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Shows and Tells Makes a Rainbow Goes Upstream

"Ding, ding, ding!"

The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow is an episode of the third season of Scholastic's The Magic School Bus.


Ralphie wonders why rainbows are always red on the outside and violet on the inside. Dorothy Ann comments that it's the prettiest combination: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Arnold answers Ralphie's question saying that the colors come out according to the length of the light waves with red being the longest color and violet the shortest color.

Arnold baffles the class, and Wanda asks since when did he know so much about color. He tells her that rocks and color are his two favorite things. Carlos creates his rainbow out of flashlights and colored candy wrappers claiming it to soon to be everyone's favorite thing while Dorothy Ann scoffs at the idea of Carlos making a rainbow out of light when he needs color.

Carlos then completes his rainbow but the red light makes it appear that he's ruined Dorothy Ann's rainbow. When she demands to know what he did, he says it looks better this way. She insists that how it was before was correct and pulls out a violet research book to prove him wrong. He laughs at it, saying it's purple while she retorts that it's violet. Their quarreling is quickly stifled by strange noises coming from Ms. Frizzle's closet. They go inside to find her playing a colorful pinball machine. Dorothy Ann remarks that it looks like she's making a rainbow too while she says she's trying to but quickly fails. Ms. Frizzle had gotten all the colors into the rainbow, except for the blue. For the blue, the blue light bounced off the blue whale (one of the colored items), but hit the sides of the pinball. And the blue light disappeared. Then the game was over.

Devastated, Ms. Frizzle despairs that she'll never make the rainbow. Ralphie observes that he's never see a pinball machine like this one to which she perks up and says she built it herself with Liz's glowing guidance of course. She tells the class that instead of steel balls one plays with white light and tries to make a rainbow. Keesha quickly remarks that rainbows are all different colors and asks how one would make a rainbow out of white light.

Ms. Frizzle tells her that that's an excellent question and that if she makes a rainbow they keep the machine but if they lose it'll be taken away. The class quickly volunteer to assist but Dorothy Ann remarks that Carlos would be useless as he knows nothing about color but he says that they play with light pulses. Ms. Frizzle breaks up their argument and sends Liz and everyone except Arnold into the bus. Liz then shrinks it and they fly into the classroom where Ms. Frizzle tells Dorothy Ann and Carlos that they're in charge, much to Dorothy Ann's disagreement.

The bus then shoots into the machine by turning into white light. Ms. Frizzle then explains the mechanic of the game to the class. The class has six light pulses (and six colored items in the pinball machine where the colored lights can bounce off of; a red tomato, an orange, a yellow banana, a green shamrock, a blue whale, and a bunch of purple grapes) to get the light into the eyes to create the rainbow. But they only have six lives (six chances) to make the rainbow. When Ms. Frizzle activates the machine, the colors bounces around and dissipate. When Keesha asks where all the colors came from, Ms. Frizzle shows the class a replay screen that shows the white light bounce off the mirror and go through the prism, thus making the colors come out. Carlos argues with Dorothy Ann and tells her that it was colored light that came out of the prism. Ms. Frizzle also adds that the class could get the same colored light when they get it in the same colored eye. Arnold learns that the class needs to get the colored light bouncing off things until it hits the white colored eye and scores. So Carlos decides that the class should bounce the red light to the mirror to get it inside the red eye. As the class tries to complete the game, Arnold discovers that the principal, Mr. Rhule, has made his way inside the classroom.

Arnold distracts Mr. Ruhle and the class attempts to finish the game, successfully getting the red light through the red eye using a red tomato and a mirror. Arnold, meanwhile, tells Mr. Ruhle that Ms. Frizzle is in the library and he leaves the classroom to find her there. Back in the machine, the class then uses the orange light, only to have it disappear once it runs into a green shamrock, before the green light came out of nowhere and bounced off one of the mirrors to enter the green eye. Carlos attempts to get Dorothy Ann to acknowledge her supposed mistake and the class watch the replay as the orange light bounced off the mirror, hit the green shamrock, and disappeared. Dorothy Ann then surmises that when someone sees something green, it's because it is green light that enters their eyes. The class decides to sink two colors at once since they only have three more chances (lives) to make the rainbow of the game. Phoebe suggests orange and blue since they blend well together. The class agrees with this and uses Carlos' sweatshirt for the blue light to bounce off of it. They successfully get the orange inside the orange light, but Carlos, who was hesitant to have the blue light bounce off his sweatshirt, ducks away from the blue light as it comes towards him and it disappears into the yellow bus. Dorothy Ann then tells Carlos that there needs to be something blue to bounce the blue light.

Meanwhile, Arnold is still trying to keep Mr. Ruhle in the library. When Arnold tells him that he missed his snack, he decides to look for Ms. Frizzle in the cafeteria, Back in the machine, the class has three more colors to go, but only two light pulses as well before they fail the game. Dorothy Ann decides to use both blue and yellow at the same time, using the bus to bounce the yellow light off of, since it's yellow. The yellow and the blue light successfully enters the eyes of their colors and all they have is violet to go and the game is over. Ms. Frizzle activates the violet light. The violet light heads for the yellow bus. The class only has one life (one chance) left to make the rainbow. And that is the violet light. So if violet hits yellow, the violet light disappears. And then, it's game over. But Dorothy Ann uses her book to bounce it off and into the violet eye. Finally, the rainbow is completed. The class returns to the Bus to exit the machine, only to find that they are trapped inside it.

Mr. Ruhle, enters the classroom and Ms. Frizzle exits the closet just in time. Arnold enters the classroom and gives an idea for the class to turn the bus into light. but this only transforms it into six different ones of each color of the rainbow. When Dorothy Ann learns that the prism it bounced off of splits white light into different colors, she surmises that the class would be mixed together if they went backwards through it. Arnold flips the buses backwards to the prism and they escape out of the machine. The class returns and learns that all the colors are made by ordinary light and the prism is what disperses them, thus creating a rainbow. By the end, they learn that Ms. Frizzle and Mr. Ruhle had a bet over the machine, but since she lit up the colors, she gets to keep it. He is disappointed, but she lets him play it all he wants.

Dorothy Ann later apologizes to Carlos for doubting him about colors and light. He forgives her and removes the red candy wrapper from the flashlight that ruined her rainbow project that had a red light shining on it. The class later watches Mr. Ruhle playing the machine joyfully.


  • This is Mr. Ruhle's first appearance.
  • This is one of the few times in the series that Ms. Frizzle gets upset, in this case from losing the pinball game.
  • Arnold doesn't say "I knew I should have stayed home today," in this episode.
  • This is the second episode to focus on the three characters, Arnold, Carlos and Dorothy Ann.
  • This is the second episode where Carlos and Dorothy Ann have an argument, the first being "Blows Its Top".
  • Since Dorothy Ann and Carlos are bickering over the colors and names violet and purple, her theory is considered more factual since the colors red and blue actually make violet, while the color purple despite popular belief is actually violet tinged with red, whereas likewise violet is purple tinged with blue.
  • This is the only episode that hasn't been released on an NTSC DVD outside of a season set or The Complete Series.
    • However, it has been released on a PAL DVD, in a standalone set.
  • Ralphie calls Ms. Frizzle a "pinball wizard", a nod to the Elton John song of the same name.
  • One of the red surfaces in the pinball game is a maple leaf, the symbol on the Canadian flag, where this show is partially animated in.
  • In the Spanish dub (United States and Latin America), Ms. Frizzle is mentioned as green instead of all blue (probably due to racism).
  • This is the last episode that the class calls Ralphie!, either in anger or annoyance.
  • This reveals the students’ favorite colors.
    • Wanda's favorite color is red, it also implied in DA and the Deep Blue Sea and Ghost Farm
    • Arnold's favorite color is orange, it's also revealed in Goes Cellular and [[Ghost Farm (episode)]|Ghost Farm]]
    • Phoebe's favorite color is yellow.
    • Ralphie's favorite color is green.
    • Tim's favorite color is baby blue.
    • Carlos' favorite color is blue.
    • Keesha's favorite color is purple.
    • Dorothy Ann's favorite color is violet, it's also implied in The Tales Glaciers Tell.


  • When the class is looking at the machine and Ralphie is amazed, it skips to the scene where he says "Duck!"
  • When Carlos says, "Dorothy Ann! It's coming right at you!", the blue color in the rainbow is out.
  • This episode only lists the rainbow having only six colors, minus indigo. In reality, rainbows have seven colors, which includes indigo that sits between blue and violet.
    • This, however, was likely done intentionally, as the color differences between blue and indigo or indigo and violet are often seen as arbitrary. Studies of Isaac Newton's work on the color spectrum indicate that the color he referred to as "blue" should actually be referred to as "cyan", and the one he referred to as "indigo" is actually the one that should be referred to as "blue".
The Magic School Bus
The Magic School Bus Rides Again