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|Original work||VeggieTales (1993 video series)|
|Films and television|
VeggieTales is an American Christian computer generated children's animation created by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki under Big Idea Entertainment. It follows talking fruit and vegetable characters who retell Bible stories, with episodes presenting life lessons through a biblical worldview. It originated as a video series; episodes were distributed primarily direct to home media, first in 1993 on VHS, and later on DVD and Blu-ray through to 2015. The television series VeggieTales on TV! ran on NBC from 2006 to 2009, and two Netflix series debuted in 2014 and 2017. Two films were released, Jonah (2002) and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything (2008). The success of the animations helped establish a franchise of related media, including music, stage productions, and video games. It is distinguished as the most successful Christian children's franchise of all time; in 1999 and 2000, at the height of its popularity, the videos outsold every other kids property at the time. It has sold over 16 million books, 7 million music CDs, and 235 million music streams.
VeggieTales has a continuous back story that all of the cartoons are actually teleplays, performed by various vegetables and fruit that live together on the same kitchen countertop. Some of these characters have "real names," and take on various roles in the teleplays, although in the earlier adventures they appeared as themselves, showing some of their real-life situations. Most of these "regulars", such as Larry, Bob, Junior Asparagus, Archibald Asparagus, Pa Grape, Jimmy and Jerry were established in the earliest videos.
VeggieTales was created by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki through their company Big Idea Productions. Their aim was to produce children's videos which conveyed Christian moral themes and taught Biblical values and lessons. The animated feature involved stories told by a group of recurring fruit and vegetable characters who lived on a kitchen countertop. The program was offered in the direct-to-video market, with the first 30-minute program, Where's God When I'm S-Scared?, released in December 1993.
The idea for VeggieTales was conceived in the early 1990s when Vischer was testing animation software to use as a medium for children's videos. Due to the limitations of Softimage Creative Environment at the time, he decided to avoid the technical production hurdle of designing characters with arms, legs, hair, and clothes. His first animation model was an anthropomorphic candy bar. When his wife suggested that parents might prefer a hero who promoted healthier eating habits, he began designing the characters based on fruits and vegetables. The cast of voice actors of the early VeggieTales videos predominantly came from friends of Phil Vischer such as Dan Anderson (Dad Asparagus) and Jim Poole (Scooter the Carrot) who collaborated with Vischer on dramas at their local church. Softimage 3D was used for further episodes until 1999 when it was replaced with Maya.
HIT Entertainment sued Big Idea in January 2002 claiming Big Idea "abruptly walked away" from a 1997 deal with Lyrick Studios (which HIT acquired a year prior) to manufacture and distribute VeggieTales merchandise. Big Idea, which had no written contract, made a new deal with Warner Home Video. In April 2003, a jury in Texas ruled Big Idea must pay $11 million to HIT (which was overturned in 2005 on appeal). Vischer lost control over VeggieTales in 2004 and various owners de-emphasized Christian messages.
"The Toy that Saved Christmas" was broadcast on Pax TV on December 19, 1998. Another Christmas video, "The Star of Christmas", aired on over 260 public television stations in December 2002.
The videos generally follow a standard format where a moral issue is posited in the opening countertop sequence, either through a viewer question or an issue brought up by Bob or Larry, followed by one or more "films" that address the issue, with a Silly Song in the middle. The Silly Songs are generally introduced with a title card and a voice-over saying, "And now it's time for Silly Songs with Larry, the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song." Some Silly Songs have alternate titles, such as "Love Songs with Mr. Lunt," or "Ukulele Karaoke with Bob," where another character sings the song instead. The Silly Song, if one appears, is usually in the middle of the program, often at a cliffhanger moment or in between two stories (although the LarryBoy videos, in particular, often lack this segment, with the exception of League of Incredible Vegetables). Each video ends with this program's signature sign-off: "Remember kids, God made you special and He loves you very much."
Re-issues and re-releases
Big Idea has released a few "special edition" DVDs which consist of remastered videos and additional features not on the original DVD.
- Lyle the Kindly Viking Special Edition (also includes 3–2–1 Penguins! Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn)
- King George and the Ducky Special Edition (also includes 3–2–1 Penguins! Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt)
- Where's God When I'm S-Scared? 15th Anniversary Collector's Edition (also includes 3–2–1 Penguins! Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn)
Various VeggieTales videos were bundled into collections ranging in size from double features all the way up to a boxed collection of the first 30 VeggieTales videos. In addition, compilation videos of only the Silly Songs were also released. These song collections included the songs in "Sing Along" format as well as countdowns of the most popular Silly Songs as voted on by fans.
VeggieTales on TV! (2006)
For four seasons, VeggieTales on TV! ran on NBC, Telemundo, and ION TV as part of the Qubo children's programming block from 2006 to 2009. The television show altered the general format by opening at the front gate of Bob the Tomato's house. Bob, Larry the Cucumber, and other Veggie characters then sing the show's theme song as they hop to Bob's front door. The theme song ends with a character making a random comment, such as Pa Grape commenting on Archibald's new sweater. Bob and Larry then wait for the mailman, Jimmy Gourd, to deliver a letter. When Jimmy comes, he happily sings his Mail Song, which Bob and Larry both find tedious. Similar to the opening counter top sequence of the VeggieTales videos, Bob and Larry read the letter and the cast tries to decide how to solve the viewer's problem through one of three regular segments: Archibald reads a story from his Big Book of Oddities, Pa Grape shows an old film, or Mr. Lunt appears with his stick puppet, Paco the Storytelling Mule, and tells a story. The result always proves disastrous, as the story or film makes no sense. Bob and Larry then intervene with a story from a VeggieTales video. The show ends with Bob and Larry wrapping things up by reiterating the story's lesson and thanking the kids for coming to his house. NBC episodes end with characters bidding the audience a simple "Good-bye".
According to the Los Angeles Times, "VeggieTales has been very successful for NBC in a Saturday morning time slot that has traditionally been difficult for the networks. Thanks to Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, NBC saw its biggest ratings jump in Saturday morning children's programming since 2003." Ratings on NBC's Saturday morning program had grown from an average Nielsen Rating of 0.5 between 2003 and 2005 to an average Nielsen Rating of 0.95 between 2006 and 2008 thanks to Veggietales on TV!. Veggietales on TV! was the most watched Saturday morning program on television from 2006 to 2008, with an average of 430,000 children watching each weekend.
When NBC aired the first few episodes of the first season in September 2006, it edited the shows to remove religious messages, including references to God. The original sign-off message--"Remember kids, God made you special and He loves you very much!"—became "Thanks for coming to my house today, kids. See you next week! Good-bye!" The changes were made at the request of the network's standards and practices department to enforce compliance with network policies regarding religious neutrality. The original dialogue remained viewable by users of the network's closed-caption feature.
The conservative watch group Parents Television Council complained to NBC about the changes. L. Brent Bozell, president of the group, complained of the network "ripping the heart and soul out of a successful product", saying that if NBC was concerned about references to God, they should not have taken the series. Bozell added "This just documents the disconnect between Hollywood and the real world."
NBC replied that the editing conformed to the network's broadcast standards, which direct producers "not to advocate any one religious point of view." NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks said "Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view." Vischer said he was not informed that the religious content would be removed and said he would have declined to sign the contract had he known. "I would have declined partly because I knew a lot of fans would feel like it was a sellout or it was done for money," he said. Vischer added that he still understood NBC's wish to remain religiously neutral. "VeggieTales is religious, NBC is not. I want to focus people more on 'Isn't it cool that Bob and Larry are on television.'"
In The House and In the City (2014–2017)
A new series, VeggieTales in the House, premiered on Netflix as an original series in Thanksgiving 2014. The series lead is Doug TenNapel and features a theme song by independent studio musician and frequent TenNapel collaborator Terry Scott Taylor. The deal between current VeggieTales owner DreamWorks and Netflix calls for the release of 75 episodes over a three-year period with each episode featuring two 11-minute stories.
Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer continue to voice their characters, but the rest of the original video cast has been replaced by veteran voice actors Tress MacNeille and Rob Paulsen. The series is an expansion of the kitchen counter top segments of the original videos to include a full city which the characters live in. Bob and Larry live as roommates in an apartment west of the kitchen counter. Several stories revolve around a general store built into the bottom-right corner of a kitchen counter which is run by Pa Grape. The cast from the original videos remains the same aside from the absence of Mr. Nezzer, who has been replaced by a similar looking character named Ichabeezer. Themes in each episode relate to Biblical principles such as forgiveness, compassion and generosity.
The VeggieTales Show (2019)
In March 2019, it was announced that the Trinity Broadcasting Network was picking up the broadcasting rights to a new VeggieTales series to air on their networks. Vischer confirmed on Twitter that he and Nawrocki were both returning to Big Idea as full-time staff to work on the series, tentatively titled The VeggieTales Show.
On April 24, 2019, the VeggieTales Official YouTube channel published a video called "VeggieTales is Back: Brand New VeggieTales Show Trailer" which gives more information about The VeggieTales Show. It started airing on TBN in 2019. The show focuses on the VeggieTales characters putting on shows of Bible stories in a theater. The series also brings back Mr. Nezzer, as the owner of the theater in which the show takes place. The first episode was a Christmas special called The Best Christmas Gift that was distributed on DVD and Digital by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. It premiered on TBN Christmas Day 2019.
- Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (2002): Archibald Asparagus stars as Jonah in this version of the Biblical story. The Veggies learn that God is a God of second chances, and that we need to give second chances too and be compassionate and merciful.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie (2008): In this second VeggieTales feature film, three lazy wannabe pirates go back in time to the 17th century, to fight real pirates and become heroes in a battle, to rescue a royal family from an evil tyrant. The three slackers learn that a hero doesn't have to be tall, strong, and handsome to be useful.
- The Bob and Larry Movie (TBD): The origin story of VeggieTales hosts Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber reveals how they met, how they got their own show, and answers the question how vegetables and fruit talk. This will be the first film in the series to feature humans. According to Phil Vischer, "Since Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie was our The Ten Commandments, The Bob and Larry Movie would be our Toy Story." The Bob and Larry Movie was originally planned to be the second VeggieTales movie with a released date in late 2005. It was placed into production in early 2002, toward the end of production of Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (2002). However, Big Idea Productions fell into bankruptcy in late 2002 and the film was placed on hiatus because it was deemed too expensive. As a result, Phil Vischer wrote The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie to replace this movie. In 2008, it was considered to be the sequel to The Pirates who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie, but talks had stalled after the 2008 recession had led to the bankruptcy of VeggieTales owner Entertainment Rights and Classic Media. According to Phil Vischer in 2018, "I have a copy of The Bob and Larry script on my laptop, but probably won't release it because it is technically owned by Universal and DreamWorks." "It will hopefully be produced in the near future."
- Untitled VeggieTales Movie (TBD): At the National Religious Broadcast 2019 Convention in California, Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki announced that Vischer and Universal Pictures are developing a new VeggieTales movie. DreamWorks Animation will have no involvement in the movie. Vischer confirmed that the film will not be The Bob and Larry Movie, but will be similar to Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie by centering around a Bible story. In early 2019, Universal Studios committed to funding the development of a script and will later decide whether or not to produce the film based on the script. As a result, Vischer devoted a year and a half to writing the screenplay. On July 8, 2020, Vischer announced on the Holy Post Podcast that he had completed and turned in the first draft of the screenplay a few weeks prior. He was given notes and was given the go ahead to revise and write a second draft before the official pitch to studio executives.
VeggieTales Live is a series of stage shows based on the VeggieTales videos. The first stage series was part of a two-year agreement with Clear Channel in 2002. Six versions of the shows have been staged. The shows have toured across the U.S. and at theme parks including Dollywood and Silver Dollar City.
Big Idea, and its successors, have released VeggieTales themed games on various platforms including PC, Macintosh, iOS, and Android. Applications include games revolving around specific VeggieTales episodes (such as the PlayStation 2 release of LarryBoy and the Bad Apple) to new content revolving around various VeggieTales characters.
- The Mystery of Veggie Island (2002)
- Veggie Carnival (2002)
- Jonah: A VeggieTales Game (2002)
- VeggieTales Creativity City (2003)
- Minnesota Cuke and the Coconut Apes (September 30, 2003)
- VeggieTales Super Silly Fun! (2005)
- VeggieTales Dance Dance Dance (2006)
- LarryBoy and the Bad Apple, PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance (2006)
- VeggieTales games shipped pre-bundled in the Game Wave Family Entertainment System.
Android and iOS
- Step-by-Story presents: The Goofy Gift (2011)
- VeggieTales Spotisodes Collection (2012)
- Step-by-Story presents: Larry's Missing Music (2012)
There have been over 45 musical albums released that tie into either VeggieTales characters or videos. Some of the albums are compilations of songs from the various videos, such as Larry-Boy Soundtrack, A Very Veggie Easter, and 25 Favorite Very VeggieTunes. Others contain completely original material, such as stories or songs performed by Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, and the other VeggieTales voice talent, such as Bob and Larry's Campfire Songs, Christian Hit Music, and Bob and Larry Sing the 80's.
On February 10, 2011, Big Idea Entertainment announced several new product promotions, including partnerships with Chick-fil-A (kids meal promotions), American Puzzle Company (wooden puzzles and trains), CTI Industries (mylar and latex balloons), Tabbies (index tabs, stickers, temporary tattoos and wall clings), Victory Designs (children's guitars), and Zoobies (plush pillows and blankets).
Books and Comics
Reception and awards
VeggieTales has been nominated for three Emmy Awards, four Annie Awards, thirteen GMA Dove Awards, six Parents' Choice Awards, two Chicago Film Festival Awards, one Movieguide Award, one Golden Reel Award, and one International World Animation Celebration Festival Award. It was one of the earliest computer animated franchises, predating both ReBoot and Toy Story.
As of 2019, VeggieTales has sold 75 million videos (VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray), 16 million books, 7 million music albums, and 235 million music streams. The revenue for Big Idea grew between 1996 and 1999 by 3300% from $1.3 million to over $44 million as the moral tales and off-beat humor proved popular with parents.:54 According to Phil Vischer's book, Me, Myself, and Bob, "one third of American homes owned a Veggietales video by the year 2000". The Wall Street Journal commented on the franchise's success that "VeggieTales is the Barney of the group. It's simple characters, bright colors and catchy tunes sweeten the Christian message...The real appeal of the veggies is their wackiness. Like Bugs Bunny, the cartoons contain a multitude of adult jokes, and like a sanitized version of South Park, Comedy Central's raunchy cartoon, they rely on gross-out humor. Among evangelical Christian young adults, the veggies have a cult following, analogous to the adult audience of South Park.
The franchise's two theatrical releases, Jonah-A VeggieTales Movie (2002), and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything-A VeggieTales Movie (2008), rank as the top 10 best box office performing faith based films. Jonah – A VeggieTales Movie currently holds a 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 55 reviews from critics, with an average score of 5.8 out of 10. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything received a 39% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7/10. Their summary of critical consensus was, "This Veggietale should please the youngest crowds, but the silly script will tire the more discerning viewer."
|1997||Chicago International Film Festival: Children's Jury Award for Best Animated Short Film||VeggieTales: Very Silly Songs!||Won|||
|1998||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year
||A Very Veggie Christmas||Won|||
|GMA Dove Award: Long Form Music Video of the Year||VeggieTales: Very Silly Songs!||Won|||
|1999||GMA Dove Award: Long Form Music Video of the Year||VeggieTales: The End of Silliness?||Nominated|
|AdQ Design Award: Outstanding Advertising Print Ad||VeggieTales: What's The Big Idea Magazine||Won|||
|2000||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||Larry-Boy: The Soundtrack||Won|||
|2001||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||VeggieTunes 3: A Queen, A King, and A Very Blue Berry||Won|||
|Parents' Choice Award: Season's Best Family Home Entertainment||Veggietales: Lyle the Kindly Viking||Won|||
|World Animation Celebration Festival: Best Animated Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: Lyle the Kindly Viking||Won|||
|2002||Annie Award: Best Animated Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: Lyle the Kindly Viking||Nominated|||
|2003||Annie Award: Best Animated Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: The Star of Christmas||Nominated|||
|Annie Award: Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Tim Hodge as the Voice of Khalil in Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie||Nominated|||
|Golden Reel Award: Best Sound Editing in Television Direct to Video||Larryboy: The Cartoon Adventures ‘Angry Eyebrows’||Nominated|||
|The Movieguide Awards: Best Family Movie of the Year||Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie||Won|||
|GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie Original Soundtrack||Won|||
|2004||Annie Award: Best Animated Short Subject||"Belly Button" from Veggietales: The Ballad of Little Joe||Nominated|||
|Chicago International Children's Film Festival: Children's Jury Award for Animated Short Film||"Belly Button" from Veggietales: The Ballad of Little Joe||Won|||
|GMA Dove Award: Music Video of the Year||"Belly Button" from Veggietales: The Ballad of Little Joe||Nominated|||
|2005||Parents' Choice Award: Season's Best Family Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: Duke and the Great Pie War||Won|||
|2006||Parents' Choice Award: Season's Best Family Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler||Won|||
|2007||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||VeggieTales Worship Songs||Won|||
|Parents' Choice Award: Season's Best Family Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: Larryboy and the Bad Apple||Won|||
|2008||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||VeggieTales Christian Hits||Won|
|Parents' Choice Award: Season's Best Family Home Entertainment||VeggieTales: Tomato Sawyer's and Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue||Won|||
|Robert A. Briner Impact Award||Phil Vischer for his 15 years of work on VeggieTales||Won|||
|2010||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||Veggietales: Here I Am to Worship||Won|
|2011||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||Sweetpea's Songs for Girls||Nominated|
|Parents' Choice Award: Seasons Best Family Game||VeggieTales: Find It!||Won|||
|2012||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||Hosanna! Today Top Worship Songs for Kids||Nominated|
|2014||GMA Dove Award: Children's Music Album of the Year||VeggieTales 25 Favorite Bible Songs||Won|||
|2015||Emmy Award: Outstanding Animated Program||VeggieTales in the House Season One||Nominated|||
|2017||Emmy Award: Outstanding Sound Editing||VeggieTales in the House Season Four||Nominated|||
|The Tennessee State House Resolution 68 Award: Life Time Achievement in Children's Entertainment||Mike Nawrocki for his 25 years of work on VeggieTales||Won|||
|2018||Emmy Award: Best Performer in an Animated Program||Tress MacNeille in VeggieTales in the City||Nominated|||
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