Neighborhood of Make-Believe
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The Neighborhood of Make-Believe is the fictional kingdom inhabited by hand puppet characters on the children's television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood which aired on PBS, from 1968–2001, and its predecessor Mister Rogers, which ran from 1963–1966. Principal puppeteer Fred Rogers developed many of the puppet characters in the 1950s for Josie Carey's program, The Children's Corner. It was filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The adventures of the citizens of the Land of Make-Believe appear in a short segment once in the middle of almost every episode. Rogers deliberately makes clear the distinction between the "real world" and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe by transitioning in and out of the Neighborhood segment via a distinctive red and yellow model electric trolley that enters and exits through small tunnels in the wall (or occasionally by setting up small tabletop models of the various Neighborhood of Make Believe buildings), and by discussing what had happened with his audience after the end of each segment. The same storyline continues for a week or more (similar to a soap opera), though Rogers is always sure to recap the plot for the audience.
Characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe were portrayed by both hand puppets operated by puppeteers and actors. They would occasionally talk to the viewers in specific episodes
Most of the main puppet characters were voiced by Fred Rogers. The regular puppet characters include the following:
- King Friday XIII (performed by Fred Rogers) – King Friday XIII is the imperious monarch of the neighborhood. He is relatively egocentric, irrational, resistant to change, and temperamental, although open-minded enough to listen when told he is wrong. He has a fondness for giving long-winded speeches and using big words. When trumpets are portrayed upon emerging from his castle and some people would be present, he would quote "[insert character name here], I presume." Then that character would say "Correct as usual, King Friday." King Friday has two pet wooden birds named Troglodytes aedon and Mimus polyglottos (the scientific names, in genus and species, of the house wren and the northern mockingbird, respectively). Mimus appeared first in Episode #20 from 1968 and Troglodytes appeared in Show #1285 from 1973. King Friday also uses big words for certain songs like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", which he refers to as "Royal versions". King Friday was the second puppet to appear on Children's Corner.
- Queen Sara Saturday (performed by Fred Rogers) – Queen Sara Saturday is King Friday's consort. She was first introduced as a commoner from Westwood on Episode #32 and the two married in Episode 1015. In the third season (episode 1117) they had a son, Prince Tuesday. Queen Sara is more rational and level-headed than her husband. Queen Sara was named for Fred Rogers' wife, Sara Joanne Rogers.
- Prince Tuesday (performed by Adair Roth (pre '79 series), Fred Michael (1979–1980), Charles Altman (1981–1986), briefly Carole Switala, Lenny Meledandri (1987–2001)) – Prince Tuesday is the son of King Friday and Queen Sara. Born in the third season (episode 1117) and named for the day of the week when he was born, Prince Tuesday is one of only two characters to age during the course of the series (he starts as a baby, then a toddler; and from 1979 onward, he is elementary school-aged). He is curious and enthusiastic and attends the school in "Someplace-Else".
- X the Owl (performed by Fred Rogers) – X the Owl lives in an old oak tree in the Neighborhood. He is eager and cheerful and has a strong desire to learn new things. Many of X's stories involve assignments from the Owl Correspondence School and he idolizes Benjamin Franklin. He also has trouble making decisions. X was the third puppet to appear on Children's Corner.
- Henrietta Pussycat (performed by Fred Rogers) – Henrietta Pussycat is X's neighbor and lives in a small yellow and orange school house supported by a strong limb on the tree. Early episodes established her as the governess of several nice mice, thus the schoolhouse. She has a habit of randomly inserting "meow" into her sentences due to being a cat. When she was first introduced, she could only say "beautiful", "telephone", and "Mister Rogers", in addition to "meow". She is anxious, preoccupied with beauty, and prone to jealousy. She also was the flower girl at Betty and James' wedding. She is the fourth puppet to appear on Children's Corner.
- Lady Elaine Fairchilde (performed by Fred Rogers) – Lady Elaine Fairchilde is an outspoken, cranky schemer who runs the Museum-Go-Round (after the Froggs moved out). Lady Elaine was often known to say "Okay, toots" and is generally the antagonist when a storyline calls for one. One of her prized possessions is her Boomerang-Toomerang-Zoomerang, with which she can turn the neighborhood upside-down. Although a frequent antagonist, she is not portrayed as evil, but as someone who challenges authority, particularly King Friday's authority, as she often has rows with the king. She first appeared in episode 5 of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and is named after Fred's adopted sister.
- Daniel Striped Tiger (performed by Fred Rogers) – Daniel Striped Tiger is the first puppet ever to appear on Children's Corner and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He is a shy tiger who lives in a non-functioning grandfather clock with no hands (because in make-believe, it is whatever time you imagine). Despite his shyness, Daniel exhibits wisdom and intelligence when he does speak. His favorite toy is a small dump truck, and he wears a watch on one arm because "when you live in a clock you really should know what time it is". He was the ring bearer for Betty and James' wedding. He was named after Dorothy Daniel, who gave Fred his first puppet. In July 2011, PBS announced that Daniel's son (also named Daniel) would be the star of his own show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.
- Cornflake "Corney" S. Pecially (performed by Fred Rogers) – Cornflake S. Pecially is a beaver-like character who is the proprietor of a factory specializing in rocking chairs. His original factory burned down in a story during the first season, but his neighbors pitched in to help him build a new one. Corney has also been known to produce dolls, pretzels, model trolleys, and other goods. He debuted on Misterogers, the precursor of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Corney's middle initial and last name are a play on the word "especially."
- Grandpere Tiger (performed by Fred Rogers) – Grandpere Tiger is a French tiger and bon-vivant who lives to the left of the castle in the Eiffel Tower. He has a very kind heart and often donates the use of the tower to his neighbors whenever they ask.
- The Frogg Family – The Frogg Family were the original curators of the Museum-Go-Round. The family is made up of Dr. Frank Lee Frogg who works as a pediatrician, Mrs. Frogg, and their son Tadpole. The family moved to Westwood during the first color week of the series and were only seen infrequently after that.
- The Platypus Family – The Platypus Family are duck-billed platypuses who live in a platypus mound. The family consists of Dr. Bill Platypus (performed by Bill Barker in a Scottish accent), his wife Elsie Jean Platypus (also performed by Bill Barker) & their daughter Ornithorhynchus Anatinus (Ana) Platypus (the Latin scientific name for a platypus) (performed by Carole Muller Switala). Along with Prince Tuesday, she is one of only two puppet characters to age during the series. Ana has four grandparents: Grandma Nell Platypus & Grandpa Tom Platypus (maternal) & Nana Platypus & Dada Platypus (paternal). Dr. Bill works at the Eiffel Tower where Grandpere lives and plays the bagpipes. "Doc Bill" appears to be a play on words for duck-bill.
- Harriet Elizabeth Cow (performed by Bob Trow) – Harriet Elizabeth Cow is the school teacher and Donkey Hodie's co-worker in "Someplace Else". She played the organ for Betty and James' wedding and is named after Fred Rogers' aunt.
- Edgar Cooke (performed by Fred Rogers) – Edgar Cooke is King Friday's castle chef who sings everything he says.
- H.J. Elephant III (performed by Chuck Aber) – H.J. Elephant III is one of Prince Tuesday's friends.
- Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones (performed by Michael Horton) – Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones is the longtime friend of Lady Elaine who occasionally comes to visit from Southwood. She was a widow until marrying James Michael Jones.
- James Michael Jones (performed by Michael Horton) – James Michael Jones is Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones's second husband. James is a resident of Glassland where he did "Exactly Like Me" portraits (which are really mirrors).
- Carrie Dell Okonak Templeton-Jones – Known as "Carrie Dell" for short, Carrie Dell Okonak Templeton-Jones is the adopted daughter of James Michael Jones and Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones.
- Old Goat (performed by Tom Megalis in the first storyline, Michael Horton in the second storyline) – Old Goat is a resident of Northwood and speaks only in "goat sounds".
- Donkey Hodie (performed by Fred Rogers) – Donkey Hodie lives in Someplace Else with Harriet Elizabeth Cow and operates a Washer Dryer Sorter Dumper there. Originally, Donkey Hodie came to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to build a windmill, but King Friday didn't like having it so close to the castle. Donkey then relocated to Someplace Else. The name "Donkey Hodie" seems to be a play on the name of Don Quixote.
- Yo-Yo LaBelle (performed by Michael Horton) - An alien from the stars. All he can say is "Mee" and "Thee". Only Daniel Striped Tiger can understand what Yo-Yo LaBelle is saying.
- Neighborhood Trolley – A small, red electric trolley that enters and exits the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, taking the viewers of the show with it. Known simply as "Trolley", it communicates through the uses of its whistle and bell and occasionally moves backwards and forwards to get the other characters' attention or to show that he is getting impatient, and a musical melody is usually heard every time the Trolley moves along its tracks. It can go both fast and slow. Also, when lifted from the tracks, it can show pictures from the past, as revealed in the episodes "Then and Now".
These characters, some in costumes, are much larger than the puppet characters and sometimes help the puppets with tasks such as lifting or moving large objects, which the small puppet characters are unable to do. Some of these live characters include:
- Lady Aberlin (portrayed by Betty Aberlin) – King Friday's niece and frequently the "main" character of the segments. Often the only full-sized character in the neighborhood segments, she acts as something of a level-headed older sister to the puppets and audience alike, and an audience surrogate, providing exposition for the story's narrative. She can occasionally be seen dancing around the Neighborhood whenever she's by herself. Sometimes nicknamed Lady A, she was one of Betty's brides-maids along with Lady Elaine for Betty and James' wedding. She also sometimes acts as a surrogate mother to Daniel Tiger, as, unlike Prince Tuesday or Ana Platypus, he has no parental figures, but attends school with them. She is the daughter of King Friday's older sister Claire, and her cousins are Prince Tuesday, as well as the sons of Friday's younger brother Paul (these include Nicky, Qwentin, Paulie and Kevin). After Prince Tuesday, and the sons of King Friday's brother, Lady Aberlin is next in line for the throne of the kingdom.
- Mr. McFeely (portrayed by David Newell) – The "Speedy Delivery" man. He sometimes delivers letters and packages to the citizens of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Generally if a package from OCS (Owl Correspondence School) is being delivered to X the Owl, Mr. McFeely delivers it. Besides Chef Brockett and Trolley, he is one of a few characters to pass between Mr. Rogers' "real" world and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
- Handyman Negri (portrayed by Joe Negri) – The friendly, avuncular neighborhood handyman. Plays the guitar. However, he was also originally known as Joe Negri in the early days of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
- Bob Dog (portrayed by Bob Trow) – A friendly, playful canine. Bob Dog is enthusiastic about lots of things, a trait which sometimes gets him into trouble. Becomes an "adopted cousin" for Ana Platypus.
- Chef Brockett (portrayed by Don Brockett) – A baker who sometimes helps Edgar Cooke. He is one of the few characters, along with Mr. McFeely and Trolley, to exist in both Mr. Rogers' "real" world and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe (although many of the human cast members portrayed characters in both worlds).
- Officer Clemmons (portrayed by François Clemmons) – A police officer who sometimes helps out King Friday in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Officer Clemmons regularly finds time to contribute to the many Neighborhood plays and operas. He once served as a professor for the Owl Correspondence School teaching a class in Early American Owl History.
- Robert Troll (portrayed by Bob Trow) – The gibberish-speaking whimsical troll who is the friend of the castle. Robert Troll has many hidden talents as he is an artist, and is good at understanding things in nature. He is sometimes called "Robertroll". Robert Troll is a pun on Robert Trow.
- Miss Paulificate (portrayed by Audrey Roth) – The telephone operator at the Castle. Storylines often allude to her former career as a dancer and she often demonstrates her tap-dancing abilities. She frequently takes the brunt of King Friday's bad moods.
- Mayor Maggie (portrayed by Maggie Stewart) – The Mayor of Westwood, a democracy bordering the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. She was introduced in the 1970s to show that women can run for mayor too. By contrast, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe is a monarchy, the throne of which is inherited by male-preference primogenture. She is fluent in sign language. Despite being a leader of similar stature to the King, she is frequently roped into doing his bidding.
- Charles R. Aber: Westwood Neighbor (portrayed by Chuck Aber) – Also known as Neighbor Aber, he is the associate of Mayor Maggie of Westwood. During the course of the series, he also holds the position of Clown T-shirt salesman/delivery man (it is revealed he is divorced and doesn't get to see his kids much), and pilot. Despite living in Westwood, he is a frequent character in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, from 1981 to the end.
- Hula Mouse (portrayed by Tony Chiroldes) – A Spanish-speaking mouse who can do anything with his hula hoop. Called H.M. for short and has been heard to sing in English.
- Cousin Mary Owl (portrayed by Mary Rawson) – X the Owl's cousin. She is a green and yellow owl. She also attended OCS (Owl Correspondence School) and enjoys videography. X notes that Mary lives in a sycamore tree.
- Cousin Stephen Owl (portrayed by Stephen Lee) – X the Owl's cousin.
- Keith the Carpenter (portrayed by Keith David) – A carpenter from Southwood and unofficial "uncle" to Carrie Dell. He was James' best-man at his wedding.
- Mr. Allmine (portrayed by Bert Lloyd) – A man who took Daniel's clock claiming he owned it (along with anything he wanted hence his name). He returned in several other episodes having reformed into a nicer character and running a museum of his collection.
- Ellen Patterson (portrayed by Zelda Pulliam) – Owner of Patterson Pools and Patterson Pipes.
- Beaver O'Day (portrayed by Jim Beard) – A beaver who is Ellen's partner.
- Reardon (portrayed by John Reardon) – A real-life opera baritone, Reardon comes to the Neighborhood to help produce and perform in the 13 "mini-operas".
- Purple Panda (performed by David L. Nohling in 1973–1991, Matt Meko in 1996–2000) – A two-toned purple-colored giant panda from Planet Purple with a robotic, monotone voice. He arrives in the neighborhood by teleporting, which is "The Purple Way to travel". He often carries a large bowl for his favorite dish, tapioca pudding.
- Little Panda (performed by Liz Rossi) – A smaller panda that is also from Planet Purple. His abilities appear similar to Purple Panda and he speaks in a similar monotonous voice.
- Randy S. Caribou (performed by Chuck Aber) – A caribou who wanted to hide from Chef Brockett after accidentally squashing a cake decorated to look like a soccer ball. He was played by Chuck Aber during the Fun and Games week of episodes.
- Big Bird (performed by Caroll Spinney) – Big Bird was a guest on the show when he came to deliver his entry to the "Draw the Neighborhood" art contest. Henrietta became jealous of Big Bird, because she assumed he would be a better friend to X. In Big Bird's Sesame Street continuity, Mr. Rogers is a celebrity whom Big Bird was excited to meet.
The Land of Make-Believe was staged with a theatrical set design, landmarks include (from left to right):
- Eiffel Tower – The only structure located left of the Castle; dark green and blue with red railing. There is also a red flashing light on top. Grandpere Tiger lives here. Its name and appearance is based on the real Eiffel Tower in Paris.
- King Friday's Castle – This is usually the first location seen in the Land of Make Believe as Trolley enters from a tunnel on its left side. Blue colored structure with XIII in gold on its front. There is a service entrance to the right of the castle. From 1968 to 1969, the original castle was a two-tier structure with two archways in each and one polygonal tower at the top. The gold XIII was on the front panel of the upper walkway. On February 27, 1969, the day before King Friday married Queen Sara, Lady Elaine used her boomerang and Handyman Negri played Brahms' Second Symphony on his guitar to magically change the old castle into a newer, larger castle as their wedding gift to the royal couple. This became the well-known castle used for the remainder of the series: three-tier structure with seven archways; two in the lower tier, three in the center, and one in each of the two round towers at the top. The gold XIII was now under the second tier's widest archway where King Friday and Queen Sara came out to greet visitors. The service entrance to the right remained intact and a carpeted exterior staircase was added to the left. A decorative waterfall/fountain was installed in front of the left side in 1971; King Friday would donate the waterfall to the people of Westwood many years later.
- Trolley Tracks – There are two trolley routes in the Neighborhood. One is the usual route taken by the Neighborhood Trolley that runs in front of the castle. The trolley enters the Neighborhood from a tunnel on the left of the castle, and runs to the right tunnel, next to the Castle's service entrance. The other section runs past the other residences in the Neighborhood, including around the Museum-Go-Round.
- Tele-can – Located in front of the trolley tracks, it is a cage with a can-and-string phone suspended in air. Whenever anyone needed to make a call (via Miss Paulifficate the Castle operator), he or she would stand under the cage, look up and signal for the cage to come down.
- Rocking Chair Factory – Located to the right of the Castle service entrance, it is a pink colored structure with "Rockit" in scriptive lettering, blinking lights and revolving gear wheel. Cornflake S. Pecially works here.
- Great Oak Tree – Located in the center of the neighborhood, it is residence to Henrietta Pussycat, who lives in a small yellow schoolhouse-shaped structure with red double doors and a yellow bell within the branches of the tree, as well as to X The Owl, whose home is entered through an orange door with crossbeams shaped like an "X".
- Museum-Go-Round – A revolving round, grey structure with multi-colored pillars and a red bell in front. Lady Elaine Fairchilde lives here. Like the castle, The Museum seems to have an endless number of rooms, frequently designated by letters (e.g. dinosaurs are in the "D" room).
- Frog Pond – A stone pond resembling a fountain where Dr. and Mrs. Frogg and their son, Tadpole, lived before moving to Westwood. This was removed after the first week of color episodes and replaced by the Platypus Mound.
- Platypus Mound – A mound with six holes, which replaced the Frog Pond when the Platypus Family moved to the neighborhood.
- Grandfather Clock – An orange structure in the shape of a clock with a white flower pendulum, knocker, and yellow face without hands. Daniel Striped Tiger lives here. This is the outermost structure on the neighborhood set, and characters are never shown venturing beyond it.
The world of the Land of Make-Believe also features several other "regions." Along with King Friday's realm, there are also bordering territories, including:
- The City of Westwood – West of the Neighborhood, half-a-day's walk from The Neighborhood of Make Believe and quarter-a-day's walk from Someplace Else. According to Mr. Aber, the region didn't have enough water supply for a swimming pool. The former Miss Sara Saturday was a resident of Westwood prior to her marriage to His Majesty Friday XIII and her concurrent ennoblement as Queen Consort.
- The City of Southwood – South of the Neighborhood where Betty and James live.
- The Area of Northwood – Northwood is considered goat country and is north of the Neighborhood.
- Someplace Else – North of the neighborhood where Donkey Hodie and Harriet live. Located here is the schoolhouse where Daniel, Ana Platypus and Prince Tuesday attend school.
- Land of Allmine – Mr. Allmine's home. It was later turned into a museum.
Characters also frequently interact with the inhabitants of Planet Purple, where everything and everyone are purple and exactly the same. Every girl on Planet Purple is named "Pauline" and every boy is named "Paul." Purple Panda, a resident of Planet Purple, can return there "the purple way" (just by thinking). Moreover, all of the planet's inhabitants speak monotonously, often intoning, "We are people from the planet purple." Inhabitants of Planet Purple are forbidden to sit in rocking chairs, and if they do, they are not allowed to return home. In one visit to the Neighborhood, Purple Panda sits in one of Cornflake S. Pecially's rocking chairs. However, with the help of the rest of the Neighbors, it is agreed that sitting in rocking chairs is an acceptable activity for all people, and Purple Panda is allowed to return home. Planet Purple was discovered by Lady Elaine Fairchilde.
During the course of the series, the people and puppets in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe produced 13 "operas", with the assistance of John Reardon, and a play. These stories were told to the viewers by Fred Rogers.
The 13 operas are known as:
- Babysitter Opera (1968)
- Campsite Opera (1968)
- Teddy Bear Whaling Ship Opera (1969)
- Pineapples and Tomatoes (1970)
- Monkey's Uncle (1971)
- Snow People and Warm Pussycat (1972)
- Potato Bugs and Cows (1973)
- All in the Laundry (1974)
- Key to Otherland (1975)
- Windstorm in Bubbleland (1980)
- Spoon Mountain (1982)
- A Granddad for Daniel (1984)
- A Star for Kitty (1986)
There was one play that was done in the series that featured the people and puppets in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe:
- Josephine the Short-Necked Giraffe (1989)
In July 2011, at the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour, PBS announced the production of a Mister Rogers' Neighborhood animated spinoff, which debuted on the network in Fall 2012. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is hosted by Daniel Tiger (son of Daniel Striped Tiger) and features Neighborhood of Make-Believe characters as adults with families of their own.
- Betty Aberlin comments on Jonathan Coulton's song, "Lady Aberlin's Muumuu" and explains that Fred Rogers conceptualised her as a "big sister"
- Prior to the events of the series, King Friday XIII succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father King Thursday despite being younger than his sister Princess Claire (Lady Aberlin's mother).
- Mr. Rogers' guest appearance on Sesame Street
- PBS Press Tour, Los Angeles, CA, July 31, 2011
- "Fred Rogers' Legacy Lives on With a 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' Animated Spin Off From PBS". The Hollywood Reporter. July 31, 2011.
- "PBS to air new series from Fred Rogers Co". Variety.