Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. Today, Google celebrates this "creator, musician, philosopher, and storyteller" with a stop-motion animation Doodle on its homepage. Here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.” (Bonus fact: he recently got the Funko treatment!)
1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.
According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.
2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.
Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:
“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.
Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.
“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."
According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.
4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.
It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understood 2000 English words and could also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.
5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.
Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.
6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.
Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers toldPittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."
7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.
A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.
8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.
If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.
9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.
Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:
Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.
He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.
Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?
"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.
10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.
According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.
11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.
Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.
12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.
It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.
“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”
13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.
In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.
14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.
Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.
15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.
Are you ready for the SpongeBob SquarePants television universe?
The aquatic animated series, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, might soon be expanding into spin-offs if new Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins has his way. Speaking with Variety, Robbins expressed enthusiasm for opening up the SpongeBob mythology to include new series based on supporting characters.
“That’s our Marvel universe,” Robbins said. “You have this amazing show that’s run for almost 20 years.” Robbins speculated that new original shows could conceivably feature SpongeBob—the fry cook finding fun and adventure in the ocean city of Bikini Bottom—teaming with his friend Patrick or see characters like Sandy Cheeks and Plankton star in their own projects.
The strategy is part of Robbins’s goal to branch out into delivering more titles in the Nickelodeon library in order to compare with the deep well of content offered by streaming services like Netflix. Viewership across several family entertainment channels is down, with Nickelodeon seeing a 24 percent drop in its audience aged 2 to 11 in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the same timeframe in 2017. Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel suffered 37 percent and 30 percent drops, respectively.
Robbins believes more programming is part of the solution to retaining viewers. Rather than make a “zillion” episodes of one popular show, Robbins would prefer to see the channel grow into a more diverse programming lineup so people can binge a series and move on to the next.
In addition to more SpongeBob, Nickelodeon is also planning a CGI Paddington series for younger viewers inspired by the recent live-action films. Paddington and Paddington 2 actor Ben Whishaw—who recently won a Golden Globe for his work in A Very English Scandal—will again voice the bear. The network is also producing revivals of the popular 1990s hits Are You Afraid of the Dark? and All That.
[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]
Like we all hoped, Stranger Things season two turned out to be a worthy follow-up to the Netflix series' addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as we wait for season 3. But for everything we don’t know about what the next season of Stranger Things will bring us, there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season 3 so far.
1. It will premiere on Independence Day.
On December 31, 2018, Netflix decided to welcome in the new year by sharing that Stranger Things will return on July 4, 2019. The announcement—which featured footage from Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 1985—could not have been more on-brand.
2. There will be another time jump.
The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up. As the Duffer Brothers toldThe Hollywood Reporter in 2017:
“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”
In January 2018, executive producer Shawn Levy toldGlamour that season 3 would likely include eight or nine episodes, explaining that "The number of episodes will be dictated by the amount of story that excites us." Just a few months later, Levy told Collider that they had settled on eight episodes. And in December, Netflix released the episode titles.
4. It will be smaller in scale.
If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.
“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer told IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”
5. A lot of the action will go down at the local mall.
In July 2018, Netflix dropped a fun teaser for the third season (yes, that is Steve Harrington) that promoted Hawkins's new Starcourt mall. (Hey, it's the '80s!) Fans loved it—but also wondered whether it would be a place that we'll see in season 3. Indeed we will, and it will bring a different sort of look and feel to the show. "Aesthetically it's going to feel very different," Ross Duffer said. "Everyone is going to this new mall, seeing movies, and, of course, the Hawkins pool is open for business. I think there'll be a sense of fun and joy."
6. The Mind Flayer will be back.
The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.
Executive producer Dan Cohen toldTV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."
What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season 3 premiere.
7. It will be the "grossest" and most "brutal" season yet.
While the cast and creators have remained tight-lipped about any key season 3 details, they have promised some scares. "While it's our most fun season, it also turns out to be our grossest season," Ross said. "We're inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing. We're inspired by [David] Cronenberg. We have a little bit of a George Romero vibe in there as well. There are horror movies and horror masters that we haven't really paid tribute to as much in previous seasons that we are definitely going to get into this season."
The cast has confirmed this sentiment. Natalia Dyer, who plays Nancy Wheeler, dubbed season 3 “bigger, darker, [and] scarier” than the first two. Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers, told MTV News the same, revealing that the “threat,” whatever it may be, is much more intense this time around. "Oh, yeah, the threat is ... it's brutal. It gets bad. It's very big," the 14-year-old actor said. "I feel like every season it kinda gets more—like it's taking over Hawkins."
8. Plenty of leftover season 2 storylines will be featured.
The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for Stranger Things's second season—probably a bit too much. Speaking with Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:
"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."
9. There will be more Erica.
Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.
“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”
“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”
10. Expect Kali to return.
The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.
The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.
“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.
11. Other "numbers" might show up.
Jackson Lee Davis, Netflix
We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.
"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.
12. There might not be many seasons left.
Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.
“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy toldEntertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”
13. Cary Elwes and Jake Busey have joined the cast.
The cast of Stranger Things is growing for season three, and two of the most high-profile additions announced so far are Cary Elwes and Jake Busey. Elwes—of The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights fame—will be playing Mayor Kline, who is described as "Your classic ’80s politician—more concerned with his own image than with the people of the small town he governs." All we know about Busey’s character is that he’ll be named Bruce and is described as "a journalist for the The Hawkins Post, with questionable morals and a sick sense of humor."
In March, it was also announced that Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, landed a role in the upcoming season. According to Variety, she’ll play an "'alternative girl' bored with her mundane day job. She seeks excitement in her life and gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a dark secret in Hawkins, Ind."