Anyone who has ever been to America’s Christian subculture will be shocked to learn that there was once a show called VeggieTales. Read more healthy Veggietales Facts!
This was prior to December 21, 1993 when “Where’s God If I’m S-Scared?” appeared on VHS in Christian bookstores. Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, couldn’t have imagined how the series would impact children and families over the next quarter century.
This month marks the 25th anniversary of VeggieTales. Here are 25 things you might not know about the show that redefined a genre, and impacted millions upon millions of Christians.
1. Chocolate Tales?
The counter at VeggieTales could have easily resembled Candy Land’s kitchen counter. Vischer started by trying out a talking candy bar to create his character.
However, his wife said that moms would be furious if children fell in love with candy. The show took a healthier turn when he switched to a cucumber.
2. Look Ma, There Are No Hands
Vischer was not a vegetarian. Vischer simply needed character models that were simple to animate during the early days computer-generated graphics.
The animators for tomatoes and gourds weren’t required to have arms, legs or hair animated like animal or human characters, so the show moved into the produce aisle.
3. Creative Role Models
Jim Henson and Walt Disney were Vischer’s heroes as a child. The series is filled with their influence on storytelling, humor and creativity.
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4. Playing with the Big Boys
Vischer briefly outperformed his heroes at least in one way. In his autobiography, Vischer says his company Big Idea was at one time the largest animation studio between the coasts–overshadowing Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks.
5. Crazy (Early) Success
Vischer claims that VeggieTales is the most successful direct to-video series of all time. Big Idea’s revenue grew by 3,300% between 1996 and 1999 from $1.3 million up to $44million.
However, as you will see, this success would eventually end in bankruptcy.
6. Undiscovered Content: A treasure trove of hidden content
Many VeggieTales DVDs contained secret Easter Eggs that were hidden among menu icons. One example was where the French Peas attempted to create a bootleg copy Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.
Here are some hidden features that you might have missed. You might want to get rid of those old DVDs.
7. Virtual Veggies
VeggieTales was released in 1993, the year that Jurassic Park premiered and production started on Toy Story’s first film. These movies were crucial in introducing people to computer animation.
VeggieTales, in a world where Christian media are often criticized for being out of touch, was ahead its time when it explored new technology for children’s programming.
8. It’s not as much Bible as you remember
VeggiesTales can be described as a program where vegetables share Bible stories with children. In reality, only a tiny percentage of the videos were retold Bible stories.
The vast majority of shows were spoofs of well-known pop culture stories or popular literary tales, such as Indiana Jones (“Minnesota Cuke”) and Lord of the Rings (“Lord of the Beans”).
Each episode introduced children to a Bible verse that supported its theme.
9. Old Testament Emphasis
The VeggieTales show that featured stories from Scripture was a strong representation of the canonical representation.
Here’s the breakdown: Genesis (featured on three videos); Exodus (2), Joshua (1); Judges (1). Esther (1). 1 Samuel (1). Daniel (2). Jonah (1). Luke (1).
It turns out that there was a reason the New Testament was so sparingly used.
10. The Rules of Mom
Vischer’s mom has a Ph.D. from Christian Education and gave him some guidelines for creating VeggieTales. These were: 1) Don’t portray Jesus as a vegetable; and 2) Avoid implying that vegetables can have redemptive relationships to God.
This is the first rule. There are very few VeggieTales episodes that focus on New Testament stories.
Bob always speaks in the second person because he remembers that God created you and not us special. He loves you so much.
11. Streamed Vegetables
VeggieTales has a rich history that includes nearly 50 direct-to home videos and two feature films. However, Netflix acquired the brand in 2015. Two original series have been created by the streaming giant based on the characters.
There are no plans to produce future direct-to home VeggieTales videos. 25 years is a long time to expire for vegetable on VHS or DVD, so this could be the end of the series’ traditional distribution channels.
12. Big Idea = Big Problems
The move to Netflix was not the first time the vegetables found themselves in trouble.
The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2003 and was sold by Classic Media LLC to the same company that owns Lassie and Rocky & Bullwinkle and Casper the Friendly Ghost.
13. VeggieTales drops the Bible, God
Classic Media, a secular media company, reached a deal to bring VeggieTales cartoons to NBC’s Saturday morning program after the bankruptcy sale.
NBC demanded that the shows were free of Scripture passages, and references to God, in order to “reach as wide an audience possible with these positive messages while being careful to not advocate any one religion point of view.”
Bob’s signature signoff phrase, “God made You special and He loves You very much,” was replaced by “Thanks for coming to my house, children.” We will see you next week.
14. Vischer’s Regret
It is possible to argue that VeggieTales episodes were more driven by biblical values than actual biblical stories.
Vischer expressed his disappointment in an interview. Vischer said that he was sad to lose VeggieTales, Big Idea.
“I cannot just tell children to behave like Christians. “I have to teach them the tenants and principles of the faith.”
This was the catalyst for Vischer’s next project…
15. Returning to the Bible
Vischer, who had left Big Idea, created Buck Denver Questions, “What’s in the Bible a 13-episode series to guide children through the Bible’s great narrative, Genesis to Revelation.
Vischer worked on VeggieTales, which gave him the skills to use puppets, animations, songs, and voice acting.
Vischer finally explored the New Testament stories in his new series. This was possible because he promised his mom not to portray the Messiah as a vegetable.
16. We Hope He’s Waterproof
Qwerty, an animated computer that introduced children to Bible verses through animation, was named after the first six letters of a standard keyboard.
His first design was built on an IBM 386. Qwerty was given an Apple iMac in 2010 with a voice chip, webcam and an Apple iMac.
A desktop computer is something that almost everyone has on their kitchen counter.
17. Please, No Onions
Fans often mistake Mr. Lunt for an onion because of his mustached, blind character.
Vischer however has made it clear that he identified the wisecracking series antagonist in question as a decorative gourd.
18. Say, Isn’t That…?
VeggieTales featured some notable voice-acting guests like Amy Grant, Wayne Brady and Jaci Velasquez.
19. Monkeying around with Silly Songs
Andrew Peterson’s song “Is he Worthy?” was a hit in Easter services. Randall Goodgame, Randall Peterson, and he wrote Silly Songs for VeggieTales.
Bob’s favorite Silly Song is “Monkey”, which helps him learn the difference between monkeys, apes, and other animals.
20. Multiple personalities
Vischer was the voice of almost half the VeggieTales characters, including Bob the Tomato and Archibald Asparagus.
Vischer refers to Bob as his “inner Mr. Rogers”, but Archibald is more like his true personality.