The Mr. Rogers movie debuts in less than a month, and Sony rushed out a video “featurette” today (Oct. 22) to introduce the character to 42 million millennials, who likely have no idea who he is.
If you were born before, say, 1990, you probably never heard of him.
That’s because Fred Rogers, who played the character on public television stations went off the air in 2001 and died two years later.
That means a large segment of the movie-going public never heard of him or saw his show. Sony took steps to correct the problem by rushing out a new video “featurette” explaining just who Mr. Rogers was and why he was so beloved.
Rogers, who was 74 when he died, began working in childrens’ television in the 1950s. He launched a Canadian childrens’ show in 1963 that become the precursor to his famed PBS show, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”
The show was launched in 1968 in Pittsburgh and began airing nationally shortly afterward. It ran for almost 900 episodes until 2001. By than, Rogers was suffering from cancer.
The program was groundbreaking because it focused on childhood developmental issues such as a sense of moral and ethical reasoning, civility, tolerance, sharing and self-worth.
Difficult topics such as the death of a family pet, sibling rivalry, the addition of a newborn into families, moving and enrolling in a new school, and divorce were also featured.
In the context of the times, those subjects were rarely addressed in a mass-televised childrens’ program.
Rogers was lauded for his work, and received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. Rogers influenced extended beyond his audience. He influenced many writers and producers of children’s television shows, and served as a source of comfort during tragic events, even after his death, according to his online bio.
The biographical drama, directed by Marielle Heller stars Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Cooper.
Rhys plays a journalist for Esquire magazine who is assigned to profile Rogers and gain insight into his ethos.
Last year, Sony’s TriStar Pictures had bought the worldwide distribution rights to the film based on the 1998 Esquire article.
Apparently no one thought to figure out just how widely known Rogers is some 20 years after the end of his show and his death. That includes a large swath of the movie-going public.
Teenage moviegoers attend an average of 4.9 movies over the course of a year, the largest of any demographic group, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
They number almost 42 million between the ages of 10 and 19 and make up 12.9 percent of the population. You can bet most have never heard of Mr. Rogers.
But the film is also one that a parent, who remembers the show, might take their children to see.
Check out the video below, for a primer on Mr. Rogers.
The film hits theaters on Nov. 22, kicking off the holiday movie season.