Arthur (TV series)

Last updated

Genre Comedy-drama
Slice of life
Problem solving
Created by Marc Brown
Developed byKathy Waugh
Directed byGreg Bailey
Theme music composerJudy Henderson & Jerry de Villiers Jr.
Opening theme"Believe in Yourself" by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
ComposerRay Fabi
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons24
No. of episodes249 (485 segments) (list of episodes)
Executive producersMarc Brown (Season 10–present)
Micheline Charest (seasons 1–4)
Carol Greenwald
Peter Moss (seasons 5–6)
Lesley Taylor
Toper Taylor
Pierre Valette
ProducersRonald Weinberg (seasons 1–4)
Cassandra Schafhausen
Lesley Taylor
Greg Bailey
Diane Dallaire
Tolon Brown
Running time20–29 minutes
Production companies Cookie Jar Entertainment [1]
(seasons 1–15)
9 Story Entertainment (seasons 16–19) [2]
Oasis Animation (season 20–present) [3]
WGBH Boston
DistributorUnited States
PBS Distribution
Cookie Jar Entertainment [4]
(seasons 1–15)
9 Story Media Group (season 16–present)
Original network PBS (PBS Kids)
Picture format SDTV (480i) (seasons 1–15)
HDTV (1080i) (season 16–present)
Audio format Dolby Surround
Original releaseOctober 7, 1996 (1996-10-07) 
Related shows Postcards from Buster
External links
Official Website on

Arthur is a Canadian–American animated educational television series for children ages 4 to 8, [5] developed by Kathy Waugh for PBS, and produced by WGBH. The show is set in the fictional American city of Elwood City, and revolves around the lives of eight-year-old Arthur Read, an anthropomorphic aardvark, [6] his friends and family, and their daily interactions with each other.


The television series is based on the Arthur Adventure book series, written and illustrated by Marc Brown. WGBH Boston along with Cinar (now Cookie Jar Group) began production of the animated series in 1994, and aired its first episode on October 7, 1996. [7] Since its debut, the show has broadcast 246 half hour episodes.

A pilot for the spin-off series Postcards from Buster aired in December 2003 as a season 8 episode of Arthur. Postcards from Buster aired from October 11, 2004, to November 21, 2008; the series faced several years of hiatus, until a brief revival in February 2012, only to be cancelled after airing three unseen episodes that had been held over from the show's third season. [8]

The series often deals with important issues families face such as asthma, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, [9] and autism spectrum disorder. It also encourages reading and relationships with family and friends by explaining that people have different personalities and interests. [10]

Arthur became one of the highest-rated shows on PBS Kids for several years since its debut, averaging almost 10 million viewers weekly in the U.S. It is aired in a total of 83 countries, including on: PBS in the United States; Radio-Canada, Knowledge Network, TVOntario, and CBC in Canada; several ABC channels in Australia; and BBC One/CBBC in the UK and PBS Kids in Africa. [11]

It is the longest-running children's animated series in the U.S., and the second longest-running animated series in the U.S., behind The Simpsons . [12] In June 2018, it was announced that Arthur was renewed for four additional seasons, up to Season 25. [13] [14] Season 25 was later announced to be the final season of the series. [15]


Arthur Read, the series's titular character, is an anthropomorphic 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.

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. 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," a reference to Millcreek Mall. Brown himself stated that the series is influenced by his upbringing as a child in Erie, and specifically noted that Mr. Ratburn is based on a middle-school algebra teacher he had at Westlake Middle School. [16]


In 1994, Marc Brown was approached by WGBH and PBS about the possibility of adapting the Arthur books into a television series. Brown was reluctant at first to become a part of a medium for which he had little respect, but soon agreed when he learned that the objective of the television series would be to use the powerful medium of television to encourage children to read books.[ citation needed ]

Although the program is primarily written and produced by WGBH of Boston, the production of the animation and voice acting are done in Montreal, Toronto, South Korea, and Hong Kong. The animation of the show was done at AKOM Production Company from season 1 to 11, then at Animation Services (HK) Ltd from season 12 to 15. 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 live action videos sent in by young viewers were spotlighted per episode, and then replaced with "A Word from Us Kids" in season 12. The segments are omitted from all airings outside the US.

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.[ episode needed ] Subsequent episodes that involve hockey also depict players wearing these sweater designs.[ citation needed ] 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, Brain introduces D.W. to science while watching a non-animated episode of Nova , a science series also produced by WGBH. Brown's son Tolon, for whom Brown first invented the character of Arthur the Aardvark in a bedtime story, is the executive director of the show. [17]

In October 1999, Cinar was investigated for tax fraud. [18] It was revealed that both the chairman Micheline Charest and president Ronald Weinberg invested $122 million (US) into Bahamian bank accounts without the board members' approval. Cinar had also paid American screenwriters for work while continuing to accept Canadian federal grants for content. However, Arthur itself was not involved in the scandal as it was publicly known to be co-produced with an American company. Head writers Joe Fallon and Ken Scarborough left around that time, but not because of the scandal; Fallon left about a year before the investigation began. [19]

In the Season 14, the series began producing and airing episodes in 1080i HD. However, until October 15, 2012 in the U.S., the episodes still aired in 4:3 aspect ratio, with the left and right sides cropped out. They have since begun airing in 16:9 in October 15, 2012. Season 12 also marks the switching of animation studios from AKOM to ASHK. Starting with season 16, the series was produced by 9 Story Entertainment (now 9 Story Media Group) and airs in 16:9 aspect ratio. Along with this change, 9 Story produced a re-mastered opening theme for the series in 16:9, and animation was moved in-house using Adobe Flash. Season 19 was the last season to be produced by 9 Story, with Montreal based-Oasis Animation taking over starting in season 20. [20]

In November 2018, Bruce Dinsmore revealed that he has finished recording the final episodes in advance. [21]


The TV series' reggae-style theme song, "Believe in Yourself", was written by Judy Henderson and Jerry de Villiers Jr. and was performed by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. A remixed techno version of the song has been officially released on the third album and a shortened version has been played during the closing credits for the sixth season. The Backstreet Boys covered the song with the original instrumentals for the ending credits of television special Arthur: It's Only Rock 'n' Roll.

The original music score was produced by Ray Fabi.

In season 2, the song "Crazy Bus", written and performed by then-head writer Joe Fallon, was introduced. It served as the alternate anthem of the television series. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and jazz composer Joshua Redman covered the song on the ending credits of the season 4 finale episode, "My Music Rules". When Joe Fallon left Arthur after season 4, the song was officially retired from the show. The show alludes to this on the television special Arthur: It's Only Rock 'n' Roll when D.W. says, "Crazy Bus is for babies; I know a million better songs."[ citation needed ]

Guest stars

Many celebrity guest stars have appeared on the show, each providing the voice for their anthropomorphic animal counterpart, excluding Joan Rivers, who played as Francine's maternal grandmother. Lance Armstrong and Joan Rivers are the only guest stars to make more than one appearance on the series. [22]

Cast and characters


(Clockwise from upper left): Brain, Binky, Sue Ellen, Francine, Muffy, Buster, Prunella, George, Arthur, Baby Kate. Arthur characters on couch.jpg
(Clockwise from upper left): Brain, Binky, Sue Ellen, Francine, Muffy, Buster, Prunella, George, Arthur, Baby Kate.

Arthur's immediate family is the focus of the series, with most episodes involving Arthur, his younger sister D.W., their parents David and Jane, Baby Kate, and their dog, Pal. Arthur's closest friends include Buster, Francine, Muffy, Binky, and Brain, along with Sue Ellen, Fern, and George as frequent supporting characters.

The adults in Arthur play important roles: Mr. and Mrs. Read display a significant amount of stress from parenting, Arthur's friends' parents are shown struggling in middle-class jobs, and Mr. Ratburn endures the demands and expectations of teaching elementary school. Even in difficult, adult situations, these grown ups maintain a cheerful attitude. Arthur, D.W., and Kate also visit their paternal grandmother, Thora Read, and maternal grandfather, Grandpa Dave.

Voice cast

Unlike most animated television series, Arthur showcases a wide range of voice actors. While a majority of characters such as Jane, David, Buster, Francine and Binky have been voiced by certain voice actors that have voiced them since the beginning of the series, Arthur, D.W., Brain, the Tibble Twins, and James have each had several actors throughout the seasons due to the producers employing young males for these parts.

Celebrity guests


Each episode of Arthur runs for half an hour. Episodes usually consist of two completely self-contained 11-minute stories. The episodes usually 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 variation 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 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 "And Now a Word from Us Kids".

Set in a realistic environment (as opposed to the more fantastical settings prominently featured in children's programming), certain stories (often in the second half of the episode) may not necessarily focus on the titular protagonist's point of view and may instead detail the experiences and viewpoints of surrounding characters, usually Arthur's schoolmates. Often such episodes will depict those characters handling situations often faced by children in actuality as a means of guiding audiences through those situations, including bed-wetting, asthma, or dyslexia, and Arthur's character sometimes may see a reduced role (in some episodes, Arthur himself does not appear in the story at all). Stories in later seasons dealt with more serious issues or subjects, such as cancer, autism spectrum disorder, or even same-sex marriage, although numerous episodes simply address topics including childhood fears, trends, or fantasies. Occasionally, some episodes may not offer educational value. In spite of the realistically designed environment, the series may showcase the fantasies or daydreams of a few characters on a number of occasions, and a few episodes feature supernatural elements such as ghosts or secret situations unknown to other characters such as Kate and Pal's friendship.

In May 2019, Alabama Public Television withheld the airing of "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone", where Arthur's teacher, Mr. Ratburn, married another man named Patrick. The station had also declined to broadcast a 2005 episode of the spin-off show, Postcards from Buster, where a friend had two mothers. [25]



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. [26] Arthur's success has also led to the spin-off series Postcards from Buster . Postcards from Buster premiered on October 11, 2004 with several returning characters, and aired its final three episodes in 2012.


The program's official website has been given a rating of 5/5 stars at website Common Sense Media, and has been advised for viewers 5 and up. The site described the show as being "one of the Internet's best offerings for kids". It also advised that "there are links to PBS sponsors but other than that, there is no commercial marketing to kids." The review added, "The games are actually teaching your kids something for example The Music Box combines music and learning, so much so that kids won't even realize that they're figuring out space relations, hand–eye coordination, and mousing skills as they jam along to upbeat tunes." [27]

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.

Microsoft discontinued the ActiMates line shortly before season 5 aired, most possibly due to a lawsuit pertaining to patent infringement [28] and the fact that sales were dropping. It has been noted[ according to whom? ] 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.

Video games

Home media releases

Selected episodes were distributed on VHS and DVD by Random House. Each tape had two or three episodes dealing with similar subjects. WGBH Home Video also released two Region 1 Arthur season sets; they released Season 10 on March 25, 2008 and Season 11 was released on September 2, 2008. [29] Seasons 10–19 are available to download on the iTunes Store and The first three seasons were released over four collections (the second season was split into two volumes) on DVD in Europe only.

DVD NameEp #RegionRelease date
Season 130Region 2April 7, 2008
Season 220Region 2November 3, 2008
March 23, 2009
Season 315Region 2August 4, 2009
Season 410TBATBA
Season 510TBATBA
Season 610TBATBA
Season 710Region 1November 21, 2006
Season 810TBATBA
Season 910TBATBA
Season 1010Region 1March 25, 2008
Season 1110Region 1September 2, 2008
Season 1210TBATBA
Season 1310TBATBA
Season 1410TBATBA
Season 1510TBATBA
Season 1610TBATBA
Season 1710TBATBA
Season 1810TBATBA
Season 1910TBATBA
Season 207TBATBA
Season 217TBATBA
Season 224Region 1July 9, 2019
Season 233TBATBA



The series has been acknowledged with the George Foster Peabody Award and four Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children's Animated Program. [30] In 2002, TV Guide ranked Arthur Read No. 26 on its list of the "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time." [31] The show has also won a BAFTA and was nominated for 17 Daytime Emmys. [32]

Critical response

Ostrov, Gentile, and Crick (2006) write that "our viewing of many educational programs such as Arthur suggests that relational aggression is modeled at a fairly high rate. For example, children may be shown excluding and ostracizing friends or peers on the playground as part of the TV show." (p. 622). [33] They go on to theorize that preschoolers, due to their developmental stage, may have a hard time fully understanding conflict resolution, which typically occurs at the very end of a show. Shows like Arthur typically spend most of their time building up conflicts and this may impact the type of learning that is occurring while watching shows. Moreover, they cite research suggesting that the impacts of modeling relational aggression may be especially strong for girls. This research was elaborated on in the New York Times best-selling book on parenting NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Bronson and Merryman (2009). [34] Their punch line is: "Essentially, Ostrov had just found that Arthur is more dangerous for children than Power Rangers" (p. 181).

A review at MommyPR concluded by saying "My boys were able to preview "The Wheel Deal", "The Buster Report", "Falafelosophy" and "The Great Lint Rush". As soon as my boys were finished with these episodses (sic) they begged to watch them again!" [35]

Dad of Divas' Reviews explained that Executive Producer Jacqui Deegan said of the 14th season:

This season, we're hoping to empower our young viewers to go after their goals and dreams. Whether that means becoming a wheelchair basketball champion, or expressing yourself through writing, drawing, and making movies, Arthur and his friends show kids that determination and hard work really pay off. Both Lydia and Neil serve as great role models, and we're excited to have them to reinforce these important lessons for our audiences. [32] gave the show a rating of 4.5 stars. The series described Arthur's assets:

The Arthur series has won several awards including the George Foster Peabody, and for good reason. Arthur presents issues and situations kids can relate to, and teaches positive behaviors and responses to these issues in a genuine and comical way. The series is fun and engaging to the target age group. Kids will relate to the storylines and characters, and will therefore give thought to the responses the characters demonstrate and outcome of those responses. Because "Arthur" presents real childhood issues, the show contains some imitative behavior such as name calling or bickering, much like children experience in their own lives. Kids might hear words like "sissy" or "stupid" and see Arthur and D.W. argue. Should children mimic some of these phrases or tactics, the show provides a good springboard for parents to talk about the issues with their children and point out the importance of considering others' feelings.

The review continued by citing many ways in which children could extract more from the series, for example by encouraging kids to write stories based on their own families (in much the same way Arthur was first realised) or by Kim Brown, Marc Brown's sister, teaching kids to draw Arthur while on tour. [36]

Brain, Francine, and Arthur animated in the style of South Park, from the episode "The Contest". Arthur SP.png
Brain, Francine, and Arthur animated in the style of South Park , from the episode "The Contest".

Arthur regularly incorporates parodies of and references to pop culture including (but not limited to) South Park , Jeopardy! , The Waltons , The Sopranos , Beavis and Butt-Head , the Indiana Jones films, the James Bond 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 Hitchcock's The Birds , Macbeth , Planet of the Apes , The Matrix , Star Wars , Titanic , The Wizard of Oz , Jaws , That '70s Show , Harry Potter , Keeping Up with the Kardashians , This Old House , The Happy Hollisters , and Percy Jackson & the Olympians . [37] [23]

In July 2014, Chance the Rapper released his interpretation of the theme song of the series called "Wonderful Everyday: Arthur" with Wyclef Jean and Jessie Ware. [38]

In and leading up to July 2016, Arthur regained attention from users of Black Twitter, where stills from the series have become explicit and comedic internet memes, often using an image of Arthur's clenched fist from the episode "Arthur's Big Hit." [37] [39] [40] [41] WGBH said, "We appreciate the memes that have been created and shared in good fun, we are, however, disappointed by the few that are outside of good taste." [42]

In July 2020, YouTuber Lilly Singh created a parody of the Arthur Theme Song called "Arthur Theme Song (2020 Version)", in which the lyrics satirise the nature of 2020. [43]




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