When Netflix announced that it was producing The Magic School Bus Rides Again, it made sense. Nostalgia-fueled projects like Fuller House and Gilmore Girls have done so well on the network. But it was a little surprising to hear that everyone's dream elementary school teacher, Ms. Frizzle, wasn't going to be the one leading her class on an extended field trip that could teach them everything they need to know about the natural world. Instead, her younger sister, Fiona Felicity Frizzle, would be taking the spot. Nineties kids are probably reaching back into their earliest memories, wondering: was Fiona Frizzle in the original Magic School Bus? No, your mid-20s minds aren't failing you — Fiona Frizzle is a totally original character created for the purposes of the Netflix series, voiced by Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters star Kate McKinnon.
But while Ms. Frizzle can be quite enigmatic (how, exactly, does she manage to coordinate her outfits to not just match her lesson plans, but help teach them?), there have been hints about her family history before, in both the original TV and book Magic School Bus series. In fact, McKinnon isn't even the first fun guest star to be a part of the greater Frizzle extended family. Because of Ms. Frizzle's unique teaching style, she often brings up people from her family history if they have a lesson to teach the kids in her class — the odd brother, cousin, aunt, great aunt, have all been mentioned in one-off lines of dialogue. In one book, Ms. Frizzle mentions that famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright is her uncle, and as this Reddit thread theorizes, if Frank Lloyd Wright is Ms. Frizzle's uncle and he was born in 1867, she probably has access to some form of time machine in order to still be a spry elementary school teacher in the mid-1990s.
Long before the 9 to 5 reunion at the 2017 Emmy Awards, Dolly Parton guest-starred on an episode of the original Magic School Bus series, playing the original Ms. Frizzle's first cousin. Nicknamed "Murph," she's the owner of a recycling plant and helps teach the students (and any curious adults, no judgement) all about the life cycle of a piece of plastic sent to her to have a whole second life. And in the book series that The Magic School Bus TV show was based on, the book The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip featured the addition of Dottie Frizzle, Ms. Frizzle's school-aged niece, joining the customary class trip into the world of how electricity works.
In one episode, Ms. Frizzle mentions a pirate who is her "great, great, great..." well, let's just say fairly distant family ancestor. "He was the pirate in the family, a long, long time ago, of course," she says. The episode uses the framing device of a treasure map left behind by Red Beard (a pirate who took his victims on field trips, too) to examine the real science behind coral reefs.
The Netflix series The Magic School Bus Rides Again may be a new series, but it's inheriting a history that's deeply beloved by kids and adults alike, and one of the best and fastest ways to get some new fans who are still kids today is to create a character as appealing as the original Ms. Frizzle and her canonical family members. So while the lack of Lily Tomlin in The Magic School Bus Rides Again still stings a bit, there's plenty of precedent for Fiona Felicity Frizzle joining the series as the latest and, possibly, greatest member of this redheaded, field trip-obsessed family. So long as kids are learning about science, the original Ms. Frizzle and all of her extended family members introduced over the years, will certainly be pleased.