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Arthur (TV series)

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FormatChildren's television series
Created byBased on the series of children's books by Marc Brown
StarringMichael Yarmush
Daniel Brochu
Bruce Dinsmore
Jodie Resther
Sonja Ball
Opening theme"Believe in Yourself" by Ziggy Marley
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons13 (a 14th season in production)
No. of episodes165 (List of episodes)
Running time30 minutes (approx. 11 minutes per story)
Original channel PBS
Picture format480i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV)
Audio formatDolby Surround
Original runSeptember 2, 1996 – present

Arthur is an American-Canadian educational television series for children, that airs on PBS in the United States; Radio-Canada, Knowledge and TVOKids in Canada; ABC2 in Australia and BBC One/ CBBC in the UK. It is aired internationally in 82 countries.[1]

Arthur revolves around the lives of Arthur Timothy Read, an anthropomorphic aardvark,[2] his friends and family, and their daily interactions with each other. The series often deals with social and health-related issues that affect young children. There is a strong emphasis on the educational value of books and libraries as well as relationships with friends and family members. The television series is based on the Arthur book series, which are illustrated and written by Marc Brown. In 1994, WGBH Boston along with the Toronto-based Cinar, now Cookie Jar Group, began production of the animated series. Arthur became one of the highest-rated shows on PBS Kids for several years since it started airing in September 1996.[1] On September 2009, Cookie Jar Group confirmed production of a 14th season and 185 episodes by 2010.[3]



Arthur Read, the series' titular character, is an eight-year-old brown aardvark who lives in the fictional town of Elwood City. He is a third-grade student at Lakewood Elementary School. Arthur's family includes two home-working parents, his father David (a chef) and his mother Jane (an accountant), his two younger sisters, Dora Winifred (D.W.), who is in preschool, and Kate, who is still an infant, and his dog Pal. Arthur also has several friends who come from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and he also occasionally meets with members of his extended family as well.

In the TV series, Elwood City is portrayed as a largely suburban area which bears a strong resemblance to the Boston area; the TV series is partially produced by WGBH. Furthermore, Elwood City's professional baseball team, the "Elwood City Grebes", appears to be a fictional representation of the Boston Red Sox. The episode "The Curse of the Grebes" in Season 10 clearly references baseball lore such as Curse of the Bambino. The same episode also refers indirectly to the rivalry between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees, as the Grebes have a fierce rivalry with the Crown City Kings during the World Championship, a reference to the World Series. Crown City, as featured in other episodes, is apparently a fictional representation of New York City. In one episode, it is inferred that an ice hockey team wearing the WGBH logo and the Boston Bruins' team colors on their uniforms are Elwood City's professional (possibly NHL) hockey team.

There are also firm references to Brown's hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. Most notably, the local shopping mall in the TV series is called "Mill Creek Mall", an obvious reference to Millcreek Mall. Brown himself stated that the series is influenced by his upbringing as a child in Erie. There is also an actual Ellwood City, northwest of the Pittsburgh area, although it does not resemble the Elwood City in Arthur.


The TV series' reggae-style theme song was recorded by Ziggy Marley. A remixed techno version of the song, called "Believe in Yourself", has been released on the third album, and a shortened version has been played during the closing credits for the sixth season. Many celebrity guest stars have also appeared on the show, each providing the voice for their anthropomorphic animal counterpart.

Although the program is primarily produced by WGBH of Boston, Massachusetts, the production of the animated portions of the show—which includes the writing and voice acting—is done in Montreal, Quebec, and South Korea. The animation of the show is done at AKOM Production Company. The entire cast of Arthur lives in Montreal or Toronto, where Cookie Jar Entertainment's studios are located. The only segments of the show that are filmed outside Canada are the "A Word from Us Kids" interstitials, filmed at elementary schools or other educational sites in the Boston area. Beginning in Season 11, the "A Word From Us Kids" segment was replaced by a segment called "Postcards from You", where a couple of live-action videos sent in by young viewers were spotlighted per episode.

Marc Brown's children, Tolon, Eliza and Tucker, are referenced in the show many times, just as they are in the Arthur book series. For example, the town's moving company is called "Tolon Moving", and everyday items such as cups or pencil sharpeners have the word "Eliza" printed on them. References to Cookie Jar Entertainment and WGBH also appear often 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 colours with Montreal-based Cinar's logo on them(Cinar was the predecessor to today's Cookie Jar Entertainment) and the other team's players wear shirts in the Boston Bruins' colors with Boston-based WGBH's sting logo on them. Subsequent episodes that involve hockey also depict players wearing these sweater designs. Also, in the episode "The Big Blow-Up" in Season 2, a racecar driver wears a jersey with "Cinar" written on it and a car with "WGBH" written on it. In the episode "Prove It" in Season 4, The Brain introduces D.W. to science while watching a non-animated episode of Nova, a science series also produced by WGBH.

When the series premiered, the characters had white tongues, which was a coloration error. "Buster's Dino Dilemma" was the first episode to fix this mistake, but the white tongue mistake continued until the "Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club" episode. After season one it was fixed permanently.


The series has been acknowledged with the George Foster Peabody Award and four Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children's Animated Program. In 2002, TV Guide ranked Arthur Read No. 26 on its list of the "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time."[4]

Cast and characters


Voice cast

  • Michael Yarmush - Arthur Timothy Read (1996-2000)
  • Justin Bradley - Arthur Timothy Read (2001)
  • Mark Rendall- Arthur Timothy Read (2001-2003)
  • Cameron Ansell - Arthur Timothy Read (2004-2007)
  • Dallas Jokic - Arthur Timothy Read (2008-current)
  • Simon Peacock - Pal (2001-2007)
  • Michael Caloz - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (1996-1998)
  • Oliver Grainger - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (1999-2001)
  • Jason Szwimer - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (2002-2006)
  • Robert Naylor - Dora Winifred "D.W." Read (2007-current)
  • Sonja Ball - Mrs. Read
  • Bruce Dinsmore - Mr. Read/Binky Barnes/Bailey
  • Luke Reid - Alan "The Brain" Powers (1996-1999)
  • Steven Crowder - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2000-2001)
  • Alex Hood - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2002-2005)
  • Paul-Stuart Brown - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2005-2007)
  • Lyle O'Donohoe - Alan "The Brain" Powers (2008-current)
  • Daniel Brochu - Buster Baxter
  • Holly Gauthier-Frankel - Fern Walters
  • Jodie Resther - Francine Alice Frensky
  • Brigid Tierney - Jenna Morgan (1996-2008)
  • Maggie Castle - Molly MacDonald
  • Melissa Altro - Mary Alice "Muffy" Crosswire
  • Tamar Koslov - Prunella Deegan
  • Eramelinda Boquer - Rubella Deegan
  • Patricia Rodriguez- Sue Ellen Armstrong (1996-2004)/Catherine Frensky (1996-2003)
  • Jessie Kardos - Sue Ellen Armstrong (2005-current)
  • Alexina Cowan - Catherine Frensky (2003-current)
  • Mitchell David Rothpan - George Nordgren (1996-2001)
  • Evan Smirnow - George Nordgren (2002-2004)
  • Eleanor Noble - George Nordgren/Lundgren (Season 9-current), Perky Newswoman (2002, 2004)
  • Hayley Reynolds - Nadine
  • Sally Isherwood - Emily (2005)
  • Vanessa Lengies - Emily (1996-2005; 2006-current)
  • Joanna Noyes - Grandma Thora Read
  • Tracy Braunstein - Baby Katelyn "Kate" Read (2001-current), Sally (2001)
  • Ellen David - Bitzi Baxter
  • A.J. Henderson - Edward Crosswire/Grandpa Dave
  • Arthur Holden - Mr. Ratburn/Bionic Bunny/Announcer
  • Walter Massey - Principal Herbert Haney/Mr. Marco (1996-1997)
  • Al Gravelle - Mr. Morris (1996-2002)
  • Brownen Mantel - Mrs. Sarah MacGrady
  • Katie Hutchison - Paige Turner
  • Susan Glover - Miss Woods (1996-1998)
  • Samuel Holden
  • Jane Woods
  • Christopher Lortie - Timmy Tibble (2008-current)
  • Jake Roseman - Tommy Tibble (2008-current)
  • Jonathan Koensgen - Tommy Tibble (1996-2003), the Tibbles (2003-2007)
  • Ricky Mabe - Timmy Tibble (1996-2003)
  • Mark Camacho - Oliver Frensky
  • Jane Wheeler - Mrs. Barnes (Binky's Mom)
  • Nicholas Wheeler-Hughes - James MacDonald (2003-current)
  • Frank Welker - Pal (1996-2000), various animals (uncredited)

Arthur' Missing Pal cast

  • Carr Thompson - Arthur
  • Daniel Brochu - Buster (as "Conway Bruce")
  • Luciano Rauso - D.W.
  • Yvette Kaplan - Pal
  • L. C. Curci - Baby Kate
  • Bruce Dinsmore - Mr. Read, Binky Barnes (as "Bruce Smithee")
  • Catherine Lavin - Mrs. Read
  • Marc Graue - Ice cream Man
  • Bailey Lauren - Francine
  • Nichole Blanchard - Muffy
  • James Buckholder - The Brain
  • Wendee Lee - Prunella, Mary Moo Cow
  • Mona Marshall - Rosie
  • Dave Mallow - TV Announcer
  • Chuck Buell - Waiter

Celebrity guests

  • Jack Prelutsky - As himself on the episode "I'm a Poet".
  • Fred Rogers - Mr. Rogers appears as himself in a surprise visit to Elwood City.
  • Art Garfunkel - Garfunkel appears as "the singing moose."
  • Yo-Yo Ma - Ma appears as Redman's rival.
  • Joshua Redman - Redman appears as himself as Francine's uncle.
  • Alex Trebek - Trebek appears as "Alex Lebek" on the episode when Arthur is on a game show.
  • Michelle Kwan - Kwan appears as herself when Francine learns to skate.
  • The Backstreet Boys - As themselves in the hour-long special, "Arthur: It's Only Rock 'N' Roll".
  • Larry King - Although King does not appear on the show itself, he interviews the Arthur characters during the interstitial on PBS's telecasts.
  • Tom and Ray Magliozzi - Both appear in the episode "Pick a Car, Any Car" as Click and Clack from the 'Car Talk' radio show.
  • Arthur Ganson - Appears as himself in the episode "Muffy's Art Attack".
  • Koko Taylor - As herself.
  • Taj Mahal - As himself who helps George write music.
  • Frank Gehry - Gehry appears as an architect who helps the gang build the new treehouse.
  • Rodney Gilfry - Appears in the episode "Lights, Camera, Opera".
  • Johnny Damon - Damon appears as a player for the Elwood City Grebes.
  • Edgar Rentería - Also appears in "The Curse of the Grebes" as a player.
  • Mike Timlin - Also appears in "The Curse of the Grebes" as a player.
  • Ming Tsai - Tsai is shown as the judge for a cooking contest at the Lakewood Elementary school.
  • Matt Damon - Damon appears as himself in an episode featuring the creation of the Arthur show.
  • Joan Rivers - Rivers was the voice of Francine's Grandmother.
  • Lance Armstrong - Appears to support a campaign for bike lanes. He appears again to help Francine deal with cancer on "The Great MacGrady".
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman - Appears in "No Acting Please" as Will Toffman.


Each episode of Arthur runs for half an hour. Episodes usually consist of two completely self-contained 11-minute stories. The episodes start off with one of the characters (usually Arthur) speaking towards the audience about a situation within the story followed by the title card. The episodes are separated by a one- to two-minute live-action interstitial called "And Now a Word from Us Kids" (or, in some cases, a permutation of that title more specific to its contents). The live-action 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 relate to the first cartoon segment in the half-hour). This segment is seen exclusively on PBS telecasts of the show, filling space otherwise used for commercials, which are generally forbidden on PBS. There is also a relatively new segment that sometimes appears at the end of the second 11-minute episode called "And Now a Word from Marc Brown" where he shows the viewers how to draw various main characters from the show. In 2007, the show began encouraging viewers to send in "video postcards" (similar to those used in the spin-off show Postcards from Buster), which were shown in the interstitials of episodes until the middle of Season 12. Beginning with Episode 151, the show reverted back "And Now a Word from Us Kids".



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 Missing Pal, was produced by Mainframe Entertainment and is the first animated Arthur project to make use of three-dimensional computer-generated imagery. [1]. Arthur's success has also lead to the spin-off series, Postcards From Buster. Postcards from Buster premiered on October 11, 2004 with several returning characters.

Music albums

Arthur has released three music albums. The first album, Arthur and Friends: The First Almost Real Not Live CD, contained songs that were played throughout the TV series and original songs for the album. The second album, Arthur's Perfect Christmas, contained songs that were played during the television movie of the same title. The third album, Arthur's Really Rockin' Music Mix, contained only original songs, including a remix of the theme song which was played on the credits of season 6 as a promotion for the album.


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 from 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 reads 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[5] 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).

Video games

  • Arthur's Thinking Games: Released in 2001 by The Learning Company, this game has six fun activities that encourage critical thinking and logic.
  • 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 (PlayStation): Released between 1999 and 2000, This game has Arthur scouring 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 is not done by the original voice actors.
  • Living Books: There were several interactive storybooks in the Living Books series based on Arthur, including Arthur's Teacher Trouble.
  • Arthur's Pet Chase: Arthur's first side-scrolling adventure, similar to Super Mario Bros..

Home media releases

WGBH Home Video has begun releasing Arthur on DVD in Region 1. They released Season 10 on March 25, 2008 and Season 11 has been released on September 2, 2008.[6]

DVD NameEp #RegionRelease date
Season 130Region 2April 7, 2008
Season 220Region 2November 3, 2008
Season 315Region 2March 23, 2009
Season 410Region 2August 4, 2009
Season 510TBATBA
Season 610TBATBA
Season 710TBATBA
Season 810TBATBA
Season 910TBATBA
Season 1010Region 1March 25, 2008
Season 1110Region 1September 2, 2008
Season 1210TBATBA

Popularity with older fans

Although Arthur is directed primarily toward a child and preteen audience, over the years it has gained a substantial cult following among older viewers[citation needed]. The show regularly incorporates satirical parodies of adult-oriented topics and references to pop culture, including, but not limited to, parodies of South Park, Jeopardy!, The Sopranos, Beavis and Butt-head, the Indiana Jones adventures, the James Bond series of films, The Adventures of Tintin, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, The Jerry Springer Show, Oprah, Law & Order, Charlie Rose, Antiques Roadshow, Mystery!,The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcocks' The Birds, Macbeth, and That '70s Show. Many of the references and topics covered are ones with which the target audience most likely would not be familiar. In the episode Desert Island Dish, Francine holds up a cage containing a swallow and then shows a coconut, saying the bird was carrying the coconut. This is a subtle reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and could likely only be picked up by older audiences.

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 Tool Box", a play off of the popular children's program The Magic School Bus, which, coincidentally, also aired on PBS. 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 "And Now A Word From Us Kids" is presented—with hand-held "camera work" and children who speak in stilted sentences. Also, there was an episode where the gang wanted to enter a contest sponsored by a cartoon they watched (Andy & co.) that was very similar to Arthur, itself.

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 are rife with references to past events within the series' continuity, in particular D.W.'s missing snowball for which she blames Arthur, and Buster's cat saving incident. These are often intended to amuse long-time viewers.



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