Kelly Chmielewski, director of brand strategy for PBS, said the Mister Rogers' themed, orchestrated flash mob, filmed at the Waterfront in December, was planned for release just before Christmas. But then the tragic Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting happened.
"We were watching the social media environment carefully at that time and weighing the decision between having the right tone and we went back and forth between this could be a comforting thing and a celebration of the right person and whether it would appear frivolous and we erred on the side of reserving it," she said. "Coincidentally, at the same time a photo of Fred talking about looking for helpers in times of distress emerged and naturally just traveled everywhere and organically there was Mister Rogers providing comfort in a different way."
The flash mob video was released today as a part of a five-day PBS "Like" drive on Facebook that will culminate in a focus on another PBS pioneer, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (click on the "Like" button in the upper right to unlock the Mister Rogers video). The video's release this week -- between the 45th anniversary of the debut of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on PBS on Feb. 19 and the 10th anniversary of Rogers' death on Wednesday -- is coincidental.
Chmielewski said a flash mob was chosen for the Mister Rogers video because of the children's show host's love of music.
"Music was a very important part of Fred Rogers' program and part of how he communicated and helped kids learn some of the social-emotional lessons," she said. "So we knew we wanted to do something around music. ... We knew we wanted it to represent the spirit of Mister Rogers and Pittsburgh is a natural backdrop for that."
Producers recruited Pittsburghers to participate in the video, which features them singing, dancing and clapping while wearing tennis shoes and a rainbow of different colored, zip-up cardigan sweaters.
"We decided to choreograph it because we wanted the video to be visually stimulating and we wanted a contemporary element," Chmielewski said. "Even though the program we all loved and watched was many years ago, the things we all learned from Mister Rogers are the things that make us who we are today."