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Shows and Tells Makes a Rainbow Goes Upstream

"Ding, ding, ding!"
Arnold stalling Mr. Ruhle

Makes a Rainbow is the seventh episode of the third season of The Magic School Bus. It is about rainbows and color.


Ralphie wonders why rainbows are always red on the outside and violet on the inside. Dorothy Ann claims the reason is because of it being the prettiest combination, but Arnold answers Ralphie's question correctly, 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. He also explains that his knowledge of rainbows comes from both rocks and color being his two favorite things. Carlos creates his rainbow out of flashlights and colored candy wrappers saying it will be the best, but Dorothy Ann scoffs at the idea as she does not believe colors and light to be related. Carlos demonstrates by shining the red flashlight on Dorothy Ann's rainbow painting, which he says improves it, Dorothy Ann then protests that a rainbow should look exactly like in the picture in her research book. Carlos begins to make fun of her book, criticizing its purple cover, to which she retorts that the term is 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. She claims that she is trying to make a rainbow, but then fails. She has managed to activate all the colors except for the blue, the blue light bounces off the blue whale (one of the colored items), but then the blue light hit the wall and disappears

Devastated, Ms. Frizzle despairs that she will 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 explains that instead of steel balls, this one plays with light pulses in order to make a rainbow and that if she makes a rainbow, they can keep the machine.

The class quickly volunteer to assist but Dorothy Ann and Carlos still disagree on whether color or light is more important. 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 dismay.

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 pinball machine has six light pulses and several plexiglass color items (a tomato, orange, banana, shamrock, whale, grapes, etc.) that colored lights can bounce to and from to get the light into the eyes to create the rainbow. When Ms. Frizzle sends the first plulse, 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 and 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. Suddenly, Arnold discovers that the principal, Mr. Rhule, has made his way inside the classroom and Ms. Frizzle has Arnold distract him while she tends to the game.

The class takes its first chance, successfully getting the red light through the red eye using a red tomato and a mirror. Arnold suggests to Mr. Ruhle that Ms. Frizzle is in the library and manages to lead him out of the classroom. 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 appears and bounces 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 the effect happens when the color green is seen. The class now has only three chances, Phoebe suggests using both orange and blue in the next round. The class agrees to this and attempt to use Carlos' sweatshirt for the blue light to bounce off of. 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 reminds Carlos that there needs to be something blue to bounce the blue light.

In the library, Arnold is still trying to keep Mr. Ruhle occupied. 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 chances as well before they fail the game. Dorothy Ann decides to use both blue and yellow at the same time. The yellow and the blue light successfully enter the eyes of their colors and the class only has one chance left to make the rainbow, which is with the last color; violet. If violet hits yellow, the violet light disappears, but Dorothy Ann uses her book to bounce it off and it goes into the violet eye. Finally, the rainbow is completed and the class boards the Bus to exit the machine, only to find that they are trapped inside it.

Ms. Frizzle exits the closet just as Mr. Ruhle and Arnold return to her classroom and she then makes Arnold take over the game. Arnold finds the class stuck in the machine and gives an idea to turn the bus into light, but flying through the prism suddenly transforms it into six bands of light, which become six buses and six of each of the children, each one a color of the rainbow. When Dorothy Ann remembers that the prism splits white light into different colors, she surmises that the class would return to normal if they went through it in reverse. Arnold flips the buses back to the prism and they escape out of the machine. Moments later, the students return, and recollect their discovery 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. Mr. Ruhle is disappointed, but she lets him play it all he wants.


  • 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]].
    • 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, "Okay Ms. Frizzle, fire away!", the blue light is pink.
  • When Ms. Frizzle says, "Last light in sight, it's rainbow time!", the machine looks as if the violet light already went into the violet eye.
  • 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".
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