Nineteen years after he left ABC, Michael Eisner's back and so is his pet project, Schoolhouse Rock, the three-minute animated music videos that gave '70s kids a little learning with their Saturday-morning fluff.
''I tried to buy the rights about five years ago, knowing it was such a valuable property,'' says the Disney chairman, who championed the spots when he ran children's programming at ABC in 1973; now that Disney owns ABC, Eisner doesn't need them. New Rocks, along with the classic originals, are rolling on the network each Saturday in conjunction with a wave of SR spin-offs:
Hatched in the basement of a Chicago cafe, Schoolhouse Rock Live!, a 21-song revue, moved to New York City and has been an Off Broadway hit twice extended since June.
Four half-hour video collections of vintage segments Grammar Rock, Science Rock, Multiplication Rock, and America Rock will be released this month.
The first of four CD-ROMs will be available from Creative Wonders this fall.
An album of remastered original songs is expected from Warner Kids early next year.
Disney-owned Hyperion will publish The Official Guide to Schoolhouse Rock, a 112-page paperback, next April.
Atlantic Records is trying to assemble top pop acts for an album of SR covers.
SR shirts and caps have been selling since May. Other licensees have more clothing, posters, and toys in the works.
While SR is a puzzle to the over-35 set, Thomas Mizer, 23, a Live! performer, sees its resurgence as a sign of his generation's arrival: ''We're starting to have power positions where we can get what we're interested in produced.'' He may be right. ABC is hard at work on a half-hour SR series.