The Magic School Bus

The Magic School Bus

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The Magic School Bus is a series of children’s books that follow the adventures of Ms. Valerie Frizzle, a teacher at Walkerville Elementary School, and her class, as they embark on field trips to seemingly impossible locations, such as the solar system, the atmosphere and the human body, onboard an anthropomorphic school bus. The book series was subsequently turned into an animated children’s science-educational TV series, which aired for four seasons on PBS from September 1994 to December 1997.


Ms Frizzle is an elementary school teacher with an enthusiasm for science. Each episode introduces a problem or question related to science which she explains by taking them on a field trip in her magic school bus. The bus allows them to shrink down small enough so they can enter and explore the human body, or it can become a rocket ship which allows them to explore space. The field trips are attended by Ms Frizzle’s pet lizard Liz, and her eight students: Arnold, Carlos, Dorothy Ann, Keesha, Phoebe, Ralphie, Tim and Wanda Li. Each student has a distinct personality and collection of catchphrases. For example, Arnold is often afraid of the field trips, and when a problem comes up he say, “I knew I should have stayed home today.” Carlos makes exasperating puns, Dorothy Ann constantly refers to her “research,” and Phoebe often references her old school. The show’s theme song was performed by Little Richard.


The Book Series

The original book series was written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen. The first title in the series, The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, was published by Scholastic on July 24, 1986. The book explains the water cycle by following Ms Frizzle and her class on a field trip which turns them all into drops of water which then go through all the stages of the water cycle. In addition to the original series (shown below), Cole and Degen worked on Frizzle’s Adventures, a three-part series focused on social studies, in 2001, as well as a number of other chapter books and a spin-off series centered around Ms. Frizzle’s pet lizard Liz.

The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks
The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth
The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body
The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System
The Magic School Bus On the Ocean Floor
The Magic School Bus In the Time of the Dinosaurs
The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane
The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive
The Magic School Bus And the Electric Field Trip
The Magic School Bus Explores the Senses
The Magic School Bus And the Science Fair Expedition
The Magic School Bus And the Climate Challenge

The TV Series

The Magic School Bus[1] premiered on September 10th, 1994. The show originally ran for four seasons, airing 52 episodes before concluding on December 6th, 1997. On June 10th, 2014, Netflix announced[2] it would be releasing a reboot of the show titled The Magic School Bus 360° sometime in 2016. The show is scheduled to run for at least 26 episodes and will utilize CGI animation.


During its run from 1994 to 1997, the show was praised by Broadcasting & Cable as “one of the highest-rated PBS shows for school-age children” and nominated for nine Daytime Emmy Awards, with Lilly Tomlin, the voice actor for Ms. Frizzle, winning the Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program in 1995. The Magic School Bus has a rating of 8 on IMDB.

Online Presence

As of June 2014, The Magic School Bus’ official Facebook page[3] has gained over 125,000 likes. All four seasons of the show are available to stream through Netflix.


In addition to the show’s branded online presence there are several fan sites for the show including the show’s FanPop[12] page. Fan run Tumblr blogs include fyeahmagicschoolbus[9], never-a-normal-fieldtrip[10] and askthemagicschoolbus.[11] As of June 2014, there are over 2,000 pieces of fan art tagged Magic School Bus on DeviantArt.[8]

Fans on Tumblr often create and share stills from the show with added text that mocks the character’s catch phrases or photos of damaged or otherwise altered school buses with text referencing the show.

Parody Videos

On February 23th, 2010, Funny or Die[4] uploaded a video (below, left) titled “A Very Special Magic School Bus,” which featured a clip of the show in which the children are in the human body edited so one of the students points out “the booty hole.” As of June 2014, the video gained over 6,000 views. On November 8th, 2012, YouTuber Moving Mind Studio[5] uploaded a video (below, right) titled “The Magic School Bus: The Movie Trailer (Fan-Made Parody),” which featured a fake parody for a live action Magic School Bus sequel. As of June 2014, the video gained over 1.8 million views.

On November 16th, 2012, YouTuber PSAsketch’s channel[7] uploaded a video (below, left) titled “Ms. Frizzle and Her Magic School Bus Face Budget Restrictions,” which depicted Ms. Frizzle fighting her fellow teachers for more budget money for her large scale field trips. As of June 2014, the video gained over 28,000 views. On June 24th, 2013, YouTuber CollegeHumor[6] uploaded a video (below, right) titled “The Magic Chinatown Bus,” which applied the structure of a Magic School Bus episode to a tour bus of angry tourists. As of June 2014, the video gained over 470,000 views.


Carlos is a fictional character from The Magic School Bus who is known for making pun jokes throughout the show. Online, screen captures of Carlos are often posted in association with word play humor.

Magic School Bus vs Captain Planet

On March 4th, 2012, Facebook user Jamie Steinheimer[13] posted a picture that featured a still of five characters from the children’s television show Captain Planet above a still of five characters from The Magic School Bus with corresponding hair and skin colors with the words “How did I not see this before,” written across it to suggest the characters from The Magic School Bus grow up to be the characters in Captain Planet. As of June 2014, the photo was shared over 27,000 times.

The image and theory was covered by several websites including io9[14] and The Mary Sue.[15] The Mary Sue attempts to explain how the theory could happen, guessing:

“Gaia pulled a Jacob (see: LOST), kidnapping a bunch of children and relocating them to an island where she brainwashed them into thinking they were in “school” and she was their teacher, Miss Frizzle. In reality this was an indoctrination camp where she created the perfect pollution fighters by instilling a love of science and ecology into them at a young age.

Not all the kids made the cut. Phoebe resisted the brainwashing, unable to forget her previous life and constantly making references to her “old school.” It was a pathetic cry for help, and an attempt to hold onto her lest shred of sanity. Ralphie fell under Janet’s spell and the two escaped the island, only to be driven mad by their memories. Eventually, they turned to a life of crime becoming Hoggish Greedly and Dr. Blight respectively. The mysterious time-dialating effects of Gaia’s island accounts for their discrepancies in age. Keesha’s current whereabouts are unknown.

When her “class” had matured sufficiently, Frizzle/Gaia wiped their memories and sent them out as an eco-friendly sleeper cell until she had need of them. Years later, she gave them the power rings, and sent them off on an ecologically toyetic series of adventures.

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