In 1992 Phil Vischer got a big idea: What would Saturday morning cartoons be like if they were creative, values-oriented, family programs designed from a Christian worldview? Maybe millions of kids across the country would put away their Beast War Transformers and their Ninja Nunchakus and start singing songs about forgiveness and kindness instead!
With one computer, a pocket full of borrowed money, and no connections, Vischer embarked on a mission to debunk Hollywood's popular notion that solid morals don't sell.
"I believe Hollywood has more influence on morality than any other institution," says Vischer, who strives to create values-based children's media that matches in quality and creativity the best Hollywood has to offer. His strategy goes something like this: If two kids go to a playground and one kid has a bucket full of apples and the other has a bucket full of Twinkies, who will be more popular? You guessed it. The kid with the Twinkies. But which one do the kids really need? "We're trying to create apples that taste like Twinkies," he says.
And where would one most likely find those apples? Why, in the crisper of course! Along with Bob the Tomato, Larry Boy the Cucumber, and an ingenious cast of cartoon vegetables who teach children about the Lord. Their parables are appropriately titled VeggieTales.
Working with his wife, Lisa, friend Mike Norwaki, and a staff of weekend volunteers, Phil established a studio called Big Idea Productions and created the first fully computer animated home video ever produced.
When they were newly married, a friend advised Phil and Lisa Vischer to find a mountain and climb it together. They took that wisdom to heart. "Couples need to find a calling that is unique to them - a place where God will use them as a couple to impact the world," says Phil Vischer. "Sadly, for many couples, the husband climbs the mountain and his wife packs his lunch for the climb."
As president of Big Idea Productions, Vischer writes, directs, and performs the voice of Bob the Tomato. Lisa writes, composes, sings, and performs the voice of Junior Asparagus. The duo is clever, witty, and contagious. "We keep our sanity by laughing a lot," says Vischer. "We're both night owls, and the later it gets the more we laugh- especially when we're creating something together."
Their first episode, Where's God When I'm S-Scared?, was completed just in time for Christmas of 1993. By 1995 sales reached 130,000 videos - remarkable, but not nearly enough to fund Vischer's small studio. But by 1996, word-of-mouth boosted sales to 750,000. In late 1997, "veggie-mania" caught on and Big Idea shipped its one millionth video. Just four months later (March, 1998) they passed the three million mark, making VeggieTales one of the fastest-selling children's video products in the world. Big Idea Productions has grown from its original staff of three people to nearly 150, adding artists to produce books, apparel, and other licensed products, as well as expanding the animation studio to take on larger, more elaborate projects.
The staff at Big Idea spends its time creating videos like Madame Blueberry, the story of a very blue berry who is plagued with a materialistic attitude but learns to have a thankful heart. Their most recent release is Larry Boy and the Rumor Weed, a parable of what can happen when kids spread rumors. Other videos like Josh and the Big Wall, based on the biblical story of Joshua and Jericho, tell Bible stories in a delightfully entertaining way. The Israelites walk through the desert singing, "For years I've eaten nothing but manna, a dish that is filling but bland. But now we're on our way, I'll have a cheese souffl
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