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Literature: The Magic School Bus
aka: The Magic Schoolbus
Ms. Frizzle: Seatbelts, everyone!
Arnold: Please let this be a normal field trip...
Wanda: With the Friz?
Entire class (except Arnold): NO WAY!
Arnold: Oh...
The intro to every single episode

An animated Edutainment Show which ran on PBS in The Nineties. It was adapted from a series of books written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen. It was later made into a set of computer games, as well. The series follows an eccentric/insane schoolteacher as she takes her elementary school class on very exotic field trips which teach scientific topics. These adventures are made possible by (you guessed it) a magical school bus. (And Viewers Like You, of course.) The show's Wacky Homeroom consisted of:

It's also worth noting that the show was popular enough to go into syndication, which is very rare for a PBS show.

Lent the Fan Nickname "Magic School Bus Cam" to the times when the camera on House goes inside the patient's body. The Fandom has also provided the Trope Namers for One Last Field Trip and Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome.

A recap page is currently in the works.

A reboot has been announced on Netflix.


The Magic School Bus provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Every episode ended with a Breaking the Fourth Wall segment where children called in to the show to ask about details the show got "wrong". The Producer (played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner) would explain that those details were deliberately glossed-over, altered, or just plain ignored in order to tell a story and do it within a half-hour time constraint. For example, during the episode about the digestive system, the bus goes through the process much faster than it actually takes. If they had done it realistically the bus would've been in Arnold's body for about two days at the least. In another episode, they admit the kids would have been grown up by the time they traveled through the solar system to Pluto.
  • The Ace: Ms. Frizzle
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: "Shows and Tells," the archeology episode, plays with this trope. Arnold's archaeologist aunt, Arizona Joan, is portrayed wearing an Adventurer Outfit and so forth, but nevertheless seems to have acted like a real archaeologist. Well, except for the part where she left some artifacts to rot in an attic trunk. Even Indiana Jones knows that It Belongs in a Museum. In the phone segment, the producer discusses the fact that while archaeologists travel to exciting places, they also have to do a lot of meticulous work when they get there.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: Lampshaded in one episode. It's Ms. Frizzle's birthday and the class goes to a bakery. During the And Knowing Is Half the Battle segment at the end, a kid goes there and tells the baker shown in the episode that one critical piece of information was missing from the show: They never said how old Ms. Frizzle is.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Well, in this case, Ralphie's brainless Robot Me is. And it steals his hat.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Justified in that they're in an American desert.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has two ending themes. One of the ending themes is called "Dream On" by Junko Iwao. The other is called "Gohan ni Shiyou" by Dreaming.
  • Ambiguously Human: Ms. Frizzle.
  • An Aesop: The final episode, "Takes a Dive," is all about teamwork and cooperation.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The phone segment at the end of each episode where one of the show's producers explains to a child over the phone how the events in the episode couldn't happen in real life, along with summarizing the educational content of the episode. These scenes were adapted from a similar section in the original books that discussed the same thing. When the show aired in syndication on cable TV, these segments were sometimes cut.
  • Animated Actors: The post-episode Q&A from "All Dried Up" had Phoebe answering the questions, and her responses make it clear they know they're on a show. Although, she's still in character to an extent ("At my old school, kids never answered the phone.")
    • In "Spins a Web," General Araneus appears in the phone scene. He is portrayed as being an actor, but is still himself and, in fact, is still in black and white.
  • Animorphism: Just about any time a field trip involves animals, the entire class finds themselves transformed into animals to learn about it firsthand. Foxes, birds, fish, bats, etc. Interesting, even in their transformed state, the kids still can't talk to any animals because they never learned animal language.
  • Artistic License - Physics: When the kids are falling in "Getting Energized," Mikey falls wheels - first. However, if that was drawn realistically, the wheelchair could have crushed him.
  • Ascended Extra: Most of the kids, who, except for Arnold and Phoebe, were basically a mass of nameless Mr. Exposition characters in the original books.
    • The original book series continued after the show began, and characters from the show were gradually added.
    • The original kids all had names (as seen on the reports), but only Arnold, Wanda, Tim, Dorothy Ann, Ralph(ie), and Phoebe (who was introduced in the second book) made it into the show.
    • It should be noted that the original book series featured a lot more kids than the ones who made it to the TV show, fitting in line with what most people expect of a real classroom's size. However, too many characters would have bogged down the kids' show, so they cut it down to eight.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Played straight in "Lost in Space," as well as the original picture book which that episode was adapted from. Oddly, the computer game version of the storyline, which didn't include this part, pointed out the unreality of this trope in one of its interactive school reports.
    • Played straight in the video game adaptation for the Sega Genesis.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Somewhat parodied in "Spins a Web."
    • Things grow and shrink on a regular basis, and the school bus is usually attacked when shrunken down to size.
  • Baseball Episode: "Plays Ball."
  • Bat Signal: Dunno if it counts or not, but in a lot of episodes, Ms. Frizzle's earrings glow when she's about to lead the class on another wacky trip.
  • Beach Episode: "Goes to Mussel Beach." Also "Gets Eaten".
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Non-alien example: When the students are turned into bats, they experience what echolocation is like, perceiving strobe-like flashing views of their surroundings each time they emit a sonar-cry.
  • Bizarre Instrument: Carlos tries to create one in one episode, but it initially fails due to his misunderstanding of the principles of sound (and he understands this trope only too well).
    Carlos: How about this? I wanted it to have the sound of a lion, so I gave it a mane!
    D.A.: It's a kitten, Carlos.
  • A Bloody Mess: One episode had Ms. Frizzle, in a vampire phase, present the kids' parents with glasses of "blood." Keesha pointed out that it was obviously really tomato juice, but no one listened to her.
  • Body Horror: The kids tend to change into the animal of the day, even if it's for scientific purposes. There was also more than one episode where they physically entered someone's body.
  • Bound and Gagged: Played for laughs in one episode where the kids are inside a black-and-white horror film. Phoebe tries to use a spiderweb to catch a military general who's commandeered their school bus, but he leans back in his chair and bumps into her, causing her to wrap herself in the web instead. When everyone gets out of the bus, Phoebe has to hop after them.
  • Brains and Brawn: Carlos and D.A. in the episode about volcanoes. Ms. Frizzle later invokes this with the two of them in the episode about light and rainbows.
    • Not to mention Dorothy Ann and Ralphie in "Plays Ball" and Dorothy Ann and Wanda in "Takes a Dive."
  • Brake Angrily: In "Lost in Space." Arnold gets sick of Janet insulting Ms. Frizzle to his face, culminating in an aborted trip to the planetarium. Arnold calls for a bus stopdown, and asks to go someplace else. The next thing you know, the school bus is launched into space.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: See Acceptable Breaks from Reality above.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Arnold and Phoebe in "Goes Cellular." Arnold was understandably moody and angsty, as he was orange on the night he was accepting a big geology award. Phoebe, on the other hand, stayed optimistic and even tried to help mask his orange skin...with flour.
    Phoebe: There. You don't look nearly so orange now. [giggles]
    Arnold: Phoebe, I can't go out there covered in flour! I look like a pumpkin pie!
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Ralphie has a giant red 'R' on his t-shirt, and Janet has a smaller blue 'J' on hers.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: When Arnold tries to hide the sounds of Ms. Frizzle's pinball machine from Mr. Rhule, he does so by stiffly swaying from foot to foot while shouting "Ding! Ding ding ding! Ding ding!"
  • Canadian Series: The series was produced and animated by Canadian animation studio Nelvananote , and all the voice actors who played the kids (except for Danny Tamberelli) were also Canadian. Viewers Like You in both Canada (on such stations as TVO) and in the US (on PBS) footed the costs, of course.
  • Captain Obvious: An interesting variation:
    Ms. Frizzle: Welcome to the magma chamber, the heart of a volcano.
    Ralphie: How do we get out of here?
    Ms. Frizzle: Out of a volcano? How do you suppose?
    • A straight example: "According to my research, after chewing comes swallowing." Really, Dorothy Ann? Haven't you ever eaten food before?
    • Dorothy Ann is a frequent source of these, partially due to the incredibly obvious "research," such as that squirrels and birds live in trees.
  • Captain's Log: In the "Out Of This World" (Episode 24), the bus turns into a starship. Cue the homage:
    Ms. Frizzle: Teacher's Ledger, Field Trip number 24. Welcome crew of the Magic Space Bus. We are about to go where few even dared dream to go!
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Occasionally, Ms. Frizzle.
    {while the bus is being attacked by white blood cells, mistaken for bacteria} "Ah, the wonders of the human body."
    • Also, while under attack by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, she bothers to check if her insurance covers dinosaur damage. Way to go, Hero Insurance.
    • Honestly, the class is screaming, while they are in something like "Informed Danger" because that bus is well more than capable of stopping everything from a T-Rex attack to a volcano to BENDING THE RULES OF SPACE AND TIME. (Well, they take enough damage to that bus.)
    • While not dialogue, there's a moment in the opening when the class is inside a volcano beginning to erupt. The kids are terrified, but The Friz is smiling calmly. It sums up the show in one image.
  • Catch Phrase: More than you can count, though the collective catch phrase of "AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!" uttered, in terror, by the entire class, deserves a mention.
    • The Friz has many:
      "Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!"
      "Bus, do your stuff!"
      "To the bus!"
      "As I always say..."
      "Hit it, Liz!"
      "Seatbelts, everyone!"
      "Never say never!"
      "Arnold, are you paying attention?" (Lampshaded in the books where the kids are in space, Ms. Frizzle isn't there, and the line is in her notes).
    • How about Arnold's infamous "I KNEW I should've stayed home today!"
    • D.A.: "According to my research..."
    • Carlos: "(Bad joke). Get it?"
      • "Carlos!!!"
      • Which is subverted in the rainforest episode. Can of cocoa beans shows up containing a single bean. An enraged Carlos goes, "We've bean had!" Everyone else is too irate at the company to react.
    • Keesha: "Oh, bad. Oh, bad. Oh bad, bad, bad." Being the Agent Scully, she'll also use "Let's get the facts..."
    • Ralphie: "I think I'm gonna be sick..."; also, "Is it just me, or..."
    • Wanda: "What are we gonna do, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna dooooo?!" Also, "Come on, you bunch of weasely wimps!"
    • Janet: "Prove it!"
    • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Or Phoebe's "At my old school, we never (insert crazy-insane escapade usually not included in any academic curriculum)"
      • Ralphie: "Is it just me, or (is a scientific process going on right in front of me)?"
      • Ms. Frizzle: "As my (insert unusually-named relative) used to say, (bad pun)"
      • E.g: "The more mixed-up things get, the better the solution!"
      • Tim: Any variation of "We've been frizzled."
  • Chick Magnet: While any crushes in the series are only hinted at, Arnold seems to get Ship Teased with other female characters the most.
  • Class Trip: Basically the whole premise of the series.
  • Collective Groan: "Carlos!"
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In "Holiday Special," the un-recycling ray is red and the re-recycling ray is blue. Sound is also color coded red and blue based on how fast the vibrations. Positive and negative charges, too. It happens a lot.
  • Color Motif: Each character has a general color they can easily be associated with. Wanda with red, Arnold with yellow, Ralphie with green, etc...
  • Conspicuously Light Patch
  • Continuity Nod: In the last season, the kids would often reference a field trip that took place in an early episode so as to build the current lesson on top of something they'd already learned.
  • Cool Car: That bus is almost as adaptable as a certain cartoon cat's bag. It also has a face, for no apparent reason.
  • Cool Teacher: The Friz, of course.
  • Crush Blush: In "Wet All Over," Wanda teases Arnold about his crush on a girl named Tiffany. The episode ends with him and Tiffany blushing after holding hands.
    • He also blushes after Dorothy Ann kisses him on the cheek in "Cracks a Yolk."
  • A Day in the Limelight: Different episodes feature different kids/pairs of kids as the main protagonists. Examples:
    "All Dried Up": Phoebe and Carlos
    "Blows its Top": D.A. and Carlos
    "Gains Weight": Phoebe
    "For Lunch": Arnold and Wanda
    "In the Haunted House": Carlos, and a little bit of D.A.
    "Gets Ants in its Pants": Keesha
    "Gets Lost in Space": Janet and Arnold
    "Out of this World": D.A.
    "Meets the Rot Squad": Wanda
    "Inside Ralphie": Ralphie
    "Plays Ball": D.A. and Ralphie
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Carlos, although, to quote the character page, "Incredibly Flamboyant and Hammy Snarker is a better fit. Nothing deadpan about Carlos."
    • Ralphie, when he takes time off from being the Agent Mulder and/or panicking. Take this exchange from "Gets Ants in its Pants":
    • D.A., particularly towards Carlos. Like this exchange from "In the Haunted House," when Carlos is working on his instrument in the broken-down bus while the rest of the class have got out to push it:
    Carlos: (explaining that the strange noise that everyone just heard was his instrument) I want my instrument to have the power of a thunderstorm, so I put an umbrella on it!
    D.A.: That sounded more like drizzle, Carlos.
    Carlos: (enthusiasm undiminished) Oh...how about this? I wanted it to have the roar of a lion, so I gave it a mane!
    (instrument emits strange, sad sound)
    D.A.: It's a kitten, Carlos.
    • At least 50% of Keesha's dialogue is sarcasm or snark.
    • Arnold also has his moments.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: Giblets in "Cracks A Yolk," although he only "flew the coop."
  • Different in Every Episode: Ms. Frizzle changes her dress in every episode to reflect the subject covered.
    • Her earrings and shoes, too.
    • The bus also changes pattern and sometimes shape to reflect the adventure.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: An Irish television guide once described "In the Haunted House" in the following manner:
    "D.A. is mad because Carlos' instrument doesn't work, so they spend a night in an old house trying to fix it so he can perform the following day."
    • It's always a pleasure to share these insights. Feel free to help yourself to the Brain Bleach.
  • The Drag-Along: Arnold in almost every episode.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: At the beginning of "Out of this World," D.A. (who, it transpires, is quite understandably worried by her discovery of an asteroid headed towards Earth) has a dream where she is piloting a spacecraft to try and stop the asteroid, and fails when she discovers Ms. Frizzle is unable to help her. Sure enough, the episode's climax sees Carlos and Ms. Frizzle trapped on the asteroid after a failed attempt to divert its course. D.A. has to take command of the bus and work out a way of both stopping the asteroid and saving her teacher and classmate. Her ensuing actions earn her a Moment Of Awesome.
  • Drive-In Theater: "Spins a Web."
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The very first episode, "Gets Lost in Space" features Janet as a protagonist. D.A., Tim, Ralphie, Arnold and Keesha don't use their catchphrases. Phoebe only gets "On my old planet, I couldn't jump so high." Carlos doesn't get a First Name Ultimatum. Arnold and Janet's personalities are shown in full, but while D.A.'s intelligence, Ralphie's Agent Mulder tendencies and Wanda's determination are hinted at, the non-Perlstein kids are basically wallpaper. The relationship dynamics between the kids (beyond the fact that everybody hates Janet) aren't explored and the plot is more episodic than usual. By the second episode, "For Lunch," the tone had switched, all of the kids' abilities, personalities, catchphrases, and relationships explored or at least hinted at.
    • You want real Early Installment Weirdness? In the first episode, Arnold was the one who requested they go on a field trip.
      • To some extent, you can tell roughly how early an episode is in the series by the kids' reaction to danger. If they're panicking royally, early episode. If they're calmer, later.
    • The animation also differs quite a bit between the first and fourth seasons.
  • Eaten Alive: Often, if titles like "Gets Eaten" are any indication.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia: In one episode they had goggles that let the kids see sound with "The Producer" later explaining that seeing sound is impossible and was just done for the episode.
  • Edutainment Show
  • Ensemble Cast: The show really has no one single protagonist, giving the students a mostly equal role in any given episode occasionally taking turns in the spotlight.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Normally played straight. However, it was lightly spoofed in the bat episode. At the end, Ms. Frizzle and Ralphie burst out laughing over his ending joke while Ralphie's mother looks back and forth between them with a deadpan expression.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Pretty much any time the bus transformed, it would involve spinning in some way. Maybe it's a fan of Wonder Woman.
  • Everytown, America: Walkerville.
  • Evil Counterpart: Janet to Arnold.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: We actually get to see Phoebe's old school in one episode. Judging from the sign out front, the building is actually called Phoebe's Old School.
  • Excuse Plot: Common in many of the tie-in computer games, where some form of simple event would be used to motivate the class into going on their field trip and giving the player a bit more of a sense of purpose. In this case it was probably for the better, since the one game that didn't do it (Magic School Bus Explores The Human Body) can get pretty confusing. But in reality the purpose of the games was to explore different locations and learn about whatever the game in question was about- the "plot" was just there to give the player more to do than just "stand around in an area and click on stuff".
  • Explosive Decompression: Averted in "Lost In Space." Arnold takes off his helmet on Pluto, and instantly freezes over. He ends up catching a cold, despite the common cold not being able to survive on Pluto.
    • While space may not be cold, Pluto actually is, resting at an estimated −230 °C. And unlike space, there's (sometimes) an atmosphere present on it. This may be a simple continuation of the misconception, or a stealth example of Shown Their Work.
  • Face Palm: Arnold's inevitable reaction to the news that they're going on a field trip. Pretty much everyone about Once an Episode whenever Carlos tells one of his jokes.
  • Fan Dumb: Many of the callers in the phone segments seem to fall into the "Culture Alien" variant. "Hey, you showed a bus turning into a snail on a show called The Magic School Bus. That can't really happen. Your show sucks!" invoked
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Several episodes. Including three in a row, involving Arnold, Ralphie, and a tuna fish.
  • First Name Ultimatum: "CAR-LOS!"
  • Five-Token Band: When the class size was trimmed down from the books, it seems like they picked the eight kids who would give the class the most ethnic diversity. Keesha and Tim are black, Carlos is Hispanic, Wanda is Chinese, and even within the white kids, Arnold is Jewish and Ralphie is Italian.
  • Foreshadowing: Originally, each book ended with Ms. Frizzle setting up classroom decorations and donning an outfit relating to the subject of the next book.
    • Series Fauxnales ended with Ms. Frizzle wearing a dress covered in question marks.
  • Four Philosophy Ensemble:
    • The boys: Carlos is the Cynic, Arnold is the Optimist, Tim is the Realist, and Ralphie is the Apathetic.
    • The girls: Keesha is the Cynic, Phoebe is the Optimist, Dorothy Ann is the Realist, and Wanda is the Apathetic.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • The boys: Ralphie (sanguine), Carlos (choleric), Tim (melancholic), and Arnold (phlegmatic).
    • The girls: Wanda (sanguine), Keesha (choleric), Dorothy Ann (melancholic), and Phoebe (phlegmatic).
  • French Jerk: Inspector 47. He gets better, though.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Phoebe
    • Friend to Bugs: Again, Phoebe. Of course, that's to be expected being that this is a science-themed show aimed at children...
  • Fun with Flushing: Happens twice in two episodes, one where they go through the water cycle and travels through drain pipes to reach the girls bathroom where the water overflows, and in another episode, they cross over an open toilet bowl in order to escape from the bathroom window.
  • Gallows Humor: During one episode, it is suggested by one of the hysterical students that Wanda might have been eaten by a sea monster; Phoebe reacts with disappointment, citing that she wanted to feed the monster, immediately followed by the usual "Car-los!" reaction.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Eight students; four boys, four girls.
  • Genius Cripple: Mikey Ramon.
  • Genre Savvy: Arnold. For example, in "Gets Ants in its Pants":
    Keesha: I want more drama! More excitement!
    (the bus comes to a crashing halt)
    Arnold: I wish you hadn't said that...
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: May also be Accidental Innuendo, depending on how intentional one believes it is.
    • In the episode where they go to space, they are going past Uranus. Arnold sits on his cousin's lap to prevent her from leaving her seat, to which she says, "Uranus doesn't do a thing for me, so please get off!" Arnold replies, "Sorry, Janet, but I have to stay on top of the situation."
    • In "Gets Ready, Set, Dough," while the class is stuck in an oven, Phoebe says, "At my old school, we never got baked."
    • Also in the baking episode, the bus has shrunk, and the class is lamenting how they can't get inside at their current size. Ms. Frizzle replies, "We can't let a little shrinkage get in the way of our fun."
    • In the episode "For Lunch," Wanda thanks Arnold for "Giving me the ride of my dreams" after a field trip through Arnold's digestive tract.
    • This surprisingly racy exchange from "In the Arctic" when Arnold and Pheobe are covered in yellowish blubber:
    Ralphie: They've gotten so cold, they've turned yellow!
    Wanda (who is Asian): You turn blue from the cold, not yellow! I would know."
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Dorothy Ann's ever-present "research".
  • Green Around the Gills: This occurs with Ralphie in "The Magic School Bus For Lunch," a shade of green appears on each of his cheeks, as he can't "stomach" being inside Arnold's digestive system.
  • Hair Color Dissonance: The color Arnold's hair is drawn makes it hard to tell whether he's supposed to be a blond or a redhead.
    • Can also be said for Phoebe, who looks either brunette or redheaded.
  • Hair Decorations: All the girls, except Wanda.
  • Halloween Episode: "Going Batty," "Gets a Bright Idea" and "In the Haunted House".
  • Hammerspace: The amount of things Ms. Frizzle can carry on her person.
  • Harmless Freezing: In "Gets Lost in Space," Arnold took off his helmet on Pluto and froze. When they got him back to Earth, he had a cold. The ludicrous nature of this was actually pointed out in the And Knowing Is Half the Battle-type ending that usually gets cut out in syndication. The writers know he should end up with a lot worse than a cold, but killing off a main character isn't very kid friendly. Or possibly The Friz Did It.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Tons of examples.
    • In "Ups and Downs," Keesha talks about turning their "floaters into sinkers".
    • In "Revving Up," as the class floats around in the bus' carburetor, Wanda says "Now I know what a tossed salad feels like!"
  • Heroic BSOD: Keesha gets a pretty depressing one in "Gets Ants in its Pants".
    • Not to mention D.A.'s one, when she loses her book bag (and with it all confidence in her own intelligence and abilities) in "Blows its Top".
  • Hidden Depths: The reveal in "Gets Swamped" that Carlos is not only on the school debate team but made it to the finals.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Boy, do people's insides have good lighting! Also lampshaded in one of the closing "producer" segments.
    "Believe me, it would have been a lot easier to make The Magic School Bus radio show."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Usually "The Magic School Bus (does something)".
  • I Don't Think That's Such a Good Idea: Arnold, practically all the time.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: "According to my research..."
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Many, many episodes.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: The eccentric Ms. Frizzle's awesome and bizarre powers drive the stories: she can take the class anywhere from the solar system to a digestive tract. She purposefully never receives an explanation. In fact, the original name for Inexplicably Awesome was "The Frizzle".
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The original PBS run featured a tag scene toward the end with a character known as the Producer who fields a question or two. Said producer is clearly modeled after voice actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
    • "Shows and Tells" had the kids on a show-and-tell themed game show where the host resembles Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek (who voiced him that episode).
  • Innocent Innuendo: In "Gets Charged," Wanda overhears Ms. Frizzle talking on the phone to whom she assumes is her Valentine and excitedly tells the other kids, "She said, 'I'd just love for you to come over and ring my bell!'" She's talking to an electrician about fixing her front doorbell.
  • Insect Queen: In one episode the class gets shrunk down and go into an ant hill so Keesha can make a movie about them. She's fixated on having the queen as her star, seeming to think of queens as we know them, and is disappointed when when she turns our to be just a giant ant who lays eggs.
  • Insistent Terminology: Dorothy Ann would like to let you know that her book isn't purple, it's violet.
  • Insufferable Genius: Janet
  • Ironic Echo Cut: "I'm sure your class can do broadcast day without you." (cut to classroom) "We can't do it without him!"
  • Irony: Ms. Frizzle uses a bus powered by magic to teach kids about science!
  • It Came from the Fridge: One episode has a competition about the most spoiled food. Wanda brings some green bubbling mass that stood in the fridge for years. Nobody even remembers what it is. She won.
  • It's Always Spring: Maybe justifiable in that you can spot the kids living nearby a beach, so maybe they live in a town where it's always relatively warm or mild....although the episode about freezing shows that they do have a classic winter where it snows.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: In "Holiday Special," Wanda wishes recycling didn't exist. The Friz shows her what Walkerville would be like without it.
  • It's Like I Always Say: One of Ms. Frizzle's Catch Phrases.
  • Just Trying to Help: Phoebe tries to help out desert animals in "All Dried Up."
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Constantly, as a result of Carlos.
    Carlos: <insert bad pun>. Get it?
    Everyone else: Car-los!
  • Lampshade Hanging: The phone segments basically exist to admit and debunk the Hollywood Science used on the show, like "OK, lava should've fried the kids just for getting close, but we kind of had to show it off to properly teach about the earth's crust."
    • The books had something similar, typically people complaining that their bus adventures tended to be of the very mundane "we got lost" variety, and saying that school buses can't turn into fish.
    • It was also done in-episode from time to time. Like when they were inside the filament of a light bulb, traveling along with the electric current:
      Dorothy Ann: "According to my research... which is very hard to do when going around like this..."
      • Also in the "Goes On Air" episode, when D.A. offers up her hair bands for the sake of science. Her hair stays in the pigtails, and minor Hilarity Ensues.
      Arnold: "D.A.- your ponytails can stay in without-"
      Keesha: "Nevermind that-!"
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle: One episode revolved around this, a game of 'Light Pinball'. The objective was, using mirrors and prisms, to split a beam of light into the colors of the rainbow and redirect them into like-colored eyes.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The kids.
  • Lurid Tales of Doom: The monster of Walker Lake, invented by reporter Gerri Poveri in the episode "Ups and Downs" as a Scooby-Doo Hoax. She calls it "creative journalism". (Gerri Poveri, by the way, is Shirley Feeney and looks oddly like an adult version of Janet.)
  • Magical Guardian: Ms. Frizzle is this.
  • Magic Bus: Of course.
  • Magic Skirt: In "The Magic School Bus Kicks Up A Storm," when Ms. Frizzle and her class are descending from the sky as part of the rain cycle, her skirt gets in a draft, which causes the pleats to become wavy, but her rear is away from the direction of the viewers.
    • D.A. wears one too.
  • Magitek: The bus is revealed to have several exotic components under the hood, with such names as "mesmerglobber," the "shrinkerscope," and the "dew-dinger."
  • Market-Based Title: The early books were published as The Magic Bus in Britain because Britain doesn't have American-style school buses and Viewers Are Morons.
  • Melodrama: "...And Ms. Frizzle's happiness will be ruined... forever!" * Insert Tears of Remorse here*
  • Milestone Celebration: The book The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition came out 20 years after the first book. As a result, it boasts a holographic cover, and includes appearances from several of history's most legendary scientists.
  • Monster Shaped Mountain: In an episode about erosion, the class's trip along a mountainside triggered a series of rockfalls and stream-diversions that re-shaped the terrain to resemble a human figure.
  • Morphic Resonance: The kids, Ms. Frizzle, and the bus will keep their identifying characteristics even when transformed into something else.
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: In "Cold Feet," the rest of the class sends Wanda to try to get into Herp Haven:
    Wanda: Hi, I am but an innocent schoolchild who has innocently lost my innocent baseball over your fence. May I innocently come in and innocently get it back?
  • Never Say "Die": References to death are avoided even though there have been numerous instances where the class was clearly in mortal danger.
    • Though, in "All Dried Up," Ralphie was clear in his meaning when, after spotting a vulture, he says, "Is it just me, or does this look like the final field trip?"
    • At least one outright exception: In "Spins a Web," Phoebe tells General Araneus that "You can't kill the praying mantis!" (He replies "Don't be so negative. I'll get it.")
  • Nobody Poops: Even when the subject is digestion. The producer, though, provides good reason:
    "It's natural. It's normal. But do you really think they'd let us show it on daytime TV?"
  • No Name Given: The last names of Dorothy Ann and Tim were never mentioned.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Naturally, though peculiarly, one episode ends with a completely random, older student pointing out and explaining the thermo-mechanics of Arnold's Thermos (the subject of that episode), and when asked, "How did you know that?" replied, "I was in Ms. Frizzle's class last year."
    • There are only fifty-two episodes — they could easily all take place within one school year. Granted, they would be going on about twenty times more field trips than any real class.
    • Over the course of the "year," all four of the boys' voices break, leading to the hilarious line by post-pubescent-sounding Arnold about being able to stand "four feet tall again".
  • Oblivious to Love: In "The Busasaurus," Phoebe develops a crush when she sees Arnold's bravery ("Gee, what a guy!"). At the end of the episode, after he scares off a T. Rex, she runs up to him and says "It's a good thing you didn't stay home today, Arnold!" Despite her body language, he responds with, "Well, uh, I'll sure be glad when this [dinosaur egg] is a rock again. It's a lot safer."
  • Off Model: In "Spins A Web," when Keesha lifts the lid of a vacant spider's nest on the ground under which she and the others retreat, she's in her usual purple outfit with the thick, teal stripe on it. But when the scene cuts to a far away shot, her outfit is gray instead, but the color of the stripe stays the same.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Arnold reacts this way verbatim to eating the bus and class in "Going Cellular."
  • Once an Episode: Early in an episode, Arnold will generally say "I think I should have stayed home today..." By ten minutes into the episode at the latest, he will have said "I KNEW I should have stayed home today!"
  • Once a Season: Arnold's Alpha Bitch cousin, Janet, shows up to make life worse for Ms. Frizzle's class.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In a book about deserts, Carlos, of all people, is the only member of the class to have heard of the "rain shadow effect," which is cited as one primary cause of the classical desert (basically, differences in pressure mean mountains get a lot of rain which then fails to go on to the area which is now desert due to lack of rain). Even the book hangs a lampshade on how unlikely it is that Carlos is the one in the know. (And you'd think out of all the class...It'd be Dorothy Ann.)
    • Or how 'bout in "Blows Its Top," when he starts reading D.A.'s books, prompting Arnold to actually see him as her?
  • Out of Order: Season 1 Episode 1, Gets Lost In Space, had Arnold remark that the class had already been inside a rotten log and to the bottom of the ocean, but those field trips weren't shown until Episodes 04 and 06.
  • Parental Bonus: Many of the show's numerous Shout Outs do this; for example, at one point the bus turns into the Enterprise.
    • Not to mention the Friz herself. As many a disgruntled cosplayer has noted, Ms. Frizzle is stacked.
    • In "Goes Upstream," Ralphie points out the salmon are changing before their eyes, and Ms. Frizzle says he will go through the same phase as a teenager. Later on, you see the male salmon ejaculating on the eggs.
  • Panty Shot: Dorothy Ann has two in (ep.11, and ep.2)
  • Pepper Sneeze: Used to get the bus out of Ralphie's nose.
  • Pinball Zone: They spend an episode inside a pinball machine, learning about light, lasers, and reflection.
    • Ironically, it's actually a bit possible to make a pinball machine like that; just not exactly like what you see in the snow. (You have to use a laser)
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: The bus tends to do this, like in "Flexes Its Muscles" and "Haunted House". Of course, its implied in both that Ms. Frizzle deliberately caused the breakdown to allow the kids to learn on their own.
  • Plot-Sensitive Button: Pulling the big red lever in the center of the dashboard apparently causes the bus to turn into whatever the plot requires. The button next to the steering wheel, too.
  • Pokmon Speak: "Bella." Before Pokemon, to boot!
    • "Herman."
  • Pungeon Master: Carlos
  • Punny Name: Mr. Ruhle, the school principal. Also Mr. McClean, the school janitor, and any other single episode character. Molly Cule, Radius Ulna Humerus, Carmina Skeledon, Harry Arm, Cornelius C. Contralto, Mr. Junkett...you see where this is going.
  • Rainbow Lite: In the episode about rainbows, indigo is dropped as usual, leaving six colors.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Ms. Frizzle's bus can go to the edge of the Local Group and back inside of a school day, and she uses it to take kids on field trips for Pete's sake! Lampshaded by the general in "Spins a Web" after he discovers the bus's transforming abilities:
    General: Does military intelligence know about this bus?
  • Rummage Fail: Ms. Frizzle does this sometimes.
  • Running Gag: The Portashrinker breaks whenever it can help.
  • Say My Name:
    • "Arnoooooold!"
    • "Wanda!"
    • "Junkett!"
    • (collective gasp) Ms. Frizzle!
  • Scary Shadow Fakeout: In "Gets Lost In Space," Ralphie, Dorothy Ann, Keesha, and Carlos see the shadow of an alien advancing through a cloud of dust towards them. It turns out to be Arnold, in a spacesuit, carrying a load of stuff for Janet.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Besides the lampshaded issue of the planets aligning, to make it to Pluto and back in a single school day would require Faster-Than-Light Travel. The star life-cycle episode makes it explicit that the bus is fully capable of this, but introduces another problem: the second star they visit is a billion billion miles from the first one, which is over 17 million light years. That puts it well outside the Milky Way.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: "Ups And Downs" has a talk show reporter creating a fake lake monster to bolster her ratings. The kids manage to discover the truth and expose the hoax.
    • Another one occurs in "Gets A Bright Idea," in which Janet uses a clever light trick to make it look like Arnold is a ghost. Since this is Janet, she doesn't have a motivation other than being her usual Jerkass self.
  • Secret Keepers: The fact that the bus is magical is guarded.
  • Seeker White Blood Cells: "Inside Ralphie".
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Bearing in mind that this a third grade class, Arnold and Ralphie.
  • Series Finale: "Takes a Dive."
  • Shared Family Quirks: Both Carlos and his dad are frequent victims of the First Name Ultimatum as a result of constant Incredibly Lame Puns.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrink Ray: One of the bus' many features. There is also a portable version called, appropriately enough, the "Porta-Shrinker".
  • Sick Episode: "Inside Ralphie".
  • Smooch of Victory: Dorothy Ann kisses Arnold in "Cracks a Yolk" as a thanks for helping the rooster chick hatch (and saving her from getting in trouble with Mr. Rhule, the principal).
  • Soft Water: Played straight, but lampshaded in the book - during a trip to study the weather, Arnold manages to get sucked out of the bus during a hurricane and falls into the ocean several hundred feet below and only gets soaked for his troubles. A sticky note points out that, in reality, this would have gotten him severely hurt.
  • Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying: In "Cold Feet", Liz and the kids wind up in a "reptile spa" where the reptiles are being artificially hibernated in a cold room. Fair enough, except that hibernation is treated as a vacation and a great way for stressed out reptiles to get their nap on — "Hibernation isn't dangerous...it's restful!" In actuality, hibernation in captivity is often induced as a way to increase reptile fertility, and it has the potential to be very dangerous, with about a million things that can go wrong. Add in that the hibernation room was well below freezing and it's a miracle Liz and the kids woke up at all.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: Many are lampshaded, but a prominent example is in "Sees Stars". It wouldn't be a good idea to hang around a supermassive star when it goes supernova. For more reasons than one...
  • Standard Snippet: The 1812 Overture, also known as the American anthem for Stuff Blowing Up, is used as background music for the volcanic eruption in "Blows its Top".
  • Stock Foreign Name: Carlos. Averted with Wanda, her brother William, and Carlos' brother Mikey.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Invoked in-universe. In "All Dried Up" Carlos comes across as particularly unfeeling because he spends most of the episode winding Phoebe up about desert creatures dying of thirst. At the episode's climax, Phoebe decides to give water to all the animals. Carlos tries to dissuade her, pointing out that they have survived this far without her help. Phoebe chooses this moment to Take a Level in Badass and call Carlos out on his casual cruelty. However, he looks up, sees the clouds on the horizon and has to try to get her to stop yelling at him for long enough to realize that (1) he's right and (2) they need to run. Fast.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Janet, Mikey, the kids' parents, etc.
  • Swamps Are Evil: Subverted. In the episode about wetlands the kids start by believing in this trope but eventually learn the importance of a swamp in the ecosystem.
  • Talking Animal:
    • The episode "In The City" where the kids are turned into animals (D.A. and Carlos have Feather Fingers, and The Bus becomes a bear) to learn about animal life in an urban environment. They keep things like their glasses, hair, and faces, but everything else is animal.
    • Liz gains a voice in the computer games to serve as a help file for how to play them.
  • Terrain Sculpting: One episode had Ms. Frizzle and the class attempt to carve a statue of their town's founder, Captain Crasnick P. Walker, out of stone without using their bare hands. (Captain Walker wanted his statue built "without human hand.") When the statue breaks away from its place, they make a mad chase after it down the mountain. Since the episode focused mainly on erosion, it turned out that they already made a statue of their founder out of stone while chasing after the statue they had been making, by shifting the water flow through different directions of the mountain that formed the face of their founder.
  • There's No "B" in Movie: "Spins A Web".
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Keesha never did eat that tuna sandwich from "Gets Eaten"...
  • Time for Plan B: Played straight a few times.
    Tim: Anyone have a good plan B?
    Wanda: There aren't any good plan B's, Tim! If they were good, they'd be plan A's.
  • Time Travel: "The Busasaurus", which takes us back to the time of the dinosaurs, as the title suggests.
  • Title Drop: Very first episode, "Lost in Space". Ralphie screams it repeatedly after they lose their map of the solar system and Janet sends Ms. Frizzle rocketing into nowhere.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: Fox Kids shortened the theme song at one point.
    • In a less severe example, Discovery Kids had the full theme song play, then end with a freeze frame of the bus before cutting to commercial. The title card that originally closed the title sequence appeared after the break.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The catapult jammed, and it has enough potential energy to throw a rock over a mountain - Get on top of it to unjam it. You're lucky to be alive!
    • This is literally something Wile E. Coyote was known for doing! That's how bad of an idea that was!
  • Tough Room: "CARLOS!"
  • Trampled Underfoot: Janet does this to a mothball that was to be entered by the class for a smell competition in one episode. She was representing a rival class, so it's unclear if this was an accident on her part or not.
  • Trapped in TV Land: The class enters a '50s Sci-Fi movie in "Spins A Web." They enter a series of computer simulations in "Shows and Tells".
  • Tsundere: Wanda towards Arnold and D.A. towards Carlos (and Ralphie once).
    • Phoebe's a Type B, sweet and reserved until she's provoked, most often by Carlos, Ralphie, Tim, or Janet.
  • Two-Teacher School: Ms. Frizzle, Mr. Ruhle (the school principal), Mr. Sinew (the gym teacher), and another teacher, "Mrs. Rivers," was mentioned in "Goes on Air".
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Ms. Frizzle's clothes, shoes, and earrings, which change each episode and feature vaguely psychedelic patterns themed to the subject of the field trip.
  • Unnamed Parent: The kids' parents are always referred to by other adults as "Mr. Perlstein," "Mrs. Li," etc.; even in situations where first names would ordinarily be used. Oddly enough, their last names are never used anywhere else, so it's not like this was for the viewers' convenience.
    • Though this could be to keep the audience's attention and point of view. After all, most of the kids watching the show would call other children's parents by "Mr." and "Mrs." [last name]. Though that's just speculation.
  • Useless Superpowers: The bus' "magic" always fails whenever it could easily resolve the plot... or, in the TV series, scares the kids during the commercial break.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: Possibly the least romantic Valentine's episode ever, with the focus being on electrical wiring, and Ms. Frizzle's "beau" turning out to be just her electrician.
  • Vehicle Title
  • Villain Episode: Janet's Once a Season appearances tend to be this, particularly "Gets Lost In Space" and "Butterfly and the Bog Beast" (the latter especially considering she successfully turned most of the class on Phoebe).
  • Vocal Evolution: Some of the kid actors' voices broke by the time the show ended.
  • Visual Pun: Ms. Frizzle's cell phone in "Going Cellular."
  • Wacky Homeroom
  • Walk Through The Camera: In the episode "Gets Lost in Space," Arnold does this when he gets fed up with his cousin Janet and marches to the back of the bus to Ms. Frizzle.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Bus has, on multiple occasions, been described as old and ragged. However, this is the same bus that can reach the edge of our solar system within a span of a few hours.
  • Weather Control Machine: The bus had its own.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: All of the kids. Yes, even Carlos. It has to be said that despite their groaner potential, his puns are surprisingly clever given his age.
  • Wraparound Background: Seen in a number of episodes if you watch out the windows while the bus is driving somewhere. Justified in "Makes a Stink," where the bus is circling Flora Whiff's head.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Carlos may seem to exist solely to spontaneously generate hurricanes of puns and engage in Snark-To-Snark-Combat with Dorothy Ann. When the going gets tough, however, he shows that he's Plucky Comic Relief with the emphasis on plucky. Take "Out of this World". Carlos spends the first half of the episode disparaging D.A.'s belief that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Once she's been proved right, however, he decides to leave the bus/spaceship in a two-man short-range craft and try to stop the asteroid alone. He fails, paving the way for D.A.'s Moment Of Awesome.
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: Happened during the desert episode. Arnold tries to avoid his usual complainer status by being Crazy-Prepared. When the Friz puts the bus-plane into a steep dive when the arrive in the desert, Arnold asks Liz for his parachute.
    Arnold: That's not a parachute! That's a pair of shoes!
  • You Are in Command Now: D.A. has to take charge of the bus to rescue Carlos and Ms. Frizzle from the surface of an asteroid and prevent said asteroid from hitting the Earth. Needless to say, she succeeds.

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alternative title(s): The Magic School Bus; The Magic School Bus
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