Schoolhouse Rock! is an American interstitial programming series of animated musical educational short films (and later, videos) that aired during the Saturday morning children's programming on the U.S. television network ABC. The topics covered includedgrammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and civics. The series' original run lasted from 1973 to 1985, and was later revived with both old and new episodes airing from 1993 to 1999. Additional episodes were produced as recently as 2009 for direct-to-video release.
Schoolhouse Rock! began as a commercial advertising venture by David McCall, half of the Madison Avenue advertising agency McCaffrey & McCall. The idea came to McCall when he noticed one of his sons, who was having trouble in school remembering the multiplication tables, knew the lyrics to then-current rock songs.
The first song recorded was Three Is a Magic Number, written by Bob Dorough. It tested well, so a children's record was compiled and released. Tom Yohe listened to the first song, and began to doodle pictures to go with the lyrics. He told McCall that the songs would make good animation.
When a print workbook version fell through, McCall's company decided to produce their own animated versions of the songs, which they then sold to ABC (which was already the advertising company's biggest account) based on a demo animation of the original "Three Is A Magic Number" for its Saturday morning lineup. They pitched their idea to Michael Eisner, then vice-president of ABC's children's programming division. Eisner brought longtime Warner Bros. cartoonist/director Chuck Jones to the meeting to also listen to the presentation.
The network's children's programming division had producers of its regular 30- and 60-minute programs cut three minutes out of each of their shows, and sold General Foods on the idea of sponsoring the segments.
The series stayed on the air for 12 years. Later sponsors of the Schoolhouse Rock! segments also included Nabisco, Kenner Toys, Kellogg's, and McDonald's. During the early 1970s, Schoolhouse Rock was one of several short-form animated educational shorts that aired on ABC's children's lineup; others included Time for Timer andThe Bod Squad. Of the three, Schoolhouse Rock was the longest-running.
Thirty-seven episodes were recorded and produced between 1972 and 1980. The first season of Schoolhouse Rock, "Multiplication Rock," debuted in 1973 and discussed all of the multiplication tables from two through twelve, with one episode devoted to powers of 10 (My Hero Zero) instead of multiples of ten. This original series was followed in short order by a new series which ran from 1973 to 1975, entitled "Grammar Rock," which discussed nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech (such as conjunctions, explained in "Conjunction Junction").