CHICAGO, June 9, 2012 — As affirmed by Betty White’s adorable wax statue that was recently unveiled at Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood museum, pop culture loves to preserve itself. Nostalgia takes on new life with today’s technology, however.
Forget Disco night, Beatles cover bands, and even wax doppelgangers. Holograms have been all the rage lately, with Tupac Shakur’s after-death performance at Coachella earlier this year being followed by Bill Murray’s eye-dropping, if not jaw-dropping, double appearance on The David Letterman Show.
Next up: Elvis will be back in the building! As a hologram, of course. Digital Domain Media Group has received permission from Elvis Presley Enterprises to re-create the King for several unspecified appearances.
Holograms, while splashy and electrifying, are not the only way to bring back the warm fuzzies of times past, however. PBS Digital Studios has paired up with John D. Boswell, auto-tune master and creator of the amazing Symphony of Science videos, to give us an upbeat, updated Mr. Rogers. And Mr. Rogers has gone viral.
It’s easy to see why. “Garden in Your Mind” takes the Mr. Rogers’ generation back in time. The sweater-vest. The Trolley. The Land of Make Believe. They’re all there. They haven’t changed a bit. And yet they have. They are bouncy and up-tempo and energetic in a way Fred Rogers wasn’t. He’s the same old Mr. Rogers, just updated a bit.
The message of “Garden in Your Mind” is true Fred Rogers. It’s good to be curious. Thinking makes ideas grow. The song is positive and encouraging. Mr. Rogers wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a great message to share with kids, and you can bet more than one 40-something parent is going to use that excuse to spend a few more minutes watching it again.
After all, don’t our kids need a little Mr. Rogers in their lives? Fred Rogers died in 2003, and it is difficult to find the show on television these days. Sure, there’s a PBS spinoff coming this fall. But Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is an animated show that takes place solely in The Land of Make Believe. No puppets. No Fred Rogers. Not the same.
So the case can be made that today’s technology, both holograms and auto-tune mash-up videos, brings the glories of the past to new generations. But that’s not what any of this is about. We may say we are doing this to introduce today’s kids to our amazing cultural influences, but we’re not. We’re doing this for ourselves.
We enjoy updating memory lane because it takes us back, for a few minutes anyway, to our simpler selves. With the new makeover, our adult selves can bring Mr. Rogers’ assurances from childhood right into our adult world. The adult world is crazy. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was innocent and kind and supportive.
As for those holograms, Tupac was gunned down; Elvis died of a drug overdose. Bill Murray – well, Bill Murray doesn’t have to die to be a crazy part of our world. But just as Mr. Rogers’ sense of calm eased our troubled childhood minds, the modernized Mr. Rogers calms our modernized troubled minds.
OK, it’s a little weird how his hair goes from dark to gray to dark again, and the bizarre eye-pop when he says “in the garden of your mind” is a little creepy. But look! He’s putting on his sneakers! Mr. Rogers is still there. And as the camera pans out over the neighborhood at the end of the video, you just can’t help but feel that all’s right with the world.
To contact Julia Goralka, see above. Or send a hologram.
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