister Rogers never had merch. I remember attending Sesame Street ice shows and wearing (awful!) Sesame Street clothing but treasuring the single Mister Rogers book I had. If I remember correctly, the book was a giveaway from a local business because Mister Rogers wanted all children--not just the ones with well-heeled parents--to like themselves exactly as they were.

My son is not yet two so I have no idea if he'll love watching Mister Rogers episodes as I did but I'd recommend buying the kid a board book from the Family Communications site, Trolley Visit to Make-Believe, and then settling down with the limited number of DVDs available. Where else can you find children's shows without quick-cut editing? Then, I'd suggest writing to Family Communications to urge the release of more DVDs. Oh, do all the kids in MY neighborhood have the hand puppets? Yes, they do, neighbor!

On a final note, Won't You Be My Neighbor Days start this Saturday, March 15 and everyone is asked to wear a sweater on March 20, which would have been Mister Rogers' 80th birthday. So Family Communications COULD have more and better merch, but they clearly are doing something right.

[very interesting, the local angle. I'm just barely too young to have much memory of local kids TV shows, but that kind of community presence reminds me of it. -ed.]

Of course you realize that by pushing Mr. Rogers on another generation, we're just going to make all our kids have a false sense of entitlement.

Or so the WSJ would have you believe...

Of course if you're REALLY a Mr. Rogers fan, you could always do as Joybubbles did and go watch every single episode at the University of Pittsburgh.

[Joybubbles RIP -ed.]

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