Fred Rogers Productions creates ‘Donkey Hodie,’ an ode to ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’

Fred Rogers Productions, headquartered in Pittsburgh, has developed a new show based on one of the Mister Rogers characters, “Donkey Hodie,” to debut May 3 on PBS Kids.

Fred Rogers created the little donkey with big dreams as a play on words with the famous character, Don Quixote, known for his idealism.

The show has been in production as the star of her own show long before COVID, but the show’s message about perseverance and resilience couldn’t be more timely.

Ellen Doherty, the executive producer with Fred Rogers Productions, says,

“It does feel more resonant than ever, after the year that everyone has had, to have a show that is about getting through hard times and just keep on going.”

Fred Rogers Productions also created  “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”, “Peg + Cat” and “Odd Squad”.  Five years ago, they began discussing a show for preschoolers using puppets.

Haley Jenkins, who studied theater at Point Park University, is the puppeteer for Donkey Hodie.   “It’s really fun. It’s kind of like playing with a stuffed animal, the same way you would as a kid, but you’re just taking it to a different level.”

In the shows, Donkey learns lessons like the importance of asking for help, practicing and trying again.

Peters Township native Stephanie Stephanie D’Abruzzo plays Duck Duck and Harriett Elizabeth Cow.

“The original Harriett Elizabeth Cow was a fairy tale voice, a school teacher,” D’Abruzzo says in the original Harriett voice and then transitions to the new Harriet’s voice.  “But this Harriet Elizabeth Cow, I wanted to bring some Pittsburgh to her,” she says with a Pittsburgh accent and a lot of personality.

“Duck Duck is one of our smallest neighbors,” D’Abruzzo says, “but that does not mean her personality is small. She’s low to the ground, and she’s just very happy with who she is because she’s just got to go where she’s got to go and do what she’s got to do,” she says in her childlike sounding puppet voice.

You’ll notice trolley, fish tank, stop lights – all nods to the Mr. Rogers show, which these puppeteers and producer all grew up watching.

Jenkins says, “When I think about putting this out into the world and then getting to be a part of (Mr. Rogers’) story and his legacy in this one small but wonderfully fun part, it just feels incredible.”

D’Abruzzo adds,  “It really is an honor to be able to carry on his legacy and keep telling his stories.”

We have much more on the ways you can help carry out Fred Rogers’ lessons at home: