Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was an ordained Presbyterian minister who was the star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which was in production from 1968 to 2001. Premiering one year before Sesame Street, the two shows become synonymous with public television and more specifically their children's programming.
Although both Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are both long running critically acclaimed shows, the latter only won four Emmys (one for lifetime achievement) and the Peabody Award in 1968. It also held the distinction of being PBS' longest-running show (although Sesame Street has since surpassed it).
While not generally regarded as a puppeteer, Fred Rogers was in fact the hand and voice behind almost all of the puppet characters on his show, including King Friday XIII and Daniel Striped Tiger. He also composed all of the operas on the show.
He succumbed to stomach cancer shortly after his retirement from the series.
In 1981, Mr. Rogers appeared in Sesame Street Episode 1575, and Big Bird appeared in two consecutive "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segments of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood during the same year.
At one time, Disney-MGM Studios had three tile mosaic portraits featuring Rogers, Jim Henson, and Burr Tillstrom in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. All three have since been removed.
After seeing Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a 2018 documentary on Rogers, Frank Oz reflected on Twitter:
- In Sesame Street Episode 0068, Gordon asks Big Bird who was just here delivering the mail. Because his hint is that it's someone he sees every day, Big Bird guesses it's Mister Rogers.
- The Ernie and Bert sketch "The Electric Fan" begins with Bert composing a letter to Mr. Rogers. In another Ernie and Bert sketch, Bert is trying to guess what Ernie has inside his hat, and one of the guesses he makes is "a picture of Mr. Rogers."
- In Sesame Street Unpaved, it's pointed out that Big Bird shares his astrological sign, Pisces, with Mr. Fred Rogers ("makes sense").
- In a sketch where Cookie Monster imagines stealing Prairie Dawn's cookie, he tricks Prairie into looking away from him by asking "Is that Mr. Rogers?"
- In Sesame Street Episode 2748, living together as nest mates proves too difficult for Little Bird when he discovers that Big Bird snores when he naps. Little Bird tells him that they can still be neighbors, to which Big Bird points out, "like Mr. Rogers."
- In the Bear in the Big Blue House episode "I Gotta Be Me!", Bear puts on a sweater and does an impression of Mr. Rogers.