They were just three ordinary seven-year-old friends from Brooklyn, New York. Joe Arthur was an aspiring magician. Sam was an amateur inventor and history buff. Fred was headstrong and brash and loved sports. However, they stopped being ordinary when Joe’s uncle, flawed stage magician Joe the Magnificent, gave him a magical book on his birthday that allowed the kids to travel through time. The Book, however, had a mind of its own; seemingly shunting them off to random places due to the boys’ lack of knowledge on how to use it properly.
|The first Time Warp Trio book.|
That was the basis of The Time Warp Trio; a series of children’s books created and written by Jon Scieszka with illustrations by first Lane Smith and later Adam McCauley. Published by Puffin Books, 16 books were released between 1991 and 2006. The series followed the three boys as they stumbled through time with The Book, encountering various historical figures and even their 22nd Century great granddaughters--Joanie, Samantha, and Freida--who also used The Book to travel through time; although much more adeptly than the boys.
|The boys (right) meet their great granddaughters (left) in the 22nd Century.|
WGBH Boston, in association with Soup2Nutz, adapted the books into an animated series through funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities. As with the books, Joe (Mark Rendall), Sam (Darren Frost) and Fred (Scott McCord), now depicted as 10-years old, travelled through time with The Book, encountering the various peoples and historical figures that dwelled there. They had to find The Book in each new time period before being able to get home (and generally to safety). Also featured were the elder Joe (Tony Daniels), Jodie (Joanie renamed, voiced by Sarah Gadon for half the show and Tajja Isen for the rest), Samantha (Laurie Elliott) and Freddi (changed from Freida, voiced by Sunday Muse), as well as the younger Joe’s parents Mr. (Tom Arnold) and Mrs. Arthur (Susan Roman), Joe’s sister Anna (Annick Obonsawin) and Fred’s mean older brother Mike (Dan Petronijevic). Newly created for the show was the recurring villain Mad Jack (also Daniels); Joe’s evil uncle who wanted The Book in order to rule eternity. The character models by John Dee differed slightly from the style used in the books, although they retained their respective familiar characteristics.
|The boys surrounded by Mayans.|
Time Warp Trio began on July 9, 2005, airing both on Discovery Kids (currently Discovery Family) and on NBC as one of the final programs of the programming block Discovery Kids on NBC. It was also slated to air on PBS Kids and PBS Kids Go! on the same day, but never ended up being broadcast (PBS Kids does currently have the distribution rights to the show as of this writing). Each episode was followed by a segment detailing the real history behind the plot or objects from the preceding story narrated by one of the characters. Kathy Waugh served as the show’s head writer for the first half of episodes with Peter K. Hirsch filling the role for the remainder. The series was written by them, Gary Apple, Glen Berger, Cydne Clark, Steve Granat, Gentry Menzel and Matt Steinglass. Scieszka and Smith served as the series’ consultants. The theme song was performed by Riddlin’ Kids and written by Steve D’Angelo, Johnny “Stuntman” Obercian and Terry Tompkins. The rest of the show’s music was composed by Eggplant Productions, Inc.
|Even experience can't help one totally avoid the chaos of time travel.|
The show only ran for a single season of 26 episodes, taking a hiatus in February of 2006 before burning off their remaining episodes on July 15th with a marathon. It continued to air on NBC until September when Discovery Kids’ contract with the network was allowed to run out as Discovery wanted to focus exclusively on their own channels. Time Warp Trio remained on Discovery Kids until 2010 when it became The Hub after Discovery partnered with Hasbro.
In August of 2006, various episodes were adapted into graphic novel and easy reader formats by HarperCollins. That same year, Funimation Productions released Past, Present & Future, a DVD compilation of six episodes. In 2010, they released Passport to Adventure with three episodes. As of mid-2017, the official Time Warp Trio website was still live and continued to provide games and activities, as well as information on the show and its characters.