Veggie-Tales: Part of a Healthy Media Diet for KidsBARBARA NICOLOSI
The Greek word for entertainment literally means "to inform with delight." Another definition might just be Veggie-Tales. In a kids' media landscape spotted with insipid purple dinosaurs and cynical Bart Simpson clones, the Veggie-Tales are a fresh, fun, and spiritually healthy alternative.
Produced by Chicago-based Big Idea Productions, in the last two years the Veggie-Tales have outpaced both Pokemon and Blue's Clues to become the most popular children's video series in North America. Originally distributed through mail-order and then through Christian bookstores, Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato now spread their unique retellings of Old Testament stories through major retailers including Wal-Mart. Along with an extensive line of ancillary merchandise I admit I have a stuffed Larry on my desk the first Veggie-Tales feature-length project is currently in production, making for yet another milestone for the video franchise. Based on the adventures of Jonah and the whale, the film will be in theaters in 2002.
Having begun in creator Phil Vischer's garage in a Chicago suburb, the Veggie-Tales have snow-balled in popularity in the last three years completely due to consumer word of mouth. This is extraordinary because the concept of Veggie-Tales is not an easy sell. Every time I suggest the video series to parents I encounter the same doubtful wince. "A talking asparagus, huh?" Even Vischer introduces himself with a grin and the shrug, "I'm the guy who tells Bible stories with vegetables." The reason people are willing to talk up the adventures of Larry and Bob comes down to the simple fact that the product here is so very good. According to Vischer, "There is no better way to attract consumer loyalty than by really helping parents parent."
let's get the big issue out of the way early on: What is the correlative relationship
between various kinds of produce, and theological truth? Or in other words, why
vegetables? The original proto-type of the Veggie-Tales was actually a
candy bar, but Vischer's wife objected. "No Mom is going to want her kids to fall
in love with animated candy." So Vischer and his small group of family and collaborators
asked themselves what kind of inanimate objects would be easy to animate using
3-D technology, and thoroughly parent-friendly. The answer? Vegetables.
Artfully produced, every Veggie-Tales
video interweaves a child's real world dilemmas being scared of the dark,
eating a balanced diet and watching too much TV with fables derived from
the adventures of Old Testament characters. Maintaining the franchise's commitment
to deliver a Biblical world-view has called for several acts of faith by Big Idea
Productions. When the Veggie-Tales franchise was in its infancy, several
secular distributors stipulated that they would only handle the series if the
religious content was dropped. Fortunately, Vischer held his ground and trusted
that his series would find an audience because of their overall excellence and
Barbara Nicolosi. "Veggie-Tales: Part of a Healthy Media Diet for Kids." Liguorian (November 2001).
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