Daniel standing in front of trees.

Meet Our Neighbors: Daniel Underdown

Get to know the art director of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood!

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to work in children’s television.

I am originally from England and moved to Toronto, Canada five years ago. Since childhood, I've loved drawing and copying my favorite cartoon characters. I remember telling a teacher when I was only five that I wanted to be an animator and so when it came to choosing a university, I didn't have too many doubts. When I graduated in 2010, the world was going through an economic recession and prospects for getting into animation looked slim. I spent quite a few years in various jobs, from theme parks to retail to bar jobs. One day I realized unless I broke free of that cycle I wouldn't ever get to where I wanted to be. I took a risk and quit my jobs and spent a year trying to improve my skills and take commissions where I could. My family and friends were so supportive, and it is because of them that I was able to refocus. I was offered a position as assistant art director at a studio opening up in Manchester, and I have been working on different projects ever since.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

It is hard to pick a favorite, but I always watched Dumbo on repeat when I was little. Something about the simple story and the appealing characters meant it was on loop when I was a toddler. I also loved shows with animals, like the animated series The Animals of Farthing Wood, which follows a group of creatures that are displaced from their forest as the humans move in.

Describe your role on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. What is your favorite episode?

As art director, I am lucky to work with amazing artists every day, which is a treat. I help guide the look of the show and make sketches and concepts of new characters and locations. What is fun about this role is getting to see every stage from visualizing the script all the way to animation where I help guide any lighting and effects in post. Collaborating with all the different departments is what I like about art direction.

I think one of my favorite episodes is 604A, "Daniel Goes to Day Camp." I appreciate how the characters slow down to interact with the insects they find along the nature trail and how Daniel imagines being the size of the grasshopper. I think it has a message for adults and children alike about being mindful and noticing the world around us.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I'm not working, you will probably find me in the woods or by a stream taking photos of birds. In Toronto, we live on a great migration route for birds so any chance I get I am outside cycling with a camera to see what I can see. I love discovering the world and the nature we have on our doorstep.