In the week since it was released, “The Garden of Your Mind” has clocked approximately four million views on PBS Digital Studios' YouTube channel. This instant viral video phenomenon features PBS’s own beloved Mr. Rogers in a skillfully edited collection of scenes from more than three decades of his popular children’s show, "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood." While accurately capturing his kid-friendly focus, the remix advances viewers into the twenty-first century with an auto-tuned mash-up of the late Fred Rogers speak-singing about the power of curiosity, imagination, and discovery.
This unique mix was created through the artistry of musician and video producer, John D. Boswell, (aka melodysheep). Boswell is best known for his Symphony of Science project, which he describes on his About Me page along with the source for his creative muse. “Inspiration from The Gregory Brothers and DJ Steve Porter, coupled with my experience with remixing, composition, and auto-tune, led to experiments with remixing scientists, culminating in Carl Sagan's "A Glorious Dawn" in Fall of 2009…with results that are inspiring, humbling, and of course humorous.”
Just to clarify, "auto-tune" refers to an audio processor that uses proprietary software to alter pitch in vocal and instrumental recording and performances. According to Wikipedia, Cher's "Believe," recorded in 1998, was the first commercial recording to use the software to produce this altered vocal effect. In 2009, auto-tune was popularized by Boswell’s muse, Brooklyn musician Michael Gregory, and The Gregory Brothers band.
It helps, of course, that Boswell is a Rogers’ fan and when PBS discovered his work, it was kismet. PBS explains, “When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube, we immediately wanted to work together. Turns out that he is a huge Mister Rogers' Neighborhood fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes.”
On the results of this collaboration, Kevin Morrison, COO of Fred Rogers Company, said, as Mashable reports, “I think that the thing we like about the piece is how it celebrates — we’re all different in terms of what we’re good at, but we can all make a special contribution.”
As for the strategy for promoting the video, Kevin Dando, Director, Digital Marketing and Communications for PBS, reported to the L.A. Times that it was pretty basic. They teased the video on Twitter Wednesday night and then published it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ at about the same time. A few celebrities tweeted the video early on, including Neil Patrick Harris, Alyssa Milano, and Guy Kawasaki. Then the media took over. By Friday morning, it was on YouTube’s trending video list and on the front page of Reddit in addition to being shown on "Good Morning America" and the "Today Show."
"Garden in Your Mind" is the first video on the PBS Digital Studios channel on YouTube, and the first of many planned remix videos set to feature PBS icons. "There will be more, and there will be other kinds of videos," said Dando, although he didn’t say what was next. "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" aired from 1968 to 2001. Rogers passed away in February 2003.