About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Christmas in July 2022: The Magic School Bus (1996)


Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #13 of the month-long celebration of Christmas entertainment. As announced before, each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies with a IT'S A WONDERFUL SUMMER attitude. Yes--this month I'm sharing brief essays about TV adaptations of the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life" along with TV programs with significant references to the movie. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition being released soon). 


Ms. Frizzle takes the children on adventures to learn about the world through science.

Today's discussion is on the 1996 episode "Holiday Special" from the animated series The Magic School Bus. In this episode, Wanda’s plans to see the Nutcracker ballet performance are disrupted by Arnold’s recycling program, so she angrily doubts the purpose of recycling. Ms. Frizzle takes the School Bus on a magical journey through a new world where recycling doesn’t exist. The children clearly see the difference between their city and the one without recycling: no trees, more garbage, and all the new things they currently have that are made from recycled goods. 

This episode's story features holiday decorations and holiday songs in honor of Hanukkah and Christmas.


Lily Tomlin voices Ms. Frizzle (left) and Dolly Parton voices Murph, the recycling plant supervisor (right). Too bad Jane Fonda was included in this episode!

The children sing a song about recycling to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Ms. Frizzle and Murph take the lead singing a song about recycling to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” The children sing again about recycling to the tune of "Here We Come A-Caroling," and Murph takes the lead in another song about recycling performed to the tune of “The Dreidel Song.” 

This is a clever retelling of It’s a Wonderful Life but instead of Wanda questioning her own life, she questions the purpose of recycling. The angel here is Murph who shows the kids what their lives would be like without recycling. 

The voice cast includes Lily Tomlin as Ms. Frizzle, Lisa Yamanaka as Wanda Li, Danny Tamberelli as Arnold, and Dolly Parton as Murph.

When this animated episode made its debut, it aired with a half-hour live action segment featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Magic School Bus series with the voice cast.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for an upcoming release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

1 comment:

  1. Quite a unique spin! And Dolly Parton? I'm in on this one!