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Toy Junk Stuff

February 28, 2022

I have so many fond memories surrounding the show. The show taught me the importance of being a good friend, sibling, and person in general! I would watch the show before and after school every day. I even remember how excited I would be whenever I got to pick an Arthur book from the school book fairs! I dreamt of trying the Little Bo Peep Pot Pie, owning my own Woogle, and meeting Binky… and if I’m being honest, I still do.

I go back to watch the episodes and I catch the more subtle jokes, relate to the different characters, and truly appreciate how well the show handles difficult topics. I had a few Arthur toys growing up, but it wasn’t until I got older that I started seriously collecting anything and everything “Arthur”. It’s something that brings me so much joy and it makes me so happy that other people appreciate my collection as well! I’ve connected with so many amazing people through a mutual love for Arthur.

Growing up with Arthur has been such a privilege. He isn’t just a character from a show, or an illustration in a book. Arthur is a best friend!

Matthew (AKA Peeebs)

February 22, 2022

My memories of Arthur go back all the way to early childhood. I was only two years old when the TV show started on PBS, so Arthur has pretty much always been there for me, both on TV and in print. One of my earliest memories from preschool is listening to the teacher read "Arthur's Halloween" to my class. Marc Brown's books were always some of my favorites. I love his artistic style and especially the little hidden "Easter eggs" and unique details in his drawings. I would often find myself doodling Arthur characters in my school notebooks. I like to think that some of Marc Brown’s work had an early influence on the creative side of my brain.

Beyond the books, I’ve become more and more connected with the TV show as well. Arthur was something that my older brother and I both enjoyed. We were big Arthur fans as kids. We memorized a lot of the early episodes, and would competitively guess what episode was coming on next, as soon as the theme song ended. Growing up with 5 TV channels, PBS and Arthur were staples in my after-school routine.

Eventually, by my teenage years, I drifted away from Arthur a bit, but I would still check in occasionally when I heard of new episodes. By the time I was in college, a renewed interest in the show was sparked somewhere inside of me, and around that time, the show was celebrating 20 years on the air! That’s also when the memes started taking over online. I was beginning to recognize the cultural impact Arthur has had. I was just shocked that it was all happening to my favorite show from childhood. And even more recently, it's amazing to see the online Arthur community continuing to grow and flourish, and all the wonderful friends I've met thanks to it!

I don't think anyone knew how popular and long-lived the show would become, but I believe it goes to show just how timeless the stories and characters are. I think everybody can relate to one or more characters and their personalities. With 500 TV episode segments, we are able to really get to know the characters as they grow and develop. There’s a multitude of classic childhood conflicts to relate to, like losing baby teeth or dealing with a bully, in addition to more nuanced situations, such as helping a grieving friend or understanding different cultures and religious traditions. All these real-life situations are presented in a respectful way that depicts the mistakes and lesson-learning that happen to all of us. There’s also many episodes that are just plain fun, like the music video episode or seeing life through the eyes of dogs and babies. And thanks to the brilliant writing, the show is even enjoyable for adults, with humor and references intended for older viewers and special celebrity appearances from time to time. Callbacks to past episodes also serve as a little reward for longtime viewers. The show has successfully appealed to a wide range of ages for all these reasons.

After 25 years, I think it’s safe to say Arthur has joined the ranks of other monumental public television shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Reading Rainbow. It will be sad to see the series go into reruns with no more new episodes, but it’s great to look back and appreciate all that has happened already, and look forward to what PBS has planned for the future of Arthur and his friends in new media coming soon!

Lucas Mancini from Elwood City Limits

February 20, 2022

Ever since I was very young, I was drawn to compelling conflict-based writing. This is anachronistic to much of the children’s TV canon. The world of children’s television Is usually a world where education or merchandising are put first-- far more important than things like “characters” and “narrative”. As a result of this many beloved children’s characters feel inhuman to an uncanny degree (I of course mean inhuman in the thematic sense, we are dealing with the world of talking sponges and purple dinosaurs after all). Characters with relentless positive attitudes and aggressively conflict free friendships showing off their abilities of basic reading and arithmetic bore no interest to me and as a very young school age child. In those days I could already feel myself being drawn towards the type of programming aimed at a more decerning older audience. I liked the transgressive and idiosyncratic sensibilities of the likes of SpongeBob Square Pants and Fairly Odd Parents, which in-turn led to a lifelong love of Adult Swim’s programming as I grew older.

However, there was one glaring exception to this dislike of early-childhood television and that was of course Arthur. Funnily enough, I wasn’t the only one in my household that thought this way. My mother, father, younger sister and even grandmother would all watch the show with me if they were party to my regular viewings. There are many possible reasons for Arthur to have generational appeal like this. The animation was very good in the early 90’s, the show was peppered with jokes that would only land with older viewers (now a staple of animated children’s cinema), but I think the depth and emotional complexity of its beloved characters is what gives it this appeal.

Everyone knows art imitates life and vice versa. From my personal experience the 8-year old’s in my life had a lot more in common in the characters from Arthur than other shows aimed at that age group. This is because just like adults, 8-year old’s have the capacity to be relentlessly cruel, surprisingly selfless, and hold an unbridled imagination. Every character on Arthur, especially its titular protagonist, is filled with these multitudes. Arthur lashes out with anxiety induced maliciousness, he goes mad with power, he's even capable of doling out physical revenge for his (equally beloved) sister DW’s transgressions. This was a children’s show that didn’t only look to entertain and educate children like most, but instead reflected their own lives back at them in a manner that I don’t believe we’d seen before or since. It’s a show that’s not afraid to forgo sugary sweet obvious morals like “sharing is caring” for conclusions such as “How does it feel to have an aging relative that’s too proud to ask for help?”. It is this respect for the viewer’s emotional intelligence that I believe made Arthur so compelling in its heyday and continues to do so to this day.

Allison McClain Merrill

February 18, 2022

Arthur Read has been a special part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a toddler, I loved reading Marc Brown’s books and seeing the same friendly aardvark on PBS. I would even attempt to draw Arthur myself, perhaps inspired by a Marc Brown tutorial or a “Now a Word from Us Kids” segment.

Since I was born in the ‘90s, I enjoyed episodes that really are old enough to be deemed “classics.” I was always hoping the snowball story (“D.W.’s Snowball Mystery”) would air. I had a VHS tape compiling “Arthur’s Celebrations,” including two of my favorite episodes: “Arthur’s Birthday” and “Arthur’s New Year’s Eve.” Years after those stories, the “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” special would become a beloved tradition for me and my family. I can’t think of a better film when it comes to sharing holiday celebrations from different cultures. All year round, there were everyday delights in all Arthur’s friends and family members, especially Buster, but the special guests were also memorable, from Mister Rogers to the Backstreet Boys, Joshua Redman and Yo-Yo Ma, and other celebrities and public figures.

The PBS schedule was perfect as I entered elementary school because I could watch Arthur before and after school. We had a little TV/VCR combo in our kitchen, and my mom would sit with me and let me watch Arthur while I ate breakfast. That’s one of my most treasured childhood memories. Though I never had a dog named Pal, I could certainly relate to Arthur getting used to baby Kate, as I got a cute baby Kate of my own (a sister named Katelyn). As I reflect on my connection to the series, I’m struck by the timelessness of its themes. For example, I’ll never forget when the “Woogles” were introduced. Whether it was a Potato Head, Furby, Neopet, Webkinz, or other toy, many of us have been through fads and felt like we had to have what everyone else had.

I also appreciate that so many different people can be friends on Arthur, and they are not limited to stereotypes. Binky Barnes is sometimes a bully, but he can also be a very sweet kid. Muffy Crosswire’s rich-girl persona is stretched at times, and she and Francine Frensky complement one another. Even the troubled D.W. shows moments of thoughtfulness and emotional growth. Arthur is quirky, smart, and full of humorous touches that I still appreciate as an adult. I’m so thankful that this show is part of my life, and that my parents supported its message. Marc Brown created a special world that has forever changed children’s television for the better. I never imagined that in my late 20s, I’d connect with fans of all ages who love Arthur and friends as much as I do. My stroll down memory lane to Elwood City is turning into much more, as I catch up on so many important episodes and remember a television show that has taught literacy, kindness, acceptance, equality, empathy, an appreciation for the arts, and the necessity of loving our neighbors.

Karie Cheung

February 16, 2022

When I think of my childhood, I think Arthur. When I think about my transition to adulthood, I still think Arthur. Growing up, my parents constantly worked two jobs each to sustain our household. We didn't have cable television at home, but I knew that every day after school Arthur would be waiting for me at 4:00pm (along with my probably very unhealthy consumption of Kraft American cheese slices). Arthur made me feel included... especially when the narrator always thanked viewers like me. Arthur was just like me. He wore glasses, he had trouble spelling, he slept with a nightlight... the list goes on. His friends were just like me too! Francine's dad was a garbage man and felt ashamed about it. That episode taught me the meaning of appreciation and to have pride in what my parents did so my brother and I were safe and supported. The list goes on and on. Along with working two jobs each, family holidays were different in our household. We didn't do much celebrating, but I do remember that joy "Arthur's Perfect Christmas" brought me each Christmas while I waited for my parents to come home.

On my parents' days off, Arthur would help us bond. My dad would watch me play "Arthur's Reading Race" on our very first computer. In hindsight, he'd probably seen me play it a million and one times, but each time he would make all types of facial reactions--especially when Arthur sat on the "wet paint" bench. My mom would take me to our local library (cue song!) and we'd check out Arthur books together. Arthur was there with me as I went from the OG books to chapter books. One of my greatest childhood memories was when my mom took me to meet Arthur on the ground level of our local JcPenney's where I got my first Arthur plush.

Transitioning to adulthood, that Arthur plush followed me through high school, undergraduate, and nursing school graduation. Fun fact: my very first credit card purchase was the "Arthur and Friends: The First Almost Real not Live" CD. Back at the height of Tumblr, I remember creating a page for Arthur fans. It was so amazing to see how a children's show could connect so many people around the world. I remember the very first person I met in university was someone who I connected with on Tumblr through our love for Arthur. She lived 1 floor down and had a different major. I wonder if we'd ever cross paths if it weren't for Arthur!

As an adult now, rewatching Arthur episodes has brought me a different joy. I'm catching the jokes planted in the episodes for adults. Like in the episode "Brain's Shocking Secret" when Binky declared himself "the Brain" and suggested to the Brain that he should be called 'the Esophagus," or in the episode "DW Goes to Washington" and the Read family are on the Washington Monument. D.W. has her own little monologue where she complains about how they were "down there looking up here" and now they're "up here looking down there...what's the point?" I hope to someday be able to share the memories, books, and episodes with my kids and still belly laugh over these puns.

Thank you, Frensky Star for reaching out and giving me this opportunity to put my memories into words. Thank you, Marc Brown for creating Arthur and all his friends. They are near and dear to my heart and I can't wait to share them and their adventures with my future kids. (Still working on convincing my fiance that "Arthur" is a great name for a baby!)

Micaela Gibson

February 14, 2022

Arthur has always been a big part of my childhood, especially because my parents only let me watch PBS Kids growing up. I remember coming home from school and turning on the TV to see what Arthur and his friends were up to that day. Man, that show fueled my love for going to the library, and whenever I would visit my grandparents, I would check out all the Arthur VHS tapes from their local library. Even when I was “too old” to be watching Arthur (and let’s be real, there is no such thing as being too old for Arthur!) I kept on watching it because it stood up to the test of time that well. I recently went through cancer treatments and both the show itself and the fanbase community were there to support me in some amazing ways.

Needless to say, Arthur is awesome. I’m so glad that it impacted my life, as well as others, for so many years on TV and in books. Although the chapter of new TV episodes is coming to an end, I’m so stoked for what Marc Brown and his team has in store for Arthur in the future. And of course I can count on today’s Arthur fanbase to keep the show alive and well for years to come

Will Young from Elwood City Limits

February 10, 2022

When I started a podcast about Arthur in 2016, there was no “Arthur community” online aside from a semi-active subreddit and some old forum posts. I was living alone in an unfamiliar town, and I mainly spent my days working and playing video games, just passing the time. I had been listening to podcasts with devotion since 2009 and they were a constant source of background noise and entertainment to accompany practically every waking step. I decided, with the free time I had, to start my own podcast but it had to be one about something no one was talking about; it couldn’t be professional wrestling or gaming, as the pool of shows covering those subjects was already far too dense. I decided to take inspiration from a show called “Sailor Business” and decided to dedicate my time to covering one of my many childhood fixations.

My mind has always been one prone to obsession. I get on jags where I can hardly think about anything except the cool thing I just saw, or the delicious food I ate, or at worst, the stupid thing I said in the company of friends that I really wish I hadn’t. Arthur was one of these from the moment it debuted in 1996 to the point where, as a child, I would have entire episodes completely memorized, down to exact line readings and physical choreography. In a way, Arthur itself was a podcast for me before podcasts existed; I often entertained myself simply by parroting episodes quietly, reliving them over and over. There were other television shows and movies and even books-on-tape that I did this for, but never as intensely or with as much range or commitment as I gave to Arthur. It was special, somehow.

I wish I knew exactly what secret sauce “Arthur” had to grip me like it did but, as special a show as it is, I think it comes down to that it does everything right in a way that anyone can enjoy. “Arthur” involves a cast of likable characters with motivations that anyone can understand and even empathize with, put into situations that can push them either to be the best versions of themselves or to see parts of their identity that they feel they should change for the better. The stories range from relatable to fantastic, in much the same way that childhood adventures in the real world can seem at times simultaneously mundane and reality-altering. The balance is such that the sadness of a friend moving away can be presented on equal footing with aliens stealing a little girl’s snowball. The magic of “Arthur” is where questions and disbelief fall away, as both young and old experience a slice of life so unlike their own and yet so unmistakably familiar.

Arthur is an icon. For every story like mine, there are thousands more children who have grown up to remember him, or adults with now grown-up kids who remember watching the show and reading the books as positive memories of a long-gone childhood. It means the world to me that a little aardvark with glasses has been a beacon for kids of all backgrounds and life experiences for five decades now and will likely continue in new and evolving forms. I’ve never felt ashamed of having a podcast about “Arthur,” because I’ve never felt there’s any reason to be bashful about a TV show that left an impact on me; a show that is, in a way, a part of me. I only hope that I have continued to spread the messages of author Marc Brown that his work imprinted within me:

Be kind. Embrace differences. Grow and learn from mistakes. Appreciate life.

Believe in yourself.

Guthrie Edson

February 3, 2022

Arthur celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and to say that it was a big part of my childhood is an understatement. While I can’t put a finger on exactly when I began watching, it quickly became a daily ritual during my elementary school years. Get home from school, get a snack, put on Arthur, or whatever other PBS Kids program was on. And now at age 24, with the show going into its final season, I can safely say that very few things have had more of an impact on me than Arthur has.

Arthur normalized so many different things for me. When I was in first grade, I got my first pair of glasses, but rather than be scared of what other kids would think of me, my thoughts were “I’m going to be just like Arthur.” I never was called a “four-eyes” at any point, which is very much a positive reflection of the people I was in school with, but I definitely think that Arthur had something to do with it because I wasn’t worried. Let’s not forget–him seeing Wilbur Rabbit wear glasses (the same kind that Arthur had) on the Bionic Bunny set was what helped him feel more comfortable in his glasses and wear them without fear of being insulted. And also, in episodes like “The Boy With His Head In The Clouds,” we see it normalized that kids have learning disabilities, and that they can’t simply be “cured” (as Binky tries to do by trying to make George into a tough guy)–they need to be accepted for who they are and be allowed to do things in a way that suits their strengths, as we see with George making a Da Vinci-esque flying machine for his project in lieu of an essay.
The series’ willingness to dive into difficult topics is something that really is, in my view, unparalleled amongst programs I watched growing up. The prime example of that was “April 9th,” the series’ response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but unfortunately, the episode is relevant for many tragic events in the course of my 24+ years on this earth. “April 9th” goes to show how everybody copes with trauma in different ways, that it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s always good to be gentle with yourself and others in the wake of a traumatic event. It also shows how the community comes together to help each other out, whether it’s Buster befriending Mr. Morris, Mr. Frensky helping Binky cope with his PTSD from the fire or Sue Ellen proposing painting a mural over the part of the school the fire destroyed. While it’s unfortunate that it still is poignant 20+ years later, it presents it in a way that’s accessible for everybody, appreciating that these events are traumatic but maybe in a lighter way than other programs might depict it.

But one of the main things it did for me was that it affected my view of the world for the better, and Postcards from Buster was instrumental in that, from its debut in 2004. While I was too young to understand, 2004 was right at the height of the Iraq War during a time of increased Islamophobic and xenophobic sentiment in America. So having a program where different cultures were shown in a positive light, from Muslim to Jewish to Asian-American and beyond, was one of the most important things that could’ve been on public TV during that time. In the course of the regular Arthur series and specials, we get introduced to traditions like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and Yom Kippur with Francine’s family, Kwanzaa with the Brain and his family, and they even get the perspective of a “third culture kid” (a kid who’s grown up predominantly in a culture different from theirs and their parents’) in Sue Ellen.

While the upcoming 25th season of Arthur might be the last one, my hope is that kids of all ages continue to watch the classic episodes and get as much out of them as I did. Who would’ve thought 25 years ago that anthropomorphic aardvarks, bears, rabbits, monkeys, pitbulls, etc. would have such an impact on an entire generation of kids? My hope is that they still will for another 25 years.
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