Schoolhouse Rock!


What a brilliant concept: to educate kids with the use of the two things they can’t get enough, cartoons and music. Now, 30 years after these dynamic shorts were introduced into ABC’s Saturday morning children’s programming, “Schoolhouse Rock!” is back in the form of a two-disc DVD compilation of every song created by the original team. I myself remember “Schoolhouse Rock!” even though it was before my time, because they were still showing reruns of them when I was a kid. In fact, I think they still show up once in a while on ABC. Anyway, you can now watch your favorites and sing along whenever you want and as much as you want.

What is the appeal of such a collection if you already know your multiplication tables, American history and grammar? Well, first a little reminder of the basics is never a bad thing, then there’s the obvious nostalgia factor. As Lisa said in the “Simpsons” episode which spoofed “Schoolhouse Rock!”, “It’s one of those crappy seventies throwbacks that appeals to Generation Xers.” Crappy is too strong a word, of course. Oh, the animation is crude and the songwriting isn’t always stellar, but there’s an endearing innocence and good will to the enterprise and darn it if some of those catchy numbers don’t get stuck in your head for days!

A lot of these songs could even be considered classics: the unique crooning of Jack Sheldon in “I’m Just a Bill!” (the one “The Simpsons” poked fun at), the bizarre but irresistible “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get your Adverbs Here!”, the disco anthem “Interplanet Janet”, the funky “Verb: That’s What’s Happening” (it could the theme music of a blaxploitation flick!) and for some reason, I find that all the songs about numbers are especially good, be it “Ready or Not, Here I Come”, “I Got Six” or “Naughty Number Nine”. A few of the tracks are clunkers (I’m not a big fan of the ones about money), but even the worst of the lot are sporadically amusing. I don’t recommend watching it all in one sitting, though. The tunes are great fun in small doses, but trying to go through all 46 back-to-back gets tiresome after a while.

And that’s not to mention the second disc, which packs a LOT of special features. It literally takes hours to go through. There’s the long-lost song “The Weather Show”, three episodes of the lousy spin-off “Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips”, a quite elaborate Trivia Game, Arrange-a-Song Puzzles, a 15 minute behind-the-scenes featurette, clips from the Emmy Awards won by “Schoolhouse Rock!”, the Nike commercial scored with “Three is a Magic Number”, audio commentaries to ten of the cartoons by executive producer George Newall and animators Phil Kimmelman and Tom Yohe Jr., 4 music videos by alterno-pop bands (notably Better Than Ezra doing “Conjuction Function” and the Lemonheads’s take on “My Hero, Zero”). The set also includes a brand new song that’s not too bad, “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College”.

All in all, “Schoolhouse Rock!” is a wonderful addition to any DVD collection. You’ll be glad to be able to show it to your kids, or to watch it yourself with friends.

SONG TITLE LIST

MULTIPLICATION ROCK
“My Hero, Zero”
“Elementary, My Dear”
“Three Is a Magic Number”
“The Four-Legged Zoo”
“Ready Or Not, Here I Come”
“I Got Six”
“Lucky Seven Sampson”
“Figure Eight”
“Naughty Number Nine”
“The Good Eleven”
“Little Twelvetoes”

GRAMMAR ROCK
“Unpack Your Adjectives”
“Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”
“Conjunction Junction”
“Interjections!”
“Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla”
“Verb: That’s What’s Happening”
“A Noun Is a Person, Place or Thing”
“Busy Propositions”
“The Tale of Mr. Morton”

AMERICA ROCK
“No More Kings”
“Fireworks”
“The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”
“The Preamble”
“Elbow Room”
“The Great American Melting Pot”
“Mother Necessity”
“Sufferin’ Till Suffrage”
“I’m Just a Bill”
“Three-Ring Government”

SCIENCE ROCK
“The Body Machine”
“Do the Circulation”
“Electricity, Electricity”
“The Energy Blues”
“Interplanet Janet”
“Telegraph Line”
“Them Not-So-Dry Bones”
“A Victim of Gravity”
“The Weather Song”

MONEY ROCK
“Dollars and Sense”
“Seven-Fifty Once a Week”
“Where the Money Goes”
“Tax Man Max”
“Walkin’ on Wall Street”
“This for That”
“Tyrannosaurus Debt”
“The Check’s in the Mail”

SCOOTER COMPUTER & MR. CHIPS
“Software”
“Hardware”
“Number Cruncher”

ALL-NEW SONG: “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College”

THE LONG-LOST SONG: “The Weather Show”