The Neighborhood of Make-Believe is the fictional kingdom inhabited by the hand puppet characters on the children's television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, produced from 1968 to 2001. The show's principal puppeteer is Fred Rogers himself, who also developed many of the puppet characters in the 1950s for Josie Carey's program, The Children's Corner.
The adventures of the citizens of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe appear in a short segment once in the middle of every episode. Mr. Rogers deliberately makes clear the distinction between the "real world" and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe by transitioning in and out of the Neighborhood segment via a model electric trolley which looks like a small, red San Francisco cable car
that enters and exits through small tunnels in the wall (or occasionally by setting up small tabletop models of the various Neighborhood of Make Believe buildings), and by discussing what had happened with his audience after the end of each segment. The same storyline continues for a week or more (a la
a soap opera
), though Rogers is always sure to recap the plot
The characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe are either played by actors or hand puppets
Most of the main puppet characters were played by Fred Rogers. The regular puppet characters include:
- King Friday XIII - The imperious monarch of the neighborhood. He is relatively egocentric, irrational, resistant to change, and temperamental, although open-minded enough to listen when told he is wrong. He has a fondness for giving long-winded speeches and using big words. Despite these qualities, he's basically a good regent, capable of summarizing the lesson he has learned after something has gone wrong. King Friday's trademark greeting: "(Name of visitor), I presume?", to which the visitor responds, "Correct as usual/always, Your Majesty/King Friday." Lady Aberlin however, would say Uncle Friday instead as she is his niece.
- Queen Sara Saturday - She is King Friday's wife. She was first introduced as a commoner from Westwood in the seventh week of the series. King Friday fell in love with her and they were married in the second season, upon which she became the Queen. In the third season they had a son. Queen Sara is more rational and level-headed than her husband. One of her main duties as Queen is overseeing a group called Food for the World.
- Prince Tuesday - The young son of King Friday and Queen Sara. Born in the third season and named for the day of the week when he was born, Prince Tuesday is one of only two characters to age during the course of the series (he starts as a baby, then a toddler; from 1979 onward, he is elementary school age). He is curious and enthusiastic. Much like his father, Tuesday occasionally exhibits stubbornness, particularly when he believes that his father is wrong about something.
- X the Owl - He lives in an old oak tree. He is eager and cheerful and has a strong desire to learn new things. Many of X's stories involve assignments from the Owl Correspondence School, and he idolizes Benjamin Franklin. He briefly works as a salesman for Cornflake S. Pecially, but causes problems by offering to sell things that the company doesn't make. This is one example of X's tendencies to be flaky & dense, but like King Friday, he is quick to apologize when told he is wrong. He also has trouble making decisions. One of his redeeming qualities, however, is his friendliness. In one week of episodes, he is the first one to figure out that something is bothering his neighbor.
- Henrietta Pussycat - X's neighbor, lives in a small house supported by a strong limb on the tree. She has a habit of randomly inserting "meow" into her words and sentences, although her vocabulary expanded considerably during the series. When she was first introduced, she could only say "beautiful," "telephone," and "Mister Rogers" in addition to "meow" and she was almost completely black. Her shade has lightened considerably during the series, making her somewhat grey-brown. She is worrisome, preoccupied with beauty and prone to jealousy. She's also extremely fond of children.
- Lady Elaine Fairchilde - The outspoken, cranky schemer who took over the Museum-Go-Round after the Froggs moved; often known to say "Okay, toots." She is generally the villain when a storyline calls for one, but her neighbors are quick to forgive her because they understand her so well. It is discerned during the series that she has low self-esteem and is extremely self-conscious, and because of this, her neighbors are extremely patient with her until she finally learns her lesson. Despite her own faults, she consistently shows King Friday when he is wrong about something and frequently goes to extremes (such as physically moving her museum or modifying a comet) to do so.
- Daniel Stripèd Tiger - A shy introvert who lives in a clock. Despite his shyness, Daniel exhibits phenomenal wisdom and intelligence when he does speak (he discerns the root of Lady Elaine's bad behavior on several occasions). He is the only child among the puppets whose parents are never seen, nor spoken of.
- Cornflake S. Pecially (aka "Corny") - The ingenious, quirky proprietor of a factory specializing in rocking chairs. His original factory burned down in a story during the first season, but his neighbors pitched in to help him build a new one. Corny has also been known to produce dolls, pretzels, model trolleys, and other goods, but stopped when he became overwhelmed and decided only to produce what he was able to distribute easily. He also apparently runs something of a hardware store out of the factory (X goes there to buy shovels and buckets in one episode).
- Grandpere - A French tiger and bon-vivant who lives west of the castle in the Eiffel Tower. His name is French for "Grandfather." Of all the regular puppets in this show, Grandpere appeared the least frequently.
There are several other puppets; they include:
- The Platypus Family - Introduced in the second season, are duck-billed platypuses who live in a platypus mound. The family consists of Dr. Bill, who speaks with a Scottish accent, his wife Elsie Jean and their daughter Ornithorhynchus Anatinus (the Latin scientific name for a platypus), or Ana, as she is commonly known; along with Prince Tuesday, she is one of only two puppet characters to age during the series.
- Harriet Elizabeth Cow - The school teacher and Donkey Hodie's co-worker in Someplace Else.
- Edgar Cooke - The castle chef who sings everything he says (since King Friday wanted a "singing chef" on his staff).
- H.J. Elephant III - One of Prince Tuesday's buddies. His relationship to the other characters is a bit inconsistent. In many episodes he interacts normally with the other characters in Make-Believe, but on one occasion, Chuck Aber demonstrated to the other characters that H.J. was only a puppet that he controlled. He has trouble reading, but has a remarkable understanding of sign language (as demonstrated in a series of 1996 episodes).
- Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones - The chatterbox (and longtime friend of Lady Elaine) who occasionally comes to visit from Southwood. She was a widow until marrying James Michael Jones
- James Michael Jones - Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones's second husband.
- Carrie Dell - She is the adopted daughter of James Michael Jones and Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones.
- Old Goat - A resident of Northwood. He debuted in the "A Granddad for Daniel" opera, and later appeared to harvest the Neighborhood's vegetables when there weren't any in Northwood. He later returned with New Goat to help the Neighborhood of Make-Believe when they were in a garbage crisis. Old Goat only speaks in typical goat sounds.
- New Goat - A resident of Northwood. She often translates for Old Goat.
- Collette - Granpere's granddaughter.
- Mrs. Hilda Dingleborder - A worker at Cornflake S Pecially's Factory. She was interested in setting up a day care center there.
Some characters appeared more frequently in the original series than the modern series. The rare puppets include:
- Donkey Hodie (a pun on Don Quixote) - A soporific but fun donkey who lives in Someplace Else with Harriet Elizabeth Cow and operates a Washer Dryer Sorter Dumper there. Originally came to the Neighborhood of Make Believe to build a windmill, but King Friday didn't like having it so close to the castle; Donkey relocated to Someplace Else. While Donkey made several appearance in the original series, he only made very few appearances in the modern series.
- The Frogg Family - Dr. and Mrs. Frogg and their son, Tadpole, were the original curators of the Museum-Go-Round. They moved to Westwood during the first color week of the series and were only seen very infrequently after that, especially Dr. Frogg and Tadpole, who appeared exclusively in the original series (1968-1976).
- Ino A. Horse - A puppet horse who appeared exclusively in the original series (1968-1976).
- Princess Margaret H. Lizard - A lizard princess who visited the Neighborhood when her namesake Margaret Hamilton came to visit.
The Neighborhood also features many characters played by actors wearing costumes. These characters are much larger than the puppet characters, and sometimes help the puppet characters with tasks such as lifting or moving large objects, which the small puppet characters are unable to do. Some of these live characters include:
- Bob Dog - A simple-minded canine.
- Lady Aberlin - King Friday's comely niece and frequently the "main" character of the segments.
- Mr. McFeely - The delivery man. He sometimes delivers letters to the citizens of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
- Officer Clemmons - A police officer who sometimes helps out King Friday in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
- Robert Troll - The gibberish-speaking whimsical friend of the castle. He was played by the same actor who played Bob Dog.
- Miss Paulifficate - The telephone operator at the Castle.
- Mayor Maggie - The Mayor of Westwood. Introduced in the 1970s to show that women can run for mayor, too.
- Handyman Negri - The friendly, avuncular neighborhood fix-it man.
- Neighbor Aber (our Westwood neighbor) - The associate of Mayor Maggie of Westwood.
- Hula Mouse - A Spanish-speaking mouse who can do anything with his hula hoop.
- Cousin Mary Owl - X the Owl's cousin.
- Cousin Steven Owl - X the Owl's cousin.
- Keith the Carpenter - A carpenter from Southwood.
There are very few characters who look like full-bodies puppets; the characters who were the fully-costumed are:
- Purple Panda - A two-toned purple colored panda from Planet Purple with a robotic, monotone voice. He arrives in the neighborhood by teleporting, which is "The Purple Way to travel".
- Randy S. Caribou - A reindeer who wanted to hide from Chef Brockett.
- Big Bird - He was only a guest character in the show. Henrietta thought Big Bird from Sesame Street was a better friend of X's than her.
The world of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe also features several other "regions." Along with King Friday's realm, there are also bordering territories, Among these include:
- The city of Westwood
- The city of Southwood
- The area of Northwood (which is goat country)
- The nebulous Someplace Else (it's located east of the Neighborhood)
Characters also frequently interact with the inhabitants of the Planet Purple, where everything and everyone are purple and exactly the same.
Layout of the Neighborhood of Make Believe (from West to East)
Here are the different locations in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe:
- Eiffel Tower - The only structure located to the west of the Castle; dark green and blue with red railing. Grandpere Tiger lives here.
- King Friday's Castle - The "center point" of the Neighborhood. Blue colored structure with XIII in gold on its front. There is a service entrance to the right of the castle. A waterfall was installed in front of the left side of the castle in the 70s.
- Trolley Tracks - There are two trolley routes in the Neighborhood. One is the usual route taken by the Neighborhood Trolley that runs in front of the castle. The trolley enters the Neighborhood from the West Tunnel (left of the castle) to the East Tunnel (next to the Castle's service entrance) and vice-versa when returning to Mister Rogers' house. The second route, occasionally taken in the 70s and 80s, ran past the other residences in the Neighborhood.
- Phone Cage - Located in front of the trolley tracks. It's a cage with can-and-string phone suspended in air. Whenever anyone needed to make a call (via Miss Paulifficate the Castle operator), he or she would stand under the cage, look up and signal for the cage to come down (called the "tele-can").
- Rocking Chair Factory - Located to the right of the East Trolley Tunnel and Castle service entrance. Pink colored structure with "Rockit" in scriptive lettering, blinking lights and revolving gear wheel. Cornflake S. Pecially works here.
- Magic Garden - It is located to the right of the Rocking Chair Factory behind the stone fence. It has a tree that contains tiny fruit, and when you bring it out of the garden, it becomes normal size.
- Oak Tree - Residence of Henrietta Pussycat (yellow schoolhouse-shaped structure with red double doors and yellow bell) and X The Owl (orange door with crossbeams shaped like an "X" on its inside).
- Museum-Go-Round - Revolving round, grey structure with multi-colored rails and red bell in front. Lady Elaine Fairchild lives here.
- Frog Pond - Stone pond resembling a birdbath where Dr. and Mrs. Frogg and their son, Tadpole, lived before moving to Westwood. Was removed after the first week of color episodes and replaced by the Platypus Mound.
- Platypus Mound - Naturally-created mound with six holes. The Platypus Family lives here.
- Clock - Orange structure with white flower pendulum, knocker, and yellow face without hands. Daniel Stripèd Tiger lives here.