Scholastic Entertainment is ready to ask questions, take chances and get messy with a feature-length film inspired by The Magic School Bus. The company is partnering with Universal Pictures, Brownstone Productions and Marc Platt Productions to develop the live-action hybrid movie.
The team decided to make a live-action film in an effort to expand the project’s reach beyond just children, says Scholastic Entertainment SVP and GM Caitlin Friedman.
“The original series focused on young viewers, but the movie will be family-focused,” she says. “It was important to us to target people who grew up with the brand, as well as the kids who are new to the property.”
Another focus for the movie is to develop the Magic School Bus character itself, and explore the relationship between the Bus and Ms. Frizzle, to be played by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect, The Hunger Games). Banks will also serve as a producer on the project, along with Friedman, Scholastic Entertainment president Iole Lucchese, Brownstone Productions’ Max Handelman and Marc Platt Productions’ Marc Platt and Adam Siegel.
Brownstone’s Alison Small will serve as executive producer and Marc Platt Productions’ Ryan Christians will oversee production alongside Universal Pictures’ Sara Scott and Lexi Barta.
The upcoming movie is based on Scholastic’s best-selling science-centric books from author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen, which were adapted into a TV show on PBS (pictured) in 1994. The show aired for 18 consecutive years in the US and hit screens in more than 100 countries. The Magic School Bus Rides Again, an animated sequel to the original series, bowed on Netflix in 2017. This iteration is co-produced with Toronto-based 9 Story Media Group and features Kate McKinnon as Ms. Frizzle’s sister, Fiona.
“Some of the trips we take in the film may have been explored in the books or the original series, but this will be a standalone [story],” Friedman says.
The movie’s consumer products program will include kids items like toys, as well as a nostalgia-focused offering for adults in categories like apparel. Scholastic previously inked a deal with The Young Scientists Club to develop science kits and games inspired by the brand, and Friedman says those types of experiential products will be a focus moving forward.