The Metric Marvels
The Metric Marvels is a 1978-1979 series of seven animated educational shorts featuring songs about meters, liters, Celsius, and grams, designed to teach American children how to use the metric system. They were produced by Newall & Yohe, the same advertising agency which produced ABC's Schoolhouse Rock! series, and first aired on the NBC television network in September 1978. The spots were shown three times each Saturday during the children's programming block for the 1978-79 season.
On December 23, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act into law; this act gave official sanction for the United States to convert to the metric system of measurement. At the time the United States mainly used the U.S. Customary system. Ford's presidential successor, Jimmy Carter, began to implement this law in earnest, helping to set up the U.S. Metric Board as a task force to determine when and how the U.S. would convert to metric. The USMB suggested that the transition ought to be voluntary and gradual, taking place over at least a ten-year period.
As part of this gradual transition, the USMB sponsored a number of public service announcements on radio and television. The Metric Marvels was one such television PSA, aired during NBC's Saturday morning cartoons. The shorts featured four animated metric superheroes: Meter Man, Liter Leader, Super Celsius and Wonder Gram. Each superhero performed songs designed to teach children the difference between the old English system and the new metric system.
- "Meet Meter Man" / Superhero Meter Man helps people convert length and distance to metric terms
- "Mara-Mara-Marathon" / The difference between miles and kilometers
- "I'm Your Liter Leader" / Superhero Liter Leader explains the difference between gallons and liters
- "Eeny, Meeny, Miney Milliliters" / Liter Leader uses recipes to explain milliliters
- "Super Celsius" / Superhero Super Celsius explains the Celsius temperature scale
- "Wonder Gram" / Superhero Wonder Gram expresses her weight in grams
- "Wonder Baby" / A young Wonder Gram converts pounds to kilograms
Although it shared the animation style, song quality and voice actors of the more popular Schoolhouse Rock! (possibly in an effort by incoming NBC president Fred Silverman to replicate the success of his former network ABC with that series), the series was pulled from the air after a single seven-episode season. Being shown on another network from Schoolhouse Rock!, and not having the benefit of airing within the context of that series in rotation, also hurt the series. Short-form animated clips such as these were typically ABC's specialty, and NBC did not air such programs other than The Metric Marvels. It also did not help that NBC was mired in third place at the time, something from which the network would not recover until after Silverman's departure in the early 1980s.
Ultimately, all U.S. efforts failed to convince Americans to fully abandon the U.S. customary system and go fully metric. Americans largely ignored governmental attempts to push them in the direction of metrication, and the federal and state governments did not forcibly impose metric for items within its jurisdiction (such as road signs, for example). After Carter's defeat in the 1980 elections and his replacement with Ronald Reagan, the USMB was eventually disbanded in 1982, and further metrication was abandoned.
- Woolery, George W. (1983). Children's Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981, Part 1: Animated Cartoon Series. Scarecrow Press. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-8108-1557-5. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
- Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 387. ISBN 978-1538103739.