Reinventing the Neighborhood: Analyzing a remix of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood

Image found on Google Images

Overview:  

PBS design studio artist John D. Boswell, otherwise known on the internet as “MelodySheep”, created a remix of Mister Roger’s “Garden of Your Mind” clip as a tribute to Fred Rogers the host of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. The remix was posted to youtube.com June 7, 2012 and has over 7,350,000 views. John D.  Boswell has designed such remixes as the symphony of science for PBS and personally worked with Fred Rogers to create the Garden of your Mind Remix. Boswell with the aid of Fred Rogers through the art of remix brought an iconic television show into the 21st century with a message of imagination and creativity.

Content Analysis:        

Starting from the beginning of the remix we see the use of an iconic image. Boswell decides to start his remix in the same manner as every episode of Mister Roger’s with the use of the realistic neighborhood model. From here the remix goes further by using many different clips from the original television show and masterfully clipping them together into a stream line video. Now twenty seconds into the video the original music changes to a more modern techno style. Then 48 seconds into the remix, Fred Roger’s voice is modified to fit the remixed music. This modern sound lends itself to the newer generations by mimicking popular twenty first century music styles. This is most noticeable in the use of a back beat that is used almost religiously in current music.

Transitions:

As far as McCloud is concerned the remix is a great example of using icons. Starting from the beginning of the remix video and then spread throughout the film. The most common use of it is in the transitions between clips. Such as 1 minute and 52 seconds into the video where the video cuts to the neighborhood model and zooms in on a little yellow house which then cuts to a different Mr. Roger’s Clip. This type of transition happens many times throughout the film, but what I want to point out is the types of transitions used in this remix. As the remix progresses notice the use of three types of transitions.

These transitions can be compared to Marshall McLuhan’s Medium is the Massage in which is stated the following, “These are difficult times, because we are witnessing a clash of cataclysmic proportions between two great technologies. We approach the new with the psychological conditioning and sensory responses of the old. The clash naturally occurs in transitional periods”. The first transition type utilizes the iconic neighborhood as discussed above. This transition sits with in an iconic frame, a frame which is used throughout every episode of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood and used here quite nicely as a transition piece between clips. This iconic transition piece will be called the “old” in this context or remix whereas the “new” is this second transition type which is done more so now in a lot of remixes. This “new” transition utilizes short snippets of the same thing in repetition which then turns into a new clip. This technique can be seen in a few different places, but one in particular is at 1 minute and 53 seconds. In this location Boswell replays the same clip in rapid succession in order to achieve a desired effect and then uses it to transition into a different clip. This style of transition is stated as the new because of how it takes something that we see as old or part of our culture and remixes it to apply to the present and future, but still uses the “Old’s” mindset in order to create it. Besides transitions we can look at how certain clips are cut together in order to create something new.

When we move to 2 minutes and five seconds in the remix we can see the use of an old clip being remixed in order to make something new in the form of a whistle solo. Notice that this is a rather skilled revamping of an old Mr. Roger’s clip in order to make it something that appeals to a new generation of individuals. This new version uses pathos to tap into the psyche of a younger generation who are used to being bombarded with many different massages at once through the course of a single day.

Besides the transitions and whistle solo other aspects of the remix stand out as creative reuses of the old such as McCloud’s word picture relationships. This being a video one would say that the images are the most important aspect, but in the case of this video the emphasis is more on the words. Without the words in this video it would make little to no sense. And even the scene to scene typology I characterize it as would fall apart. Take for instance the time between 1 minute 17 seconds and 1 minute 38 seconds. So many different clips are shown that if you are to watch them without music and words this remix would make absolutely no sense and be under the category non-sequitur for its lack of connection between clips. However with the addition of words the images start to make sense. This all being stated his remix could be placed under the word dependent category of word picture relationships.

Now back to the beginning of this remix video 15 seconds to be exact, the remix talks about a cassette player and I found its uses a transition into the new to be interesting for two reasons. The first reason is it uses the old to help transition into the new. Notice how an outdated technology from the past is used as a gateway to the future. The second being that it once again uses the past to help create something new through the use of the cassette player. These techniques of remixing the old into a modern version really lends itself to a more modern audience and add to its message by using creativity and imagination in order to create a form of art.

Relating to the Audio:  

Now if we look just at the words used in the remix we can see that no actual written text is used except for the beginning title of the remix. The rest of the words used are conveyed through sound bites from the television show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The audio in this remix is very specific and used to help convey a message. This message can be heard through a few sound bites that get repeated throughout the remix which are; “did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind” first used 43 seconds into the remix and then, “it’s good to be curious” used 54 seconds into the remix, and finally “you can think about many things and make believe all you have to do is think” used 1 minute into the remix. These three audio clips are comprised are many clips Boswell strung together. This remix has been set up much like a modern song in that these audio clips are used as a chorus in the video and replayed throughout the remix. What this seems to do is reinforce the message it is conveying by returning to it over and over. However Boswell goes a step further by using more audio clips to create examples to back up his chorus such as 1 minute and 26 seconds in the use of, “did you ever think of the many things you have learned to do”? What is most interesting though is that the evidence supporting Boswell message of growing ideas in the garden of the mind is found more in the video clips and images he has chosen to show. So although the audio could stand by itself and play just fine, it is reinforced by the video that accompanies the audio.

So yes the audio and the video lend themselves to a message and a purpose but it also is trying to attach itself to a new genre of kids with its message of creativity and imagination. However based on the demographic of individuals viewing this remix it seems to miss its mark. Notice that Mr. roger’s Neighborhood remix on youtube.com under its statistics lends itself more to a viewer audience in its 40’s to 50’s. Why is this? To find the answer to this we can look at the pathos of the remix. It is not so much the form of the message but the content. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood began on air February of 1968. This means that this new technology is being viewed by the grown up version of the children who use to watch the show. The remix is a nostalgic piece reminding these people of their childhoods.  So psychologically this video, just based on its original content lends itself to a now older generation. So just based on demographics the message and point of this remix is lost on the younger generation because the video used does not relate to a younger audience.

Final Evaluation:

So as a final evaluation, as far as the message is concerned the remix succeeds in conveying it. This message of growing ideas in the garden of your mind is well laid out, restated multiple times, and backed by evidence through audio and visual use. However it wants to lend itself through remix to a newer generation and this is where the remix falls flat. I say this, because based on the youtube.com demographics of the top audience being individuals in their 40’s and 50’s and the use of an iconic television show the newer generations do not seem to relate to the remix. So even though through looking at the present and revamping something old to make it appealing to a newer generation the pathos attached to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is to engrained as an old iconic film to be able to lend itself to today’s young people. In order for Mr. Roger’s to truly appeal to a younger generation the remix would have to dramatically change to the extent that it is almost no longer recognizable as Mr. Roger’s which I don’t think was the point of this remix. One reason I say this is that every new generation is trying to find where it belongs and a sense of identity. Mr. Roger’s is part of an older generations identity and even with this remixed version it is still a part of that identity and therefore cannot be a part of a younger generations without drastic change in order for it to truly be called a part of today’s culture. Take for instance McLuhan’s writing. On “the rear view mirror society” in which he talks about how older generations try forcing the past or themselves upon the newer generations, but it is my understanding that without some major reworking the newer generations will always try to find their own place in history.

Finally I would like to state that as far as connecting to a younger generation goes this video remix of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood does not do that. However it does convey its message of imagination and creativity very nicely and makes it clear what the point of the remix is. Which in this case is to show how powerful our minds are and what we can do if we only imagine and think. This remix of Mr. Roger’s in order to really connect with a younger generation would have needed to try and find its own identity in today’s world, but it is too similar to its original counterpart to be seen as truly today’s work. That being said what this video does accomplish I believe far outweighs what it does not and can be seen through the sheer volume of views and what other videos have been created in the presence of this video. Just skipping around youtube.com we could find countless videos of people remixing the remix and recreating the song in different ways such as one clip that changes the new age techno beat to an acoustic version. So as a final note Boswell and Fred Roger’s succeed in what they set out to do, but fail to connect with a newer audience.

Works Cited

Boswell, John D., and Fred Rogers. “Mister Rogers Remixed | Garden of Your Mind | PBS          Digital Studios.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 June 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012.   <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFzXaFbxDcM&gt;.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.    Print.

McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko, 2001. Print.

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