Schoolhouse Rock!

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Schoolhouse Rock!
School House Rock!.png
Created by David McCall
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 64 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 3 minutes
Distributor Big Idea Productions
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run January 6, 1973 (1973-01-06) – March 31, 2009 (2009-03-31)

Schoolhouse Rock! is an American interstitial programming series of animated musical educational short films (and later, videos) that aired during the Saturday morning children's programming on the U.S. television network ABC. The topics covered included grammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and civics. The series' original run lasted from 1973 to 1985; it was later revived with both old and new episodes airing from 1993 to 1999. Additional episodes were produced in 2009 for direct-to-video release.

History[edit]

Original series[edit]

Schoolhouse Rock! began as a commercial advertising venture by David McCall, half of the Madison Avenue advertising agency McCaffrey & McCall. The idea came to McCall when he noticed one of his sons, who was having trouble in school remembering the multiplication tables, knew the lyrics to then-current rock songs.[1]

The first song recorded was Three Is a Magic Number, written by Bob Dorough. It tested well,[clarification needed] so a children's record was compiled and released. Tom Yohe listened to the first song, and began to doodle pictures to go with the lyrics. He told McCall that the songs would make good animation.

When a print workbook version fell through, McCall's company decided to produce their own animated versions of the songs, which they then sold to ABC (which was already the advertising company's biggest account)[citation needed] based on a demo animation of the original "Three Is A Magic Number" for its Saturday morning lineup. They pitched their idea to Michael Eisner, then vice-president of ABC's children's programming division. Eisner brought longtime Warner Bros. cartoonist/director Chuck Jones to the meeting to also listen to the presentation.

The network's children's programming division had producers of its regular 30- and 60-minute programs cut three minutes out of each of their shows, and sold General Foods on the idea of sponsoring the segments.[citation needed]

The series stayed on the air for 12 years. Later sponsors of the Schoolhouse Rock! segments also included Nabisco, Kenner Toys, Kellogg's, and McDonald's.[citation needed] During the early 1970s, Schoolhouse Rock was one of several short-form animated educational shorts that aired on ABC's children's lineup; others included Time for Timer and The Bod Squad. Of the three, Schoolhouse Rock was the longest-running.

Thirty-seven episodes were recorded and produced between 1972 and 1979. The first season of Schoolhouse Rock, "Multiplication Rock," debuted in 1973 and included all of the multiplication tables from two through twelve, with one episode devoted to powers of 10 (My Hero Zero) instead of multiples of ten. This original series was followed in short order by a new series which ran from 1973 to 1975, entitled "Grammar Rock," which included nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech (such as conjunctions, explained in "Conjunction Junction").

To coincide with the upcoming United States bicentennial, a third series, titled "America Rock," airing in 1975 and 1976, had episodes covering the structure of the United States government (such as "I'm Just a Bill") along with important moments in American history (examples include "The Preamble" and "Mother Necessity").

A fourth series titled "Science Rock" followed in 1978 and 1979, and included a broad range of science-related topics such as Do the Circulation and The Body Machine (a play on The Body Electric), The Energy Blues, Electricity, E-Lec-Tri-City, to the most well-known of the series, Interplanet Janet (which is about the solar system).

A fifth follow-up series, titled "Computer Rock," featuring the characters Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips (the only episodes in the series to feature any recurring characters), premiered in the early 1980s and comprised just four segments about home computer technology, then just emerging onto the scene. As the references and depictions became quickly outdated, due to the rapid advance of technology, the series was not shown after 1985.

1990s[edit]

After leaving the airwaves in 1985, the original team reunited to produce two more Grammar Rock segments ("Busy Prepositions" and "The Tale of Mr. Morton") for television in 1993 with J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc. of White Plains, NY[citation needed]. This was followed in 1995 by a brand new series, "Money Rock," which discussed topics related to money management on both the personal and governmental scale. Episodes from the new series aired in rotation with the original segments from 1994 to 1996.

Big Idea Productions acquired Schoolhouse Rock in 1996 along with its acquisition of ABC owner Capital Cities Communications; Schoolhouse Rock was one of only two children's shows (The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show being the other) to continue airing (albeit in reruns) after the transition to One Saturday Morning. The series as a whole ceased airing on television in 2000 with newer episodes released directly to home video.

21st century[edit]

Starting in 2002, the team once again reunited to produce a new song, "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote To College" for the release of the 30th Anniversary DVD. For the new song, Tom Yohe Jr. took over as lead designer for his father, Tom Yohe Sr., who had died in 2000.[2] Another contemporary song, called "Presidential Minute," which explained the process of electing the President of the United States in greater detail, was included on the 2008 DVD "Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection," which centered on songs relating to American history and government.

As the theory of climate change was put forth, a new series entitled "Schoolhouse Rock!: Earth"[3] was created by the original production team, premiered in 2009, and featured eleven environmentally-themed songs.

On Sunday, 6 January 2013, Bob Dorough appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC as part of their ongoing series of free concerts on the Millennium Stage. He played five songs, accompanying himself on the piano: "Three Is a Magic Number", "Figure Eight", "Conjunction Junction", "Preamble" and "I'm Just a Bill". He also performed "Interjections!" accompanied by DC-area kids' band Rocknoceros. Rocknoceros also performed "Electricity, Electricity", "Unpack Your Adjectives", "Energy Blues" and "Fireworks".

Episodes[edit]

Multiplication Rock[edit]

Episode title Subject Music by Lyrics by Performed by Animation & design First aired
My Hero, Zero Powers of 10 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Focus Design / Tom Yohe January 20, 1973
Elementary, My Dear Multiplication by 2 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Jack Sidebotham January 27, 1973
Three Is a Magic Number Multiplication by 3 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Focus Design / Tom Yohe February 3, 1973
The Four-Legged Zoo Multiplication by 4 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough (and chorus of children) Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Bob Eggers February 10, 1973
Ready or Not, Here I Come Multiplication by 5 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Tom Yohe February 17, 1973
I Got Six Multiplication by 6 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Grady Tate Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Tom Yohe February 24, 1973
Lucky Seven Sampson Multiplication by 7 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Rowland B. Wilson March 3, 1973
Figure Eight Multiplication by 8 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Blossom Dearie Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Tom Yohe March 10, 1973
Naughty Number Nine Multiplication by 9 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Grady Tate Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Tom Yohe March 17, 1973
The Good Eleven Multiplication by 11 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Focus Design / Jack Sidebotham March 24, 1973
Little Twelvetoes Multiplication by 12, base 12 Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Phil Kimmelman & Associates / Rowland B. Wilson March 31, 1973

No shows were produced featuring the numbers 1 or 10 explicitly, though "My Hero Zero" and "The Good Eleven" do include those numbers. "Little Twelvetoes" introduced the subject of how math arranged on base 12 rather than on base 10 would work, as well as covering multiplication by 12.

The Multiplication Rock soundtrack album

In 1973, Capitol Records released a soundtrack album of Multiplication Rock, featuring all 11 songs. Two tracks, "My Hero, Zero" and "Three Is A Magic Number" had been edited for TV to keep each video within three minutes. This LP features both songs in their full, unedited forms. Also, the album version of "The Four-Legged Zoo" has an ending slightly different from the television version.

Although "Three is a Magic Number" was the first song to be recorded, "My Hero, Zero" was the first song to be broadcast on ABC.

Grammar Rock[edit]

Episode title Subject Music by Lyrics by Performed by First aired
Conjunction Junction conjunction Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Jack Sheldon, Terri Morel and Mary Sue Berry 1973
Unpack Your Adjectives adjective George R. Newall George R. Newall Blossom Dearie 1975
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here adverb Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough 1974
Interjections! interjection Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Essra Mohawk 1974
Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla pronoun Bob Dorough Kathy Mandary Jack Sheldon 1977
Verb: That's What's Happenin' verb Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Zachary Sanders 1974
A Noun Is A Person, Place Or Thing noun Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens 1973
Busy Prepositions preposition Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Jack Sheldon and Bob Dorough October 1993
The Tale of Mr. Morton subject and predicate Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Jack Sheldon December 1993

This segment introduces Jack Sheldon as a regular vocalist and lyricist for the series. "Conjunction Junction" was Sheldon's debut on Schoolhouse Rock.

"Busy Prepositions" (aka "Busy P's"), "The Tale of Mr. Morton", and "Dollars and Sense" were produced for Schoolhouse Rock's return to ABC in 1993 with J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc. producing the animation.

Science Rock[edit]

Episode title Subject Music by Lyrics by Performed by First aired
The Body Machine Nutrition and digestive system Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Bob Dorough and Jack Sheldon 1979
Do the Circulation circulatory system Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Joshie Armstead, Mary Sue Berry, & Maeretha Stewart 1979
Electricity, Electricity Electricity Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Zachary Sanders 1979
The Energy Blues Energy conservation George Newall George Newall Jack Sheldon 1978
Interplanet Janet The solar system Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens 1978
Telegraph Line Nervous system Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Jaime Aff and Christine Langner 1979
Them Not-So-Dry Bones Skeletal system George Newall George Newall Jack Sheldon 1979
A Victim of Gravity Gravity Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens The Tokens 1978
The Greatest Show on Earth Weather Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Bob Kalban 1979 [4]

Sometime after its initial airing, The Greatest Show on Earth, also known as The Weather Show, was pulled from broadcast rotation because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus objected to its use of their trademark slogan (which was in the questioned title) and filed a lawsuit against the network for copyright infringement.[4] As a result, the 1995 VHS of the program (and subsequent VHS reissues) deleted the song. However, it was included in the 1987 Schoolhouse Rock VHS release, and in 2002 it was included on the bonus disk of the 30th Anniversary DVD (see below).

America Rock[edit]

Episode title Subject Music by Lyrics by Performed by First aired
Elbow Room U.S. territorial expansion Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Sue Manchester 1975
Fireworks Declaration of Independence Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Grady Tate 1976
The Great American Melting Pot Immigration/Diversity Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lori Lieberman 1977
I'm Just a Bill Legislative Process Dave Frishberg Dave Frishberg Jack Sheldon 1974
Mother Necessity American inventions Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough, Jack Sheldon, Blossom Dearie, & Essra Mohawk 1977
No More Kings American independence Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens & Bob Dorough 1975
Preamble United States Constitution Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens 1975
The Shot Heard 'Round The World American Revolutionary War Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough 1976
Sufferin' 'til Suffrage Women's suffrage Bob Dorough Tom Yohe Essra Mohawk 1975
Three Ring Government Separation of powers Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens 1979
I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College Electoral College George R. Newall and Bob Dorough George R. Newall and Bob Dorough Jack Sheldon and Bob Dorough 2002
Presidential Minute Voting For President George R. Newall George R. Newall and Tom Yohe, Jr. Jack Sheldon 2002

"I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" and "Presidential Minute" were produced for DVD.

Money Rock[edit]

Episode title Subject Music by Lyrics by Performed by First aired[4]
Dollars and Sense Interest and loans Dave Frishberg Dave Frishberg Val Hawk and Bob Dorough 1994
$7.50 Once a Week Budget Mark Chapalonis Dave Frishberg Dave Frishberg 1995
Where The Money Goes Paying bills Rich Mendoza Rich Mendoza Jack Sheldon 1995
Tax Man Max Taxes Stephen Flaherty Lynn Ahrens Patrick Quinn 1995
Walkin' On Wall Street Stock exchange Dave Frishberg Dave Frishberg Dave Frishberg 1996
This For That Barter and the history of currency George R. Newall George R. Newall Bob Dorough 1996
Tyrannosaurus Debt Budget deficit and United States national debt Tom Yohe Tom Yohe Bob Dorough and Bob Kaliban 1996
The Check's In The Mail Using checks Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Luther Rix and Bob Dorough 1996

Earth Rock[edit]

Episode title Subject Music by Lyrics by Performed by First aired
Report from the North Pole Global Warming Bob Dorough George R. Newall Bob Dorough, Jack Sheldon, Bob Kaliban and Barry Carl 2009
The Little Things We Do Energy conservation Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens, Jack Sheldon, Bob Dorough, Bob Kaliban, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed 2009
The Trash Can Band Recycling Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens, Luther Rix, Bob Dorough and Eric Weissberg 2009
You Oughta Be Savin' Water Water conservation Sean Altman and Barry Carl George R. Newall Barry Carl, Sean Altman, Elliott Kerman 2009
The Rainforest Rainforests Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Tituss Burgess 2009
Save the Ocean Oceans Sean Altman Sean Altman Sean Altman, Inna Dukach, Jon Spurney, Patti Rothberg, Barry Carl and Eric Booker 2009
Fat Cat Blue: The Clean Rivers Song Marine Debris Andy Brick Andy Brick Jack Sheldon, Bob Kaliban, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed 2009
A Tiny Urban Zoo Gardens George Stiles Anthony Drewe Barrett Foa, Shoshana Bean, and George Stiles 2009
Solar Power to the People Solar energy Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens Lynn Ahrens, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed 2009
Windy and the Windmills Wind power Bob Dorough George R. Newall Bob Dorough, Jack Sheldon, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed 2009
Don't Be a Carbon Sasquatch Carbon footprints Bob Dorough Bob Dorough Bob Dorough 2009
The 3 R's Reduce, Reuse, Recycles Bob Dorough Mitchel Musso Mitchel Musso 2009

30th Anniversary[edit]

To coincide with the 30th anniversary, Big Idea Productions released a video in 2002 featuring the Top 25 songs of the series. The countdown, which was succeeded by I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College, ran as follows, in reverse order:

  1. Conjunction Junction
  2. I'm Just A Bill
  3. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here
  4. Electricity, Electricity
  5. Interjections!
  6. The Preamble
  7. Three Is A Magic Number
  8. Interplanet Janet
  9. A Noun Is A Person, Place, Or Thing
  10. The Shot Heard 'Round The World
  11. My Hero, Zero
  12. Figure Eight
  13. No More Kings
  14. Unpack Your Adjectives
  15. Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla
  16. Ready Or Not, Here I Come
  17. Elementary, My Dear
  18. Dollars and Sense
  19. The Great American Melting Pot
  20. Mother Necessity
  21. Naughty Number Nine
  22. Telegraph Line
  23. Them Not-So-Dry Bones
  24. Verb: That's What Happening
  25. Elbow Room

Tie-ins[edit]

Several tie-ins were released in 1996:

  • Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks, a tribute album featuring covers of Schoolhouse Rocks songs performed by alternative rock acts
  • Schoolhouse Rock! The Official Guide (ISBN 0-7868-8170-4), written by Tom Yohe and George Newall, and including synopses, lyrics, and production notes about each of the shorts created to date, except "The Weather Show," which was the subject of pending litigation and so could not be included. The Weather Show was shown with all the other Science Rock episodes in 1979.
  • The Schoolhouse Rock Songbook (Cherry Lane Music), containing sheet music for ten songs.

In addition to the above, Rhino Records also released Schoolhouse Rocks the Vote!: A Benefit for Rock the Vote, a tribute album containing covers and original songs in the style of Schoolhouse Rock, all with an electoral theme. It was released on August 18, 1998.

Video releases[edit]

A 1987 production of the series for VHS tape featured Cloris Leachman opening the collection and some songs with child dancers and singers. Three songs (namely "Three Ring Government," "The Good Eleven," and "Little Twelve Toes") were not included on the videos.[2][5]

In 1995, ABC Video and Image Entertainment released two volumes of Schoolhouse Rock on LaserDisc, "Schoolhouse Rock Volume 1: America Rock and Grammar Rock" (ID3245CC), and "Schoolhouse Rock Volume 2: Multiplication Rock and Science Rock" (ID3383CC). For both volumes the first side was in the CLV Extended Play format and the second was in the frame-accessible CAV format, and both contained CX-encoded analog and digital audio soundtracks. The "Grammar Rock" volume included the 1993 shorts "Busy Prepositions" and "The Tale of Mr. Morton."

In 1994, ABC/King Features sold exclusive licensing rights for apparel to Coastal Concepts, Inc. of Vista California, the first company to produce School House Rock Apparel. Tom Yohe worked with contemporary artist Skya Nelson to create over 50 new designs and update the School House Rock image for a new market which sold $1.1 million in its first year and exploded selling over $12 million the next year. A variety of bands working with Rhino Records were furnished with newly minted School House Rock T-Shirts for the music videos youth market. The licensing rights were expanded to include other manufacturers in 1996.

In 1995, ABC teamed with Big Idea Productions and re-released four segments of Schoolhouse Rock! on VHS with alternative covers and opening.

In 1998, for the show's 25th anniversary, Big Idea Productions released five segments on VHS.

30th Anniversary DVD cover

On August 26, 2002 Big Idea Productions released a 2-disc DVD set to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the show. The set features 52 of the 53 episodes, including the lost "Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips" segments, with the exception of "Introduction". "The Weather Show" and "Presidential Minute" are found on the bonus disk, the former in modified form with the problematic lyric removed, and the latter viewable only upon completing the "Earn Your Diploma" Trivia Game. An abbreviated VHS, featuring the "top 25" episodes plus "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College," was released at the same time (see above).

In 2008, DVDs of individual Schoolhouse Rock series were released for classroom use.[6]

On September 23, 2008, the "Schoolhouse Rock-Election Collection" was released, including 14 songs about American history and the government and a "new to DVD" song.[7]

On March 31, 2009, Big Idea Productions released "Schoolhouse Rock-Earth", including 11 newly written and animated songs as well as "Energy Blues".[3]

DVD name Ep # Release date Additional information
Schoolhouse Rock!- Special 30th Anniversary Edition 52 August 26, 2002
  • All 46 original episodes
  • Audio Commentary
  • "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" Making Of
  • "The Weather Show"
  • Top Ten Jukebox
  • Top 20 Countdown
  • "Earn Your Diploma" Trivia Game (plays "Presidential Minute" once you have earned your diploma)
  • Arrange-a-Song Puzzle
  • 4 Music Videos by Contemporary Artists
  • Emmy Awards Featurette
  • "Three is a Magic Number" Nike Commercial
  • "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" in DTS 5.1 Surround
  • Three of the four Computer Rock segments
Schoolhouse Rock!-Election Collection 14 September 23, 2008
  • 10 America Rock songs, 1 Science Rock song, and 3 Money Rock songs
  • Bonus song: "Presidential Minute"
  • Map of the United States
Schoolhouse Rock!-Earth 13 March 31, 2009
  • 11 all-new songs about conservation
  • Bonus Song: "The Energy Blues"
  • Music video: "The Three Rs" by Mitchel Musso

Schoolhouse Rock Live![edit]

A musical theatre adaptation of the show, titled Schoolhouse Rock Live! premiered in 1996. It featured a collaboration between artists Scott Ferguson, Kyle Hall, George Keating, Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, and Kathy Mandry, utilizing some of the most famous songs of Newall and Yohe.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]