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"Family Holiday Special" is the thirteenth episode of season three and the thirty-ninth episode overall of the animated children's series The Magic School Bus. It originally aired on December 25th, 1996.

Plot

The last day of school before winter break is spent sorting recycling items to send to the recycling center, the recycling being Arnold's idea. Wanda isn't as enthusiastic, wanting to hurry so she can go see The Nutcracker, which is offering free entry if a toy to be donated is brought. She plans to give her favorite toy soldier. Ms. Frizzle then comes around and assists the class with their recycling spree.

Once Arnold arrives, Ms. Frizzle takes the class to the recycling center, which her cousin, Murph, owns and runs. Ms. Frizzle introduces the class to her cousin and the class begins sorting. During the chaos of the sorting, Arnold accidentally throws in Wanda's soldier, which she witnesses getting recycled. Wanda tries to warn Murph, but the latter can't hear her due to having on headphones. Wanda is then forced to watch in horror as her soldier ends up getting compacted along with the rest of the junk.

She is seen holding plastic pellets of her soldier and yells at Arnold, saying she didn't blame him but his "crummy idea." Phoebe tries smooth things over and suggests a sullen Wanda think of the good things recycling does. She snaps at her, "Okay, Phoebe, name three," which she can't. In her anger, Wanda wishes recycling had never been invented. When Ms. Frizzle contemplates Wanda's wish, Murph follows along and Liz activates the trash button, which causes the recycle center to transform into a pile of trash. As Ms. Frizzle drives the bus, the bus gets rid of the trees and newspapers. Since newspapers have to be made with wood, all the trees have been cut down, which Phoebe tells Wanda is the first reason recycling is good. Wanda, however, is relieved that her favorite soldier didn't get cut into pellets. The recycle bins also disappear and more garbage has to go back to the city dump, which can only accommodate so much garbage. The bus stops to the park and to the class' surprise, the playground material turns into tin cans and cartons.

As the bus approaches the school, it brings a pile of trash to the front of the school. Tim also tells Wanda that

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more garbage is the second reason why recycling is vital. Wanda decides to just forget about her soldier and apologizes for messing up the town. When Wanda laments her wish and asks why she ever contemplated getting rid of recycling was such a good idea, she inadvertently sets off the bus and it transforms into junk. Wanda is now contrite of what she has done.

The class asks what the bus has to do with the junk (as well as the swing sets and benches), and they try to figure out how to rebuild the bus into the junk it transformed into. Ralphie learns that the bottles are made of glass like the bus' window, Dorothy Ann learns that the cans are aluminum like the bus' whole structure, and Phoebe finds that the green bottles are plastic like everything else inside the bus. Wanda then figures out that it takes glass, aluminum, and plastic to rebuild the bus and Murph tells the clas to melt the bottles to make new things out of old material, similar to how the plastic melted in the recycling plant. The class collaborates and melts the material in Ms. Frizzle's melting recycling bin.

They finally fix the bus and Wanda then learns that certain materials made out of glass, plastic, and aluminum wouldn't be made without recycling, being the third reason why recycling is important. She also learns that recycling something to make something old or new saves the natural resources. Ms. Frizzle tweaks the bus so it could undo what Wanda has wished. Everything is now back to where it was before, and the recycling plant is back. Arnold then suggests that the plastic pellets should be used to make new toy soldiers. So Wanda helps Murph make new toy soldiers and everyone gets one each. Arnold stays he has to take care of his sick grandmother and won't be able to make it to the The Nutcracker with the rest of the class. Wanda is also offered her bag back and notices a rock given to her as a gift by Arnold. The rest of the class, along with Murph, make it on the train with Arnold and had decided not to go to The Nutcracker. Wanda also thanks Arnold for the rock and offers him plastic pellets as a gift. Arnold thanks Wanda and Murph dedicates a song to recycling as the class sings along with her. The next scene then shows the bus being attached to the end of the moving train as the class shouts out "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hanukkah", and "Happy Kwanza".

Watch Episode

MAGIC SCHOOL BUS S03E13 Family Holiday Special26:22

MAGIC SCHOOL BUS S03E13 Family Holiday Special

Trivia

  • When the episode first aired in 1996, it was followed by a behind the scenes segment, hosted by Malcolm-Jamal Warner, voice of one of the producers. It also showed the first shot of the Producer Says segment from Cold Feet.
  • This is the first time that Wanda is shown crying. Her second time was in Gets Charged.
  • Dolly Parton (Murph) and Lily Tomlin (Ms. Frizzle) costarred alongside Jane Fonda in the 1980 comedy 9 to 5. Dabney Coleman played their boss, and he guest stars in the episode "Sees Stars."
  • In one scene, Ralphie's hat is missing when he gets on the bus.
  • It is revealed that Arnold is Jewish.
  • This episode was aired on Christmas Day and so far the only episode in the series not to air a week after any previous episode within the season. The previous episode "Rocks and Rolls" was the last in this season to air a week after another.
  • Murph appear in the Phone Segment
  • On the end credits of this episode, the background is different. It differs from Arnold opening the cart doors to see Wanda in the front middle of the class to surprise him, to the background {end credits} where he ends up standing next to Wanda, as snow, gifts, a chess game (on Tim), Christmas wreath around Liz, Hanukkah candle beside Keesha, Presents everywhere, a basket of fruit on top of one of the presents in front between Tim & Wanda. Almost at the end of the episode, there were no lights decorated on the bus, but in the end credits, there is.
  • Everyone at the end of the episode has remained in their seated position when surprising Arnold. The only difference is Liz is seen during the end credits while during the "Surprise Visit" for Arnold, she wasn't in front of the bus. Another difference is the green vertical thing, could look like another wreath but whatever that was, it wasn't shown in the background in the end credits.
  • The class except for Ms. Frizzle is in their winter clothes from Rocks and Rolls.
  • Despite the episode's topic being on recycling and that this is a Christmas special, the special day that focuses on recycling is Earth Day which is held on April 22 every year, yet recycling is important no matter which day of the year.
    • On the other hand, the episode "In the Rainforest" is set on Earth Day, but focused more precisely on rainforest ecology.


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