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This article is about the episode originally titled "Arthur's Teacher Trouble". You may be looking for Arthur's Substitute Teacher Trouble, the book, the VHS, Spelling Trubble, the DVD, or the game.
"Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn"
Season/Series: 1
Number in season: 2a
Original Airdate: United States October 8, 1996[1]
Canada January 7, 1997[3]
United Kingdom May 26, 1998[2]
Germany December 10, 2001[4]
Written by: Marc Brown (original)
Joe Fallon (adapted)
Storyboard by: John Pagan &
Norm Roen
"Francine's Bad Hair Day"
"Arthur's Spelling Trubble"
Read transcript

"Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn" (or "Arthur's Teacher Trouble") is the first half of the second episode in the first season of Arthur. It is based on the book Arthur's Teacher Trouble and Arthur and the True Francine.


Arthur, Buster and Francine investigate whether their new teacher, Mr. Ratburn, is as bad as his reputation suggests.


Arthur and his friends are waiting for Mr. Haney to put up a list of what teacher they will get for the third grade. Mr. Haney arrives, but goes back, for he forgot a tack.

Arthur tells the viewers about the three teachers for the third grade: Miss Sweetwater, who is very nice, Mrs. Fink, who is very fun, and Mr. Ratburn, who is widely considered to be the toughest teacher in the entire school. Mr. Haney finally comes and puts up the list. Francine reads the list and finds out that they are in Mr. Ratburn's class. The kids start screaming in fear and Binky passes out.

Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn

After the title card, the kids are still screaming. They stop and Arthur rechecks the list again, but is disappointed to see that Francine was right: "It's Ratburn!"

During a baseball game, Buster is dreading over Mr. Ratburn, and does not pay attention to anything that is going on.

The same happens to Francine while she is playing soccer. She ends up getting hit on the head with a soccer ball, yet she still dreads over Ratburn.

Arthur and his friends walk down the street, passing Mrs. Powers's Ice Cream Shop. She offers free samples of her new flavor, but they are still miserable and do not notice. Francine suggests they ask Prunella about Mr. Ratburn, since she had him as a teacher when she was in 3rd grade.

Prunella scares them silly with false stories about Ratburn: that he eats nails for breakfast (without milk), and that if anybody answers a question wrong, he would send them to death row. Arthur imagines himself in death row, forced to do heavy schoolwork. Prunella also claims that Ratburn is a vampire, with dark powers. Buster imagines Ratburn as a vampire, hypnotizing the students to hate recess. Prunella wishes them good luck and leaves.

The first day of school starts, and Mr. Ratburn enters the classroom and welcomes everyone to the third grade. He promptly starts passing out a math review quiz on what they learned from last year. While working on the review, Arthur looks at Mrs. Fink and Miss Sweetwater's classes, and notices them just having plain fun. Mr. Ratburn reminds Arthur to keep working.

Class is over and everyone runs out of their classrooms except Mr. Ratburn's class, who he makes walk out in an even file. He grabs Arthur's attention and tells him to get in his proper alphabetical place.

At a game of baseball, Arthur and Buster comment on how tough Mr. Ratburn is, noting he gave them homework on the very first day. A ball is hit far over them. They run to find it, but then, through a window, they hear Mr. Ratburn talking on the phone about needing "boys' heads," which scares Arthur and Buster.

They scream and run away to The Sugar Bowl. Francine, who is also there, notices the boys and asks them what they are hiding from. They explain to her about Ratburn looking for boys' heads. Francine thinks they heard incorrectly, for she thinks vampires do not need heads.

Arthur believes that Mr. Ratburn is much worse than a vampire. Just then, they notice Mr. Ratburn walking into the hardware store. They watch him closely and see him taking a box of nails, which they believe are for his breakfast. Mr. Ratburn then takes a saw.

Francine wonders what the saw is for, although the two boys think they know why. Buster remembers a book about kids finding a spooky mystery and becoming detectives to figure it out. He suggests they should find out what Mr. Ratburn is up to. Arthur makes an excuse of them needing to do homework, but they ultimately decide to "face horrifying, scary danger."

A montage is shown with Arthur, Buster, and Francine spying on Mr. Ratburn around town to see if he does anything unusual. He does nothing out of the ordinary, but they do see him doing many different things, such as being a writer for the school newspaper and being the basketball coach.

Francine decides to stop tracking Mr. Ratburn, since they can not find anything strange about him, and goes home to do homework. Just after she leaves, Arthur and Buster see Mr. Ratburn carrying a case with him, but when he is pushing it down the stairs, an arm dangles out of the case, scaring the boys.

They follow Ratburn to the carnival, but lose track of him at the house of mirrors. They end up walking into a water gun tent, where they get all wet when Luke and another boy shoot at their faces with water guns.

Arthur and Buster then try another tent, in which Mrs. MacGrady is helping Mr. Haney to have a picture taken of himself in an action pose on a horse. Arthur accidentally knocks over a wooden cactus prop, which hits the horse, causing Mr. Haney to start falling backwards while Mrs. MacGrady takes the picture.

Arthur and Buster leave, and Buster chooses another tent, in which they see silhouettes moving. They run in and end up being on a stage in front of kids who seem entertained. The two boys warn the kids to run from Mr. Ratburn, but they just continue laughing. A puppet of Jack from a modernized adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk notices them and a puppet boom box (taking place of the magic harp in the original story) claims Arthur and Buster did his lines for him. Then the boys hear Mr. Ratburn from above, controlling the Jack puppet, telling them to leave the stage. He controls Jack and leads them out of the show. Backstage, Arthur and Buster are surprised to see a box full of puppet show props. At the show, the boom box comments that Jack would lose his head if it was not attached. Jack disagrees, but just then, his head fly off. The boom box warns Jack to hide, for the giant is coming. Jack's head bounces toward Arthur and Buster, and it cracks. Jack's headless body walks away just as the giant arrives. Backstage, Mr. Ratburn is examining the cracked head and is frustrated that they keep breaking when he does the head gag. Buster and Arthur then realize that it was puppet heads that Mr. Ratburn was looking for in the first place. Ratburn is in a hurry to get Jack prepared and tells the boys that he must stay on schedule for everything he does. Arthur compliments his teacher on how many different things he does in a day, and adds that he himself could not do nearly as well. Mr. Ratburn explains about organization and how many people say that he gives a large amount of homework. The boys pretend to have never heard that. The boom box on stage asks where Jack is. Mr. Ratburn, acting as Jack, says he will be there in a moment. He further explains to Arthur and Buster about self-discipline and how they can do their homework in time for the things they like to do. With Jack prepared, Ratburn goes back on stage. He asks Arthur and Buster to leave so he can concentrate on his work. They begin to leave, but just then, Mr. Ratburn reminds them about their geography projects, which are due the next day, causing them to scream.






  • At the end of the 2000 rerun intro on PBS Kids before this episode, Arthur’s crashing sound changes to pots and pans.
  • Moral: Don't judge a book by its cover.
  • The scene where Francine reads "Scared Silly" was used for the PBS Kids website bumper
  • Although the title was not spoken on the home video and DVD releases, Francine says it during television airings.
  • This is the first appearance of The Sugar Bowl, although the interior is not shown until "Arthur's Lost Library Book."
  • Buster tells Francine and Arthur that he read a book where kids discovered a similar case to the one they are trying to solve and became detectives to solve it, but in the episode "Buster Hits the Books," Buster tells his friends that he has never read a whole book before in his entire life.
  • When Mr. Ratburn is imagined as a vampire, it is reminiscent of Dracula with the clothes, the accent and the way he hypnotizes the kids. 
  • This was said to be one of Marc Brown's favorite episodes.
  • This is the first Arthur episode to end with an "iris out" effect, instead of simply fading to black as usual. Certain other episodes afterwards would also "iris out" at the end. 
  • Some parts of the episode are adapted from the books Arthur and the True Francine and Arthur's Teacher Trouble.
  • This is the second episode where D.W. is absent. The first was "Francine's Bad Hair Day."
  • In the carnival scene, Tommy Tibble is seen eating cotton candy, but he is wearing different clothes and is not with Timmy.
    • This is the first episode Tommy appears without Timmy.
  • Miss Sweetwater is referred to as a "Missus"; but in all other episodes, she is actually a "Miss."
  • The events of this episode are set a few months after the events of "Arthur's Birthday."
  • This is the first episode where the "here we go again" music plays in the end. The other episodes include: "Locked in the Library!," "D.W.'s Baby," "Arthur's Chicken Pox," "Arthur Makes the Team," "Team Trouble," "D.W., the Picky Eater," "Arthur's Underwear," "Buster Baxter, Cat Saver,", D.W.'s Very Bad Mood and "Arthur's Dummy Disaster."
  • This is one of five episodes in the series in which the story exists as an episode, a book, and a Living Books game. The other four are the sister episode "Arthur's Spelling Trubble," "Arthur's Birthday," "Arthur the Wrecker" and "D.W., the Picky Eater."

Cultural references

  • Mr. Ratburn's puppet show is Jack and the Beanstalk, performed as a modernized variation with Jack wearing contemporary boys' clothing and a magic talking boombox in place of the magic harp.


  • Ms. Turner is seen but she is colored differently than in later episodes.
  • Sue Ellen is seen in this episode, but she did not move to Elwood City until after Mr. Ratburn became their teacher (see "Sue Ellen Moves In").
  • When the kids are first screaming in fear of Mr. Ratburn being their teacher, they are in the school. Yet after the title card, the background appears to be the inside of either their school library or the Elwood City Library. The next shot shows they are still at school.
  • When the students are filing out of class, Brain is in front. But when the line is seen again in the next scene, Muffy is in front.
    • In the same scene, George is behind Buster, yet in the next scene, Francine is behind him.
Sue Ellen with black hair.
  • Sue Ellen's hair is black during the Ratburn vampire fantasy sequence and brown in Mr. Ratburn's class.
  • Brain's shirt does not have its white collar during the Ratburn vampire fantasy.
  • The desks are seen like they are whole tables for four students, but later episodes have them divided into four desks per group.
  • Mr. Ratburn can be seen reaching to students' desks to pass out the papers while barely moving.
  • In one shot, there are three students in Mr. Ratburn's class who are actually Miss Sweetwater's and/or Mrs. Fink's students, and Jenna is missing from that shot. The students in that shot are all of Mr. Marco's former students. After that shot, Jenna appears and students from the other third grade classes are removed from that scene.
  • When Arthur is sent to his alphabetical place in line, he is behind Francine, Buster, and Muffy, whereas Brain (Alan) should have been in front of Arthur, then Binky and then Buster.
  • During the theme song the narrator was Carol Brooks instead of JT Turner

Production notes

  • This episode was originally titled as "Arthur's Teacher Trouble" after the book of the same name, but was changed late in production. However, the title was kept intact in the original home video release.
  • This is the first episode to use an animation of Buster roaring for the title card.
  • This is the first episode of the show to be storyboarded by two people.

Home video




Main article: Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn/Gallery