(KGET) — It normally takes 40 weeks for “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” supervising producer Chris Loggins and his team to produce an episode of the PBS Kids series. That’s going from a completed script to a fully animated episode.
The team took less than half that time to produce the fifth season opener, set for Aug. 17. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Won’t You Sing with Me? is a music-filled special that helps address some of the challenges and disappointments young viewers and their families may be experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this instance, we worked very quickly,” Loggins says. “We moved a little quicker than we normally do but we tried as much as possible not to sacrifice any of the normal things that go into the show to maintain the quality.
“A lot of thoughtful time and care went into the show.”
As with every episode of the series that is a spinoff of the long-running “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” the script for the special pandemic episode was submitted to the show’s technical advisors. Every script is closely scrutinized to make sure the information presented is properly informational, educational and entertaining for the pre-school audience.
In the special, Daniel learns he can’t gather with all of his neighbors at the Neighborhood Carnival this year. That leads to a lot of big feelings and questions including: what to do when he misses the people he loves; how to keep himself and others healthy; and how to find ways to enjoy the extra time at home with his family. Mom and Dad Tiger use new and fan-favorite songs from the series to help reassure him – as well as young viewers and their parents at home, who are encouraged to sing along.
In addition to the episode focused on staying at home, there will be four other new episodes for the Emmy-winning series, including a 22-minute special, “Daniel’s Substitute Teacher,” that will premiere throughout the week starting Aug. 17. To further support families and educators as school time approaches, whether it be at-home learning or an adjusted back-to-school schedule, new “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” activities and resources will be available on PBS Kids for Parents and PBS Learning Media.
Lesli Rotenberg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, Children’s Media and Education, PBS, says, “As COVID-19 continues to pose challenges to families across the country, PBS Kids is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of children, parents, and caregivers.
“Learning lies at the heart of our mission, and we’ve been proud to be able to step in and offer at-home learning solutions, content and resources, like this timely special that reach kids where they are with age-appropriate lessons – especially in areas where families may have limited or no access to broadband internet.”
The new episodes join all of the past episodes of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” that have been under the direction of Loggins. He’s lead the animated show to a host of prestigious awards, including the 2019 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Preschool Children’s Animated Series, the 2020 Parents’ Choice Gold Award for Television, the 2018 Common Sense Media Seal of Approval, and is nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming by the Television Critics Association in 2020.
Before joining Fred Rogers Productions, Loggins worked at WQED, the PBS station in Pittsburgh. The Kenyon College graduate was also volunteer coordinator and Storymobile driver at the Beginning with Books Center for Early Literacy and a librarian assistant in the Children’s Department of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
The 20 new Season 5 episodes will continue to showcase how Daniel and his friends learn gentle lessons. Topics so far have included managing sibling rivalry, missing people when they’re far away, being big enough to do things alone, coping with accidents plus the importance of listening and following rules.
Loggins is proud of the work his team did to make the special episode happen so quickly. But, that is just a continuation of the pride he has for being part of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”
“We have been really humbled by hearing from viewers of the show about strategies they find useful or episodes of the show that they find useful,” Loggins says. “They tell us these are episodes that helped them when they were working from home.
“In this particular case we wanted to look squarely at the social and emotional aspects of this. We wanted to identify questions that young people might have. Part of what we always hope to do with the show is if children can see Daniel experiencing some of the things they may be wondering about, it might make things easier for them.”
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” airs on Valley PBS at 8 a.m.