Ride on the 'Magic School Bus'18 May, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff
The 1990s animated series gets a major home video release in time for the new school year
If you grew up during the 1990s, chances are you learned the basics of science from an enthusiastic, animated, alliteration-loving teacher named Ms. Frizzle.
With her trusty pet lizard, Liz, the instructor (voiced by actress Lily Tomlin) loaded up a magical, flying school bus and took her precocious Walkerville Elementary students on multiple field trips-turned-adventures, where they learned lessons on such topics as the solar system, food chains, habitats, weather, archaeology, recycling and more.
Now celebrating the 25th anniversary of the eponymous book series created by Joanna Cole, Scholastic Media has big plans in store to revive “The Magic School Bus” on home video.
“The remarkable thing about ‘The Magic School Bus’ is it’s timeless in a sense,” said Leslye Schaefer, SVP of marketing and consumer products for Scholastic Media. “The kids identify with Ms. Frizzle. She’s a little bit wacky and challenges kids to go out and get messy and make mistakes, take risks. … Today it’s even more relevant because kids are exposed to so much, and they’re encouraged to be independent and think freely.”
New Video July 31 — in time for back-to-school season — will release four single DVDs ($12.95 each), including the series’ bestselling “The Human Body,” “Super Star Power,” “Takes a Dive” and “Takes Flight”; and two three-DVD sets ($24.95 each), “Blast Off! From Sea to Space” and “Field Trip Fun and Games,” both with more than four hours of content.
The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series (eight-DVD set $79.95) also arrives July 31, and features all 52 episodes and a kids-and-parents guide filled with at-home activities and experiments, tips for viewing, science facts, background details about the show and more.
“A lot of the people in the retail landscape and our consumers are really interested in this brand, primarily because it’s engaging, it’s really aspirational and it’s a lot of fun,” said Jess McNeill, senior marketing manager with New Video. “The kids that grew up with it are now having kids of their own and have that nostalgia for it. That’s probably one of the reasons that it has stood the test of time.”
The show originally aired from 1994 to 1997 on PBS, making it the first fully animated series to air on the network. “The Magic School Bus” subsequently aired on Fox Family, TLC and Discovery Kids, and currently is in its 18th year as it appears on digital channel Qubo.
Throughout the years, “The Magic School Bus” has received many accolades, such as a Daytime Emmy, the 2010 Interactive Media “Best in Class” award and the Annenberg Award for Outstanding Educational Program. The cartoon also has the distinction of being the longest-running science TV series for children.
In many ways, “The Magic School Bus” was ahead of its time, Schaefer said, from featuring a racially diverse class of students to having a female science teacher at a time when girls were thought to be disinterested in the field of science.
“We wanted it to be relevant for young girls and have a good role model in Ms. Frizzle,” she said. “We accomplished our goal. The animation was a high-quality production and still holds up very well. … The lessons that are learned are very relevant.”
Above all, “The Magic School Bus” stressed that learning science actually can be fun, Schaefer said.
“You go into the human body,” she said. “You go into the solar system. You go into the ocean. It’s not just experiments. … When we were developing that series and we had a grant from the National Science Foundation, a lot of thought went into, ‘How can we make teaching science fun?’”
In commemorating the quarter-century mark for the franchise, Scholastic has produced The Magic School Bus: Dinosaurs app available on iTunes, a new LeapFrog game, The Magic School Bus: Oceans Nintendo DS video game, and a traveling live show that comes to schools and local theaters across the country. In addition, the company has redesigned its website, scholastic.com/magicschoolbus, with new games and activities.
Schaefer is coordinating national distribution and marketing plans with New Video, which anticipates that “Magic School Bus” DVDs will be sold at all major retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart.
The distributor will also use on-air spots, online advertising, local radio promotions, and social media and blog outreach to get the word out about the brand.
New Video has distributed a variety of Scholastic properties on DVD, most notably its “Scholastic Storybook Treasures” line, which contains the “Curious George” brand, the Mo Willems brand (“Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog,” “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus”) and the animated version of Where the Wild Things Are.