Celebrating Fred Rogers by Looking Back on His Lasting Achievements

Morgan Neville’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? shines a light on an old friend.

Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The shy, introverted boy who relied on music and his imagination to keep him company during his childhood would grow up to become a special friend to children across the world.

In 1968, he first appeared on his TV program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in his trademark cardigan sweater. For 895 episodes, he welcomed back his audience, asking them in song, “Please, won’t you be my neighbor?”

You can remember the man and his mission on his birthday this year with Morgan Neville’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Official trailer for Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Like millions of other children, Neville began as a fan of this iconic TV educator. Neville told PBS, “ I loved him as a kid, and I’ve come to realize that he was probably the first significant adult relationship I had outside of my immediate family.”

For the Academy Award®-winning filmmaker, the subject of Fred Rogers as a film was never far away. While watching Rogers’ handling of Bobby Kennedy's assassination, “I knew not only that I could make a documentary about Mister Rogers, but that I had to,” Neville explained in an exclusive Focus Features interview. But rather than create a conventional biographical portrait, Neville wanted to focus the film around Rogers’ ideas. Neville told Patheos, “Fred’s philosophy of neighborliness may seem simple, but it had a resounding impact on the lives of millions—generations—of children and adults.”

Fred Rogers in Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Critics and audiences connected passionately with the movie’s message. “Rather than a wistful look back at the way things used to be, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? leaves viewers wrestling with our own collective conscience in the here-and-now, contemplating our own commitment to the unconditional love and acceptance that Rogers championed so passionately,” wrote The Washington Post. More succinctly, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Won't You Be My Neighbor? is the film we need right now.”

Watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on Apple TV or Amazon.