Review: The Magic School Bus Rides Again
Written by Jenn Noga on October 12, 2017
Title: The Magic School Bus Rides Again
Air Date: September 29, 2017
Anyone growing up in the 90s knows of Ms. Valerie Frizzle and those “highly unusual” field trips she takes her class on. For a half hour, you would watch Ms. Frizzle’s class (and sometimes Arnold’s cousin Janet) escape all sorts of science related perils and still make it back to school in enough time to catch the bus home. “The Magic School” bus was a defining show in my childhood and really kickstarted my love for science (and my fifth grade science teacher who really was a Ms. Frizzle but without her own bus). So like any nostalgia-filled college student, you could imagine that I was really excited to find out that “The Magic School Bus” was getting a reboot and Kate McKinnon was going to help bring about the show.
On a lazy Sunday a week or two after “The Magic School Bus Rides Again” came out, I opened up Netflix and put on the first episode titled “Frizzle of the Future” and was ready to be immersed in some wacky science related adventures. The only thing I knew going into this show was that Kate McKinnon would be playing Ms. Fiona Frizzle, Valerie Frizzle’s younger sister, who would be given the keys to the bus (and Liz the Lizard).
We find out the Valerie Frizzle, voiced by Lily Tomlin, has gotten her PhD, is now a professor and is leaving her class in the care of her sister Fiona, voiced by Kate McKinnon. This causes some major upset in the class, especially for Arnold who doesn’t like change. The class refers to themselves as an “ecosystem,” since they all have specific jobs in the class, tying into the episode’s theme.
Before the class leaves on their first field trip to the Galápagos Islands, Arnold takes the ‘Special, Magical, Crazy-Growing Must-Stay-in-a-Pot Crescit Leiunium Frizzlaeia Vine,’ off of Ms. Frizzle’s desk and takes it with him. While on the island they meet Galápagos Gil, and the kids learn about the natural balance of the Galápagos Islands with glasses that show the relationships between species. Galápagos Gil and Ms. Frizzle then show the kids about invasive species by shrinking down to microscopic size and rock climb up a boot to find gypsy moth eggs. Arnold makes the jab that the new Ms. Frizzle is an invasive species and he’s trying to protect their “ecosystem” (aka his class). Remember the ‘Special, Magical, Crazy-Growing Must-Stay-in-a-Pot Crescit Leiunium Frizzlaeia Vine’ Arnold stole off Ms. Frizzle’s desk earlier? He leaves it on top of a Galápagos tortoise as the class leaves to go back to school, and as arnold leaves the pot breaks. Professor Frizzle and her new assistant Goldie, a golden tamarin monkey, have a heart-to-heart about various invasive species. They travel 30 years into the future where they learn of a crisis in the Galápagos. The ‘Special, Magical, Crazy-Growing Must-Stay-in-a-Pot Crescit Leiunium Frizzlaeia Vine’ took over the islands so the class then goes 30 years back into the past and fight a giant plant and save the island. Arnold accepts Ms. Frizzle as his teacher and Professor Frizzle and Goldie ride off into the distance with one last wahoo! The episode ends with a phone call with questions that went unanswered, just like in the original with the call to the producer.
The first thing I noticed is that the opening was the same sequence as the original but with a new animation style and a whole new cast of characters. Or so I thought. It’s the same characters from the original series but with a modern twist. So Arnold’s iconic yellow and white striped shirt? Gone. Ralphie’s ‘R’ shirt? Gonzo. Although Ralphie’s red baseball cap was saved from his spring cleaning. Even Carlos’ blue hoodie has been replaced by a new, red one. Even the class skeleton got a facelift! However, one glaring thing that was missing from the reboot was Phoebe who, as we find out in the first two minutes, went back to her old school. Which was really disappointing for me because it took her 11 episodes in the first season to finally love her new school, Walkerville Elementary. To fill her spot in the class roster is Jyoti, a tech-savvy transfer student, who so far has not uttered the phrase, “At my old school…” RIP Phoebe Terese, you never stood a chance in the reboot. Anyways I digress.
I was a huge fan of the original show and I was a little disappointed in the reboot. I wish Netflix would have gone with a whole new class, instead of redesigning the old class, since they were already getting a new Ms. Frizzle anyways. That being said, I’m a huge fan of shows that get kids interested in science (Bill Nye the Science Guy anyone?). “The Magic School Bus Rides Again” is going to get a whole new generation learning about science in an easy-to-digest way and that excites me. It’ll challenge them to take chances, make mistakes and get messy.