Adi Shankar has added Mr. Rogers to his Bootleg Universe. The short film, titled Mr. Rogers: A War Hero and written and directed by Kenlon Clark, while satirical like the rest of the Bootleg Universe, is meant to be a tribute to Fred Rogers on what would have been his 90th birthday.
Fred Rogers - known to millions as Mr. Rogers - was the host and creator of the Emmy-winning series Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. The educational children's program ran from 1968 to 2001 with a very simple and solid formula. Mr. Rogers wasn't focused on teaching math and reading like other educational children's programs. Instead, he taught children how to be good people and about the world around them. Sometimes radically, he addressed everything from divorce to assassinations to racism - subjects that adults often felt were too mature for young children. He also fought successfully to increase PBS funding and testified in court in support of families using VCRs to record TV shows to watch later. Rogers won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys in 1997.
Mr. Rogers: A War Hero was released on Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe YouTube earlier today. It tells the story of Mr. Rogers in his dressing room, remembering a fictional account of fighting in the Vietnam War. Shankar explains why he produced the short film in a moving statement that accompanies the video:
"When I was young my heroes had megazords, adamantium claws, and vampire slaying whips. They were spectacular and unlocked my imagination. But after the events of the past few years my heroes have changed, and now anyone who selflessly enriches a child's life is a hero to me. This entry is a love letter to a man who showed us what being a good neighbor looks like."
In the video Mr. Rogers is played by young look-a-like and sound-a-like actor Chris Cusano. After beating up three muggers who stole a woman's purse, Mr. Rogers was recruited into the army. He made friends with two other soldiers, named Friday and Tuesday. The three of them complete several successful missions, until Tuesday and Friday are captured. Rogers uses the money he's collected from his fellow soldiers in a swear jar to pay a Vietnamese man named Trolley to take him to his friends, where the rescue mission does not exactly go as planned. While remembering, Rogers sits in his dressing room, at one point taking out the two puppets he named after his friends. The video also pays tribute to Roger's real life method of teaching, calmly talking and explaining while encouraging kids to use their imaginations and to be good neighbors.
While he has been gone a long time, it is clear that Mr. Rogers' legacy has long outlived him. Memes depicting some of his most famous quotes about liking people the way they are and looking for the helpers in a disaster still pop up often in social media. Also released today for Rogers' birthday was the trailer for a documentary film about him, titled Won't You Be My Neighbor. The documentary already screened at the latest Sundance film festival and will have a wide release in June. He may be gone, but his words and lessons still resonate with those who knew him. Maybe Rogers' wasn't actually a soldier and maybe he never actually went to war as depicted in Mr. Rogers: A War Hero. But to several generations, he was and always will be a hero - and our neighbor.
Source: Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe
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