Matthias Sundberg likes telling stories. At 32-years-old, the Lewisburg native already has found some interesting ways to do just that. He graduated from Millersville University with a degree in speech communication and broadcasting. From there, he spent several years in New York City supporting himself by working odd freelance gigs.
"For two years, I worked for NextNewNetworks as the producer, editor and host for Channel Frederator (Cartoon Central On The Internet)," Sundberg said.
After that, he worked on "Rocketboom," the Internet's first video podcast, as an editor and eventually, as executive producer.
It was while working on "Rocketboom" that Sundberg - along with two friends who also were a part of the project - was approached by Angela Santomero.
Santomero is the creator of famous children's television shows "Blue's Clues" and "Superwhy!" She was recruiting talented professionals for a collaboration between her company, Out of the Blue, and the Fred Rogers Company (Fred Rogers was more commonly known as Mr. Rogers, beloved host of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," which aired on U.S. network television from 1968 until 2001).
"They [the Fred Rogers' Company and Out of the Blue] needed an editor in Pittsburgh and asked if I would be interested in relocating to the Steel City," Sundberg said. "I immediately jumped at the chance."
The project was "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," which is an animated take on "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." Sundberg works as a video editor, assistant director and associate producer on the show.
"I go on the shoots, make sure we get every shot we need, make sure it fits the theme of the episode and then I go back to my hidey-hole and edit them into minute and a half segments," Sundberg said.
Although he used the term 'hidey-hole,' it was apparent that Sundberg really enjoys his job and the challenges it offers up.
"I could listen to stories all day and night and I feel the same way about telling them," he said. "I love it. And that's what editing is ... it's the chance to craft and build a story from carefully created images and music and words to make something meaningful. The challenge with this show, at least for me, is that I have to make something meaningful and beautiful for children between the ages of 2 [and] 6," Sundberg said. "That has been an interesting and challenging process and one that I have enjoyed immensely."
The Fred Rogers Company's website describes the star of the new "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" as "the shy son of Fred Rogers' much-loved puppet of the same name, who has grown up, married Mom Tiger, and now lives on Jungle Beach."
The show may have a different title and an animated host (in the most literal sense), but under the hood, it is all of the things that Fred Rogers championed in his neighborhood for more than 30 years.
It becomes apparent very quickly that "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" isn't trying to leave Mr. Rogers' vision in the dust, but rather pick up where he left off. The title theme is based around the original Mr. Rogers' melody, and even begins with Daniel sitting down to put on his tennis shoes before zipping up his sweatshirt. Characters are derived directly from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood: Katerina Kittycat lives with her mom, the original Henrietta Pussycat; Prince Wednesday comes from King Friday; and Miss Elaina comes from the marriage of Lady Elaine Fairchilde and Music Man Stan.
The similarities aren't just on the surface, either. The show will still aim to teach preschoolers valuable lessons about important things like visiting the doctor, meeting new friends or being aware of other people's feelings.
"On 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood,' we have two animated segments and usually two live action segments, illustrating a point in real life that the animated characters discussed in the episode. It would be something akin to Mr. Rogers' 'Picture Picture' or whenever he would go out into the neighborhood," Sundberg said.
Sundberg seems to be one of those lucky people who love what they do and, in doing it, manages to give something quite valuable back to society. This is certainly an idea that Mr. Rogers could have gotten behind. Now that the kids who grew up with Mr. Rogers in their homes are having kids of their own, "Daniel Tiger" will ensure that his legacy lives on. And with Sundberg onboard, "Daniel" is in good hands.
"Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" premiered Sept. 3 on PBS. Check your local PBS listings to find out when Daniel will be airing in your neighborhood. Interested readers may find him on Twitter at @danieltigertv, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/danieltigertv or on the web at www.pbskids.org/daniel. An app is available for iOS and will be soon for the Android. Episodes are available for download on iTunes.