New kids' TV show emerges from the Mister Rogers universe

NEW YORK (AP) — Mister Rogers’ neighborhood is expanding.

In rare welcome news of sprawl, PBS Kids is releasing a new puppet-led series called “Donkey Hodie,” inspired from characters in the original Fred Rogers TV show.

“Every part of it seems to be infused with joy and heart and humor,” says Adam Rudman, who co-created and co-produced the show with his brother, David. “And I think that’s something that Fred Rogers would appreciate.”

The whimsical series for children ages 3-5 starts airing Monday and centers on the adventures of Donkey Hodie, an enthusiastic yellow donkey with a bright magenta mane. She’s the granddaughter of the donkey puppet Rogers created back when TV shows were in black and white.

“This is a show about a little donkey with big dreams. It’s about persistence, it’s about resilience and it’s about frustration and things going wrong,” says Ellen Doherty, chief creative officer of Fred Rogers Productions.

During each 15-minute episode, Donkey Hodie learns lessons, like why following a recipe step-by-step makes sense and the importance of making a plan before tackling a big project.

She’s helped by a colorful gang of friends — Purple Panda, Bob Dog and Duck Duck, each of whom brings something to the table.

If Donkey is the one who comes up with an idea, Panda is the supportive friend, telling her she can do it. Bob Dog is the enthusiastic helper and Duck Duck is the practical pal, asking how they’re going to succeed.

“We really worked hard on the character blend,” says David Rudman, who performs Bob Dog and Donkey’s grandfather and also directs the episodes. “They all bring something interesting and they work really well together.”

The song-filled series is set in land of Someplace Else, named after the place where parents are always asking noisy kids to go. It has a windmill — an original Don Quixote joke by Rogers — but the creators have built a wonky land with rolling hills and no straight lines.