Great Stuff — Veggie Tales: Morality, not Christianity

June 5th, 2012 Post by

HT to A Twisted Crown of Thorns who pointed out this article from regarding the Veggie Tales, which I’m sure most of you have heard of ..


VeggieTales “convinced kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity.” So says founder Phil Vischer in a new interview.

VeggieTales was a rags-to-riches entrepreneurial success story. Vischer and his counterpart, Mike Nawrocki, left college to pursue their dream of making wildly creative children’s videos. At the height of their success in the late 1990s, VeggieTales videos sold 7 million copies in a single year and generated $40 million in revenue. Though primarily aimed at a Christian market, VeggieTales had a broader cultural influence, pushing forward the boundaries of computer animation and children’s programming.

But success brought failure. Though Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are still around, they aren’t the same. Big Idea Productions went bankrupt in 2003 and Vischer lost ownership and creative control of the whole enterprise. VeggieTales is no longer VeggieTales. The characters still exist – and in some cases are even voiced by Nawrocki and Vischer as hired talent – but the decisions are now made by studio execs who don’t share the vision or worldview of the original founders.

In a recent issue of WORLD magazine, Vischer acknowledged to interviewer Megan Basham that the bankruptcy and subsequent trials have given him perspective. His words reveal a man who’s beginning to see the difference between moralism and the gospel. And a man humble enough to acknowledge his role in confusing the two:

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or, ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.

American Christian[s]… are drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god… We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of ‘when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’ and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.

[“It’s Not About the Dream,” WORLD magazine, Sep 24, 2011, 57-58]

I’ve been strongly critical of the Christian subculture over the years because I believe it does more to distort and discredit the gospel than almost any external threat or influence. It’s good to see one of the former saints of that subculture putting his finger on the same weaknesses. It’s even better to see “gospel awakening” in a man with such deep wells of creativity and talent. My kids loved VeggieTales, despite the moralistic overtones. Cut Phil Vischer loose with an even better, tighter, deeper theology of the gospel… and something great is bound to happen.

And now, it’s time for Silly Songs with Larry.

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  1. June 5th, 2012 at 15:51 | #1

    thanks for sharing,
    It will be great to see these new insights lead to some new creative story telling for kids.
    peace, John

  2. Mrs. Hume
    June 5th, 2012 at 16:25 | #2

    I think this is the perfect being the enemy of the good. I was watching a kid show the other day and a character said to his dad, “when did you ever make such a big mistake in your life?” The dad answered, “Uh, how old are you?”

    I mean, with a culture that toxic to kids, some simple morality for the pre school set is a lot healthier than the fare they are served elsewhere. No, Veggie Tales isn’t a substitute for parents and a church to teach kids all they need to know about loving others and who God is, but parents and church aren’t supposed to be subbed out for cartoons.

  3. Dutch
    June 5th, 2012 at 16:37 | #3

    I don’t even have to think about this, nor do my 2 boys. The Veggies, their Pappy & Nanny gave them back in ’98 & ’99, are no where near, anything as to what Vischer & Norwacki, created. Quuirdie, the Word Wordie, is no more.
    For us parents, Grandparents, Godparents & the like, it was a blessing. It was pure, Sola Scriptura, but quickly, it gained PUBLIC praise, & out had to go & went His Word, Truth, & Teachings.

    There are 2 Veggies, the backyard & the $$$$ bought.

    I still relish, the before. I don’t like, nor do ma’ boys, recognise, the after the $$$$.

    Have a care to know the before & after. Huge difference.

  4. Dutch
    June 5th, 2012 at 17:08 | #4

    my boys, had quite a bit to say, per this post.
    I would never, throw rocks, at those who endevored, I know what the early Veggies, remain so vital & so priceless to my boys, me, & those who are know at Home, who bought them, because I am what I am. And wanted to teach my babies (’98-03) what I had to use. This was all we had then.

    I can tell ya, what my baby was wearing on his 1st B-day, when he got Silly Songs, from my Dad & Mum. He & my Dad, had a grand time, in front of the TV, & VCR, Alex was only 1, & who knew, my Dad, would be gone a year later.
    My Pastoral Hatchling, knew Joshua, not just from me reading, but from Veggies (Josh & the Big Wall, grape slushies, lol) CJ, that sweet & brave little boy, knew how, because when, that little boy, could hear, finaly hear, his fav was David & the Giant Pickle. So long ago, but so very relavent, today.

    Veggies & the creators, may have fallen, but I know & am fully aware of 2 Lutheran Denom’s, that lack, what Veggies taught to little ones.

    Be brave & of great courage. He walks before you. Co’s sucumb, Denom’s do too. It just isnt’ fodder, for annuls.

  5. Pastor Ted Crandall
    June 6th, 2012 at 06:28 | #5

    VeggieTales “convinced kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity.”

    Sort of like the Mormons — and a lot of Christian churches today, including some that call themselves Lutheran.

  6. Paul of Alexandria
    June 6th, 2012 at 09:01 | #6

    I really don’t see what the problem with teaching morality is. Veggie Tales is entertainment, not a Sunday School lesson. At the very least, Veggie Tales teaches Christian morality to non-Christian children and reinforces moral behavior in children that have been taught Christianity. Any parent that leaves the teaching of Christianity to their children to an entertainment video is in trouble anyway.

  7. brittani
    July 31st, 2012 at 12:14 | #7

    veggie tales needs to be in more stores.. my kids love them. and i cant find anything with them on it.. i want fabrics pillow pjs. just like you see with the disney stuff.. even adult size pjs. i would so wear them!!! i love veggie tales always have.. i just think they should be more around in walmart and stores that i can go and buy there stuff..

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