Like the books it's based on, the show features the exploits of Ms. Frizzle and her class of eight children (in the books, there are nineteen) who board a magic school bus which takes them on field trips to the solar system, inside the Earth, and inside the human body, or to other such impossible locations.
Because the books present scientific facts in the form of stories in which fantastic things happen (for example, a bus turns into a spaceship, or children shrink to the size of blood cells), each has a page at the end detailing in a humorous manner which parts of it represented scientific fact and which were fanciful storytelling. In the show, this was replaced by the Producer Says segment at the end of each episode, in which the producer (voiced by Malcolm-Jamal Warner) receives phone calls from kids complaining about how some things that happened on the show couldn't happen in real life.
Production and Airing
On September 10, 1994, The Magic School Bus concept was made into an animated television series of the same name by Ellipse (France), Nelvana (Canada), and Scholastic Studios (USA-Canada). Executive producer Forte says that adapting the books into an animated series was an opportunity to help kids “learn about science in a fun way". Each episode ran for 30 minutes. In the United States, it originally aired on PBS, through South Carolina's SCETV network; it was the first fully animated series to be done so. On December 28, 1997, the series ended due to PBS demanding more shows aimed towards younger children.
Fox Kids acquired the rights to the show from PBS on October 10, 1998 and it ran on there until January 5, 2002.
The show was also seen on TLC and Discovery Kids from 2003-2008. The Qubo Channel picked the the show up in 2010. According to the website, it no longer airs on the channel or any Qubo block.
When the show is syndicated on commercial networks, the Producer Says segment is cut out to make space for commercials. It is only seen when the series is shown on non-commercial networks (eg. Fox Kids and the Knowledge) and children's networks (commercial breaks are shorter).
In 2013, the series started streaming on Netflix and has been streaming ever since.
The show's theme song was performed by Little Richard.
The show was released on VHS by KidVision Video between 1994 and 1999 and by Warner Brothers between 2000 and 2009. In 2012, New Video picked up rights to distribute DVDs, including a Complete Series Set. In the home video and DVD releases, all the episodes are uncut with the Producer Says segments intact.
- Lily Tomlin as Ms. Frizzle
- Max Beckford (season 1) and Andre Ottley-Lorant (seasons 2-4) as Tim
- Amos Crawley (season 1) and Danny Tamberelli (seasons 2-4) as Arnold Perlstein
- Daniel DeSanto as Carlos Ramon
- Maia Filar as Phoebe Terese
- Erica Luttrell as Keesha Franklin
- Tara Meyer as Dorothy Ann
- Stuart Stone as Ralphie Tennelli
- Lisa Yamanaka as Wanda Li
- Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Susan Blu as the Producers
Recurring and One-Time Characters
- Renessa Blitz as Janet
- Robby Benson as Archibald Seedplot
- Carol Channing as Professor Cornelia C. Contralto II
- Rosalind Chao as Mrs. Li
- Tyne Daly as Dr. Tennelli
- Dana Elcar as Mr. Terese
- Elliott Gould as Mr. Perlstein
- Wynonna Judd as Molly Cule
- Eartha Kitt as Mrs. Franklin
- Dan Marino as Garth Sinew
- Rita Moreno as Carmina Skeledon
- Edward James Olmos as Mr. Ramon
- Dolly Parton as Murph
- Tony Randall as Radius Ulna "R.U." Humerus
- Paul Winfield as Mr. Ruhle
- Kevin Zegers as Mikey Ramon
- Sherman Hemsley as Mr. Junkett
- Michael York as Harry Herp
- Ed Asner as General Araneus
- Ed Begley Jr. as Larry
- Dom DeLuise as the Baker
- Swoosie Kurtz as Dorothy Ann's mother
- Cindy Williams as Gerri Poveri
- Alex Trebek as the Announcer
- Matt Frewer as Inspector 47
- Jessica Walter as Ashley Walker Club-Dupree
- Dabney Coleman as Horace Scope
- Bebe Neuwirth as Flora Whiff
- Malcolm McDowell as Mr. McClean
- Executive Producers: Jane Startz, Kristin Laskas Martin, Alison Blank, Deborah Forte, Robin Grey, Marty Keitz
- For Nelvana Ltd: Patrick Loubert, Clive A. Smith, Michael Hirsch
- Directed by: Charles E. Bastien, Lawrence Jacobs
- Produced by: Hasmi Giakoumis
- Supervising Producers: Stephen Hodgins, Kristin Laskas Martin
- Coordinating Producers: Patricia R. Burns, Karen Stevens
- Associate Producer: Steve Schmer
- Assistant Producers: Steve Schmer, John Van Bruggen
- Production Designer: Andrew Hickson
- Production Manager: Ruta Cube
- Production Supervisor: Steve Chadwick
- Production Assistants: Mia Katoh, Stephanie Kravos, Carmina Marcial, Caroline Simmons
- Unit Manager: Tyler Baylis
- Unit Director: Colen Sylvester
- Executives in Charge of Production: Marty Keitz, Deborah Forte
- Coordinators: Patty Beausoial (design), Asha Damiera (production), Rick Dubiel (pre-production), Bryan Biell (science content), Aidan Closs (layout), Norman Kagan (science research), Erika Strobel (script), Laurie Towals (storyboard)
- Assistant Directors: Jocelyn Hamilton, Paul Bouchard, Scott Glynn
- Casting Director: Jessie Thomson
- Voice Direction: Susan Blu
- Storyboard Artists: Alan Bunce, Gerry Chappelle, Jim Caswell, John Flagg, Alex Gatsis, Andrea Robbins, Bob Smith, Andrew Tan
- Storyboard Consultant: Yvette Kaplan
- Illustrations: Bruce Degan
- Layout Artists: Blayne Burnside, Ted Collyer, Suzanne Dargie, Michael Daze, Stefanie Gignac, Brad Graham, Chad Hicks, John Hill, Kevin Klis, John Lei, Jeff Lyons, Mary Lyons, Brad Markewitz, Chris Minz, Mike Nichols, Brian Poeniman, Frank Ramierz, Terry Rotsaert, Rob Sadler, Fred M. Walmot, Alfee Yepp
- Layout Supervisor:
- Design Supervisor: Andrew Hickson
- Designers: Scott Bennett, David Boudreau, Ross Campbell, Trevor Davies, Steve Daye, Kevin Fraser, Brad Goodchild, Joe Gosselin, Niall Johnston, Richard Livingston, Stephen Wood, Steve Manning, Leif Norheim, Derek Prout, Richard Weston
- Key Animators: Shane Doyle, Bill Giggle, Dennis Gonzalez, Lynn Reist, Eva Smith, Gerry Fournier, Paul Riley, Alan Knappett, Jan Tillcock
- Background Artist: Michael Hitchcox
- Lip Sync: Steve Fifth
- Timing Directors: Dave Cox,
- Color Stylists: Rebecca Barclay, Jennifer Lee, Nasrim Monem
- Paint Supervisor: Mary Bertoia
- Dialogue Editors: Steve Shelski, Keith Traver
- Science Content Coordinators: Bryan Bleil, Norman Kagan
- Science Content Director: Michael Templeton
- Associate Content Director: Frances Nankin
- Voice Recording: Mark DeSimone
- Sound Designers: Dow McKeever, Marsha Moore
- Supervising Sound Editors: Steven Cole, Mac Holyoke
- Re-Recording Mixers: Andy Koyama, Brad Zoern
- Music by: Peter Lurye
- Theme Song (On the Magic School Bus): written by Peter Lurye, sung by Little Richard
- Assistant Editors: David Axelrad
- Picture Editors: Richard Bond, Karen Saunders
- Assistant Picture Editor: Stephanie Duncan
- National Advisory Board: Joel Bloom, Dr. Susan Carey, Dr. Milton Chen, Edward Chittenden, Richard Clark, Dr. Hubert Dyasi, Dr. Jane Butler Kanie, Stephen Schneider, Robert J. Semper, Bonnie Smith, Dorothy Strickland, Ellen Ann Wartella
- Special Thanks to: Andrew diSessa, Paul Horwitz, Sandra Jenoure
- National Science Foundation (1994-1997)
- Microsoft (1994-1996) (Microsoft Home in Seasons 1 and 2; Microsoft in Season 3)
- United States Department of Energy (1994-1997)
- Carnegie Corporation of New York (1994-1997)
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting (1995-1997)
- "Viewers Like You" (1995-1997)
- Daniel DeSanto, Danny Tamberelli and Amos Crawley have starred in their own shows on Nickelodeon at the time they did The Magic School Bus together. DeSanto starred as Tucker in Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Tamberelli starred as Little Pete in The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Crawley starred as Owl in Little Bear. Maia Filar even made an appearance in one episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
- The downsizing of Ms. Frizzle's class when compared to the books is likely to reduce time constraints and to give every student an opportunity for starring roles per episode.
- In the TV series here, the bus is Ms. Frizzle's only vehicle she owns and operates and she even has it at home as seen in "Gets Charged". In some books, Ms. Frizzle was revealed to drive other vehicles as seen in The Magic School Bus Explores the Senses which was published later in 1999 two years after the show ended.
- The only characters' homes that are revealed and visited are Ms. Frizzle's, Ralphie's, Dorothy Ann's and Wanda's. Arnold's and Carlos' homes are revealed, but never visited.