Schoolhouse Rock! (TV Series 1973–2009)

TVSeries


Schoolhouse Rock! (TV Series 1973–2009)

This title is the overall name for a series of animated educational shorts that present songs illustrating various subjects for rote memory. These include multiplication tables, history, science and grammar concepts.
USA
IMDb   8.1 /10
TheMovieDb    7.8 /10
RottenTomatoes
TV.com  7.6 /10
FilmAffinity  
Creators
Creator Tom Warburton
Creator Lynn Ahrens
Creator Sean Altman
Information
Release Date1973-01-06
Runtime3mins
GenreAnimation, Short, Family, Musical
Content RatingTV-Y (TV-Y)
Awards4 wins & 4 nominations.
CompanyAmerican Broadcasting Company (ABC), Scholastic Rock
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish
Vocals / ... 25 episodes, 1973-2009
Vocals / ... 16 episodes, 1973-2009

Schoolhouse Rock!

Schoolhouse Rock! is an American interstitial programming series of animated musical educational short films (and later, videos) that aired during the Saturday morning children's programming block on the U.S. television network ABC. The themes covered included grammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and civics. The series' original run lasted from 1973 to 1984; it was later revived with both old and new episodes airing from 1993 to 1996. Additional episodes were produced in 2009 for direct-to-video release.


History

Development

The series was the idea of David McCall, an advertising executive of McCaffrey and McCall, who noticed his young son was struggling with learning multiplication tables, despite being able to memorize the lyrics of many Rolling Stones songs. McCall hired musician Bob Dorough to write a song that would teach multiplication, which became "Three Is a Magic Number." Tom Yohe, an illustrator at McCaffrey and McCall, heard the song and created visuals to go accompany it. Radford Stone, who was in charge of ABC, suggested they pitch it as a television series, which caught the attention of Michael Eisner, then vice president of ABC, and cartoon director Chuck Jones.

Original series

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The pilot episode of the series, "Three Is a Magic Number," originally debuted during the debut episode of Curiosity Shop on September 2, 1971.

Schoolhouse Rock! debuted as a series in January 1973 with Multiplication Rock, a collection of animated shorts adapting the multiplication tables to songs written by Bob Dorough. Dorough also performed most of the songs, with Grady Tate and Blossom Dearie each performing one during this season. General Foods was the series' first sponsor; later sponsors of the Schoolhouse Rock! segments also included Nabisco, Kenner Toys, Kellogg's, and McDonald's. During the early 1970s, Schoolhouse Rock was one of several short-form animated educational shorts that aired on ABC's children's lineup; others included Time for Timer and The Bod Squad. Of the three, Schoolhouse Rock was the longest-running.

George Newall and Tom Yohe were the executive producers and creative directors of every episode, along with Bob Dorough as musical director. This first season was followed in short order by a second season, run from 1973 to 1975, entitled Grammar Rock, which included nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech (such as conjunctions, explained in "Conjunction Junction"). For this second season, the show added the services of Jack Sheldon, a member of The Merv Griffin Show house band, as well as Lynn Ahrens; both of them contributed to the series through the rest of its run. Blossom Dearie returned for a second episode, and Essra Mohawk joined the cast as a recurring singer.

To coincide with the upcoming United States bicentennial, a third season, America Rock, airing in 1975 and 1976, had episodes covering the structure of the United States government (such as "I'm Just a Bill") along with important moments in American history (examples include "The Preamble" and "Mother Necessity").

A fourth series, titled "Science Rock," followed in 1978 and 1979, and included a broad range of science-related topics. The premiere episode of this season, "A Victim of Gravity," parodied elements of the hit film Grease and featured a rare guest appearance from a pop band, with recently reunited doo-wop group The Tokens providing the vocals. In addition to episodes describing the human body's anatomical systems (the nervous, circulatory, skeletal and digestive systems each received an episode), episodes describing physical sciences such as astronomy, meteorology and electricity were also included, as was "The Energy Blues," an environmentalism-themed short.

A fifth follow-up series, titled "Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips," featuring the titular characters (the only episodes in the series to feature any recurring characters), premiered in the early 1980s and comprised just four segments about home computer technology, then just emerging onto the scene. As the references and depictions became quickly outdated, due to the rapid advance of technology, these segments stopped airing along with the rest of the series after 1985 and were not released on home video until the 30th anniversary DVD in 2002.

1990s

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After leaving the airwaves in 1985, the original team reunited to produce two more Grammar Rock segments ("Busy Prepositions" and "The Tale of Mr. Morton") for television in 1993 with J. J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc. of White Plains, New York. This was followed in 1995 by a new series, "Money Rock," which discussed themes related to money management on both the personal and governmental scale. The first cartoon (also a J. J. Sedelmaier Production, Inc. production) was "Dollars & Sense." Episodes from the new series aired in rotation with the original segments from 1993 to 1996.

The Walt Disney Company acquired Schoolhouse Rock in 1996 along with its acquisition of ABC owner Capital Cities/ABC Inc.; Schoolhouse Rock was one of only two children's shows (The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show being the other) to continue airing (albeit in reruns) after the transition to One Saturday Morning. The series as a whole (after 27 years, shortly before the show's 30th anniversary) ceased airing on television in 2000, with newer episodes being released directly to home video. However, reruns occasionally aired on Toon Disney's Big Movie Show block in 2004, but were soon removed from the schedule.

21st century

Starting in 2002, the team once again reunited to produce a new song "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College," written by George Newall and performed by Bob Dorough and Jack Sheldon for the 30th Anniversary VHS and DVD releases. For the new song, Tom Yohe Jr. took over as lead designer for his father, Tom Yohe Sr., who had died in 2000. Another contemporary song, called "Presidential Minute," also written by George Newall which explained the process of electing the President of the United States in greater detail, was included on the 2008 DVD Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection, which centered on songs relating to American history and government.

As the theory of climate change was put forth, a new series entitled "Schoolhouse Rock Earth" was created by the original production team, premiered in 2009, and featured 11 environmentally-themed songs.

On January 6, 2013, George Newall and Bob Dorough appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as part of their ongoing series of free concerts on the Millennium Stage. It was deemed the largest attendance to date of the venue. Dorough played five songs, accompanying himself on the piano: "Three Is a Magic Number," "Figure Eight," "Conjunction Junction," "Preamble," and "I'm Just a Bill." (Dorough had only performed lead vocals on the original version of "Three Is a Magic Number.") He also performed "Interjections!" accompanied by DC-area kids' band Rocknoceros. Rocknoceros also performed "Electricity, Electricity," "Unpack Your Adjectives," "Energy Blues," and "Fireworks."

On March 20, 2019, it was announced that Schoolhouse Rock!: The Box Set (1996) was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in its 2018 class.


Episodes

Multiplication Rock

Episode titleSubjectMusic byLyrics byPerformed byAnimation & designFirst aired
My Hero, ZeroPowers of 10Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughFocus Design/Tom YoheJanuary 13, 1973
Elementary, My DearMultiplication by 2Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughPhil Kimmelman & Associates/Jack SidebothamJanuary 27, 1973
Three Is a Magic NumberMultiplication by 3Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughFocus Design/Tom YoheJanuary 6, 1973
The Four-Legged ZooMultiplication by 4Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob Dorough with kids chorusPhil Kimmelman & Associates/Bob EggersFebruary 10, 1973
Ready or Not, Here I ComeMultiplication by 5Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughPhil Kimmelman & Associates/Tom YoheFebruary 17, 1973
I Got SixMultiplication by 6Bob DoroughBob DoroughGrady TatePhil Kimmelman & Associates/Tom YoheFebruary 24, 1973
Lucky Seven SampsonMultiplication by 7Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughPhil Kimmelman & Associates/Rowland B. WilsonFebruary 17, 1973
Figure EightMultiplication by 8Bob DoroughBob DoroughBlossom DeariePhil Kimmelman & Associates/Tom YoheFebruary 24, 1973
Naughty Number NineMultiplication by 9Bob DoroughBob DoroughGrady TatePhil Kimmelman & Associates/Tom YoheMarch 17, 1973
The Good ElevenMultiplication by 11Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughFocus Design/Jack SidebothamMarch 24, 1973
Little TwelvetoesMultiplication by 12, base 12Bob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughPhil Kimmelman & Associates/Rowland B. WilsonMarch 31, 1973

No shows were produced featuring the number 1 explicitly, though "Elementary, My Dear" do include this number. "My Hero, Zero" introduced the subject of how to use zero for multiplying by 10, 100 and 1,000. "Little Twelvetoes" introduced the subject of how math arranged on base 12 rather than on base 10 would work, as well as covering multiplication by 12.

In 1973, Capitol Records released a soundtrack album of Multiplication Rock (SJA-11174), featuring all 11 songs. Two tracks, "My Hero, Zero" and "Three Is a Magic Number" had been edited for TV to keep each video within three minutes. This LP features both songs in their full, uncut forms. Also, the album version of "The Four-Legged Zoo" has an ending slightly different from the television version. Released with the album was a single (Capitol 3693) with the two Grady Tate–sung tracks ("Naughty Number Nine" b/w "I Got Six"). This album was re-released on red/blue-colored vinyl on Record Store Day 2019.

Grammar Rock

Episode titleSubjectMusic byLyrics byPerformed byFirst aired
A Noun is a Person, Place, or ThingnounLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn AhrensSeptember 15, 1973
Verb: That's What's HappeningverbBob DoroughBob DoroughZachary SandersSeptember 22, 1973
Conjunction JunctionconjunctionBob DoroughBob DoroughJack Sheldon, Terry Morel and Mary Sue BerryNovember 17, 1973
Interjections!interjectionLynn AhrensLynn AhrensEssra MohawkFebruary 23, 1974
Unpack Your AdjectivesadjectiveGeorge R. NewallGeorge R. NewallBlossom Dearie feat. Bob DoroughMarch 2, 1974
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs HereadverbBob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughApril 13, 1974
Rufus Xavier SarsaparillapronounBob DoroughKathy MandaryJack SheldonApril 27, 1976
Busy PrepositionsprepositionBob DoroughBob DoroughJack Sheldon and Bob DoroughSeptember 11, 1993
The Tale of Mr. Mortonsubject and predicateLynn AhrensLynn AhrensJack SheldonSeptember 11, 1993

This segment introduces Jack Sheldon and Lynn Ahrens as series regulars. "Conjunction Junction" and "A Noun Is A Person, Place, Or Thing" were Sheldon and Ahrens' debuts on Schoolhouse Rock! respectively.

"Busy Prepositions" (a.k.a. "Busy P's") and "The Tale of Mr. Morton" were produced for Schoolhouse Rock!'s return to ABC in 1993 with J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, Inc. producing the animation.

America Rock

Episode titleSubjectMusic byLyrics byPerformed byFirst aired
No More KingsAmerican IndependenceLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn Ahrens & Bob DoroughSeptember 20, 1975
The Shot Heard Round the WorldAmerican Revolutionary WarBob DoroughBob DoroughBob DoroughOctober 18, 1975
The PreambleUnited States ConstitutionLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn AhrensNovember 1, 1975
Sufferin' 'til SuffrageWomen's suffrageBob DoroughTom YoheEssra MohawkFebruary 21, 1976
I'm Just a BillLegislative processDave FrishbergDave FrishbergJack SheldonMarch 27, 1976
The Great American Melting PotImmigration in AmericaLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLori LiebermanMay 1, 1976
Elbow RoomTerritorial evolution of the United StatesLynn AhrensLynn AhrensSue ManchesterMay 22, 1976
FireworksDeclaration of IndependenceLynn AhrensLynn AhrensGrady TateJuly 3, 1976
Mother NecessityInventionBob DoroughBob DoroughBob Dorough, Blossom Dearie, Essra Mohawk, and Jack SheldonJuly 10, 1976
Three Ring GovernmentBranches of governmentLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn AhrensMarch 13, 1979
I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to CollegeElectoral CollegeGeorge R. Newall and Bob DoroughGeorge R. Newall and Bob DoroughJack Sheldon and Bob DoroughAugust 27, 2002
Presidential Minute (The Campaign Trail)Voting for the PresidentGeorge R. NewallGeorge R. Newall and Tom Yohe Jr.Jack SheldonAugust 27, 2002

"I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" and "Presidential Minute" were produced for DVD.

Science Rock

Episode titleSubjectMusic byLyrics byPerformed byFirst aired
Victim of GravityGravityLynn AhrensLynn AhrensThe TokensSeptember 16, 1978
Interplanet JanetThe solar systemLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn AhrensNovember 18, 1978
The Body MachineNutrition and digestionLynn AhrensLynn AhrensBob Dorough and Jack SheldonJanuary 6, 1979
Do the CirculationCirculatory systemLynn AhrensLynn AhrensJoshie Armstead, Mary Sue Berry, and Maeretha StewartMarch 10, 1979
The Energy BluesEnergy conservationGeorge NewallGeorge NewallJack SheldonMarch 27, 1979
Them Not-So-Dry BonesSkeletal systemGeorge NewallGeorge NewallJack SheldonMay 5, 1979
Electricity, ElectricityElectricityBob DoroughBob DoroughZachary SandersMay 19, 1979
Telegraph LineNervous systemLynn AhrensLynn AhrensJamie Aff and Christine LangnerJune 30, 1979
The Greatest Show on Earth (The Weather Show)WeatherLynn AhrensLynn AhrensBob KalibanJuly 14, 1979
  • In the Disney+ Version of "Electricity, Electricity", the flashing light visuals for the "electricity" text are toned down to reduce the risk of anyone with Photosensitive Epilepsy.
  • Sometime after its initial airing, "The Greatest Show on Earth", also known as "The Weather Show", was pulled from broadcast rotation because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus objected to its use of their trademark slogan (which was in the questioned title) and filed a lawsuit against the network for copyright infringement. As a result, the 1995 VHS of the program (and subsequent VHS reissues) deleted the song. However, it was included in the 1987 Schoolhouse Rock! VHS release, and in 2002 it was included on the bonus disc of the Special 30th Anniversary Edition DVD (see below).

Money Rock

Episode titleSubjectMusic byLyrics byPerformed byFirst aired
Dollars and SenseInterest and loansDave FrishbergDave FrishbergVal Hawk and Bob DoroughSeptember 10, 1994
Tax Man MaxTaxesStephen FlahertyLynn AhrensPatrick QuinnJune 26, 1995
Where the Money GoesFamily bills and expensesRich MendozaRich MendozaJack SheldonJuly 13, 1995
$7.50 Once a WeekPersonal budgetMark ChapalonisDave FrishbergDave FrishbergOctober 23, 1995
Tyrannosaurus DebtBudget deficit and United States national debtTom YoheTom YoheBob Dorough and Bob KalibanJanuary 21, 1996
This for ThatBarter and the history of currencyGeorge R. NewallGeorge R. NewallBob DoroughMay 6, 1996
Walkin' on Wall StreetStock exchangeDave FrishbergDave FrishbergDave FrishbergSeptember 12, 1996
The Check's in the MailUsing checksBob DoroughBob DoroughLuther Rix and Bob DoroughNovember 22, 1996

Earth Rock

Episode titleSubjectMusic byLyrics byPerformed byFirst aired
Report from the North PoleClimate changeBob DoroughGeorge R. NewallBob Dorough, Jack Sheldon, Bob Kaliban, Jordan Nagai and Barry CarlMarch 31, 2009
The Little Things We DoEnergy conservationLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn Ahrens, Jack Sheldon, Bob Dorough, Jordan Nagai, Bob Kaliban, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed
The Trash Can BandRecyclingLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn Ahrens, Luther Rix, Bob Dorough and Eric Weissberg
You Oughta Be Savin' WaterWater conservationSean Altman and Barry CarlGeorge R. NewallBarry Carl, Sean Altman, Elliott Kerman
The RainforestRainforestsLynn AhrensLynn AhrensTituss Burgess
Save the OceanOceansSean AltmanSean AltmanSean Altman, Inna Dukach, Jon Spurney, Patti Rothberg, Barry Carl and Eric Booker
Fat Cat Blue: The Clean Rivers SongMarine debrisAndy BrickAndy BrickJack Sheldon, Bob Kaliban, Val Hawk, Jordan Nagai, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed
A Tiny Urban ZooGardensGeorge StilesAnthony DreweBarrett Foa, Shoshana Bean, and George Stiles
Solar Power to the PeopleSolar energyLynn AhrensLynn AhrensLynn Ahrens, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed
Windy and the WindmillsWind powerBob DoroughGeorge R. NewallBob Dorough, Jack Sheldon, Val Hawk, Vicki Doney and Nancy Reed
Don't Be a Carbon SasquatchCarbon footprintsBob DoroughBob DoroughBob Dorough and Jordan Nagai
The 3 R'sReduce, Reuse, RecycleBob DoroughJack JohnsonMitchel Musso

These songs did not air on ABC. They premiered on a DVD released in 2009.


Tie-ins

Several tie-ins were released in 1995:

  • Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks, a tribute album featuring covers of Schoolhouse Rocks songs performed by popular music artists
  • Schoolhouse Rock! The Official Guide (ISBN 0-7868-8170-4), written by Tom Yohe and George Newall, and including synopses, lyrics, and production notes about each of the shorts created to date, except "The Weather Show," which was the subject of pending litigation and so could not be included. "The Weather Show" was shown with all the other Science Rock episodes in 1979.
  • The Schoolhouse Rock Songbook (Cherry Lane Music), containing sheet music for 10 songs.
  • Schoolhouse Rock! Soundtrack The 4-CD release with bonus tracks on each CD was released on June 18, 1996, by Rhino Records.

The Best of Schoolhouse Rock (ISBN 1-56826-927-7) was released in 1998 jointly by American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. and Rhino Records.

In addition to the above, Rhino Records also released Schoolhouse Rocks the Vote!: A Benefit for Rock the Vote, a tribute album containing covers and original songs in the style of Schoolhouse Rock!, all with an electoral theme. It was released on August 18, 1998.

Home video

A 1987 production of the series for VHS tape released by Golden Book Video featured Cloris Leachman opening the collection and some songs with child dancers and singers. Three songs (namely "Three Ring Government," "The Good Eleven," and "Little Twelve Toes") were not included on the videos.

In 1995, ABC Video and Image Entertainment released two volumes of Schoolhouse Rock! on LaserDisc, Schoolhouse Rock! Volume 1: Multiplication Rock and Grammar Rock (ID3245CC), and Schoolhouse Rock! Volume 2: America Rock and Science Rock (ID3383CC). For both volumes, the first side was in the CLV Extended Play format and the second was in the frame-accessible CAV format, and both contained CX-encoded analog and digital audio soundtracks. The "Grammar Rock" volume included the 1993 shorts "Busy Prepositions" and "The Tale of Mr. Morton."

In 1994, ABC/King Features sold exclusive licensing rights for apparel to Coastal Concepts, Inc. of Vista California, the first company to produce Schoolhouse Rock! apparel. Tom Yohe worked with contemporary artist Skya Nelson to create over 50 new designs and update the Schoolhouse Rock! image for a new market, which sold $1.1 million in its first year and exploded selling over $12 million the next year. A variety of bands working with Rhino Records were furnished with newly minted Schoolhouse Rock! T-shirts for the music videos youth market. The licensing rights were expanded to include other manufacturers in 1996.

In 1995, ABC teamed with Paramount Home Video and re-released four segments of Schoolhouse Rock! on VHS with alternative covers and opening.

In 1997-1998 for the show's 25th anniversary, Walt Disney Home Video released five segments on VHS, along with "Money Rock" being released in 1998.

On August 27, 2002 Walt Disney Home Entertainment released a 2-DVD set to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the show. The set features 52 of the 64 episodes, including the lost "Computer Rock" segments, with the exception of "Introduction." "The Weather Show" and "Presidential Minute" are found on the bonus disc, the former in modified form with the problematic lyric removed, and the latter viewable only upon completing the "Earn Your Diploma" Trivia Game. An abbreviated VHS, featuring 25 episodes (ranked on the tape in order of popularity) and "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College," was released at the same time.

In 2008, DVDs of the individual Schoolhouse Rock! series were released for classroom use.

On September 23, 2008, Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection was released, including 14 songs about American history and the government and a "new to DVD" song.

On March 31, 2009, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Schoolhouse Rock! Earth, including 11 newly written and animated songs, as well as "Energy Blues".

On June 5, 2020, a majority of the shorts were made available for streaming on Disney+, with a disclaimer stating the shorts contain "outdated cultural depictions".

DVD nameEp #Release dateAdditional information
Schoolhouse Rock! Special 30th Anniversary Edition52August 27, 2002
  • All 46 original episodes
  • Audio Commentary
  • "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" Making Of
  • "The Weather Show"
  • Top 10 Jukebox
  • Top 20 Countdown
  • "Earn Your Diploma" Trivia Game (plays "Presidential Minute" once you have earned your diploma)
  • Arrange-a-Song Puzzle
  • 4 Music Videos by Contemporary Artists
  • Emmy Awards Featurette
  • "Three is a Magic Number" Nike Commercial
  • "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" in DTS 5.1 Surround
  • "Computer Rock" segments
Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection14September 23, 2008
  • Includes all of the "America Rock" songs except Elbow Room, plus The Energy Blues from "Science Rock", and Tax Man Max, Walkin' On Wall Street and Tyrannosaurus Debt from "Money Rock"
  • Bonus song: "Presidential Minute"
  • Map of the United States
Schoolhouse Rock! Earth13March 31, 2009
  • 11 all-new songs about conservation
  • Bonus Song: "Energy Blues"
  • Music video: "The Three R's" by Mitchel Musso

Schoolhouse Rock Live!

A musical theatre adaptation of the show, titled Schoolhouse Rock Live!, premiered in 1993. It featured a collaboration between artists Scott Ferguson, Kyle Hall, George Keating, Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, and Kathy Mandry, utilizing some of the most famous songs of Newall and Yohe.

A follow-up production entitled Schoolhouse Rock Live, Too, written by the same team as Schoolhouse Rock Live!, premiered in Chicago in 2000.