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
; astronaut Buzz Aldrin
player Clyde Drexler
Butler, Executive Director of The
American Zoo and Aquarium Association
; former President Gerald
; and former U.S. Senator Bill
|Principal Buzz Mulligan.|
to a series of educational
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.|
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
|Billy, Lydia, Marcus and Ruby.|
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".|
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
, it aired as part of the CBS Kidshow
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
, Joseph Mallozzi
, 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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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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