Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Magic School Bus & Spaceship One

There was an anonymous response to the September 29th post, "So Lemme Ask Ya" that has stuck with me. Here's the post:

Anonymous said...

I'll be honest Steve and say that this is something that just can't be 'made' to happen and it seems to me

attempting to make it happen will only make it more difficult. It kind of feels like attempting to "invent" spontaneity, like when someone stages a funny (supposedly un-orchestrated) scenario to get a shot on America's Funniest Home Videos or some such. I'll be honest and say that the entire Zombie babies concept feels contrived and a little weak to my sensibilities. It feels as though it's going for a cutting-edge shock thing but in my opinion (only my opinion) is about as cutting edge as my Grandpa's record collection. Maybe I'm missing the point, and please don't think I'm trolling for trouble here, I've been following your blog for a while with interest and wish no ill to you or your brainchild. In my opinion the entire concept is, dare I say it... corny, and attempting to create a viral sensation out of sheer hustle and will, without much in the way of compelling content, will likely result in failure. It's easy for one like me to armchair QB from the sidelines. I commend you very much for actually producing something (even if I don't see a ton of redeeming value in it ultimately). I'm sure you don't hesitate to give honest feedback to those who request it and I hope you'll take this feedback in the spirit it's

intended. Best of luck

I was the Producer on the first season of Magic School Bus. Up until the show came out, it was a book property for Scholastic. Admittedly, it was a well known book series - but MSB didn't have the ubiquitous status that now enjoys.

The show premiere coincided with the launch of a line of McDonalds Happy Meal MSB Toys.

My family went to McDonalds on the Saturday the show premiered. We wore our MSB crew shirts and my son had a denim jacket with a huge MSB logo embroidered on the back. (It's now a family heirloom.)

Nobody know what Magic School Bus was. They'd never seen it - but the ads were everywhere. WE were swamped - there were people asking questions, wanting to know What was Magic School Bus? We had a blast and the only way I can describe it is like dropping a pebble into a wishing well and instead of a splash - getting a tsunami in return. Anyhow, the show was a huge hit - and ran for many seasons.

I was also part of the Atomic Betty team (Executive Story Editor) and privy to the negotiations with another hamburger chain for similar Atomic Betty-themed toys.

Getting back to Mr. Anonymous' note - the successes of Atomic Betty and MSB were created by hype. They were created by corporate media machines. This was before viral vi

deos and social networking when it was actually HARDER and MORE EXPENSIVE to do this.

Is BRAIN EATIN' ZOMBIE BABIES the best show ever? Of course not. (FREAKY STORIES was the best show ever.) But it's cool, people like it (for the most part) and it's mine.

I know that the anonymous post came from a Canadian. There's a huge difference in attitudes between Canadians and Americans. While I'm proud to wave the Maple Leaf, there's something lacking in the Canadian spirit - it's that "Can Do" attitude that you find in the U.S.

Take a look at the photo of Spaceship One. For me, personally - whenever I see anything that comes out of Scaled Composites (the company that built it) I remember as a boy at an airshow, how Burt Rutan (Spaceship One's Creator) let me sit in the cockpit of one of his early experimental aircraft. He was so damned proud of that thing. He'd started small as an independent aircraft designer (building homebuilt planes) and years later - is the cutting edge in space travel.

THAT'S THE AMERICAN WAY, people. They have dreams. BIG dreams. They go for it.

Up here. Well, we wait for our government grants. We wait for someone in authority to 'approve' our dreams... We have a lot to learn from our pals just over the border.


  1. I don't know that much about Canada so its difficult to make comparisons. I know in America the can-do attitude relates to the small percentage of people who tend to not follow the adage go to school and find a nice secure job instead works and works while everyone is screaming get a real job. The can-do attitude has been replaced with "will only do if I have benefits as well as my retirement plan in place".

  2. Well, that's the way it is here, too. Except that in the USA there are more people with that "Can Do" attitude.

    When I started Zombie Babies, I spoke with a producer who also wanted to start an online Zombie series. But he was waiting for the go-ahead on his government funding, so his show is still in "Wait and See" mode.

    Sometimes ya just got to say "What the F*ck", roll up your sleeves and just do it.

  3. I'm an American who does not get Zombie Babies. I agree with so many of the anonymous person's sentiments. Just keep going, because there's a lot of stuff out there that I don't like that somehow becomes big.

  4. Definition of Comedy Hell: Having to explain the joke...

    Being American doesn't meant that I expect you or anyone else to get or like BEZBs. Just good taste and a sense of humor are all that's required.

    I was talking about the great American "can do" attitude that may or may not still exist - but I suspect still does.

  5. That's another thing that's awesome about America is the stories of people becoming successful against enormous odds and it usually starts off where the guy comes from humble beginnings.