‘Schoolhouse Rock’ Co-Creator George Newall Dies Age 88

Adman turned animation hitmaker George Newall, one of the creators of the iconic educational cartoon Schoolhouse Rock!, died on November 30 at a hospital near his New York village of Hastings-on-Hudson. News of his passing at age 88 due to cardiopulmonary arrest was shared with The New York Times by his wife, Lisa Maxwell.

The original Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock! shorts aired from 1973 to 1984. The concept arose when advertising executive David McCall of McCaffrey & McCall tapped the agency’s creative director, Newall, to put multiplication tables to music to help McCall’s son memorize them. With the help of songwriters Ben Tucker and Bob Dorough and the agency’s art director Tom Yohe providing illustrations, the idea evolved into a series of animated short films.

McCaffrey & McCall presented the cartoons to Michael Eisner, who was director of children’s programming at ABC at the time. Informing young viewers about a range of topics from science, history and grammar to ecology and civics, Schoolhouse Rock! birthed iconic edutainment tunes  like “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction” into the pop culture landscape of the ’70s and ’80s.

George Newall and Tom Yohe (1994) [c/o the Everett Collection]

Schoolhouse Rock! won four Daytime Emmy Awards over the course of its original run, with several more nominations for both the early toons and the 1990s revival. A home video tie-in titled Schoolhouse Rock! Earth was released in 2009, featuring 11 all-new songs. The show also spawned a live musical theater show in 1993. The Walt Disney Company (then headed by Eisner) acquired the franchise in 1996; Newall and Yohe co-wrote Schoolhouse Rock! The Official Guide the same year.

Newall is survived by his wife, a stepson and three sisters. He is predeceased by his collaborators McCall (1999), Yohe (2000), Tucker (2013) and Dorough (2018).

[Source: The New York Times via Deadline]

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