The Magic School Bus

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The Magic School Bus
The Magic School Bus title credit.jpg
Title card from the 1994 TV series
Created byJoanna Cole and Bruce Degen
Owned byScholastic Corporation
Print publications
Book(s)The Magic School Bus book series (1985–2010)
Specific books include:
Films and television
Animated series
Video game(s)The Magic School Bus video game series (1994–2001)

The Magic School Bus is an American edutainment media franchise that includes a book series, a TV series, a streaming series, and video games. Each of the stories within the franchise centers on the antics of a fictional elementary school teacher, Ms. Frizzle, and her class, who board a "magic school bus", which takes them on field trips to unusual times and locations, such as the Cretaceous Period, outer space, and the interior of the human body. [1]


The first media in which this franchise was developed was the Magic School Bus book series. Craig Walker, vice-president and senior editorial director at Scholastic Co., stated that the concept began with the idea of combining science with fictional stories, and Joanna Cole (who had written both science and humor before) and Bruce Degen were then approached with creating such a series. Walker also states that his own memories of school field trips and of a teacher he had once, served as further inspiration.[2] The first book "At the Waterworks" was written in 1984 and published in 1985. The books are written in the first person from the point of view of an unnamed student in "the Friz's" class. Cole and Degen started a new series called Ms. Frizzle's Adventures in 2001, which teaches social studies, eventually producing three books in that series. Microsoft Home began publishing Magic School Bus software in 1994, the same year The Magic School Bus concept was also adapted into an animated television series of the same name by Scholastic Entertainment. The series premiered on September 10, 1994, with its theme song performed by Little Richard. Scholastic Entertainment president Deborah Forte says that adapting the books into an animated series was an opportunity to help kids "learn about science in a fun way".[3] Around that time, Forte had been hearing concern from parents and teachers about how to improve science education for girls and minorities.[3] As noted by Marcel LaFollette, "accomplished women were exceptions in a universe of male luminaries" when it came to science television.[4]:185 Ms. Valerie Frizzle, the magic school teacher, was the closest approximation to an expert female host.[5][4]:183, 185–195 She was voiced by Lily Tomlin in the series. [6]

From 1994 to 2000, several Magic School Bus video games were released. Most of the original titles were created by the software company Music Pen in collaboration with Microsoft and Scholastic Press, the publisher of the Magic School Bus book series. Though in the TV series, the bus was obviously animated in traditional 2D-cel, in the CD-ROM games, it is typically animated with computer-generated imagery. In all these titles the user gets to "drive" the bus, which almost always involves clicking on the steering wheel and choosing a location. (The exception is The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth where it is the gear shift instead of the steering wheel.) Most of the games have about seven different locations, including the classroom. There is always some goal for the user in each one.

Scholastic Entertainment, the American Meteorological Society and the Children's Museum of Houston created a Scholastic's the Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm, a 2,600 sq ft (240 m2) traveling exhibit funded in part by the National Science Foundation, which premiered at the Children's Museum of Houston in 2003 (a copy of it opened in New Jersey the month after that).[7]

On September 29, 2017, Scholastic and Netflix released the reboot animated series The Magic School Bus Rides Again, with Kate McKinnon as the voice of Ms. Frizzle's sister, Fiona Felicity Frizzle, who is now in charge of the class. Lily Tomlin also reprises her role as Ms. Frizzle, now Professor Frizzle, Ph.D.

On June 25, 2020, it was reported that Universal Pictures and Scholastic Entertainment are developing a live-action/animated hybrid film with Elizabeth Banks starring as Ms. Frizzle and will also be serving as a producer through her company Brownstone Productions along with Marc Platt Productions.[8]

Home media & streaming[edit]

The Magic School Bus left Netflix on May 19, 2021 after several years on the streaming service.

TV airings[edit]

The original 1994 TV series ran for four seasons (with 52 episodes --13 in each season). Each episode of the series ran for 30 minutes. In the United States, the original Magic School Bus TV series originally aired on PBS. It aired on PBS as a part of its children's block. PTV (later renamed PBS Kids) through South Carolina's SCETV network, it was the first fully animated series to be aired on PBS. The last episode (on PBS) aired in December 6, 1997. On PBS (and on its lineup and schedule), the series --after the final episode-- aired reruns intermittently. But only until September 25, 1998. Then in September 26, 1998, PBS had the TV series dropped altogether from its lineup and schedule in order to make room for more other programs aimed at preschoolers. In the United States, Fox Kids aired repeats from September 1998 until September 2002 in order to fulfill their weekly E/I quota as required by the FCC. After being dropped from PBS and Fox Kids on the American television --since September 1998 and September 2002-- TLC and Discovery Kids (on the American television) chose to air it. TLC aired it from February 24, 2003 until 2008. Discovery Kids aired it from 2004 to 2009 (as part of the Ready Set Learn block). In Canada, CBC Kids aired it from 2000 until 2003. Starting in September 27, 2010, The Magic School Bus (on the American television) began a daily run on Qubo and on Saturday mornings on NBC until 2012. On June 30, 2012, the Qubo block was replaced by the NBC Kids block. On the Canadian television, it aired on Teletoon, CBC Kids and Knowledge Network. On the European television, it aired on Pop, Channel 4, and CITV in the UK, France 3, TF1, and Canal J in France, Italia 1 in Italy, ProSieben in Germany, Kindernet in the Netherlands and Minimax in Hungary and Poland. On the Australian television, it aired on ABC (as part of ABC for Kids block). On the Latin American television since 2005, Nelvana sold the original TV series to Nickelodeon and Latin America Cartoon Network.


  1. ^ Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. pp. 714–715. ISBN 978-1476665993.
  2. ^ Lodge, Sally (27 July 2006). "Two Decades of Fun and Learning on the Magic School Bus". Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b Clarke, Melanie M. (20 June 2005). "A Scholastic Achievement". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Publishing Co./Reed Publishing (USA) Inc. 135 (25): 30.
  4. ^ a b LaFollette, Marcel Chotkowski (2013). "Rarae Aves: Television's Female Scientists". Science on American television : a history. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press. pp. 185–195. ISBN 978-0-226-92199-0.
  5. ^ Halpern, Paul (2015). "On the Air". Distillations. Chemical Heritage Foundation. 1 (2): 44. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Lily Tomlin". IMDb. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  7. ^ McCallum, Cheryl D.; L. Nazarani; The Children's Museum of Houston (4 January 2007). "Scholastics the Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm Museum Exhibit". American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  8. ^ Galuppo, Mia (25 June 2020). "Elizabeth Banks to Play Ms. Frizzle in Live-Action 'Magic School Bus' Movie". The Hollywood Reporter.

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