Fetters: When I think back to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, I remember Daniel Striped Tiger on Mister Rogers as … kind of a sad little guy. Sometimes he even seemed a little bit traumatized. But as Dad Tiger, he seems like a well-adjusted, caring adult and parent. How do you imagine the years between Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood played out for him?
Santomero: Dad Tiger went to therapy, is that what we’re thinking? [laughs]
Fetters: He seems to have figured a lot of things out!
Santomero: I think that the empathy we see [in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’s Daniel Striped Tiger] is the level of empathy that he still has. When you’re little and the world is so big, you might not verbalize it, but you definitely are trying to figure the world out. And so when we look at the character, that’s how we portray him—that he’s articulating a lot of questions that preschoolers have. It was daunting to him, things that were going on, or misinterpreting, or not understanding some things.
And then for us, being able to articulate and ask those questions leads to somebody who can be really empathetic, get on the floor with their kids, respect their kids’ point of view, those kinds of things that we try to emulate with Dad and Mom Tiger.
Fetters: One last question, and … it’s kind of a silly one. Why does Mom Tiger wear pants, while Daniel Tiger and Dad Tiger—
Santomero: I knew it. I was waiting! I wish I had made a bet. [laughs] Why don’t Daniel Tiger and his dad wear pants, even though other characters wear pants? There’s a couple things. For Daniel Tiger, we love how plushy and tiger-y he is, and we didn't want to hide that by completely covering him up. But we really wanted to create that signature red sweater and sneakers, which of course is a nod to Fred. And then because Dad Tiger’s based on the original Daniel Striped Tiger, it made sense to us to emulate that same look.
And when it came to Mom, we didn’t want her to be necessarily in a dress, just because we wanted to show her active and real, and not necessarily in pearls all the time or whatever. And so this was the kind of outfit we landed on.
Fetters: Is she wearing scrubs? I thought maybe she was a doctor or a nurse.
Santomero: She’s in a little tunic. But I will tell you, she has a change of outfit for the new season because Mom goes back to work in the new season. We give Mom a job.
Fetters: What does Mom Tiger do? Can I know?
Santomero: She’s a builder. She builds things, and she helps fix things all around the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, so we can visually see what she does. As a preschooler, it’s so cool to see Mom fix something, or build something, and you can see it before and after. She has overalls, with tools and a tool belt, things like that. It’s very cute.