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‘Schoolhouse Rock!’: Fun Facts About the Revolutionary 70s-80s Sing Along Series

Sing along as we celebrate 51 years of these outstanding educational earworms!


Any TV-watching child of the 70s can probably tell you which superheroes appeared on the Super Friends, the Saturday morning cartoon franchise show that featured everyone from Superman and Wonder Woman to Batman and Robin. They can probably even explain just who Zan and Jayna were (“Wonder Twin powers … ACTIVATE!”) and rattle off a bunch of villains who comprised the evil Legion of Doom. But while enjoying all that animated action — and slurping down a bowl of Count Chocula, Fruity Pebbles or Honeycomb cereal as part of their balanced breakfast — those kids (and any parent nearby) were also treated to a balanced amount of education courtesy of ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock! The engaging three-minute interstitial programming cartoons, which originally ran from 1973 to 1985 and just celebrates it’s 51st anniversary on January 6th, were just as fun and entertaining as the superheroes, plus they came not only with earwormy songs but with the bonus of helpful facts about math, civics, grammar, economics, science and history.

And spoiler alert: Mikey liked it! He really liked it — as did all the other kids who memorized the varied tunes and lessons!

“I attempted to write songs that would entertain anyone, from ages 2 to 92,” said Bob Dorough, the singer-musician who wrote the bulk of the series’ tunes. Advertising execs David McCall and George R. Newall had enlisted Dorough’s talents to score McCall’s idea for Schoolhouse Rock!, which he came up with when his young son struggled to memorize his multiplication tables, even though he knew every word to hits from the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

Enter “Three Is a Magic Number,” a magical song from Dorough that explained bits of geometry, multiplication and time, which launched the enduringly popular series.

To highlight America’s bicentennial in 1976, the creative team focused on topics concerning government and civics. “The ABC Schoolhouse Rock animated bits, which teach math and reading concepts and, this year, American history, are a joy. It’s worth sitting in front of your TV all morning to catch the one in which the Constitution is set to music,” hailed The New York Times in 1976.

“In 1787, I’m told, our founding fathers did agree, to write a list of principles, for keepin’ people free,” went part of “The Preamble,” which those of a certain age will be able to tell, er, sing to you.

Thankfully we’re all free to celebrate the coming 51st Schoolhouse Rock! anniversary by diving into some of the series’ catchiest, most informative installments, such as “I’m Just a Bill,” “Conjunction Junction,” “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here,” “Interplanet Janet,” “Figure Eight,” “Interjections!,” “A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing,” “The Shot Heard Round the World,” “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage,” just to name a few.

Read on to discover some more fun facts on the eve of the Schoolhouse Rock! 51st anniversary and learn about the series’ lasting legacy!

1. The series raked in the Daytime Emmy Awards

During its original 1973 to 1985 run, Schoolhouse Rock! featured more than 40 videos that were spread out over five seasons, with each season focusing on facts from a specific theme (multiplication, grammar, America, science and computers).

Two additional seasons came in the following decades: money in the 1990s, and the Earth in the 2000s. The series won four of its eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations, taking home Outstanding Children’s Instructional series or programming honors in 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1980.

2. A Disney connection who was all (mouse) ears

Michael Eisner and Mickey Mouse
Michael Eisner and Mickey Mouse (1990), Schoolhouse Rock! facts George Rose / Contributor / Getty

When the series was first pitched at ABC, a young Michael Eisner was head of children’s programming and he quickly green-lit the project to help ease pressure from an advocacy group at the time that was demanding that kids’ TV be cleaned up of violence and mindless entertainment and advertising.

Schoolhouse Rock! presented a perfect solution. “It was probably the quickest deal in television history,” co-creator George Newall said of the pitch to Eisner, who happened to be meeting with famed Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones at the time, who urged Eisner to jump on the Schoolhouse partnership immediately.

Eisner, who, of course, went on to become chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. from 1984 to 2005, told The Washington Post last year that people bring up Schoolhouse Rock! to him more than any film or TV show he’s been a part of, including Saturday Night Fever and Raiders of the Lost Ark. “I think it’s the message, I think it’s the music, it’s the tune[s],” Eisner said of Schoolhouse’s enduring success. “Why are the Beatles still so popular? Or Neil Diamond? Or Elton John? Or Frank Sinatra? It’s the magic of the creative moment.”

4. It launched the Music Man

Bob Dorough, who wrote most of the tunes used in the series, was a dedicated musician before and after Schoolhouse Rock!’s heyday. The jazz artist would often play at clubs in between famed comedian Lenny Bruce’s stand-up sets, and he collaborated with the likes of Art Garfunkel and Miles Davis, including co-writing and performing on the latter’s “Blue Xmas,” a 1962 song about the commercialism of the holiday.

After Schoolhouse, he signed with the famed Blue Note Records jazz label, and in 2002, his trio was even named an “ambassador of jazz and blues” by the State Department and the Kennedy Center.

His voice was long remembered by the kids who were first introduced to him in between Saturday morning cartoons, and he joked decades later that “they [now] go to bars and drink! And they discover me again, playing at bars!”

5. Three’s the magic number lives on

“Three Is a Magic Number,” the hit that launched the series, premiered on Jan. 6, 1973, but it’s remained popular with fans and music artists for decades.

Hip hop band De La Soul released their song “The Magic Number,” which samples the original song, in 1989, and rapper B.o.B even sampled it in a decidedly, ahem, lyrically adult-themed song, though he released an animated video that was illustrated in a similar style to the popular kids’ series.

6. Schoolhouse Rock! spawned multiple tribute albums

A 1996 tribute album of covers, Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks, boasted a diverse roster of artists that included Better Than Ezra (“Conjunction Junction”), Ween (“The Shot Heard ’Round the World”), Pavement (“No More Kings”), Biz Markie (“The Energy Blues”) and Moby (“Verb: That’s What’s Happening”).

Two years later, to encourage young people to vote, Schoolhouse Rocks the Vote!: A Benefit for Rock the Vote was released, featuring covers (and some originals) done by Etta James (“Sufferin’ Till Suffrage”), Isaac Hayes and Joan Osborne (“I’m Just a Bill”) and John Popper (“The Preamble”).

In February 2023, ABC aired a Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong special, which featured artists such as the Black Eyed Peas (“Three Is a Magic Number” and “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla”), Julianne Hough (“Interplanet Janet”) and Ne-Yo (“Verb: That’s What’s Happening”). The program had been dedicated to George Newall, the last surviving original series co-creator, who passed away in November 2022.

There was even a Schoolhouse Rock Live! stage musical that originated in Chicago in 1993. It later enjoyed an off-Broadway run in 1995 before heading out to tour nationally.

7. Schoolhouse Rock! ‘drew’ people together

Schoolhouse Rock! Theme song: lead photo
Schoolhouse Rock! facts©ABC/YouTube

Tom Yohe, the agency art director and series co-creator who did the early drawings for Schoolhouse, was blown away by the power and longevity that his and his colleagues’ work had.

One of our favorite Schoolhouse Rock! facts is that he was shocked at the crowd he drew at a late-1980s event at Dartmouth College, for example, where he shared a compilation video for an education symposium. “I went up there and showed the films,” he has said, “and the biggest auditorium on campus was filled on a Saturday night. There were 900 kids packed in there, singing along with all the songs.”

8. Still making a statement

Saturday Night Live spoofed the series — and political D.C. gridlock — in a 2014 skit titled “How a Bill Does Not Become a Law,” featuring Kenan Thompson dressed up as an immigration bill and Bobby Moynihan decked out as an executive order being pushed through by Jay Pharaoh playing then-President Barack Obama. BuzzFeed News said “this Schoolhouse Rock sketch on SNL shows just how messed up our government is.”

9. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your merchandise here

If you’re still a big fan of Schoolhouse Rock!, or know someone who is, here’s one of the best facts on the list: merch from the show has made a big comeback. Grab one of the series’ themed gifts, such as an adult Schoolhouse Rock! coloring book, a Schoolhouse Rock! Bill Funko Pop! Vinyl Figure, or the book Schoolhouse Rock! The Updated Official Guide, by co-creator George Newall.

The ABC Shop site also offers a fun and colorful selection of shirts, keychains, backpacks, phone cases, mousepads, pillows, and more for old and new fans alike. Seasons 1 through 4 can also be found on Amazon Prime Video if you want to celebrate the Schoolhouse Rock! anniversary or host your own singalong.

Click here for more 1970s nostalgia, or keep reading…

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