The principal's a rhino, and no one's asking why!
Dinosaurs are everywhere, a twister's in the sky
It's just another day at Flying Rhino Junior High!
Flying Rhino Junior High is a Canadian animated television series created by American cartoonist Ray Nelson Jr. and produced by Nelvana. It originally aired for 2 seasons and 26 episodes from October 3, 1998 to January 22, 2000 on CBS as part of the Nelvana-produced CBS Kidshow Saturday-Morning Cartoon block, but also popped up on Teletoon and YTV in Canada and STV in Scotland, and on the Cartoon Network in the rest of the UK.
In the eponymous school, an evil genius named Earl P. Sidebottom dwells in the depths of its basement, working and living down there a la The Phantom of the Opera after fleeing in shame when he received a "D" grade in shop class. Along with his intelligent rodent servant Raticus, Earl (or "The Phantom" as he prefers to be called) extracts petty revenge on the school pretty much every day by using a highly advanced computer of his design that can warp reality to transform the school into many strange and dangerous places, from a prehistoric dinosaur-filled jungle to Ancient Rome to a Comic Book to a James Bond-esque spy flick, usually basing what he transforms the school into on whatever relevant topic has come up in school on that day.
And whenever Earl is up to no good, it's then up to the school's resident gang of students, made up of Billy O' Toole, elementary-aged prodigy Marcus Snarkis, his older sister Ruby Snarkis, and tomboy Lydia Lopez. With a little help from their teachers and fellow students, our unlikely band of heroes are the only ones able to stop The Phantom and his mad machinations, as well as make their way past the crazy and impossible things that happen every day only at Flying Rhino Junior High.
Also, the principal of the school is a talking rhino in a suit, and the janitor is an ex-secret agent Pig Man. There seems to be little reason for this outside of the fact that they just are (well, the principal does have an autobiography called "It's a Skin Condition, REALLY!").
While Flying Rhino Junior High was short-lived, the show's history and legacy is rather interesting. It actually began life as the Flying Rhino series, a collection of humorous kid-oriented educational books originally published in 1993, as well as a series of short educational cartoons created for schools across America. And while the show and its predecessors have faded into obscurity following their discontinuation, creator Ray Nelson Jr. continues to use the Flying Rhino characters for educational platforms, from websites and apps to even a grassroots organic food campaign!
Nelvana has every episode available on Youtube through their Keep it Weird channel. You can see them all here!
This show provides examples of:
- Academy of Adventure: What do you expect from a school where a supervillain put his lair in the basement?
- Accidental Misnaming: Ratticus always mispronounces "Phantom" as "Phanthom". Earl usually ignores it, likely because when he does try to correct him it never works. In "Phantom Christmas", Earl has a nightmare where he is still a student and Ratticus is the villain. Naturally, he calls himself "The Phanthom", and everyone corrects Earl when he says "Phantom".
- Almighty Janitor: Buford, a former CIA agent, now the school's janitor. His expertise is usually called upon to help the students deal with the Phantom's latest reality-warping attack on the school. In one episode, a running Shout-Out to James Bond, he gets to supply the four main students with spy gadgets.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Arabic dub has a light-hearted sounding intro, which doesn’t fit in considering the show’s nature.
- The B Grade: Why Earl became the Phantom. A "D" in shop class was too much to bear.
- Blatant Lies: Earl claims to have invented the machine, yet one episode has Ratticus calling a company hotline to help him repair it. Meaning Earl in fact ordered it.
- Butt-Monkey: Ratticus is frequently either being beaten up by Phantom or being insulted by him.
- Chekhov's Classroom: The Phantom usually transforms the school into a death trap based on whatever lecture (or sometimes just topic of discussion in general) the children were having that day. This naturally leads to the students who were paying attention being the one to get everyone out of trouble.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
- In "Comic Book Chaos", the kids defeat four powerful comic book villains on their own.
- In the race against Achilles, the kids devise a plan to psyche him out by having students wearing casts on their legs or dragging their feet, which in turn makes him paranoid about his heel and gets more and more messed up, totally freaking out and losing the race. Yes, a bunch of normal kids Mind Raped a Greek Demi-God.
- Didn't Think This Through: In "Prehysteria", Marcus gets the idea to get rid of a T-rex by using instant oatmeal and the school pool as an improvised tar pit. While this works, Marcus quickly realizes a flaw in this plan; all the oatmeal attracts herbivorous dinos, which in turn attract carnivores. Now the group's gone from dealing with one T-rex to several.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Usually, the Phantom will end up doing this to himself when his plan backfires.
- In "Comic Book Chaos", the kids bait Wedgie Woman by passing near her, only without wearing underclothes - and then psyche her out by demanding her to give them a wedgie. The villain becomes so bamboozled she gives a wedgie to herself.
- Jerkass Gods: The Olympic Gods in "It's Greek To Me" are incredibly smug and obnoxious about their obvious physical prowess. Luckily, their egos are the Fatal Flaw that the kids exploit to prevail.
- Laughably Evil: Despite his ability to change the school into whatever he pleases, it's hard to take Earl seriously.
- Logic Bomb: In "Comic Book Chaos", the kids defeat Wedgie Woman by taking off their underpants and then daring her to give them a wedgie - leading to her giving herself a wedgie.
- Master of Disguise: "Live and Let Spy" has one of Earl's henchmen, The Impostor, being one of these, utilizing disguises of the Latex Perfection variety to impersonate Edna the lunch lady and Mrs. Snodgrass. During his proper introduction by Earl, he demonstrates his disguise ability by removing a mask of his normal face to reveal rubber masks of another teacher, Principal Mulligan and Ratticus.
- Meaningful Name: Ratticus is, of course, a talking rat.
- Mirror Universe: One episode had Earl send the kids to a parallel universe where most people's personalities were reversed and their school was a miniature dystopia. Raticus hung a lampshade on this, saying that he's seen that in a cartoon before.
- Once More, with Volume!: Used as a Running Gag between The Phantom and Raticus:The Phantom: What did he/she say????Raticus: He/She said that...The Phantom: I HEARD HIM/HER!!!!!
- Pirate: "Yo Ho Ho and the Phantom's A Bum" is a pirate-centric episode, where Earl transforms the school into a seven-seas setting and materializes a crew of rowdy pirates who conscript the kids. Mrs. Snodgrass even states in her Chekhov's Classroom that while pirates can seem romantic, they were still ultimately scoundrels.
- Shout-Out: A lot of them, from small one-liners in the individual episodes, to entire episodes being a shout-out to a specific genre/media type (the prementioned Comic Book and James Bond episodes) to the fact that the Phantom himself is an obvious parody of The Phantom of the Opera.
- In The Pilot, Ruby yells "Oh, look! It's BARNEY!!!"
- The Parallel Universe episode makes many allusions to "Through the Looking Glass" Not that Earl sends them into a Wonderland like reality, but simply the fact the characters bring up the book over and over, and becomes the Deus ex Machina to getting back home.
- Billy wears his red cap with a yellow "B" on it like Bert Raccoon wears his red sweater, also with a yellow "B". While Len Carlson provided Bert's voice on The Raccoons, he provided voices on both shows. However, Ashley Brown (yes, he's African-Canadian) voiced Billy.
- Speaking of Brown, he also voiced a main character whose name also begins with a "B" and wears a red cap: Bradley.
- Silence, You Fool!: Notable for having the opening theme end with Earl yelling "SILENCE!"
- Status Quo Is God: no matter how many times Earl's computer get wrecked, destroyed, broken or other at the end of each episode, it's back to normal the next one.
- Theme Naming: Every minion that Earl creates that he has a soft spot for, he adds "cus" to the end. (Ratticus, Hornetcus, Garbagecus)
- Truncated Theme Tune: A couple of parts were cut from the intro for time when the show aired on CBS (Canadian and UK broadcasts have the theme intact).
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The principal is a rhino and the janitor is a pig who used to work as a spy, two facts which (outside of the show's theme song) are never commented upon by anyone. The teachers at the school also never seem to realise that their entire school completely changes into something incredibly dangerous and new on a daily basis (either that or they're in real deep denial).
- Well, Mrs. Snodgrass just incorporates the madness into her lectures, but Mulligan is stated in the first episode to be in denial about 'The Phantom'.
- Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Earl P. Sidebottom is an Evil Genius with a Reality Warper machine at his disposal, capable of putting the students in life-threatening situations. Though he fails pretty much Once an Episode, he's still far more of a threat than his Minion with an F in Evil, Ratticus.
- Villain Episode: "Phantom Christmas"