The Magic School Bus (TV series)

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The Magic School Bus
The Magic School Bus title credit.jpg
Title card
Science fantasy
Based onThe Magic School Bus
by Joanna Cole
Bruce Degen
Developed byAlison Blank
Kristin Laskas Martin
Jane Startz
Directed byLawrence Jacobs (S1, S4)
Charles E. Bastien (S2-S3)
Voices ofLily Tomlin
Malcolm-Jamal Warner
Lisa Yamanaka
Danny Tamberelli
Daniel DeSanto
Tara Meyer
Erica Luttrell
Maia Filar
Stuart Stone
Amos Crawley
Max Beckford
Andre Ottley-Lorant
Theme music composerPeter Lurye
Opening theme"Ride on the Magic School Bus", performed by Little Richard
ComposersPeter Lurye
Fred Barton (seasons 2-4)
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes52 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Jane Startz
  • Alison Blank
Running time26 minutes
Production companiesSouth Carolina ETV
Scholastic Entertainment
DistributorCorus Entertainment
Original networkPBS
Picture format480i (4:3 SDTV)
Audio formatDolby Surround
Original releaseSeptember 10, 1994 (1994-09-10) –
December 6, 1997 (1997-12-06)
Followed byThe Magic School Bus Rides Again
External links

The Magic School Bus is an American animated children's television series, based on the book series of the same name by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. Running originally from 1994 to 1997, the series received critical acclaim for its use of celebrity voice talent and combining entertainment with an educational series.[1]

It was the first Nelvana-produced series to air on PBS before Redwall, Bookworm Bunch and Cyberchase.

In 2017, on the 20-year anniversary of the series' cancellation, a sequel series titled The Magic School Bus Rides Again premiered on Netflix. Season 1 is available on Netflix, with seasons 2-4 being removed from the service on May 18, 2021.


Miss Frizzle embarks on adventures with her class on the eponymous school bus. As they journey on their exciting field trips, they discover locations, creatures, time periods and more to learn about the wonders of science along the way.

Voice cast[edit]


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 13 September 10, 1994 December 3, 1994
2 13 September 9, 1995 December 2, 1995
3 13 September 14, 1996 December 25, 1996
4 13 September 13, 1997 December 6, 1997

Production and broadcast[edit]

In early 1994, The Magic School Bus concept was made into an animated series of the same name by Scholastic Entertainment and it premiered on September 10, 1994. The idea for the TV series was developed by former Scholastic Entertainment Vice President and Senior Editorial Director Craig Walker. Scholastic Entertainment president Deborah Forte explained that adapting the books into an animated series was an opportunity to help kids "learn about science in a fun way".[2] During this time, Forte had been hearing concerns from parents and teachers about how to improve science education for kids and minorities across the globe.[2] Hanho Heung-Up Co., Ltd. contributed some of the animation for this series.

When The Magic School Bus was syndicated on commercial networks, the Producer Says segment at the end of each episode was cut out to make space for commercials. The Producer Says segments were only seen when the series was shown on non-commercial networks, international networks, VHS, and DVD releases. Within the episodes, there were also time points where the episode fades out and then fades back in after a series of commercials are shown. On non-commercial networks, VHS, and DVD releases the scene immediately fades back in right after it fades out as no commercials are shown.

The theme song, called "Ride on the Magic School Bus", was written by Peter Lurye and performed by Little Richard.[3]

The voice director was Susan Blu, two of the writers for the series were Brian Meehl and Jocelyn Stevenson.

Broadcast history (television airings)[edit]

In the United States --from 1994 until 1997-- The Magic School Bus originally aired on PBS (being the first television airing). It aired on PBS as part of its children's block. On PBS through South Carolina's SCETV network, it was the first fully animated series to be aired on PBS. The last episode aired (on PBS) in December 6, 1997. By the series' end, it was among the highest-rated PBS shows for school-age children.[4] After the final episode on PBS, the PBS lineup and schedule subsequently aired reruns intermittently until September 25, 1998. Beginning on September 26, 1998, PBS had the series pulled from its lineup and schedule (dropping it) in order to make room for more programs aimed at preschoolers. On that same year, Fox network (in the United States) acquired the original TV series. After Fox network acquired the TV series, it was moved to the Fox Kids block and it ran there until 2002.

Fox Kids (on the US television) used the series as a weekday offering to fill educational television mandates for its affiliates. It aired repeats from 1998 to 2002. On September 27, 2010, The Magic School Bus was broadcast through a daily run in Qubo on the US television. Then it aired on NBC (at Saturday mornings). Both the Fox Kids and Qubo airings used a shortened version of the opening.[citation needed] Also the PBS, CBC Kids, TLC, and Discovery Kids airings (on the US television) as well as the VHS and DVD versions used the original version of the opening.

On the US television, after being dropped from PBS --since Sept. 25, 1998-- in favor of PBS making room for other new programs aimed at preschoolers, CBC Kids (on the Canada television) and TLC and Discovery Kids (on the US television) chose to air it. CBC Kids (on the Canada television) aired it from 2000 until 2003. On the US television, TLC aired it from February 24, 2003 until 2008 while Discovery Kids aired it from 2004 until 2009 (as part of the Ready Set Learn block).[2] In Canada, it aired on Teletoon and Knowledge Network. In the United Kingdom, it aired on Channel 4, Nick Jr., and Pop. Since 2005, Canada-based studio Nelvana acquired the original TV series and sold it to Latin America Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon (on the Latin American television).[5]

Home media[edit]

The series (through home media) was released on VHS from 1995-2003, DVD from 2002-2013, DVD (by New Video Group) in Region 1 (which are the rereleases of the Warner Home Video DVDs) on July, 31, 2012, and Netflix on August 15, 2013.

The series was originally released on VHS. The series on VHS was distributed by KidVision (a division of WarnerVision Entertainment) between 1995 and 2003. On DVD, it was distributed by Warner Home Video (through Warner Bros. Family Entertainment and WarnerVision Entertainment) between 2002 and 2013. With the exception of the opening funding credits, these masters are uncut (including the funding credits --closing only-- , closing logos, and Producer Says). All the ending segments (except the opening funding credits) remain intact. These masters (VHS and DVD) is the only home media out of the three masters that has the funding credits.

On July 31, 2012, New Video Group released the complete series on DVD in Region 1, as well as rereleases of the Warner Home Video DVDs. These masters do not contain the funding credits, but the Producer Says segments are still intact. On these DVDs, the 1985 Nelvana closing logo is replaced by a 2004 Nelvana closing logo.[6]

On August 15, 2013, Scholastic announced the series' availability on Netflix. Again, these masters (like the DVDs on New Video Group) do not contain the funding credits, but again the 1985 Nelvana closing logo and Producer Says segments stay intact.[7]



In a 2007 column for the online edition of The Wall Street Journal, Jason Fry expressed an overall appreciation for the series, but wrote that the episode "The Magic School Bus Gets Programmed" illustrated the rapid pace of technological change over the ten years since it first aired. He explained the episode presented an old-fashioned "technology-gone-amok" story about the respective roles of programmer and machine that was no longer relevant to children growing up in 2007. He suggested that an updated version of the episode would have focused instead on the perils of Internet searches and on network concepts surfacing at the time.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
1995 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Graphics and Title Design The Magic School Bus Nominated
USA Environmental Media Award Children's Animated Program
1996 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program Lily Tomlin as Ms. Frizzle Won [9]
NCLR Bravo Award Outstanding Program for Children or Youth The Magic School Bus Nominated
Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Children's Animated Program
Outstanding Hairstyling Milton Buras (for episode "Halloween Special"
Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program Lily Tomlin as Ms. Frizzle
1997 Television Critics Association Award Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming The Magic School Bus
Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program Lily Tomlin as Ms. Frizzle
Outstanding Children's Animated Program The Magic School Bus
1998 ALMA Award Outstanding Program for Children or Youth


Numerous computer and video games associated with the series were released from 1994 to 2000, and were typically amalgamations of storylines from both the original book series and the television show. The games were published by Microsoft Home.

A video game titled The Magic School Bus: Oceans was released for Nintendo DS on October 25, 2011, ten years after the release of the last game. This is the only game to be released on a Nintendo platform.

Revival series[edit]

On June 10, 2014, a new series was announced by Netflix and Scholastic Media titled The Magic School Bus 360°.[10][11] The new iteration of the franchise features a modernized Ms. Frizzle and high-tech bus that stresses modern inventions such as robotics, wearables and camera technology. The producers hoped to captivate children's imaginations and motivate their interest in the sciences.[12][13] 9 Story Media Group would produce the series.[14] Producer Stuart Stone, who voiced Ralphie in the original series, explained that The Magic School Bus 360° will feature some of the original voice actors in different roles. The series' voice cast is based in Los Angeles and Toronto with Susan Blu as the Los Angeles voice director and Alyson Court as the Toronto voice director.[15]

In February 2017, Netflix announced that Saturday Night Live cast member Kate McKinnon was cast in the role of Fiona Felicity Frizzle, the younger sister of Ms. Frizzle, now Professor Frizzle, again voiced by Lily Tomlin. By this point the title of the series had been changed to The Magic School Bus Rides Again.[16] Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the theme song.[17] On September 29, 2017 the series premiered on Netflix.[18]


On June 25, 2020, a film adaptation was announced and Elizabeth Banks is cast to play Ms. Frizzle.[19]


  1. ^ Moody, Annemarie (March 7, 2009). "Word Knowledge is Power for WordGirl". Animation World Magazine. Animation World Network. Archived from the original on March 9, 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Clarke, Melanie M. (June 20, 2005). "A Scholastic Achievement". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Publishing Co./Reed Publishing (USA) Inc. 135 (25): 30.
  3. ^ Little Richard at IMDb
  4. ^ Green, Michelle Y. (July 28, 1997). "Scholastic Productions banks on Best-Sellers". Broadcasting & Cable. Cahners Publishing Co./Reed Publishing (USA) Inc. 127 (31): 48.
  5. ^ Dinoff, Dustin (November 7, 2005). "Deals for Toons, Docs at MIPCOM". (accessed through ProQuest. Playback: Canada's Broadcast and Production Journal. ProQuest 399041793.
  6. ^ Jacobs, Larry; Bastien, Charles E. (July 31, 2012), The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series, New Video Group, archived from the original on January 28, 2013, retrieved July 10, 2016
  7. ^ "Netflix Announces Top Rated, Award Winning Scholastic Television Shows now Available as Kids Go Back to School | Scholastic Media Room". Archived from the original on September 29, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  8. ^ Fry, Jason (December 10, 2007). "Real Time: From PET to Net; A Kid's TV Show Leaves Your Columnist Pondering a Generation of Immense Change; Online edition". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  9. ^ "Biography: Lily Tomlin". American Theater Wing. May 2007. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2009.
  10. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (June 10, 2014). "Netflix Orders New Children's Show Based on 'Magic School Bus". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 25, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "Scholastic is Bringing The Magic School Bus 360 degrees to Netflix". Coming Soon. June 11, 2014. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  12. ^ "Kidscreen » Archive » 9 Story boards Netflix's Magic School Bus reboot". Kidscreen. February 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Koch, Dave (June 18, 2014). "Three New Animated Series, Reboots All". Big Cartoon News. Archived from the original on June 20, 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  14. ^ "The Magic School Bus 360 delayed to 2017". Coming Soon'. December 3, 2016. Archived from the original on December 6, 2016. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  15. ^ Gael Fashingbauer Cooper (January 4, 2017). "Celebrity cameos, familiar voices to ride 'Magic School Bus' reboot". CNET. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Serrao, Nivea (February 9, 2017). "Kate McKinnon to voice Ms. Frizzle in Netflix's 'Magic School Bus' revival". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 30, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  17. ^ Stanhope, Kate (September 5, 2017). "Lin-Manuel Miranda Updates 'Magic School Bus' Theme Song for Netflix Reboot". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  18. ^ "New to Netflix in September: 'Pulp Fiction', 'Jerry Before Seinfeld' and More". August 23, 2017. Archived from the original on August 23, 2017. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  19. ^ McNary, Dave (June 25, 2020). "Elizabeth Banks to Play Ms. Frizzle in 'Magic School Bus' Live-Action Movie". Variety.

External links[edit]