‘Schoolhouse Rock’ Co-Creator George Newall Dies at 88
George Newall, who co-created the celebrated kids’ educational cartoon Schoolhouse Rock for ABC, has died. The New York Times reports that he passed away at 88 years old due to cardiopulmonary arrest, according to his wife, Lisa Maxwell.
The series ran from 1973 until 1984 and was known for helping kids learn through song. Generation X grew up on these cartoons every Saturday morning, with songs like “Three Is The Magic Number”, “Conjunction Junction”, and “How A Bill Becomes Law” still remembered today.
The series came about when the president of McCaffrey & McCall advertising agency, David McCall, complained to his creative director about the lack of education his kids received in media. He asked if Newall could set the multiplication table to music as his kids had an easier time memorizing song lyrics than learning math.
Newall searched for a musician to make it happen, eventually finding Bob Dorough, who quickly wrote “Three Is The Magic Number.” The song inspired the agency’s art director, Tom Yohe, to start drawing and what was supposed to be a recording became a three-minute animated film. They presented it to Michael Eisner, who was running children’s programming at ABC at that time, and he quickly bought it.
Schoolhouse Rock was deemed a tremendous success, winning four Emmy awards and airing for 11 seasons. The series led to books, sing-along shows, and recordings that are still beloved by many who nostalgically remember the show teaching them about math, civics, and grammar.
Newall served in the army before moving to New York City and working his way up through various ad agencies. In 1978, he started a production company with Yohe that focused on educational children’s programming.
He is survived by his wife, singer Lisa Maxwell, stepson Lake Wolosker, and sisters Jessie Newall Bissey, Kathy Newall Hogan, and Anne Newall Kimmel.