School Is Back in Session

Celebrating Schoolhouse Rock’s 50th Anniversary


Take some time to think back on your elementary education. How did you memorize your times tables? How did you learn about the English language and constructing sentences? And what about history? Did you ever have to memorize the preamble? Chances are that if you were given these tasks, “Schoolhouse Rock!” was an instructional tool that helped you grow your mind. First airing on ABC in 1973, Schoolhouse Rock is a series of animated musical shorts designed for children in order to make learning fun and enjoyable. 


Topics range from grammar and math to science, history, and even economics. There is something for every child, teenager, and even adult to gain from watching and listening to Schoolhouse Rock whether it be singing a catchy tune to brush up on your eight times tables or just feeling nostalgic for these classic songs that raised several generations. Schoolhouse Rock hit a milestone and celebrated their 50th anniversary this past January which can certainly make people of different ages reminiscent of a time when the show brought millions of kids and families together on Saturday morning to listen to educational songs while munching on your cereal. 


In honor of the show’s 50th anniversary, ABC released a special hosted by Ryan Seacrest on February 1st to celebrate its impact on society and jam out to your favorite Schoolhouse Rock songs reimagined and performed by some of your favorite celebrities. Entitled “Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong,” the special promised family fun and certainly delivered with a punch of nostalgia as well. Dancer and actress Julianne Hough began the night with a bright and fun rendition of “Interplanet Janet” and her brother Derek Hough and his fiance Hayley Erbert danced to “Figure Eight.” Raven-Symoné and Kal Penn sang Interjections and even the Muppets graced the stage where they sang an adorable version of “Unpack Your Adjectives” to a group of students. Finally, the Black Eyed Peas closed out the show with a performance of the iconic song “Three is a Magic Number” which was the first song to ever air in the program. If you missed the special, don’t be alarmed though because it is available to watch on Disney+. 


However, lets go back to the beginning. How did such a successful cartoon come to be? It all started back in the 70s when ad executive David McCall noticed his song was struggling with math but could memorize pop songs like it was no big deal. He brought it up to creative director George Newall and art director Thomas Yohe that they should write songs about math. Then they pitched it to Michael Eisner, the director of children’s programming for ABC at the time, who was immediately sold. Flash forward fifty years later and Schoolhouse Rock is still a timeless classic that grandparents show their children who in turn show their children. 


It is a franchise that will never be forgotten or lose its meaning for many reasons. Yes, nostalgia embedded in the videos but that’s not what made the program popular in the first place. Firstly, the animation itself is so unique and colorful that it’s impossible to look away from. Characters all have their own distinct look and many of them are even inanimate objects but come to life in the show and still have a personality. Comedy is at the center of Schoolhouse Rock which is reflected in the clever and funny lyrics that still draw on emotion and real life problems. The  banger-filled music is incredible and many of the songs are so iconic that people can still sing them word for word even if they haven’t listened to them in years. In addition, many kids weren’t even aware that they were learning when watching the show because they were so entertained by every other aspect. I know I certainly was.

 Ultimately, the 50th anniversary special exemplifies how Schoolhouse Rock raised several generations and that you should never forget your roots. Sometimes it is completely acceptable to go back to the basics yet Schoolhouse Rock is also a reminder of how far America has come.