George Newall, the co-creator of the hit children’s TV series Schoolhouse Rock, has reportedly passed away at the age of 88.
George Newall’s wife, Lisa Maxwell, confirmed to The New York Times that her husband died of cardiopulmonary arrest on November 30th. He was at the hospital near his Hastings-on-Hudson, New York home. Newall was considered the last surviving member of the team who produced Schoolhouse Rock, which ran from 1973 to 1985. The show was eventually revived in the ‘90s. It taught children about science, math, politics, and grammar.
The New York Times reported in 2018 that George Newall came up with Schoolhouse Rock after McCaffrey & McCall’s president David McCall shared his frustration about his sons. He said they were being able to sing along with Jimi Hendricks and The Rolling Stones. However, they were unable to multiply. Writer and Musical Director Bob Dorough told the media outlet that Newall came up with Three Is a Magic Number. The song helped create the show’s concept. Newall notably loved the show’s hit songs I’m Just a Bill, Interjection! and Unpack Your Adjectives.
George Newall Previously Revealed How Long It Would Take to Produce a ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ Song
While speaking to Noblemania in 2014, George Newall spoke about how long it would take him and his team to produce a Schoolhouse Rock song.
“I’d say getting a song written would take anywhere between three weeks and a month, George Newall explained. “Getting the lyrics vetted by an educational consultant, another week, and then getting ABC on board, another two. The actual production of the animation was initially quite lengthy. Back in the day, animation cels were hand painted. There were no computers to help.”
George Newall then explained that during the production of Schoolhouse Rock Earth, approvals from ABC/Disney became much harder to achieve. “It seems that the new executives who had grown up watching the series became more expert at evaluating potential songs than we were. And I found that songs were being judged by the standards that had taken hold in using exhaustive research to produce ‘effective’ advertising. Too many MBAs in the process.”
George Newall also reflected on funny experiences he had during recordings. “I can’t remember any single moments of hilarity. But, by the grace of Bob, every recording session was fun to be a part of. Just getting to work with the likes of Dave Frishberg, Jack Sheldon, and Blossom Dearie in the relaxed atmosphere that Bob created when he ran the sessions was great fun.”
In regards to any controversy over Schoolhouse Rock, George Newall recalled some instances. “Probably the most egregious case was ABC not putting Lynn Ahrens’s Three Ring Government on the air,” he stated. “Because of their fear that the FCC and Congress would resent being compared to a circus and threaten their broadcast license renewal. Then there was the politically incorrect use of manifest destiny in Elbow Room.”