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Licensing Diary: Scholastic – The Magic School Bus

Over the past two years, Scholastic has coordinated a comprehensive merchandising campaign for its popular animated PBS series, The Magic School Bus, to reinforce the show's concept that science is fun....
January 1, 1996

Over the past two years, Scholastic has coordinated a comprehensive merchandising campaign for its popular animated PBS series, The Magic School Bus, to reinforce the show’s concept that science is fun.

- Scholastic publishes the first of seven Magic School Bus hardcover books in 1986 – all become best sellers.

-In 1990, Scholastic forms its own in-house licensing division to explore new partnerships to promote its properties.

- In 1993, Scholastic announces plans to make an animated series based on the books. Lily Tomlin is signed to voice the main character, Ms. Frizzle. Hasbro signs on as the program’s first licensee, agreeing to manufacture science toys and figures based on the show.

- By the show’s debut in September 1994, some 30 licensees have been brought on, from Thermos to Fruit of the Loom to Microsoft. Scholastic demands that all products relating to the show are designed to motivate and encourage children to role play, investigate and learn.

- The Magic School Bus becomes a PBS hit in its first season, reaching 98 percent of total U.S. households and earning an average audience rating of 2.3, second only to Barney and Friends (3.2) in PBS children’s programming. It outranks all other PBS children’s series for children age 6 to 11 (2.9 to Barney and Friends’ 1.7) Source: PBS Research – National Audience Report December 1994-April 1995).

- Scholastic creates a unique second season marketing strategy that it hopes will bring its show directly into the lives of its viewers. In November 1995, Scholastic kicks off a one-year nationwide traveling Magic School Bus tour. A customized yellow school bus serves as a traveling exhibition that will stop at local shopping malls, schools, museums and libraries. A number of licensees have signed on for the ride, such as Microsoft (CD-ROMs), Kid Vision, a division of Warner (home video), Sega-Genesis (educational video games), and Thermos (lunch boxes).

- Scholastic has high hopes for its merchandising campaign. Beyond selling a doll or a t-shirt, the idea behind Magic School Bus-related products is to use the merchandise to help reinforce the concept of the television show that discovery is fun and science is adventure, whether or not children are actually aware of that.

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