September 03, 2022



(Teletoon, CBS, October 3, 1998-January 22, 2000)
Big Daddy Productions, Flying Rhinoceros, Inc., Neurones France S.A.R.L., Scottish Television Enterprises, Nelvana Limited, TPS Jeunesse, CBS Productions



Ashley Brown – Billy O’Toole
Tracey Moore – Marcus Snarkis
Tracy Ryan – Ruby Snarkis
Terri Hawkes – Lydia Lopez
Richard Binsley – Earl P. Sidebottom/The Phantom
Ron Rubin – Raticus, Rod Hargrove
Eddie Glen – Fred Spurtz, Johnny Descunk
Lindsay Leese – Mrs. Snodgrass
Len Carlson – Principal Buzz Mulligan
Paul Haddad – Buford, Mr. Needlenose
Catherine Gallant (season 1) & Julie Lemieux (season 2) – Nurse Cutlip

            In 1993, Ray Nelson, Jr., Mike McLane, Douglas Kelly and Jeff Nuss decided to create a company that would develop entertaining educational content for children. They formed Flying Rhinoceros and published a variety of books featuring colorful characters—yes, even a rhinoceros. Each book tackled a different subject both tangible and conceptual, such as insects, dinosaurs, U.S. Presidents, creativity, drawing, self-esteem and more. Flying Rhinoceros attempted to recruit an expert on each subject to oversee their work for accuracy as well as write introductions for the books. Among them was Smithsonian Institution bug expert Sally Love; Raymond T. Rye of the National Museum of Natural History; astronaut Buzz Aldrin; NBA player Clyde Drexler; Sydney Butler, Executive Director of The American Zoo and Aquarium Association; former President Gerald Ford; and former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.

Principal Buzz Mulligan.

            In addition to a series of educational shorts that were distributed directly to schools, an opportunity arose to adapt the books into a television series that exhibited the same sense of education through fun. Created by Nelson, Flying Rhino Junior High was set in the eponymous school whose principal, Buzz Mulligan (Len Carlson), happened to be an anthropomorphic rhinoceros. Inside the school was a statue of himself piloting an airplane, reminiscent of Flying Rhinoceros’ company logo. Mulligan was a well-meaning and jovial fellow that cared about his students and their education, but he was completely oblivious to a lot of the goings on in the school.

The Phantom and Raticus.

            Those goings on in question were the chaos perpetrated by former student Earl P. Sidebottom, aka The Phantom (Richard Binsley). Earl was a genius with the grade point average to match—until the one fateful day he was given a “D” in shop class, ruining his perfect record.  Shamed, he descended to the depths of the school’s boiler room only to reinvent himself as The Phantom (a pastiche of The Phantom of the Opera, complete with a ready organ) to seek revenge on the school. He did so by developing a supercomputer capable of altering the fabric of reality itself, usually taking inspirations from the day’s lessons. The students are learning about ancient Egypt? He’ll bring the pyramids complete with mummies and curses. The prehistoric age? A jungle and dinosaurs to roam the halls freely and destroy the school. Aiding him in his schemes (however ineptly) was Ratticus (Ron Rubin), a rat that Earl bestowed upon (so-called) intelligence.

Billy, Lydia, Marcus and Ruby.

            Standing against The Phantom was one particular group of classmates: Billy O’Toole (Ashley Brown), a mechanically inclined athlete with an aversion to bathing; Marcus Snarkis (Tracey Moore), a hyper-intelligent boy that skipped a few grades and was Billy’s best friend; Ruby Snarkis (Tracy Ryan), Marcus’ older sister that was a bit of a diva with acting ambitions; and Lydia Lopez (Terri Hawkes), the smartest girl in the class. They often must work together with their various skills and quirks to save the school and throw a wrench into The Phantom’s plans; occasionally learning a life lesson along the way.

Mrs. Snodgrass looking on at Fred's..."presentation".

            Other characters included Mrs. Snodgrass (Lindsay Leese), the class’s teacher that remained unphased by The Phantom’s shenanigans and often used them to aid in her lesson; Fred Spurtz (Eddie Glen), a slovenly classmate that enjoyed eating bugs and fish; Johnny Descunk (also Glen), a troublemaker that often wound up in detention; Nurse Cutlip (Catherine Gallant & Julie Lemieux), the school nurse; Mr. Needlenose (Paul Haddad), the former shop teacher that failed Earl and now teaches drama; and Buford (also Haddad), the school janitor and the only other anthropomorphic animal, being a pig, who claimed to have once been a secret agent.

Messing with gravity.

            Flying Rhino Junior High aired simultaneously on Teletoon in Canada and CBS in the United States, debuting on October 3, 1998. As the show was produced by Nelvana Limited, it aired as part of the CBS Kidshow programming block that the studio programmed for the network. Through another deal with Nelvana, it was co-produced and distributed in the United Kingdom by Scottish Television Enterprises (now STV Studios). The series was written by David Finley, Joseph Mallozzi, J.D. Smith, Gary Wheeler, Brent Piaskoski, Erika Strobel, Paul Mullie, Ian James Corlett, John Pellatt, Kenn Scott, Kathy Slevin, Michael Leo Donovan, Shelley Hoffman, John Mein and Robert Pincombe, with Finley and Mallozzi serving as story editors. The theme was composed by Alex Khaskin, George Axon and Ed Roth, with the rest of the series’ music done by Pure West.

The Phantom in disguise falling prey to his own schemes.

            Flying Rhino ran for a total of two seasons. The series was cancelled in early 2000 along with the rest of Nelvana’s shows. CBS had opted not to renew Nelvana’s contract, instead turning to then-sister network Nickelodeon to take over programming. Teletoon continued to air the series in syndication until 2007, and then YTV began reruns in 2011. In 1999, Alliance Atlantis released several episodes to VHS, and in 2000 Hardee’s included four toys based on the show in their kids’ meals. Nelvana has the entire series available to view on their YouTube Keep it Weird channel, and in 2022 the series began streaming on Tubi. Although the Flying Rhino series has long been discontinued, the various books are still available directly from the company and the characters continued to be used by Nelson across various educational platforms through his Really Big Creative studio.
Season 1:
“Prehysterical” (10/3/98) – Earl ends up turning the school into a prehistoric jungle after answering Mrs. Snodgrass’ dinosaur questions.
“Phantu’s Curse” (10/10/98) – When Earl transforms the school into a pyramid, Lydia takes a golden scarab as the others escape and unleashes the mummy’s curse.
“Underwaterworld” (10/17/98) – Mrs. Snodgrass’ lesson on underwater environments leads Earl to transform the school into an ocean.
“Solar Flexus” (10/24/98) – After Earl turns the school into the solar system, the others must correct the planets’ orbits before Earth falls into the sun.
“Frankensidebottom” (10/31/98) – A lesson on Frankenstein leads Earl to creating his own monster, and transforming the school into a horror movie town to go along with him.
“Comic Book Chaos” (11/7/98) – Earl unleashes four comic book villains on the school, and Lydia leads the others in stopping them.
“A Star is Boring” (11/14/98) – Ruby gets lost in a sea of Rubies after Earl turns her into hundreds of self-multiplying clones.
“Inverted and Unglued” (11/21/98) – Earl changes the school to a Victorian stamp factory to get a collectible stamp from the source when Ratticus fails to steal it from Marcus.
“The Game” (11/28/98) – Marcus losing his computer to Billy and unable to finish his video game leads Earl to reminisce about losing his and changes the school into Marcus’ game.
“Quit Buggin’ Me” (12/5/98) – Showing off bugs in school causes Earl to remember when his was crushed by a bully and inspires him to enlarge all of the bugs into giants.
“Phantom Christmas” (12/12/98) – When Earl refuses the Christmas spirit, Ratticus confronts him as The Phantom and forces him to relive all the chaos he’s caused at the school.
“Weather Waterloo” (12/19/98) – When Earl’s weather project is rejected by the class, he activates it and belts the school with a combination of bad weather.
“Pal 9000” (12/26/98) – Earl gets jealous of the AI friends Marcus created and implants a virus in Pal 9000 to turn him against Marcus and his friends.
Season 2:
“Live and Let Spy” (10/2/99) – Earl is determined to get his hands on his classmates’ journals to find out if they’ve been gossiping about him.
“Wag the Rat” (10/9/99) – Earl decides to have the school shut down during class elections as retaliation for having lost his,
“It’s Greek to Me” (10/16/99) – Earl changes the school to ancient Greece and the students must compete against the gods for their freedom.
“Yo Ho Ho and the Phantom’s a Bum” (10/23/99) – Earl transforms the school into a pirate galleon where the other kids have to figure out how to escape the pirates’ clutches.
“Junior High Noon” (10/30/99) – Earl turns the school into the Wild West just as Lydia is made a prefect, which turns her into a mega control freak Sheriff that jails everyone for anything.
“Out of Time” (11/6/99) – Earl uses his time machine to send Lydia, Marcus Ruby and Billy back to prehistoric times, but instead sends them back 20 years to when he was a student.
“Career Day” (11/20/99) – After Ruby insults Earl during career day, he turns the school into a dangerous sewer complex.
“Daredevil O’Toole and the Amazon Adventure” (11/27/99) – Earl ends up trapped in the school disguised as a girl when Ratticus turns the school into an Amazon jungle.
“Raging Rubbish” (12/4/99) – A lesson in environmental preservation inspires Earl to create a monster out of a mound of garbage.
“Better Safe than Silly” (12/11/99) – Earl is determined to ensure the school fails its fire safety inspection.
“Phantomatic Voyage” (12/18/99) – Lessons about the body and proper diets come in handy when Earl transports the school into his own body.
“All Green Thumbs” (1/15/00) – Earl has Ratticus dump plant-mutating fertilizer on the grounds’ greenery, causing them to grow fast and gigantic.
“Seeing Double” (1/22/00) – Tired of failing, Earl sends Billy, Marcus, Lydia and Ruby to a parallel dimension while their counterparts cause havoc in this one.

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