The Arthur Logo
|Created by||WGBH, based on the series of books by Marc Brown|
|Country of origin||USA/CAN|
|No. of episodes||135|
|Running time||30 minutes (approx. 11 minutes per episode)|
|Original release||September 2, 1996 – current|
Arthur is an American and Canadian educational children’s television series which airs primarily on PBS in the US and TVO in Canada, although it has been syndicated to numerous other stations throughout the world. The series premiered on September 2, 1996, and is set to begin its eleventh season in 2003.
Arthur generally revolves around Arthur Read, an anthropomorphic aardvark, and his daily interactions with his peers and family. The series often deals with social and health-related issues that affect young children. The television series is based on the Arthur book series, which is illustrated and written by Marc Brown. In 1994, CINAR Animation (now Cinar) began production of the animated series, which would eventually debut on PBS two years later.
Arthur: Aardvark, glasses, appears in yellow shirt, blue jeans
Template:Infobox TV ratings Arthur Read, the title character of the series, is an eight-year-old Aardvark who lives in the Fictional town of Elwood City. He is a third grade student at Lakewood Elementary School. His parents are named David and Jane, and he has two younger sisters: The precocious pre-school-age D.W. and baby Kate. Arthur's bickering with D.W. is a recurring theme in the series. Arthur also plays Runescape very frequently; he is a level 120 night elf mo-hawk, second only to Mr. T. himself.
Arthur's world is inhabited by other anthropomorphic animal characters. (No humans are ever shown; even real-life celebrity guest stars are depicted as animals.) The particular species to which a character belongs is not always readily apparent. Ironically, in some instances animals are shown both in anthropomorphic form as well as realistic animal form. (For example, Arthur has a pet dog, Pal, and a friend who is a dog, Binky.)
The series' reggae-style theme song was recorded by Ziggy Marley. A remixed techno version of the song (under the name "Believe in Yourself") was used over the closing credits to the sixth season. Many celebrity guest stars have appeared on the show, including Art Garfunkel, Fred Rogers, Michelle Kwan, Joshua Redman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Frank Gehry, generally providing the voice for their anthropomorphic animal counterpart.
In addition to the television series, the Arthur franchise has spawned three hour-long movies, which are often run on PBS during pledge drives. The latest, "Arthur's Lost Pal", was was produced by Mainframe Entertainment and is the first animated Arthur project to make use of three-dimensional computer-generated imagery. .
Cast and characters
- Michael Yarmush - Arthur Timothy Read (1996 - 2000)
- Justin Bradley - Arthur Timothy Read (2001)
- Mark Rendall - Arthur Timothy Read (2002 and 2003)
- Cameron Ansell - Arthur Timothy Read (2004 - current)
- Michael Caloz - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (1996-1999)
- Oliver Grainger - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (1999-2002)
- Jason Szwimer - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (2003 - current)
- Sonja Ball - Jane Read
- Bruce Dinsmore - David Read / Binky Barnes
- Luke Reid - Alan "The Brain" Powers (1996-1999)
- Stephen Crowder - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2000-2001)
- Alex Hood - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2002-2005)
- Paul-Stuart Brown - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2005 - current)
- Danny Brochu - Buster Baxter
- Holly Gauthier-Frankel - Fern Walters
- Jodie Resther - Francine Alice Frensky
- Brigid Tierney - Jenna Morgan
- Maggie Castle - Molly MacDonald
- Melissa Altro - Mary Alice "Muffy" Crosswire
- Tammy Kozlov - Prunella
- Patricia Rodriguez - Sue Ellen Armstrong / Catherine Frensky (1996-2003)
- Jessica Kardos - Sue Ellen Armstrong (2005-curent)
- Alexina Cowan - Catherine Frensky (2003 - current)
- Mitchell David Rothpan - George Nordgren (1996-2001)
- Evan Smirnow - George Nordgren (2002-2004)
- Hayley Reynolds - Nadine
- Sally Isherwood - Emily
- Joanna Noyes - Grandma Thora Read
- Tracy Braunstein - Kaitlyn "Baby Kate" Read (2001-current), Sally (2001)
- Ellen David - Bitzi Baxter
- A.J. Henderson - Edward Crosswire
- Arthur Holden - Mr. Nigel Emil "Charles" Ratburn III
- Walter Massey - Principal Herbert Haney
- Al Gravelle - Mr. Morris (1996-2001)
- Brownen Mantel - Mrs. Sarah MacGrady
- Kate Hutchison - Paige Turner
- Susan Glover
- Samuel Holden
- Eleanor Noble - George Nordgren (Season 9 - current), Perky Newswoman (2002, 2004)
- Jane Woods
- Jonathan Koensgen - Tommy Tibble (1996-2003), The Tibbles (2003-current)
- Ricky Mabe - Timmy Tibble (1996-2003)
Each episode of Arthur runs a half-hour. Most episodes consist of two completely self-contained stories separated by a live-action interstitial called A Word From Us Kids (or, in some cases, a permutation of that title more specific to its contents). The segments almost always feature children from elementary schools (generally in the Boston area) presenting subjects they are currently learning about or projects they have been working on in their classes. (The subjects covered here do not always relate to the cartoons segments.) In markets where the program is broadcast on commercial television, the interstitials are replaced with advertising.
Toys and games appearing on the show
Like many real life kids, Arthur and company are also often kept busy by games and toys. Below is a list of toys and games that have appeared in the show throughout its run so far.
- Arthur Doll: A life-size doll of Arthur which Brain mistakes for actually being Arthur. Briefly seen in Breezy Listening Blues.
- Cindy Crawfish make-up kit: A toy make-up kit received by Muffy in Arthur's Perfect Christmas.
- Calculator: A standard calculator Muffy receives in Arthur's Perfect Christmas
- Clarissa: A china doll Grandma Thora owned since she was a child. When D.W. borrowed the doll, the doll cracked, only to be repaired like new by Mr. Ratburn.
- Cyber-Cod: A toy that looks similar to Techno-Trout, but has a different color scheme and instead of a speckled belly it has kung-fu fin action. It is Buster's Christmas present in Arthur's Perfect Christmas
- Mr. Haney Piñata: A piñata in the likeness of Mr. Haney's head, seen in Arthur's Birthday
- Mr. Haney Transformer: A Transformer-like toy that transforms into various vehicles and a robot with a likeness of Mr. Haney.
- Funny Farm:Like Whack-a-Mole but with animal creatures popping out instead the make animal sounds while popping out. D.W is seen playing it in Arthur Plays the Blues.
- Moon Boots: a pair of boots that you could jump very high with. Only mentioned in "Arthur Bounces Back"
- Polly Locket: The name is a parody of Polly Pocket. The doll is parody of Locket Surprise Barbie, which had a secret compartment in her chest; Polly Locket has a secret compartment in her face, in which her owner can store things (such as gum).
- Woogles: Potato-shaped talking squeezable figures which come in several differently-colored forms with names like Archie, Tiny Einney, and Snuffles. They were a send-up of fad toys - most specifically, Beanie Babies. Arthur desperately wanted one, but inadvertently ended up with a knockoff insead - a "Poogle" named Charles. Flustered by his friends' infatuation with the fad and their mocking of his Woogle, Arthur inadvertantly replaces the fad when he demonstrates the popping noise that can be made by depressing the safety button on a metal juice cap.
- Quackers: A talking duck doll that D.W. got for Christmas rather than the "Tina the Talking Tabby" doll she wanted.
- Stanley: An old stuffed teddy bear owned by Arthur for years that became ragged and torn even when Arthur tried to sell it at a yard sale to Vicita (and having Vicita rename it "Chico") until it was passed on to Mrs. Tibble, who repaired the doll for Arthur to make it look like new.
- Techno-Trout: A toy belonging to Buster, mentioned in Arthur's Perfect Christmas. It has a speckled belly.
- Tina the Talking Tabby: Mentioned in Arthur's Perfect Christmas, and voiced by Sonja Ball on the radio in the said episode, but never seen on the series. D.W. really wanted one for Christmas, but ended up with Quackers instead.
- Wally: a giraffe ventriloquist dummy owned by George. He was supposedly given to D.W. by George at the end of Arthur's Dummy Disaster, but he was apparently returned to George sometime later, off series, for unspecified reasons.
- World Girls: Dolls similar to American Girl dolls, but while American Girls are only about American history, World Girls consist of dolls from around the world.
- No Guessing: Board game involving answering questions correctly. Arthur was known for cheating at this game.
- Confuse the Goose: A board game first featured in Arthur's Almost Boring Day. The rules of the game was never clearly stated, although one would surmise that it plays a lot like the virtual goose game featured on Sue Ellen Gets Her Goose Cooked.
- Tower of Cows: First mentioned in Double Tibble Trouble, this game is played by putting one cow on top of each other to form a tower. One can deduct that the loser would be the one who places the losing cow and causes the tower to collapse. Emily even owns the French version of "Tower of Cows" that she bought back with her on her Paris trip.
- Rocks in a Box: Briefly mentioned in Sue Ellen Gets Her Goose Cooked, it's said to be about "real rocks in a real box".
- Weasel Rally: First mentioned in Arthur's Almost Boring Day. Not much is known about this game.
- Dark Bunny 6: Curse of the Moomy: a video game that Arthur likes to play. Seen in the episode "Crushed".
- Deep Dark Sea: Featured in Arthur the Wrecker, Arthur grew addicted to the game, and at one point while fighting for control of the computer apparently damaged it. In the end it turns out to be a poor contact on a connection and it's Mrs. Read's turn to get addicted to the game.
- Fish Finder 6: A video game and hand-held electronic game (it is seen as both of these) that is seen throughout the series. Arthur is seen playing the video game in the episode "Sue Ellen's Little Sister". In the episode "Francine Redecorates", D.W. tries to sell the hand-held game to Francine at their garage sale, but Arthur puts it away to keep.
- A Mario-like game featuring Francine as Mario: Seen for a few seconds in Arthur's Perfect Christmas while Muffy is singing What's the Use of Presents.
- Peabrain and Nuthead: An arcade game with characters based on Beavis and Butthead played by Toby and Slink in Buster and the Daredevils. Not much is known about it.
- Virtual Goose: Introduced in 2001, a version of the Confuse the Goose board game that is played on computers. The object of this game is to shoot balls into a goose's mouth. The game is called "Virtual Goose", and it's very noisy. Arthur explains how the game is played -- a giant goose spins around really fast in the center of the screen, and stops facing one of four colored circles. You then have to shoot balls into the goose's mouth. The more balls you manage to shoot in, the higher your score, and you can play online, against other players all over the world. The game also exists as a single-player game (player versus computer posing as various Arthur characters) on the Arthur website. However, the gameplay of the game on the Arthur website is different - instead of shooting balls into the goose's mouth, you have to shoot the right ball into the goose's mouth.
- Virtual Goose 5.0: While Virtual Goose 2.0-4.0 was never mentioned on the show, Virtual Goose 5.0 (likely subtitled Best of the Nest) was featured in the story Best of the Nest, which follows Sue Ellen gets her goose cooked. This game is also apparently a mix between Tamagotchi, survival horror games and also various reality TV series, notably Survivor. It is also apparently online-based.
Arthur in other media
In 1998, both Arthur and D.W. were made into Microsoft Actimates, sophisticated toy dolls who could interact with children, with each other, with certain computer software and the Arthur website, and also with the Arthur television show and videos.
To get the Actimates to interact with the TV show or the videos, a hockey puck shaped transmitter device called a TV Pack must be purchased separately and connected to the video-out connector of the TV set, while to have the Actimates to interact with the specialized computer software (developed by Creative Wonders and published by Microsoft) and the website, another hockey puck shaped transmitter device called a PC Pack must be purchased separately and be connected to the MIDI/game port connector of the PC.
For the TV show and videos, the TV pack reads coded information forms a thin bar-code-like strip along the left edge of the screen and retransmits it to the actimates. This strip is typically invisible when viewed on a normal television, but can be seen by other means, such as watching Arthur on a computer screen by using a TV tuner card, or by sending the tuner signal from a VCR to a video monitor that is capable of overscanning, which is possible on many professional-grade video monitors.
Meanwhile, interaction between the specialized software and the website with the Actimates is a little more complicated. The software makes use of a special programming library called "ToyAPI", which communicated with the Actimates via the PC Pack. The website, on the other hand, makes use of special script files embedded in each page. These script files are parsed by a special plugin that you'll be prompted to download and install on your first visit to the page. This plugin would read the script and send instructions to the Actimates, again through the PC Pack.
Due to the difference in functions between the PC Pack and TV Pack, the actimates will not interact with the Arthur TV Show if the show is being watched on a computer monitor using a tuner card with the PC Pack plugged in. Likewise, it will not interact with a TV that is connected to a computer and has a TV Pack is plugged into the TV.
Microsoft discontinued the Actimates line shortly before season 5 aired, most possibly due to a lawsuit pertaining to patent infringement and the fact that sales were dropping. It has been noted that Post-Season 4 episodes of Arthur have not included any Actimates code. Newer videos and DVD releases of the show does not carry Actimates code either. The enhancements on the website were removed when the site was redesigned in 2002 and thus the Actimates would no longer interact with the website. Likewise, re-releases of the Actimates software by Creative Wonders do not interact with the Actimates because the library that controls the PC Pack has been replaced with a dummy library file (reports state that the software will resume interaction with the Actimates if the library file is replaced with the original one).
- Arthur's Absolutely Fun Day [Mattel Interactive/The Learning Company/Ed Magnin and Associates (GBC)]: Released between 1998 and 1999, This game has you piloting the head of Arthur throughout a map of part of Elwood City and partaking in minigames so he could go visit the amusement park.
- Arthur: Ready to Race [Mattel Interactive/The Learning Company/Runescape (PSOne)]: Released between 1999 and 2000, This game has Arthur scouraging around for parts to build a cardboard box racer. It consists of mostly minigames which the player partakes to gain parts, although the player is only confined to exploring a small area in Elwood City. The graphics are 3D CGI style with three pre-rendered CGI cutscenes. The voice acting in the game, while not done by the original voice actors, sounds reasonably close to the originals.
- Living Books: There were several interactive storybooks in the Living Books series based off of Arthur, including Arthur's Teacher Trouble.
Popularity with older fans
Although Arthur is directed primarily toward a prepubescent audience, over the years it has gained a substantial cult following among older viewers. The show regularly incorporates satirical parodies of adult-oriented topics and references to pop culture, including parodies of South Park, Beavis and Butthead, The Sopranos, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Many of the references and topics covered are ones with which the target audience most likely would not be familiar.
The series is also noted for its self-referential humor. In one episode, Arthur's class is unnerved by an impending appearance in the regular mid-episode interstitial of a popular educational program, The Magic Toolbox. The interstitial is called Let's Talk to Some Kids (a reference to Arthur's own interstitial, And Now a Word from Us Kids) and is presented the same way the "Us Kids" is presented (with hand-held "camera work" and children who speak in stilted sentences).
The series also features a discernible, complex continuity, which is uncommon in children's cartoons. Although the episodes themselves are not in chronological order (a single episode may have one story that takes place in the winter and another that takes place in the summer), many episodes (particularly more recent ones) are rife with references to past events within the series' continuity. These are often solely intended to amuse long-time viewers.
- Many Arthur sound effects recorded in 1995 are still being used in newer episodes of the series. The "Arthur laugh" (featuring the voices of Michael Yarmush and Melissa Altro) has been in use during the entire series run, despite the fact that Michael Yarmush left the show in 2000. Also, in episodes where Arthur is played by other actors, Michael Yarmush's voice can still be heard in the opening credits, as well in other spots in the form of laugh, gasps, and other utterances.
- During the first season (primarily in the first episode, Arthur's Eyes), Arthur is shown to have "normal" eyes (with pupils and sclera) when he isn't wearing his glasses. However, from the second season onward, he is shown with simple dots.
- As of the tenth season, there are 6 episode segments in which Arthur does not appear: "Prunella Sees the Light", "FernFern and the Secret of Moose Mountain", "Thanks a Lot, Binky!", "Big Horns George", "My Fair Tommy", and "World Girls".
- The fictional town of Elwood City was partially inspired by the town in which Marc Brown attended high school. The location of the fictional Elwood City is never specifically stated within the television series, although it is made clear that there is an Elwood City in the state of Utah featured in a "Postcards from You!" segment in the second season of "Postcards from Buster".
- Long before receiving his own television series, Arthur appeared in a 1983 episode of the PBS show Reading Rainbow, which featured a patially-animated presenttion of the book "Arthur's Eyes" narrated by Bill Cosby. A 1988 Reading Rainbow episode also featured a reading of the Arthur-related book The Bionic Bunny Show, narrated by Gene Klaven.
- Arthur appeared as a guest in hand puppet form in a 1999 episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, in which Mister Rogers makes a visit to Marc Brown's house and, later, Arthur makes a visit to the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Mister Rogers himself appeared (as an aardvark) in two episodes of Arthur. (One of these episodes, "Elwood City Turns 100", was aired after Rogers' death.)
- Arthur is broadcast with two distinct caption tracks in the US: Standard and simplified. The simplified caption track presents simplified versions of the dialog, either to allow younger children who are just learning to read to make use the captioning, or to provide an explination of what is being said to younger children. Some broadcasts of the series also purportedly carry a third Spanish language caption track. Arthur broadcasts in the US also carry a DVS SAP audio track to aid visually-impaired viewer in understanding what is happening onscreen.
- Arthur aired it's most disturbing episode on Comedy Central in early 2007. The episode showed Arthur buying his first Shotgun. Arthur than got mad at his sister, DW, and shot her in the head, execution style. He then got mad because his parents grounded him for murder, so Arthur executed them too. The episode was supposed to be comedic, but many Arthur fans, including children, found it to be highly offensive.
- Although the program is primarily produced by WGBH of Boston, Massachusetts, the production of the animated portions of the show is done in Montreal, Quebec. This includes the writing, animation, and voice-acting. In fact, the entire cast of Arthur lives in Montreal. The only segments of the show which are filmed outside of Canada are the "And Now a Word from Us Kids" interstitials.
- References to Cinar and WGBH pop up many times on the show. In one episode, Francine and Buster are shown playing a table hockey game in which one team's players wear shirts in the Montreal Canadiens' signature colors with Montreal-based Cinar's logo on them and the other team's wear shirts in the Boston Bruins's colors with Boston-based WGBH's sting logo on them. Subsequent episodes that involve hockey also depict players wearing these shirt designs. (In one episode, it is inferred the team with the WGBH/Bruins shirts are Elwood City's "home team".) In another episode, "The Big Blow-Up", a racecar driver wears a jersey with "Cinar" written on it and a car with "WGBH" written on it.
- For a list of the numerous product parodies and pop culture references featured on Arthur, see Parodies featured on Arthur
- United States Department of Education (1999-2005)
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting (1996-2004)
- "Viewers Like You" (1996-1999) / Contributions to your PBS Station from "Viewers Like You" (1999-2002, late 2003-2004, late 2005-present)
- Juicy Juice (1996-2004)
- Baby Gap (1996-2000)
- Post Alpha-Bits Cereal (1999-2004)
- Rhodes 60-second Cinnamon Rolls (2005-present)
- Teddy Grahams snacks (2004)
- PBS Kids: Arthur
- Elwood City Downtown Core
- Arthur Wiki
- The Sugar Bowl
- 1998 Actimates press release
- WGBH Arthur Pressroom - News and Pictures, Series Fact Sheet