Follow TV Tropes

Following

Western Animation / Schoolhouse Rock!

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/schoolhouse_rock.png
It's Schoolhouse Rocky
A chip off the block
Of your favorite schoolhouse

Schoolhouse Rock!
As your body grows bigger,
Your mind must flower
It's great to learn,
'Cause knowledge is power!
— "Schoolhouse Rocky"

Schoolhouse Rock! was a series of educational short cartoons — so short, that they'd fit into the space of a single commercial break — that aired Saturday mornings on ABC, originally between 1973 and 1985 and again from 1993–2000.

Back in the day, Saturday morning children's programming was supposed to be at least tangentially educational, and Merchandise-Driven advertising was severely limited. Networks couldn't advertise things related to the cartoons they were airing in those timeslots, so there was an opening for educational shorts even after running through cereal commercials.

At around the same time, advertising executive David McCall noticed that while his son was struggling in school, he had no trouble remembering the lyrics to his favorite songs. Thus the idea to introduce basic learning concepts to young minds via simple-but-catchy rock, jazz, folk and pop tunes — most of them written by jazz mainstay Bob Dorough and eventual Broadway lyricist Lynn Ahrens — accompanied by entertaining visuals, animated by a team led by Tom Yohe.

The initial pitch was made to Michael Eisner, then vice president of ABC's children's programming, who brought along one Chuck Jones. Jones loved the concept, Eisner persuaded his regular program lineup to snip three minutes off each program's running time to accommodate it, and a legend was born. The Saturday morning format provided a perfect vehicle to repeat the shorts over and over until the lesson was learned; from the start, Schoolhouse Rock! was a roaring success as both education and entertainment, running for 37 episodes repeated endlessly over 12 years. Many of the shorts were permanently burned into the minds of young viewers.

Along with the educational content, the series won accolades for the consistently high quality of the songs — besides Dorough and Ahrens, performers included genre legends Jack Sheldon, Blossom Dearie, Essra Mohawk, and Grady Tate — and the overall cleverness of the lyrics and animation. Taking cues from Sesame Street and other contemporary educational programming, Schoolhouse Rock! avoided the blandness and conformity plaguing most animated shows of the era and instead presented a hip, inclusive, fast-paced, and funny (often downright snarky) attitude to learning.

Episodes initially fell under one of four headings, in order of production: Multiplication Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock (history, mostly released around the 1976 American Bicentennial) and Science Rock. 1983 saw an earnest but ill-fated attempt at Computer Rock (a.k.a. Scooter Computer & Mr. Chips) and in 1995/96 the original team reunited for the much more successful Money Rock. In addition, two new Grammar Rock segments ("Busy Prepositions" and "The Tale of Mr. Morton") were added. The shorts continued airing, now part of the One Saturday Morning block, until 2000. Reruns later aired on Toon Disney in the mid 2000s.

In 2002 the team reunited again to produce two new America Rock segments ("I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" and "Presidential Minute") as a Milestone Celebration. In 2009, yet another reunion produced Earth Rock, about environmental issues.

Between 1995 and 1998, a series of CD-ROM games were published by the now defunct Creative Wonders. A live stage show, Schoolhouse Rock Live!, began touring in 1993.

On February 1st, 2023, ABC celebrated the show's 50th anniversary with a special called Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong. As the name implies, this is a singalong, with 10 new arrangements of the show's most famous songs sung by various celebrities and musicians, and hosted by Ryan Seacrest of American Idol fame.

All of the classic Schoolhouse Rock! shorts are now available on DVD — save one installment of "Scooter Computer" thought lost until 2013, which eventually emerged on YouTube. The newer Earth Rock set is also available as a separate release.


Notable episodes:
  • "Three is a Magic Number" (Multiplication Rock, performed by Bob Dorough) — Yes, it is. It's a magic number. The song that started it all, used as the initial pitch to ABC and still one of the best ever produced for the series, centered on the three times tables and the Rule of Three. Eventually used in Nike and ESPN commercials years later and was sampled for the De La Soul song "The Magic Number" off their Three Feet High And Rising album in 1989.
  • "Ready or Not, Here I Come!" (Multiplication Rock, performed by Bob Dorough) — This song is often regarded as the most memorable song in regards to practical use. Everyone and their pets knows how to sing this song when counting by fives and it's the melody that can be remembered the most in what it teaches.
  • "Figure Eight" (Multiplication Rock, performed by Blossom Dearie) — One of three songs to include famed American jazz singer Blossom Dearie, and also serves as a time capsule to the early days of Schoolhouse Rock!, when the show would start with a wintry overhead shot of a school set to an instrumental piece before ultimately being replaced by the "Schoolhouse Rocky" skit.
  • "A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing" (Grammar Rock, performed by Lynn Ahrens) — This decent but unremarkable segment became notorious for a colouring goof that causes Chubby Checker to appear briefly as white. (There are also the deliberately white and smiling plantation slaves in "Mother Necessity"; weird notes in an otherwise fully integrated series.) MADtv parodied this on their short-lived recurring sketch "Public Schoolhouse Rock", listing the terrible things about public school (gangs in the halls, graffiti, and the absentee staff members). Its chorus' rhythm was sampled by Tracey Lee for the song "The Theme (It's Party Time)".
  • "Conjunction Junction" (Grammar Rock, performed by Jack Sheldon) — What's your function? A kindly railroad freight conductor explains conjunctions (i.e., "and", "but", "or") in terms of 'hookin' up cars and makin' 'em run right', in possibly the most insanely catchy children's song of all time. It marks the debut of series regular Jack Sheldon. For the 30th Anniversary Countdown, this was ranked as the greatest Schoolhouse Rock! song. Notable for the number of cover versions by big name jazz artists (both Harry Connick Jr. and Doctor John have covered it, to name two). Also gave the name to Rachel Maddow's Debunktion Junction segments, and was once parodied on MADtv as "Dysfunction Junction", about the dangers of overprescribing ADHD medication. In 2013, the real railroad Norfolk Southern made a commercial with an updated tempo of the iconic song.
  • "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" (America Rock, performed by Bob Dorough) — Notable both as a fairly comprehensive three-minute summary of the American Revolutionary War and for some surprising nudity. Near the end, a multi-ethnic crowd appears to represent America, and one of them — apparently a Native woman — is naked (albeit in the long shot only, no details shown).
  • "The Preamble" (America Rock, performed by Lynn Ahrens) — Explaining the basic concept of the Constitution, using the Preamble as the chorus (albeit omitting the first 'of the United States' to fit the lyric scheme). A decade or so later, teachers across the nation wondered why students taking history exams were singing under their breaths...
  • "I'm Just a Bill" (America Rock, written by Dave Frishberg and performed by Jack Sheldon) — Yes, he's only a bill, and he's sitting there on Capitol Hill. A forlorn little bill sitting on the steps of the Capitol explains the long, contentious process by which he someday 'hopes and prays' to become a law. This one became so iconic that not only has it been screened in Washington as an instructional film for new Congressional aides, but it also earned The Simpsons parody "Amendment to Be" (about an amendment against flag-burning waiting to be ratified)note , a Family Guy throwaway joke in "They Call Me Bill" (which ends with the bill being poked with a trash pick and put into a garbage bag), and the The Daily Show parody "Midterm Elections". It was also referenced by The Rachel Maddow Show's coverage of the 2009/10 health care law, and on the season 40 Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Cameron Diaz, wherein the Bill (Kenan Thompson) gets pushed down the stairs by Barack Obama (Jay Pharaoh) and replaced with an executive order (Bobby Moynihan) to grant legal status to 5 million undocumented immigrants.
  • "Mother Necessity" (America Rock, various performers) — The most elaborate of the segments, in which all five of the regular performers (Dorough, Dearie, Ahrens, Sheldon & Essra Mohawk) each sing about different inventions. Notable in that this was a complicated process in the pre-Internet era; the producers had to travel to four different studios across the country to record a couple of lines at a time.
  • "Interplanet Janet" (Science Rock, performed by Lynn Ahrens) — She's a galaxy girl! Another notoriously catchy tune, about... an alien softball team exploring our solar system. No, really. "She travels like a rocket with her comet team/And there's never been a planet Janet hasn't seen!"
  • "The Weather Show" (Science Rock, performed by Bob Kaliban) — A missing episode for years because of legal difficulties stemming from the song's use of the phrase "Greatest Show on Earth", which trademark owner Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus did not view kindly. Eventually released as part of the 30th anniversary DVD, with the offending references rather awkwardly excised.

This series is the Trope Namer for My Hero, Zero and "Schoolhouse Rock!" Lesson.


Schoolhouse Rock! contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: How Geraldine views Geraldo in "Interjections". The verse implies he's simply a Dogged Nice Guy, but after hearing his singing, you can't really blame her.
  • The Abridged History: "The Shot Heard 'Round The World" offers an abridged history of The American Revolution itself and glorifies Washington and his army.
  • Africa Is a Country: "The Great American Melting Pot" shows Lady Liberty's recipe for said melting pot, including people from many different countries, like Armenians, English, Italians, Norwegians, Cubans, but lists a general "Africans" among these demonyms as if Africa were not many countries.
  • Alternative Number System: The song "Little Twelvetoes" is about a friendly alien with six digits on each hand and foot, who uses base 12 and as such has an easy time multiplying by twelves. It only aired a couple of times, because they thought the duodecimal system would be too complex for kids.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Seen frequently. Most notably in "Tyrannosaurus Debt", where the National Debt is portrayed by a blue Tyrannosaurus Rex with stars and red stripes.
  • Artistic License – Economics: "Tyrannosaurus Debt" observes the continuous growth of the United States debt and prescribes a balanced budget to "spend within our means". Outside of the most ardent fiscal hawks, most economists agree that government debt and deficits are normal as long as they don't outpace economic growth.
  • Artistic License – History: Several of the America Rock shorts, which were produced around the Bicentennial celebrations. Suffice it to say that the nuances of history tend to be difficult to stuff into catchy three-minute songs, with the notable exception of "I'm Just a Bill", which gets the process of lawmaking impressively straight.
    • "No More Kings" completely vilifies George III, pinning the blame for everything that lead to the revolution on him, and portraying him as a greedy, hedonistic fool. Never mind that it is now typically agreed that George had the least influence over what happened, and most of it was the fault of the British Parliament. The song also claims that the Boston Tea Party involved colonists dumping cups of tea into the harbor. What really happened was they stormed a merchant ship carrying bags of tea, smashed the crates they were being kept in, and dumped those into the harbor — the fact that they were dressed as Native Americans and used tomahawks to do so is also left out.
    • "Fireworks" has a minor mistake regarding the Committee of Five. The five members are said to be Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson. While this is mostly true, Philip Livingston was not part of the Committee. Rather, it was his cousin, Robert Livingston. The only thing Philip did was sign the Declaration in his place, as Robert ended up getting recalled by his state before he had the chance to sign it.
    • "Mother Necessity" has quite a number of artistic licenses regarding inventions, some Played for Laughs, and some being historical inaccuracies.
      • The rocking chair's origin is heavily disputed — often being attributed to Benjamin Franklin — but whoever it was, most historians seem to think that it wasn't created by one single woman.
      • Eli Whitney did not create the original cotton gin. Its roots go as far back as Buddhist India.
      • Thomas Edison created the first functional incandescent lightbulb, but he didn't create the first one, as fellow inventors were trying to create lightbulbs of their own, and the first definitional lightbulb was created by Humphry Davy 70 years prior to Edison. Edison also didn't create the lightbulb for his mother's sake, as he was an opportunistic inventor prior to its creation, with him having previously created the phonograph.
      • Samuel Morse was never known for having an attachment to horses, and his inspiration for creating the telegraph came from an encounter with Charles Thomas Jackson, who was knowledgeable in electromagnetism, while he was traveling by boat. He was also originally a painter who invented Morse Code because he unfortunately missed the death of his wife due to mail regarding her illness taking too long to arrive.
      • Elias Howe may have created the lockstitch sewing machine, but he did not invent the first sewing machine, with it being attributed to Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal exactly 90 years prior.
      • The Wright Brothers weren't working on the first airplane as kids, and instead first sketched the blueprints for it when Orville was in his 20s and Wilbur was in his 30s. Their mother also wasn't a nagger, and in fact assisted them in many of their projects when they were younger.
      • Robert Fulton did not invent the steamboat, with Alexander Hart being the one to create the first functional one. Fulton merely sought to improve upon the finalized design.
      • Guglielmo Marconi was not American at all. He just visited the country a few times when setting up radio stations around the world.
      • Henry Ford had no involvement in the creation of the automobile, with Gustave Trouvé being the one to create the first functioning automobile. Ford's contribution was mass producing automobiles.
      • Factories have a history that go over 10,000 years back. Samuel Slater is only known for inventing textile manufacturing factories.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Naughty Number Nine is a large anthropomorphic cat who plays pool with a mouse as the cue ball.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A few gags in the shorts play off this way.
    • In "Unpack your Adjectives", the protagonist labels two boys "brainy" and "dumb", giving the one with glasses the "brainy" sign until the larger boy with no glasses spouts a complex equation, causing the girl to switch the labels around.
    • In "Interjections", a snake approaches a girl... but the girl pulls a scary face and so the snake is the one left shouting "EEK!"
    • In "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla", Albert brings up Rafaella Gabriella Sarsaparilla for another demonstration of how pronouns can be used to shorten sentences, after discussing Rufus and his kangaroo:
      If she had a kangaroo, I'd say to you, she found a kangaroo that followed her home and now it is hers, but I can't say that — 'cause she found an aardvark!
  • Bears Are Bad News: In "Unpack Your Adjectives", the singer goes camping and encounters a bear. "He was a hairy bear! He was a scary bear! We beat a hasty retreat from his lair!"
    • In a subversion of the trope, however, as soon as the singer and her turtle run away from the bear, the bear just shrugs his shoulders and saunters off.
    • The bear is an Extreme Omnivore as he eats the adjectives.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The backup singers in "The Weather Show".
  • Book Ends: Each vignette of "A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing" begins and ends with the exact same sentence. (Well, almost exactly the same for the second verse.)
  • Butt-Monkey: The protagonist of "A Victim of Gravity". He's just trying to impress his partner, only for gravity to ruin everything, from making a cup break by dropping it to falling in a manhole to tripping over a football.
  • The Cameo: The Bill from "I'm Just a Bill" makes a brief appearance at the very end of the Money Rock song "Tyrannosaurus Debt". The titular dinosaur looks down over the Capitol and sees Bill sitting there. Bill looks up at it and runs away in terror.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Poor Mr. Morton blushed, fainted, and even ran away (twice) instead of talking to Pearl.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The first VHS copies cut out several songs in favor of new, live-action numbers performed by Cloris Leachman and a group of children. These songs disappeared from later home video versions, since they do not have the same composers as the original shorts.
  • Cape Snag: Happens several times to Zero in "My Hero Zero".
  • Cats Are Mean: The titular pool-playing cat in "Naughty Number Nine" abuses a mouse.
  • Claiming Via Flag: "The Great American Melting Pot" shows a bunch of people from different cultures showing up on America with flags to show that the country is multicultural.
  • Couch Gags: The home video opening sequences used the following:
    • On Golden Book Video compilations, part of Cloris Leachman's theme song changed to something describing the video's main subject.
    • On compilations released by Walt Disney Home Video, the chef of Conjunction Junction Dinernote  always gives a different response when Rocky asks, "Hey, Chef! What's the special today?"
  • Counting Song: The "Multiplication Rock" videos help listeners memorize a certain multiplication table.
  • Cover Album: Schoolhouse Rock Rocks! (1996), which features 14 songs covered by hip-hop and alternative rock artists.
    • Schoolhouse Rocks the Vote (1998), which features five covers of songs from America Rock, and five new compositions.
  • Creator Cameo: David McCall influenced the design of one of the "very weird creatures" Interplanet Janet meets on Earth.
    • Several cameos are also seen in "The Good Eleven", including Tom Yohe (wearing a red bowtie), George Newall (riding a bike), and McCall (looking in a mirror).
    • Several of the names on the different selections in the voting booth in "The Preamble" are the names of the show's creators.
    • That's Yohe laughing as King George in "No More Kings".
    • A boy in "Ready Or Not, Here I Come" can be seen wearing a shirt which says "Camp Yohe", though it inexplicably changes to "Camp Newall" at one point.
  • Creepy Child: Arguably, the cute little skater from "Figure Eight", whose eerily ethereal song (by Blossom Dearie) includes the wholly non-sequitur lines "If you skate/Upon thin ice/You'd be wise/If you thought twice/Before you made another single move...".
  • Crush Blush: In "The Tale of Mr. Morton," Mr. Morton's entire face turned red when he saw Pearl out of his window.
  • Cut-and-Paste Suburb: An occupational hazard of limited animation. If you see a bunch of houses in an aerial shot, they're probably going to be identical.
  • Dance Sensation: "Do the Circulation" is structured like a song in this vein, framing the circulatory process as a new dance craze.
  • Dem Bones: "Them Not-So-Dry Bones" is all about the bones in one's body, and even starts off with the trope's namesake.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Even though the banker recommended that Becky Sue could invest her birthday cash and let it grow in the bank, she disregarded his advice and instead took out a loan from the bank to purchase "a guitar, an amp, and some quadraphonics, and several hundred dollars' worth of electronics" for her musical aspirations... and there was no electrical outlet to plug them all into on her farm. Lampshaded by the line "You gotta use them dollars with a little bit of common sense".
  • Dissonant Serenity: In "Unpack Your Adjectives", asked to describe her trip to eager friends, the protagonist promptly unpacks... "frustrating" and "worst". "Then I picked 'soggy' and/Then I picked 'foggy' and/Then I was ready/To tell them my tale...". All this without breaking the adorably chipper tone of the song.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In "A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing", a Grumpy Old Lady gets her dog to bark after the heroes, who give it a bone, causing it to turn against her.
  • Dumber Than They Look: Implied in the song "Unpack Your Adjectives". The camper places the adjectives "dumb" and "brainy" on two boys — one who is relatively average-looking, and one who wears glasses and a well-trimmed suit, respectively. However, when the average-looking boy starts spouting complex mathematical formulas, the camper switches the adjectives to indicate that the average-looking boy is actually the brainy one, while the well-dressed boy is actually the dumb one.
  • Earth Song: Every single song in "Earth Rock" is about ways to save the Earth.
  • Educational Short: One of the most famous series of these...
  • Educational Song: ...With one of the most famous collections of these.
  • Embodiment of Virtue: In "Three is a Magic Number", Faith, Hope, and Charity appear in the form of three women.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: "Electricity" has the word strobing in yellow against a black background most times the word is sung, including a couple of instances of the word appearing in several rows of yellow lettering, all of them flashing.
  • Extra Digits: "Little Twelvetoes" has six fingers on each hand, and six on each foot.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Newsboys hawking newspapers appear in "Fireworks" and "Walkin' on Wall Street".
  • Eye-Obscuring Hat: The male singer in "The Weather Show" wears one, as does Naughty Number Nine from the eponymous song.
  • Faint in Shock: In "The Tale of Mr. Morton", the eponymous Mr. Morton faints after he reads a letter from his crush, Pearl.
  • Falling into the Plot: "A Victim of Gravity" starts with a teacup falling from the sky and breaking when it hits the ground. Justified, as this is meant to be an initial showcase of the effects of gravity.
  • Flat Joy: Interjections, which are set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong.
    Hooray, I'm for the other team.
  • Floating Limbs: Little Twelvetoes takes the concept to extremes. Empty space is apparently a key part of his biology (and his hat), and his head, hands, and feet are held on as if by magnets (i.e., easy to remove and stick on somewhere else).
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Depending on the song, each character has either four or five fingers.
    • The prince from "I Got Six" has six rings on each finger, by multiplying 6 by 10 to get 60.
    • Everyone in "Ready or Not, Here I Come", as that song is about multiplying by 5.
    • Noah and his son have five fingers when multiplying 2 by 10 to get 20.
    • Little Twelvetoes, from the song of the same name, has six digits on each hand/foot.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Exaggerated in "The Tale of Mr. Morton". Mr. Morton and Pearl get married after one planned date, though Mr. Morton didn't even have the nerve to go through with it.
    • On the other hand, the song clearly tells us that his infatuation (and presumably some small talk) lasted for long enough to grow flowers from seeds, so the "pre-courtship" lasted months at the very least.
  • Free-Range Children: The girl from "A Noun Is A Person, Place, or Thing" travels on "a train to another state" and "a ferry to the Statue of Liberty" apparently alone.
  • Gaia's Lament: "The Energy Blues" is a literal example, in which the Earth itself, voiced by Jack Sheldon, is singing about the depletion of its energy resources and the need for conservation.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Naughty Number Nine" was nearly unaired due to the fact that a recent television mandate at the time had issued a ban on cigarette commercials, and ABC didn't approve of the fact that the cat in the song smoked a cigar. However, the showrunners managed to get ABC to change their mind due to the fact that the mandate never prohibited smoking in children's shows, and that the cat was meant to be the villain of the song, thus dissuading children from being inspired to smoke. ABC relented, and "Naughty Number Nine" has gone completely unedited ever since.
  • Girl Next Door: Pearl from "The Tale of Mr. Morton" is a very sociable girl who's willing to confront Mr. Morton about his love for her when he's too shy to do so.
  • Good Counterpart: The "Multiplication Rock" songs frame the number eleven this way in comparison to the number nine. "Naughty Number Nine" is a song all about how difficult and tricky nine can be to multiply, painting its subject number as a villain, while the very next song is "The Good Eleven", depicting eleven as a friendly, easy number to multiply while painting its subject number as an angel.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: The whole point of "A Victim of Gravity", where the protagonist feels that gravity makes his life more difficult but acknowledges it's out of his hands.
    Don't call me clumsy, don't call me a fool. When things fall down on me, I'm following the rule...
  • Green Aesop: The entirety of Earth Rock. "The Energy Blues" also counts, which saw it featuring in Earth Rock after its debut in Science Rock.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Zero the Hero's power seems useless on the surface... but then he alters any number by the power of 10 through adding (and presumably removing) zeroes. He also alters weights by the same means, making them literally heavier. He even creates money by altering the $4 written on a piggy bank to a $4000... and there doesn't appear to be any limit to any of this. Thus, theoretically, he could for instance take a box of "10 guns" and grow it into "1,000,000 guns", enough to supply an army. He could also potentially reduce the opposition's arms, funding etc to zero. Granted he didn't do much in the video besides making some small-time money, but he is still young yet... The video.
  • Hoist by Her Own Petard: In "A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing," a Mrs. Jones sends her dog to bark at the protagonist and her younger brother for no explained reason. They feed the dog a bone, and the dog turns on Mrs. Jones.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: "Three is a Magic Number" and "My Hero, Zero" has the Magician, Zero, and Zero's sister be assaulted by a barrage of football players.
  • Instant Costume Change: The singer of "Sufferin' Till Suffrage" demonstrates this ability.
  • Invisible President: In "I'm Just a Bill", the viewers see nothing but one of the President's arms when the Bill imagines the President signs it. When the President does turn the Bill into a Law, it happens offscreen and the viewers only know it happens because somebody shows up to announce the news.
    • In "Three Ring Government", however, the President appears in full; depicted as a white man with dark hair and a long nose.
  • Karma Houdini: The pool-playing cat in "Naughty Number Nine". For the entire duration of the segment, the cat puts a mouse through absolute hell on a billiards board; and at the very end, the cat tips his bowler, smiles at the audience, and struts away. But don't worry, the mouse pops out of the #9 ball, making for a Happy Ending.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In "A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing," a Mrs. Jones sends her dog to bark at the protagonist and her younger brother for no explained reason. They feed the dog a bone, and the dog turns on Mrs. Jones. On the other hand, when the narrator is listing the nouns from that vignette, Mrs. Jones is given a flower and suddenly smiles and turns nice, so perhaps she simply needed a kindness the same way her dog did.
  • Logo Joke: Each Multiplication Rock song ended with a giant rock reading "a x b = c" landing in front of My Hero Zero.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: Lucky Seven Sampson has a lucky foot with a 7 on it.
  • Luminescent Blush: It happens to the girl in "Telegraph Line" when she forgets her lines, and Max in "Tax Man Max" when Joy comments on his suit.
  • Meaningful Name: The three generations of Lolly in "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" have a name that, like most adverbs, ends in "-ly".
  • Medium Blending: The singer of "Sufferin' Till Suffrage" interacts with black-and-white photos and drawings.
  • Me's a Crowd: The singer of "Sufferin' Till Suffrage" has this ability, as she represents all female voters in the United States.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: The Metric Marvels, a cartoon bumper series produced by the same folks who made Schoolhouse Rock!. It had shorts intended to teach about metric units such as the meter, liter and kilogram, featuring metric super heroes like "Super Celsius" and "Wonder Gram".
  • Music Genre Dissonance: The series has a Non-Indicative Name. It has been noted that a minority of the songs actually qualify as "rock", per se. Most are straight pop, but a few lean more toward jazz, blues, gospel, etc.
  • Never Trust a Title: Despite being called Schoolhouse Rock, there aren't many songs that can be classified as rock music.
  • Noah's Story Arc: "Elementary, My Dear" is a retelling of the Noah's Ark story, but to make it related to multiplication, Noah's son asks him how many pairs of animals are on the ship.
  • Opening Credits Cast Party: VHS and DVD compilations from 1995-2002 begin with characters from the songs gathering together at Conjunction Junction Diner.
  • Overly Long Name: Rufus Xavier and Rafaella Gabriela Sarsaparilla and Albert Andreas Armadillo, all used to make the point of how convenient pronouns are in a sentence.
    I have a friend named Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla, and I could say that Rufus saw a kangaroo that followed Rufus home and now the kangaroo belongs to Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla-*pshew* I could say that, but I don't have to, 'cause I got pronouns, and I can say "He found a kangaroo that followed him home and now it is his!
  • Parental Bonus: The use of established jazz and cabaret performers means this runs through the entire series, intentionally or not. See (for instance) "I Got Six" for a splendid example of just how intentional they could get.
  • Perpetual Smiler: The Noun Girl is almost always smiling during her song.
  • Phone Booth Changing Room: "My Hero, Zero" has Zero change into his superhero clothing by entering a telephone booth.
  • Pluto Is Expendable: "Interplanet Janet" contains the lines "Nine planets" and "And Pluto, little Pluto, is the farthest planet from the sun". The fact that an entire generation grew up with Schoolhouse Rock! may have had a little bit to do with the fervor over Pluto's demotion from planethood.
    • Some productions of the live show based on the series update the script and have someone interrupt the number and attempt to "correct" the song with an explanation about Pluto's decommission. And then the production has its audience vote on whether Pluto should stay.
    • Others just use the updated lyrics of "Eight planets large and small, parading by" and "Pluto, little Pluto, used to be a planet, but now it's not".
    • Another variant of that line is "Pluto, little Pluto, used to be a planet when they wrote this song".
  • Politically Correct History: The "America Rock" songs tend to run into this, portraying an idealized version of America's founding and progress. Given that the album was produced to celebrate the United States bicentennial and that nuance can be difficult to pack into short songs for kids, this is not very surprising.
    • The songs make very minimal references to the Native American populations already living in the country, and in the case of "Elbow Room", the displacement and suffering of Native populations as a result of American expansion are not mentioned.
    • The cotton gin highlighted among the inventions in "Mother Necessity" is not mentioned to have been made to improve the productivity of black slaves, and white workers are depicted using it in the cartoon.
    • "Sufferin' Till Suffrage" discusses the fight for the female vote and its success, which was a large step in women's rights but was also subject to segregation for some time afterward.
  • Pop-Star Composer: The song wasn't written by them, but "A Victim of Gravity" is the only Schoolhouse Rock! song performed by a well-known outside band, being sung by the Tokens in their doo-wop style.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "INTERJECTIONS! SHOW EXCITEMENT! OR EMOTION!"
  • Rewritten Pop Version: Greg Raposo, Matt Ballinger and Stevie Brock performed a pop cover of "Three is a Magic Number" in 2004, which oddly enough wasn't a Schoolhouse Rock! tie-in despite keeping many of the key lyrics of the song. Instead, it was used in a music video to promote Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, which is also owned by Disney.
  • Rule of Three: "Three is a Magic Number" has parts that center on the connection between the number three and certain objects (like triangles, tripods and families).
  • Running Gag: In "The Good Eleven", an angel bumps against the number 10 at any utterance of "She never gave me any trouble till after 9".
  • Seal the Breach: In "My Hero, Zero", Zero and his sister greet a young Dutch boy who's constructing a dam from bricks. The dam breaks, provoking the boy to sheepishly cover up the breach with his finger.
  • Sequel Episode: Schoolhouse Rock: Earth includes a few:
    • "The Tale of Mr. Morton" continues into "The Little Things We Do".
    • The title character of "Interplanet Janet" returned in "Solar Power to the People".
  • Settling the Frontier: The episode "Elbow Room" is about the expansion of the United States from the original 13 states to its current size (not counting Alaska & Hawaii, the "freak states"). It also suggests that if we need to expand more we'll settle the moon.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrinking Violet: Mr. Morton, the subject of the sentence, from "The Tale of Mr. Morton". He doesn't have the nerve to talk to his neighbor, Pearl, to the point where he runs away when she invites him over. But she was apparently so touched by the poem he wrote for her that she went over to his house and proposed to him.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Subverted in "Unpack Your Adjectives". The protagonist sees a boy wearing glasses and a boy without them, and labels the glasses-wearer with a "brainy" sign and the other boy with a "dumb" sign. Then, the boy without glasses spouts a complex math equation, and the protagonist switches the signs.
  • Something Blues: "The Energy Blues".
  • Spelling Song:
    • "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College".
    • "Save the Ocean".
  • Stay in the Kitchen: "Sufferin' Till Suffrage" calls out this mindset a few times. The singer unpleasantly recalls that before the suffragette movement and consequent passing of the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote for president, they just stayed home and did such menial tasks as mashing potatoes and washing dishes while the men cast their votes.
  • Stealth Pun: From "Mother Necessity", "Elias, how?"note 
  • Sweetheart Sipping: The main character of "A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing" does this with her "best friend" at the local Malt Shop.
  • Standard Snippet: "Interjections"'s melody morphs into the Hallelujah chorus from Haendel's Messiah.
  • Starfish Aliens: Little Twelvetoes is human-shaped, but he can pop his head off and stretch out his body at will, and said body appears to have pieces that either are invisible or missing completely (yet not harming him by their absence). This is probably why that short is so often labeled Nightmare Fuel.
  • Synchronized Swarming: Used all over the place in "Busy Prepositions".
  • Take That!: Money Rock song "Tyrannosaurus Debt" is a polite one, as they go, but it still portrays the national debt as a gigantic, ever-feeding monster dinosaur.
  • Talking Animal: Lucky Seven Sampson is a friendly and helpful rabbit.
  • Tin-Can Telephone: Facetiously suggested as an alternative to the normal telephone if the family stops paying the phone bill in "Where the Money Goes".
  • Title Sequence Replacement: Each subseries originally had its own intro sequence. In 1977, these became replaced with a scene of children walking into a schoolhouse, taken from "Figure Eight". After a few years, this gave way to the intro containing Schoolhouse Rocky, and the song quoted at the top of this page. The DVDs cut out the title sequence altogether, although the 30th Anniversary Edition at least plays the "Schoolhouse Rocky" theme and the "Figure Eight" excerptnote  before taking viewers to the main menus of discs one and two, respectively.
  • To the Tune of...: "Interjections!" is set to a slightly modified version of George Frederic Handel's Messiah.
  • Trash-Can Band: One of the Earth Rock shorts (literally called"The Trash Can Band") involves one of these composed of three Animate Inanimate Object pieces of "garbage" — Box, Bottle, and Can.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Happens in tons of songs from the series. See which ones here.
  • Uncommon Time: "Naughty Number Nine", appropriately enough, is played in a 9/8 time signature.
  • Vanilla Edition: In addition to the 2-Disc 30th Anniversary DVD containing 52 songs, audio commentaries, and interviews, DVDs only containing one set of SHR songs also became available for classroom use. These editions are by-and-large rip-offs, however, as the price of an individual disc is higher than that of the 30th Anniversary DVD.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Naughty Number Nine" is framed this way, singing about how nine is so difficult and nasty to multiply that you have to come at the task with tricks, all while depicting Nine as a cat tormenting a mouse on a pool table.
  • Wallet Moths: In "$7.50 Once A Week" a moth flies out of the boy's pocket when he looks for more money, but has already spent his entire allowance.
  • A Wild Rapping Walrus Appears: During the solo parts of the otherwise rock & roll-themed "Save the Ocean" in "Earth Rock", provided by Eric "Badlands" Booker.

Tropes in the CD-ROM Games:

  • Garage Band: Math Rock deals with Lucky 7 Sampson assembling the other protagonists of the Multiplication Rock videos to form his own garage band and get their first gig.
  • The Homeward Journey: The main point of Science Rock is to complete all the activities to help Janet build her rocket so she can fly home.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Some of the characters were given names in the games. For example, the Noun Girl became Connie, Naughty Number Nine's mouse became Elroy, the Verb Boy was named Tommy, and the Adjective Girl became Molly.
  • Timed Mission: During the Road to Fame game in Math Rock, the player has 30 days to reach the concert before it is cancelled, and they need 30 coins to pay for the entry fee.

 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Top

I'm Just a Bill

Bill is extremely pessimistic, doubting his chances of whether or not he'll be signed as a law because he's aware of how long, arduous, and imbalanced the process of lawmaking is, but he's so full of patience and courage that he's not willing to back down from attempting to be passed as a law.

How well does it match the trope?

4.91 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / KnightInSourArmor

Media sources:

Report