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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: A Day at the Circus (1985/1987)

"Have you ever been to a circus?"
- Mister Rogers (Fred Rogers)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: June 10, 2005

Stars: Fred Rogers
Other Stars: Betty Aberlin, Joe Negri, Audrey Roth, Jeffrey Gabel, Fred Logan, Jimmy James, Michael Horton, Tom O'Horgan, Chuck Aber, Kieth David, Maggie Stewart, Ming-Na, Kate English, Melanye Finister
Director: Paul Lally

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:57m:03s
Release Date: April 12, 2005
UPC: 013131319798
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+A-A- C+

DVD Review

"We all can learn to play together and care for each other. All we have to do is want to." - Mister Rogers

"Mister" Fred Rogers has been the recipient of more than 200 awards for his lifelong work in children's programming. Following the initial five-year run of his daily show in Canada, Rogers would return to Pittsburgh's public broadcast station, WQED, in 1967. Broadcast nationwide starting in 1968 on National Education Television (NET) the newly formed precursor to PBS, Rogers and company would produce 590 shows over nine seasons, ending in 1976. Another 22 shorter seasons followed when Rogers returned to production in 1979, with Mister Rogers' Neighborhood becoming the longest running program on public television by its final episode in 2001.

Rogers dedicated his life to helping children deal with the process of growing up through his television show, and by extension, the parents of those children. Each day presented new and exciting activities, whether through trips around his TV neighborhood, or in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. By example, Rogers demonstrated the many emotional challenges children face in their development, and through the use of puppetry and song, showed us all ways to understand our feelings, learn to communicate with others and use our creativity, and above all, to know that each and every one of us is special for the people we are. Mister Rogers has a gift for reaching small children on a level that they can understand, and I can remember countless hours spent in front of the TV marvelling at Mister Rogers' house with all its magical elements, from the neighborhood model to the signal lamp, the fish tank, the picture picture and of course the trolley that takes us all to the Neighborhood of Make Believe. There is always something new and wonderful to discover at Mister Rogers' house.

A Day at the Circus features two episodes from the mid-1980s. The first installment, Circus Fun, from 1987's Alike and Different series, is as expected, all about the circus. Neighbor Jeff Gabel shows up with some baby chickens before heading off to the Neighborhood of Make Believe as Chuckles the Clown, where Lady Aberline is practicing for her part in the imaginary circus. Chuckles arrives and magically transforms her into her circus outfit—a chick!—however, Daniel Tiger is scared by the two all dressed up in costumes. Nancy Caterpillar is anxious to become a butterfly like her friend Darryl, even though her friends like her just the way she is. Back in the real world, Mister Rogers heads off to the big top, where Betty Aberline is discovering all about elephants from their keeper, Fred Logan. Mister Rogers meets the elephant performers, Pee Wee, Suzy, and Helen before seeing some real tigers and Jeff Gable showing how he gets made up as a clown. We are then off to the rings to see some aerial and ground acrobats, the elephant show, and the circus band. The program concludes as Mister Rogers shows us how each note on a piano is unique, just like us.

The second episode, Music Adventures, the fifth from 1985's Music series, begins with a visit to the home of collector, Tom O'Horgan, who shows Mister Rogers many different instruments from different cultures around the world. In the Neighborhood of Make Believe, it is time for a bass violin festival, so after an initial mix up, Lady Aberline, Handyman Negri, Daniel Tiger, and King Friday the XIII head off to meet Mayor Maggie and their friends from the many make believe neighborhoods in Westwood. Miss Violet performs a song; Old Goat recites a story accompanied by Lady Elain Fairchilde; Handyman Negri, Lady Aberline, and Miss Paulificate perform a dance; then James Michael Jones and Keith David put on a play, helped by Daniel Tiger. Finally, Mister Rogers talks about how music helped him deal with anger as a child.

As a daily broadcast, there was a good deal of continuity from episode to episode, which helped establish a sense of reality to this television community. This two-episode format, while common for children's programming on home video, does not fully represent the character of the show, but the episodes by themselves still have a special and unmistakeable quality, and come highly recommended for parents of young children. Even for adults, the show can be entertaining and educational, and those of us who grew up with it can find echoes of our own childhood experiences.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both installments look very good. Colors are well saturated and vibrant, and there are no transfer induced artifacts. Anything that could be noted is due to the original video format used to shoot the show, such as a bit of bleeding and some ringing in high contrast areas.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio quality is as good as can be expected for a live television show. Dialogue is clear for the most part, and the musical segments offer distinct instrumentaion. There were no technical defects noted.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 2 cues
2 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Games
  2. Recipe
  3. Sing-along and read-along
  4. Child activity ideas
  5. Care-giving tips
Extras Review: Like the Adventures in Friendship DVD , there are a number of extras available. This time, the About Fred Rogers, (0m:57s) feature has Fred receiving the highest American civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from George W. Bush.

Another of the show's behind-the-scenes segments that I enjoyed as a kid is included. This time Mister Rogers takes a tour of a pretzel factory (10m:37s), where he learns the significance of the pretzel, plus both the traditional and modern production methods.

There is a read-along of Rogers' story, Josephine, the Short-necked Giraffe, which can either be read with or without Mr. McFeely's narration. With the narration, the "pages" turn automatically, otherwise you can navigate with the remote. There is a singalong for It's You I Like, a Neighborhood staple, which is a segment from one of the episodes. Like the Friendship Adventures disc, lyrics are included in the booklet, but this feature would have been better with a karaoke-style bouncing ball for singing along.

The Neighborhood Gallery is identical to that on the Friendship Adventures disc, and has brief information of 10 of the regulars on the show, including Mister Rogers, Mr. McFeely, the trolly, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Henrietta Pussycat, X the Owl, and the royal family: King Friday XIII, Queen Sara, and Prince Tuesday.

Three games are included: a Musical Numbers game, in which you count the musical instruments presented onscreen, Circus Fun, where Mr. McFeely asks you to identify some of the things found at the circus, and a Build Your Own Neighborhood game (which requires a DVD-ROM drive and a Flash-enabled web browser), where you can drag the various neighborhood objects, some of which are animated, into your own scene, and print out the results. This game is similar to that on the Friendship Adventures disc, but with different objects available.

The disc has talking menus, which kids may find novel but adults may tire of them quickly. There is no way to turn off the narration, which loads each time the menu is accessed.

A few of the features on the disc are duplicated in a companion 16-page booklet, including child activities like making paper plate shakers, an "I Can Do It!" book, and a recipe for soft pretzels. There are also a number of caregiving tips for parents included, which tie in to the self-esteem theme of the shows.

This DVD is available in two configurations, disc-only or a premium version that includes a limited edition toy "Speedy Delivery" truck.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

There are few children's television shows of the caliber of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. For generations of children, Mister Rogers has been there to help us to cope and understand the complex and confusing world around us. This set, while only two episodes, preserves Rogers' legacy for future generations. It is obvious that care has gone into the supplemental materials here, which can inspire parents in how to explore the subjects on the show, while allowing for discussion and interaction with their children, and teaching them valuable life lessons.


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