The Magic School Bus recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and in September, Scholastic Media re-released the complete Emmy Award winning TV series. That’s a total of 52 Episodes spanning around 22 hours. The slick looking and collectible eight-DVD set is of course yellow but is also adorned with a 3D lenticular sticker of the bus, kids and the Lily Tomlin voiced Mrs. Frizzle over the front cover. An activity booklet that includes a parent’s guide is also slipped inside the eight case slim line box set.
Though a little too recent to be one of this author’s cherished childhood memories, the mid-nineties PBS television series, The Magic School Bus certainly has its charms. Adapted from the series of children’s books by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, the show covered a wide variety of scientific topics, from the human body to outer space. Because the show is nearly 20 years old now, a few recent discoveries have outdated small portions of a couple of the shows. Pluto’s downgrade from a planet is probably the most notable change that viewers will observe.
Geared towards an audience of three to nine or ten year-olds, The Magic School Bus isn’t nearly as unwatchable for adults as much of the current preschool programming is. Considering the age of the series, it’s more likely for parents to feel a bit of nostalgia when watching with the kids. Any fans of ’80s and n ’90s cartoons will instantly appreciate the period animation style. Though it’s more educational than the Smurfs, the Hanna-Barbera styled treatment goes a long way to making the series more enjoyable for kids.
The fantastical stories focus on Ms. Frizzle, an eccentric elementary-school teacher who dresses according to the episode’s theme and her class. As many cartoons from the period, she has animal companion, in this case the class lizard Liz. Of course the name of the show is The Magic School Bus and it is magical. The bus can transform into rocket, submarine or whatever the particular episode requires.
Her classroom, full of characters, barely know where their seats are thanks to the daily field trips on the shape-shifting, time-traveling magic school bus.
The Magic School Bus class often goes on adventures in space and within the human body but also travel to a pickle jar, the desert, and an anthill. They travel back in time to various eras including the Cretaceous Period. How else can you learn about dinosaurs? The episodes expose the viewers to a wide variety of topics and scientific theories. Though it never gets too technical and the computer science portions are terribly outdated, there is plenty for young viewers to learn.
The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series is a sharp looking set and made even more enticing with the lenticular 3D cover. Parents should have no problem substituting SpongeBob SquarePants for some learning time with the Magic School Bus. Parents may laugh at the dated presentation but probably won’t want to stab their extensive out if they’re in the room while the show is on. Unlike Barney, Caillou, or even Sesame Street, The Magic School Bus episodes have entertaining stories to accompany the learning, at a higher level than the alphabet or courtesies like sharing.