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Literature / The Magic School Bus

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Ms. Frizzle: Seatbelts, everyone!
Arnold: Please let this be a normal field trip...
Wanda: With the Frizz?
Entire class: (except Arnold) NO WAY!
Arnold: Awwww...
The intro to every single episode

An animated Edutainment Show which ran on PBS from September 10, 1994 to December 6, 1997, with reruns airing until September 25, 1998. It was adapted from a series of books written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, which ran from 1986 to 2010, with a new book about human evolution released in June 2021. The show was a co-production between Nelvana and Scholastic, with South Carolina ETV serving as the show's presenting station. It was later made into a set of computer games, as well. The series follows an eccentric 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 shapeshifting school bus. (And Viewers Like You, of course.) The show's Wacky Homeroom consisted of:

It's notably one of the rare PBS shows to be popular enough to go into syndication, and home video releases of the show remain a staple feature of elementary school classrooms to this day, more than 25 years after its premiere.

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. Vote for your favorite episode here.

Original production funding was provided by the National Science Foundation and Microsoft Home (credited simply as Microsoft on most episodes of Season 3); additional funding was provided by U.S. Department of Energy and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional funding for most episodes of Season 2 (and all of Season 3) was also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS. Season 4's sponsors were the National Science Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and PBS. All of this was in addition to generous donations from Viewers Like You.

A revival entitled The Magic School Bus Rides Again debuted on Netflix on September 29, 2017. It stars Kate McKinnon as the voice of Ms. Fiona Frizzle, Valerie's younger sister. Lily Tomlin appears as Val, now Professor Frizzle, in the end-of-episode segments.


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    Tropes A - H 
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Discussed. 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(s) would explain that those details were deliberately glossed-over, altered, or outright ignored in order to tell the story, educate kids, and be entertaining within the half-hour time constraint of the episode.
    • 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. Plus, they get out by inducing Arnold to burp since going out the other way would be inappropriate for children's TV (if not outright gross).
    • The Producer admits the kids would have been grown up by the time they traveled through the solar system to Pluto if the bus was as fast as a normal rocket ship, but that doesn't make for a good story. He also acknowledges that they took some liberties with the planet's appearance because, when the episode was aired, no one knew what the planet's surface really looked like.
    • An episode where the kids go inside a computer had the Producer point out that the electrical currents a computer uses would be instantaneous if it was a real computer. He admitted that the electricity was "slowed way down so the kids could follow it".
    • The episode on molecules repeats that molecules are "the very last bit"; as in, they're the smallest form of matter. A kid calls in to say that atoms are even smaller than that, to which the Producer says that it was simply not what they were focusing on.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • In "Hops Home", Ralphie is shown laughing at Carlos's "hoppy" pun.
    • This is Ms. Frizzle's default reaction to Carlos's puns, except in "Makes a Stink", where she gives him a Death Glare instead.
  • Adapted Out: The original, more normally-sized homeroom from the books is whittled down to eight, simply because it would have been too many characters to develop.
  • 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.
  • Alliterative Family: Wanda and her brother William.
  • 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 looks human, but rarely shows needing anything a human does. She doesn't ever seem to need to eat or rest, never gives an explanation as to how she's so good, and generally reacts to the things that go on in the show like they're an everyday occurence for her.
  • An Aesop:
    • As the Frizz always says, "Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" In other words, you can never truly learn anything, especially as it applies to science unless you're willing to take big risks in doing so, whatever they may be.
    • While the show didn't have an overarching plotline, any episode that featured nature contained a Green Aesop, implicitly or explicitly. There were also episodes on recycling and conservation that dealt with this as a very direct theme.
    • The final episode, "Takes a Dive", is all about teamwork and cooperation.
  • Anchovies Are Abhorrent: Ralphie mentions that his dad will order anchovies on a pizza if he doesn't want Ralphie to eat it. Also, in the book The Magic School Bus Explores the Senses, the bus containing the students ends up shrunken down and eaten on Ms. Frizzle's pizza. When the class goes to the taste area of her brain, they're disgusted by the taste of anchovies and run away.
  • 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. And on some occasions, someone whom the class had visited would be the one getting the calls instead.
  • 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 – Animal Care: "Hops Home" sees Wanda releasing her pet frog, Bella, into the wild after concluding she's better off there. Releasing a pet into the wild is an extremely bad idea; even if a heron doesn't get Bella, parasites and disease very well might. Bella's lucky to have survived long enough to have kids with Herman in the Producer Segment.
  • Artistic License – Marine Biology: In "Takes a Dive", half of the students are turned into sharks while the other half are turned into remoras for the last leg of the treasure hunt. While sharks and remoras have a symbiotic relationship in real life, the episode glosses over the fact that remoras can drag sharks down with their weight if too many of them latch onto them, while dolphins are known to keep jumping out of the water to try getting rid of them. As such, none of the shark students feel slowed down when paired with their remora teammates.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: In "The Magic School Bus Cracks A Yolk", Giblets the chicken flies away from Dorothy Ann. While chickens are capable of flight, this episode portrays Goblets flying over houses for a long period of time much like a songbird. In reality, chickens can only fly a few feet above ground in short bursts.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Space: 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...
  • 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.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    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?
  • 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: In "Spins a Web", the class gets sucked into a 1950s B-movie about a giant mantis.
  • Baseball Episode: "Plays Ball", in which a baseball game gets turned into a lesson on the importance of friction.
  • Beach Episode: "Goes to Mussel Beach", which is about tidal zones. Also "Gets Eaten", which covers the food chain.
  • Big Storm Episode: "Kicks Up a Storm" and "Gets Swamped", where the weather and/or rain are integral to the plot and educational lesson.
  • 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.
  • Blind People Wear Sunglasses: Phoebe's father is blind, and is seen wearing a pair of sunglasses.
  • 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.
  • Blunt "Yes": In 'Under Construction":
    Wanda: What are you, a bunch of weaselly wimps? We've scaled a toilet, crossed a blue lagoon on a hairpin bridge, shimmied up a toilet paper rope, and you wanna quit now?
    Class: *emphatically* Yes!
  • 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.
  • Body Wipe: In the episode "Gets Lost in Space", Arnold does this when he gets fed up with his cousin Janet and marches from the back of the bus to Ms. Frizzle. But did it have to pass through his crotch?
  • 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", when 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.
  • 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!"
  • Calling Your Nausea: One of Ralphie's catchphrases is "I think I'm gonna be sick!"
  • Canadian Series: The series was produced by Canadian animation studio Nelvana, with physical production handled by Hanho Heung-Up in South Korea, and all the child actors (except for Danny Tamberelli) were Canadiannote , as evidenced by the occasional "o"s pronounced like "u"s. Viewers Like You in both Canada (on such stations as TVO) and in the US (on PBS) footed the costs, of course.
  • Captain Obvious: Dorothy Ann is a frequent source of these, partially due to the incredibly obvious "research", such as that squirrels and birds live in trees.
    "According to my research, after chewing comes swallowing."
  • 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.)
  • Catchphrase: More than you can count. Pretty much every single main character on this entire show has at least one.
    • 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!"
      "If you keep asking questions, you'll keep getting answers."
      "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).
    • Arnold: "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..."
    • 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!"
    • Several examples of Mad Libs Catch Phrase:
      • "Do something (name)! You got us into this!" Usually used in an episode where one kid's suggestion inspires a field trip that leaves the class stranded, stuck, or otherwise in some kind of trouble.
      • Or Phoebe's "At my old school, we never (insert crazy 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)?" E.g. when the bus in spaceship form is orbiting the moon: "Is it just me, or are we playing 'Ring Around the Moon'?" Or when travelling back in time: "Is it just me, or did somebody hit rewind?"
      • Ms. Frizzle: "As my (unusually-named relative) used to say, (bad pun)!"
      • Tim: Any variation of "We've been frizzled."
      • Dorothy Ann: "According to my research: (insert D.A. pointing out the science behind what phenomenon is taking place)" E.g from "Taking Flight": "According to my research, when a plane's nose tips up and slows down like this, it's called a stall."
  • Chick Magnet: While any crushes in the series are only hinted at, Arnold seems to get Ship Teased with other female characters the most.
  • Christmas Episode: "Holiday Special" features not just Christmas but also Hanukkah and Kwanzaa themes and is a musical episode. The show's theme of recycling is taught through several doctored Christmas tunes (and one doctored Hanukkah tune).
  • Clarke's Third Law: It's unclear whether the bus's powers are actually magic, or some sort of futuristic technology.
  • Class Trip: The whole premise of the series, with every single episode revolving around the class going on one. The catch is that they go places no ordinary class ever could go, thanks to Ms. Frizzle and her Magic Bus.
  • Collective Groan: "CARLOS!", in response to one of his usual bad jokes.
    • Subverted in "Getting Energized", where the class is genuinely angry that Carlos neglected his assigned task of securing power for the Ferris wheel. They still say "Carlos!" but they're clearly angry instead of annoyed.
  • 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, Tim with blue, D.A with purple (although she insists it's violet).
  • 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. Even in spite of being Inexplicably Awesome, she's also genuinely helpful kind, energetic, upbeat, and happy-go-lucky. The third-grade class she teaches all like her.
  • Covering for the Noise: In "Cold Feet", the class go undercover to a reptile sanctuary, with the Bus posing as an alligator and Phoebe pretending to be its owner. While Phoebe talks to Harry Herp, the man running the place, Arnold (who is in the bus) speaks out. Harry wonders who just spoke, to which Phoebe covers by saying "I said I hope she's not too fat."
  • Courtroom Episode: "Gets Swamped", though it's a debate instead of a court case. Carlos, as the representative of the pro-swamp side, must stand in defense of a swamp that keeps the town from flooding, with Janet as the anti-swamp side that wants to build a shopping mall in its place. The conflict of the episode comes from Carlos not just trying to win the debate, but the fact that he starts the episode on the anti-swamp side.
  • 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.
    • Arnold 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
    "In a Beehive": Tim
  • Deadly Euphemism: 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?" Additionally, in Inside a Hurricane, John depicts a tree falling on top of a person as one of "three bad things hurricanes do". "Hurt people" is kind of an understatement when a tree that might have been still alive just minutes before is on top of them.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Carlos is always quick with a bad pun or two in any episode he's in. It gets to the point where he's a Phrase Catcher with his name: "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) 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.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: In "Cracks A Yolk", the kids have to get a replacement chicken fast after he escapes the coop, before Mr. Ruhle could notice. Since they found it hard to get a replacement wholesale, they settle on hatching an egg with the Bus's assistance, which transforms into a hen with an advanced heater to speed up the hatching. Giblets then returns to Mr. Ruhle just after D.A. and Arnold present the chick to him, but they're allowed to keep it.
  • Different in Every Episode:
    • Ms. Frizzle changes her dress, earrings, and shoes in every episode to reflect the subject covered.
    • The bus also changes pattern and sometimes shape to reflect the adventure.
    • How The Friz enters in an episode always varies as well (although it's usually followed by the kids shouting "Ms. Frizzle!")
  • Divided for Adaptation: The book The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body is divided into two Season 1 episodes, "For Lunch" and "Inside Ralphie." In the book, the bus is unwittingly swallowed by Arnold (as in "For Lunch") and the class explores his digestive system, his bloodstream/immune system, and his lungs, brain, heart, and muscles, before finally heading to his nose and being sneezed out. In the TV series, "For Lunch" only covers the digestive system, and the class exits Arnold's body by making him burp the bus out of his stomach, while "Inside Ralphie" covers the immune system and has the "bus is sneezed out of the nose" ending. Meanwhile, the class enters Ms. Frizzle's body in "Works Out" to learn about the circulatory and respiratory systems.
  • 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."
  • The Drag-Along: Arnold in almost every episode. His Catchphrase is "I knew I should have stayed home today!"
    "Please let this be a normal field trip."
  • Dramatic Thunder: Played straight in "In the Haunted House" and "Going Batty", mostly using the Disney/Hanna-Barbera "Castle Thunder" Stock Sound Effects.
  • 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.
  • Dream Intro: Episode "Out Of This World" begins with Dorothy Ann having a nightmare about an asteroid crashing into Walkerville Elementary School and destroying it. She's awakened by the sound of her alarm clock.
  • Dressed in Layers:
    • In "Ups and Downs", Wanda takes off her normal outfit to reveal she is wearing a wetsuit underneath, complete with flippers that she somehow managed to cram into her shoes.
    • Ms. Frizzle in some episodes, if she doesn't begin it in one of her usual themed dresses
  • Drive-In Theater: Featured in "Spins a Web", where the class goes to one to watch a 1950s b-movie about a giant mantis. Then Ms. Frizzle drives them into the movie.
  • Dub Pronunciation Change: The Romanian dub has Wanda's name pronounced as "Vanda".
  • Dull Surprise: Happens a few times early in the series - then again, these are played by kids.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The very first episode, "Gets Lost in Space", has several. 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.
      • Janet is featured as a protagonist, implying that she will be a main character, but she only appears about Once a Season.
      • 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.
    • 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 differs quite a bit between the first and fourth seasons.
    • Beginning with "Blows Its Top", the animation for the bus transforming was generally the same (stretching up-and-down, side-to-side, then spinning), regardless of the situation. In the first season however, it seemed to vary from episode to episode.
    • At first, the original series logo only appeared on the first book, The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, with the first editions of The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth and The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body featuring the series logo in similar yet clearly different typefaces.
  • Earth Day Episode: The kids learn about the importance of the ecosystem during a trip to the rainforest to gather information for an Earth Day project.
  • 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.
    • There was an episode where they could "see" air. It was some special red-colored air called Extraordin-Air.
  • Edutainment Show: While it's intended purpose is first and foremost to teach science, the plots are still largely written like any other TV show with conflicts and Character Development, all of which serve the overall science lesson.
  • Ensemble Cast: The show really has no one single protagonist, giving the students a mostly equal role in any given episode, with individuals occasionally taking turns in the spotlight.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the intro, as the class is "rafting the river of lava", the volcano inside is about to erupt. The kids are terrified. Ms. Frizzle's smile doesn't budge.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Normally played straight. Lampshaded in "Gone Batty," where Ms. Frizzle and Ralphie enjoy a hearty laugh over his closing joke while Ralphie's mother gives them both a puzzled look.
  • Everytown, America: What little that's seen of Walkerville suggests it's the average American town, albeit with access to quite a few more scientific places than others, such as an observatory.
  • Evil Counterpart: Janet to Arnold. Heck the show usually plays the "Dun Dun Dunnnn" music when she appears.
  • Evil Egg Eater: In the episode "The Busasaurus", where the class is transported 67 million years in the prehistoric past, an Ornithomimus steals Arnold's unfossilized egg (that belongs to a paleontologist that he promised to keep safe), causing both Arnold and Pheobe to go after it. It's depicted as a very shifty-looking dinosaur, with slit yellow eyes and a snake-like head. It's even speculated by the two kids that it only eats eggs rather than plants or meat.
  • 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: Averted for the most part. The science lesson almost always tied in to some kind of conflict the characters were having (i.e., Ralphie wants a robot to do his chores = lesson on how body movement and structure; Carlos wants his invented instrument to sound better = lesson on how sound works). This was, however, much more 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".
  • Expressive Mask: In the start of "Going Batty", the vampire-obsessed Ralphie spooks Arnold wearing a rubber Dracula Halloween mask that matches perfectly with his facial movements and expressions.
  • 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
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: One of Ms. Frizzle's Catch Phrases is "Seat belts, Everyone!" and the kids will often buckle up without prompting...on a flying school bus that can transform into anything at any time.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Several episodes involve going inside a person or animal's body to learn about anatomy. This includes three in a row, involving Arnold (digestive system), Ralphie (cardiovascular/immune system), and a tuna fish (food chains).
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: In the episode about the life cycle of stars, "Sees Stars", the star salesman talks about how all stars are too far away for casual travel, and would all take decades to reach even if one traveled at the speed of light. The Bus, of course, can make a round trip within an afternoon.
  • Feigning Healthiness: In "Inside Ralphie", Ralphie has a cold. Once he's had bitter medicine, he tells Dr. Tenelli that he's already feeling better and that he can go back to school. Dr. Tenelli is not fooled and just tucks him back into bed.
  • 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, Phoebe is Quebecois, Ralphie is Italian, and Dorothy Ann is implied to be of mixed Anglo-Mediterranean extraction.
  • 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.
    • Also, even though it was in the "pilot", Arnold talks about places the class already went: Inside a Rotten Log or to the bottom of the ocean. 2 episodes that would show up later in "Rot Squad" and "Blows Its Top".
  • Foul Medicine: In "Inside Ralphie", Ralphie's mother gives him some medicine, which causes him to cringe from the taste. To avoid having to take more of it, Ralphie claims he's feeling better already, but she just tells him to go back to bed.
  • French Jerk: Rainforest Inspector 47 from "In the Rainforest", who constantly ignores the kids' advice on how to deal with a cocoa bean shortage and is forced through the wringer trying more and more harebrained schemes. He gets better, though; by the end of the episode, he even gets promoted to Inspector 22.
  • Friendly Scheming: Some of the stories have Ms. Frizzle play jokes on kids and deliberately mislead them, so that they would learn some new things on their own.
    • In Going Batty, it is strongly implied that she intentionally played up the "vampire" image (took the children's parents to a castle, gave them tomato juice that looks very much like blood and made it appear as if they had turned into bats) to lure the kids on another trip and make them learn more about bats.
    • In Cold Feet, this was partly unintentional: she wanted to tell the class what really happened to Liz, but seeing their reactions, she decided it would be better if she played along and let them learn on their own.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Phoebe, shown as an animal activist in many episodes (including "All Dried Up", "Cold Feet", "Spins a Web", "Goes Upstream", "Ups and Downs" - where her main concern is making sure the "monster" in Walkerville Lake is getting enough to eat - and "Getting Energized" - where she's raising funds for the animal shelter via the carnival).
  • 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.
  • Fundraiser Carnival: In the episode "Getting Energized", Ms. Frizzle's class is assigned to operate the ferris wheel at the school carnival to raise funds for the animal shelter.
  • Funny Photo Phrase: At the end of "Goes to Seed", the class all shout "Seeds!" for their cover photo of the Plant It! magazine.
  • 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-Blender Name: Phoebe's father is named Judy.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Eight students; four boys, four girls.
  • Generation Xerox: The kids' parents have speaking roles in the episode on bats, and act pretty much like older versions of their children, including using the same catchphrases. For example:
    Carlos's dad: Well, you know what they say. Bat breath's better than no breath at all.
    Everyone else: Mr. Ramon!
  • Genius Cripple: Mikey Ramon, Carlos' younger brother who uses a wheelchair and is a mechanical and computer whiz.
  • 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.
  • Green Gators: In "Cold Feet", the Bus's alligator form is bright green compared to the realistically gray gators in Herp Haven.
  • 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.
  • Halloween Episode: "In the Haunted House," "Going Batty" and "Gets a Bright Idea." The first two were even repackaged as an hour-long Halloween special with live-action bridging segments. Also during the live-action segments, Lily Tomlin portrayed the Friz's alter ego Archibald Dauntless the hobo, Arnold's then-current voice actor Danny Tamberelli portrayed Howard (Howie), Jamaican American performer Kharisma portrayed Katie, and Gabriel Martinez portrayed Richard (Richie). The Halloween special was even released to video by KidVision and later to Australia by Fox as a direct-to-exclusive.
  • Hammerspace: The amount of things Ms. Frizzle can carry on her person.
  • Hand Gagging: Non-maliciously done by Carlos to Arnold during Keisha's turning the tables over Janet in "Gets a Bright Idea" (as they needed to quietly get him out of the room).
  • 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, if not outright dead, 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!"
  • Headbutting Pachy: In the book In The Time Of The Dinosaurs of the series it mentions that they, "may have butted heads like rams," which normally wouldn't be a problem since it's stated as a theory instead of fact, then proceeds to illustrate two ramming each other head on in the background.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Keesha gets a pretty depressing one in "Gets Ants in its Pants" when she can't find an appropriate ant to star in her movie, despite all her efforts at searching.
    • 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 (as do the insides of a lot of other things- such as bus engines, computers and even cakes)! 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."

    Tropes I - P 
  • 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: Things grow and shrink on a regular basis, and the school bus is usually attacked when shrunken down to size. One episode even has the kids learn about molecules and how they work by shrinking down to molecular size.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: The eccentric Ms. Frizzle's awesome and bizarre powers drive the stories. She can take the class anywhere from the edge of the solar system to someone's digestive tract. The show purposefully never gives an explanation as to how she can do all of this. All that's ever revealed about her and the bus is that her first name is Valerie, and the guy who built the bus doesn't seem particularly magical himself. It's eventually revealed her distant ancestor had a Magic Spanish Galleon, but that just raises further questions. 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).
    • Then of course Lily Tomlin looks somewhat like the Friz.
  • 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 she turns out 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 is both a highly intelligent student and an aggravating snot.
  • 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.
  • Journey to the Sky: In both the books and the TV animated show, Mr. Fizzle and her students perform a travel to the skies on several occasions to study a particular topic, like when Ralphie wants to show Keesha that he can control the weather while roleplaying as the Weather Man. The episode "Goes On Air" is notable in that they don't do this for leisure or an educational goal, but to solve a more serious problem.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: In "Revving Up", Mr. Junkett was so sloppy while eating his peanut butter sandwich that he messed up the engine, and by extension, botched his own inspection of the bus. It's entirely his fault that he had to condemn the bus, and it was nearly destroyed.
  • 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-!"
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In "Holiday Special". Miss Frizzle's cousin Murph runs a recycling center. She's already shown great sensitivity to the word "junk" on multiple occasions, and is advancing on Carlos as he says:
    Carlos: But how do we make a bus out of all this...stuff?
  • Leitmotif:
    • Many of the bus's transformations are accompanied by a musical sting.
    • The theme song can usually be heard in bits and pieces throughout an episode.
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle: One episode, teaching the spectrum and how color works, 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 are always seen wearing the same clothes. One notable exception is in "Goes Cellular", where they wear formal attire instead. They also have beach attire in "Goes to Mussel Beach".
  • Literal Cliffhanger: In "Revving Up", as Junkett chases the class as they tow away the bus, he trips and falls down a cliff, but hangs on to a branch before the commercial break.
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": The Trope Namer. The class pet, a Jackson's chameleon, is literally a lizard named Liz.
  • Losing Horns: Very often the fourth wall's Lame Pun Reaction, particularly when Carlos makes the pun. It consists of two notes, the second one lower, played on a trombone with a mute effect.
  • 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. In spite of the kids being in genuinely life-threatening danger at several points, Ms. Frizzle and her magic bus prevent anything bad from happening to them. It's just one more way that Ms. Frizzle is Inexplicably Awesome.
  • Magic Bus: It's right there in the title. The titular bus can turn into pretty much anything and everything... and turn others into anything and everything.
  • Magic Pants: Any time the characters are transformed into animals, when they regain human form they're wearing the same clothes they were wearing when transformed in the first place.
  • 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, although she does get a couple of quick panty shots in the series.
  • 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.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In-Universe. General Araneus isn't really a General Ripper. He just plays one in Stand by Your Mantis. And he just so happens to be a fan of this series (specifically mentioning "Inside Ralphie" just before he leaves the Producer's office), and is just as concerned about scientific facts as other viewers are.
  • Melodrama: In the episode on electricity and electrical systems, the students mistakenly believe that the person coming to Ms. Frizzle's house is a potential love interest. If they can't fix the power to her house, the supposed paramour will leave, and "Ms. Frizzle's happiness will be ruined... forever!"
  • Meta: The program on the television during the vacuum scene in The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip? The Magic School Bus itself, of course!
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Downplayed: after shapeshifting into any animal, the kids will find whatever their current form eats appetizing and in "In the City", both Arnold and Carlos temporarily have their good sense temporarily overridden by hunger, going after worms and a night hawk respectively and the bus begins acting exactly like a bear.
  • Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: Ms. Frizzle frequently invites people to "take chances, make mistakes, and get messy".
  • 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: At the climax of original series book Inside a Hurricane, the class successfully rescues Arnold (after he got separated from everyone else as they explored the eponymous hurricane), only for the bus to suddenly get swept up by a tornado produced by the hurricane. On the very next page, the bus and its passengers land unharmed at a gas station and the tornado and hurricane itself seem to have abruptly vanished into thin air as the Friz and the class calmly tidy up the bus.
  • 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?
  • MST3K Mantra: Invoked with the producer segments, which serve to address any questions that viewers might ask, fill them in on any important facts that might have been left out of the story and remind them that such things are inevitable because this is still just a 30-minute TV program.
  • Musical Episode: "Holiday Special" has half a dozen songs in the form of Christmas carols with lyrics doctored around recycling.
  • Name One: Again, "Holiday Special". After Arnold recycles Wanda's toy soldier by accident, Wanda becomes bitter toward the recycling process and fails to see its benefits. When Phoebe points out there's a lot of good that comes from recycling, Wanda challenges her to name three, which she can't, but she "just knows there's lots." The class soon learns that recycling saves natural resources, results in less trash, and minimizes spacial demand for landfills.
  • 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 Endor Holocaust: In Out Of This World, the class realizes that an asteroid is about to hit their school, and decide to deflect it. They do this by causing the bus to grow to the size of the moon, so its gravity will pull the asteroid off-course. Now think for a moment about what the effects of an object the size of the moon appearing suddenly in Earth's orbit would be. . .
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: A grand total of three. The class is blown out of an erupting volcano in "Blows Its Top", gets caught in a gasoline explosion inside the bus's engine cylinder in "Revving Up", and the most extreme example is being close to a supernova in "Sees Stars". In the former two, they are not harmed by the explosion at all, and in the final one, the worst is that they get knocked back.
  • 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 Astronomers: "Out Of This World" manages to fall into this twice. Dorothy Ann discovers an asteroid she believes is about to hit the school, but when she asks NASA, they don't know anything about it. Later, the class manages to deflect the asteroid by inflating the Bus to the size of the moon so its gravity will pull it off course. Needless to say, no astronomer seems to have made note of that either— or, for that matter, the other consequences of a moon-sized object suddenly appearing in Earth's orbit.
  • 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."
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Just how did the Frizz get into the cake batter?
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Ms. Frizzle is an elementary school teacher version of this.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Arnold says this word-for-word in "Hops Home" when Wanda dives into the beaver pond after Bella.
    • He says exactly the same thing in "Going Cellular" when Pheobe points out to him that he ate the bus and their class.
  • 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 once per season.
  • Only One Name: Tim and Dorothy Ann were never given last names in canon.
  • 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.) This happens again in "Blows Its Top", when he starts reading D.A.'s books, prompting Arnold to actually see him as her.
  • 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 (which is a bit disturbing considering that said eggs have the kids in them).
  • Pepper Sneeze: Used to get the bus out of Ralphie's nose.
  • Phrase Catcher: "CARLOS!" Used against Carlos whenever he says a bad pun.
  • A Pig Named "Porkchop": Mr. Ruhle's pet chicken Giblets is named after the edible offal of a bird, typically the heart, gizzard (stomach), liver, and other organs.
  • 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, it's 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.
  • Pokémon Speak: "Bella.", by Bella the frog in "Hops Home". Before Pokemon, to boot! Then they run into another frog whose dialogue consists entirely of "Herman."
  • Pungeon Master: Carlos's shtick is making puns. Same goes for Mr. Ramon, his father.
  • 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, Cornelia C. Contralto, Mr. Junkett... you see where this is going.
    • Liz, the class's pet lizard.

    Tropes Q - Z 
  • Rainbow Lite: In the episode about rainbows, indigo is dropped as usual, leaving six colors.
  • Rapid-Fire Nail Biting: Used in one episode when Arnold, as per usual, gets nervous about the Wacky Field Trip of the Week. Ms. Frizzle snarks:
    "In accordance with federal regulations, we would like to remind you that this is a non-fingernail-biting flight."
  • 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?
  • Running Gag: The Portashrinker breaks whenever it can help.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: In "Gets Ants In It's Pants", Ms. Frizzle sprays everyone with ant pheromones so the ants will think they're members of the colony.
    Ralphie: I smell like an ant. Just what I always wanted.
    Ms. Frizzle: Really, Ralphie? Me, too!
  • Say My Name:
    • "Arnoooooold!"
    • "Wanda!"
    • "Ralphie!"
    • "Junkett!"
    • (collective gasp) Ms. Frizzle!
    • After he tells a bad joke, the kids will commonly yell "Carlos!".
  • 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.
    • In "Gets A Bright Idea", 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" features them when the rest of the class shrinks down to find out what's making Ralphie get sick. They encounter white blood cells, which identify the bus as a pathogen and start a chase scene. The white blood cells are shown "sniffing" for pathogens, even though they don't have noses. White blood cells don't actually move like they do in this episode; they mainly just float along and consume any pathogens they come across.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Zig-zagged with the titular Bus. It's headlight and front bumper are drawn to resemble eyes and a mouth, respectively, though it doesn't speak, only making humorous facial expression in reaction to something. However, while it doesn't seem able to move independently from a driver, it does seem to have a mind of its own, such as when it turns the de-recycling laser onto itself in the holiday special or when it wanders off in bear form in "In The City."
  • Series Finale: "Takes a Dive", the 52nd and last episode, which revolves around coral reefs and a hunt for pirate treasure. At the end, Ms. Frizzle mentions that she's thinking about retiring.
  • Shared Family Quirks: Both Carlos and his dad are frequent victims of the First-Name Ultimatum (though it's technically a last name ultimatum in the latter's case — his first name is never mentioned) as a result of constant Incredibly Lame Puns.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Arnold and Phoebe:
      • "The Busasaurus" had Arnold and Phoebe chasing the dinosaur egg together and Phoebe also swoons when Arnold refuses to give up. She then shows him further admiration after he saves the class from a Tyrannosaurus rex.
      • Even though it was because he wanted to try out his new field trip survival guide, Arnold did give Phoebe the suggestion of taking a field trip to the desert when she wanted to save the animals in "All Dried Up."
      • In "Flexes Its Muscles," as they watch a robot go by, Arnold has his hand on her shoulder.
      • He reached out and helped her when she nearly slipped off the ice in "In the Arctic".
      • When Phoebe became human again after being a beanstalk in "Gets Planted", she was hungry and Arnold gave her his Mallowblaster.
      • They were the only ones not shrunk at first in "Gets Swamped". In that same episode, when the class is trying to move debris from blocking the flood water from going into the swamp, Phoebe says they would have used a bulldozer to move the large tree at her old school. Janet snaps at her where would they find a bulldozer, and Arnold kind of jumps to Phoebe's defense and reminds Janet they have a magical school bus on hand. Earlier, when Janet gave a convincing argument against the swamp, Phoebe blurted out her argument, the town council telling her she was out of order, but Arnold jumps in right after her, also arguing against Janet.
      • He wanted to know the difference between his skin and hers in "Goes Cellular", which was another episode in which they were left alone and had to chase after an animal that took something from them. During that episode, Phoebe tries her best to keep him calm and helps him try to hide the orange. They hide together under a cart while she attempts to use flour to hide the orange, and when the others could not find the source of his skin change, Phoebe sounds disappointed when she asks, "You're not giving up, are you?"
      • In "In the City," while they were both foxes, Phoebe pulled him away from a snarling raccoon by his tail, and they worked together in both "Inside Ralphie" and "Takes a Dive".
      • He was also the only one in the class not to turn against Phoebe in "Butterfly and the Bog Beast," despite him usually falling for Janet's manipulations in other episodes.
      • When Phoebe accidentally wrapped herself up in her own handmade web in "Spins a Web," Arnold was the one who cut it off of her while (inadvertently) giving her and idea on how to stop the general. Her response, "Yes! Arnold, you're a genius! Isn't he, Ms. Frizzle?"
      • Although it was to hide from Mr. Seedplot, Phoebe didn't hesitate to jump after Arnold down a pollen tube, shouting, "Wait for me!"
      • Heck, even the intro had Arnold putting his hands on Phoebe's shoulders when the bus was riding the "river of lava".
    • Arnold/D.A. shippers will really enjoy that moment when D.A. kisses Arnold and gives him a Luminescent Blush.
    • "The Magic School Bus Goes to Seed" hints at something between Ms. Frizzle and Phoebe's old science teacher Mr. Seedplot, who were previously acquainted. Whether it's mutual or just a one-sided crush on Mr. Seedplot's part is less clear.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: While the show openly admits to taking Acceptable Breaks from Reality to make the stories entertaining (it's called The Magic School Bus, after all), the writers clearly did their homework for all of the given subjects.
    • The end credits of each episode proudly display the numerous scientists consulted to ensure all of the scientific facts were up-to-date and accurate.
    • The "producer" segments fill the viewers in on any otherwise important facts that the show proper couldn't work into its story.
    • In-Universe in "Inside Ralphie," Ralphie's mother, a doctor, watches what she thinks is a movie (really live footage of the bus traveling through his bloodstream) and compliments it for accurately displaying up-close blood as clear rather than red.
  • Shrink Ray: One of the bus' many features. There is also a portable version called, appropriately enough, the "Porta-Shrinker".
  • Sick Episode: "Inside Ralphie", in which Ralphie is home with a sore throat and the rest of the class goes inside his body to witness the battle between the germs and his body's own natural immune system.
  • 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'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. Also, Liz seems to be a chameleon, a type of lizard that doesn't even hibernate naturally.
  • Spectacular Spinning: The Bus's regular transformation sequence has spin around a 'la Wonder Woman until it takes the desired form.note  There are some variations, such as in "Spins A Web," where it goes through a slow, Wolfman-like transformation into a giant spider.
  • 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".
    • In "In the Haunted House" the class is playing the William Tell Overture.
  • Stock Foreign Name: Carlos. Keesha is a uniquely spelled variant. Averted with Wanda, her brother William, Tim, and Carlos' brother Mikey.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Unusual for a PBS animated series, this show is really heavy with classic Hanna-Barbera and Disney sound effects. (Nelvana did use H-B's sound effects quite a bit during the 80s, but generally avoided them afterwards, at least outside of this series.)
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Janet, Mikey, the kids' parents, etc.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Although Liz never did speak in the TV show, she did gain a voice on the CD-ROM for helpful hints.
  • 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. Taking even further is that, the kids apparently are still speaking English in their animal forms, as they cannot communicate with the regular animals.
    • 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.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of "Spins a Web" the movie-within-a-show Stand By Your Mantis ends with a message saying "The End...Or Is It?" implying that the movie has a Sequel Hook.
  • The Twelve Spoofs of Christmas: In "Holiday Special" the kids sing a version of the song with each day's gift replaced with a number of items being taken to the recycling center.
  • 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.
  • Tough Room: "CARLOS!"
    • Not just the class. In "Getting Energized", Carlos has to keep an increasingly unruly crowd entertained. Among other things, he performs his impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nobody likes it.
  • 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.
  • Transflormation: Phoebe is turned into a beanstalk in "Gets Planted".
  • 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".
  • Trickster Mentor: Very rarely, if ever, does Miss Frizzle give the kids a straight answer to their question or problem, instead preferring to take them on field trips where they can find the answers out for themselves.
  • True Companions: The kids. They have their tiffs (there'd be no stories if there weren't) and are often paired off by rivalries, but otherwise have nothing but respect for one another, never go out of their way to hurt each other and always apologize for any trouble they cause.
  • Tsundere: Wanda. She considers showing emotion and being cute to being a "weasely wimp," and tries to avoid it whenever possible. In episodes where she's the focus, it's usually with An Aesop that showing emotion is acceptable.
  • 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.
  • 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: What with being named after the titular Magic School Bus.
  • 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).
  • Visual Pun: Ms. Frizzle's cell phone in "Going Cellular".
  • Vocal Evolution:
    • Some of the kid actors' voices broke by the time the show ended.
    • Inverted with Tim - whose voice became higher as the series went on.
  • Wacky Homeroom: Ms. Frizzle is decidedly crazy and her class, while not as quirky as some other examples, are unique in their own ways.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Bus has, on multiple occasions, been described as old and ragged, and has failed to start or broken down multiple times. 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, as seen in "Kicks Up a Storm".
  • We Don't Need Roads: The bus can go pretty much anywhere.
  • 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.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Walkerville appears to be everywhere in the United States from Illinois to Florida to Rhode Island.
  • 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.
  • 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 they 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.

"beep-beep, beep-beep!"

Alternative Title(s): Magic School Bus



The class discovers their repair guy was actually the one who got them in this whole mess in the first place.

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