“Arthur,” a longstanding PBS Kids cartoon that follows the hijinks of the namesake winsome aardvark and his family and peers, will conclude with its 25th season, to be aired next winter.
Produced by Boston-based public television station GBH, “Arthur” is television’s longest-running children’s animated series. Since airing in 1996, the show has released more than 200 episodes, clinched a Peabody Award and four Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding children’s animated program, and captured the hearts of generations of children and adults.
The news of Arthur’s cancellation was first announced by “Arthur” developer and writer Kathy Waugh in the July 13 episode of “Finding D.W.,” a podcast hosted by former voice actor Jason Szwimer who interviews the many male actors who voiced the character of D.W., Arthur’s little sister. Waugh said production concluded on the last episode two years ago.
“We had our wrap party two years ago,” Waugh told Szwimer. “I think [PBS] made a mistake, and I think ‘Arthur’ should come back — and I know I’m not alone in thinking they made a mistake.”
Waugh added that she didn’t know if ratings were a factor in the decision to ax “Arthur.”
“To me, it felt evergreen, like it was never going to end,” she said. “But it did end.”
The series’ conclusion was later confirmed in a statement from “Arthur” executive producer Carol Greenwald, who said the show would premiere its final season in the winter of 2022. All hope is not lost for “Arthur” aficionados, however: Greenwald promised reruns and new “Arthur” programming on different platforms.
“‘Arthur’ is going to continue to be around for many years to come,” Greenwald said in an interview with the Globe. “We are just trying to evolve to meet the kids’ needs in places they are now.”
Since the pandemic began, PBS Kids has released several digital “Arthur” videos on YouTube, including ones about mask-wearing, racism, and voting. Greenwald — who said that “ratings are consistently strong” — added that another “Arthur” short is in the works; it follows Arthur’s school as they vote for a new mascot. Young viewers, she said, will be able to vote for the winner.
Greenwald added that new “Arthur” episodes would premiere in 2022, but not before “Arthur’s First Day,” an hourlong special debuting this Labor Day in which Arthur — after more than two decades in the third grade — finally moves to the fourth grade, and D.W. to kindergarten.
“It’s a really important year for us to be giving kids, giving families back-to-school information, support, because it’s been such a tough year,” Greenwald said.
After news broke of the show’s short-timer status, fans — including Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey — took to Twitter to air their disappointment and devotion to the beloved show.
Thank you Arthur for helping all of us learn to work and play and get along with each other. pic.twitter.com/f0iM65Qq2L— Ed Markey (@EdMarkey) July 28, 2021
Them: Arthur is ending— Abby Schwartz (@SchwartzBWYou) July 28, 2021
Finding out #Arthur was canceled by PBS after 25 seasons https://t.co/h4Uy4uSnEq pic.twitter.com/QwrXkoirtZ— Variety (@Variety) July 28, 2021
In its more than 200 episodes, the half-hour show covered such topics as cancer, bullying, and learning disabilities. In 2019, the show made headlines when Mr. Ratburn, the strict teacher of Arthur and friends, married a male character.
In 2016, scandal rocked “Arthur” after salacious memes using images from the show as inspiration began to emerge online. In response, GBH issued a statement saying it appreciated the memes that “have been created and shared in good fun,” but that the station was “disappointed by the few that are outside of good taste.”
The series — which at one point aired in more than 80 countries and racked up 7 million monthly viewers — was based on the children’s book series of the same name by Marc Brown, who was also an executive producer on the show.
Greenwald had a message for fans who may be experiencing an “Arthur” grieving period: “I would say there’s no reason to mourn,” she said, “because we’re not going anywhere.”
Dana Gerber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @danagerber6.