An Interview with Phil Vischer

I didn’t interview Phil Vischer, even if the title implies otherwise.  The Sept. 24th edition of World Magazine has a lengthy interview with Phil Vischer, creator of Big Idea and Veggie Tales.  Read the full article here.

I have been aware of Veggie Tales for years, and have seen several episodes.  I watched Jonah (after it came out on DVD).  Now with a 2-year-old in the house I have seen a lot more Veggie Tales… over and over again.  I recently made this observation: all the stories revolve around Old Testament characters.  There is always a moral to the story and a Bible verse at the end, but for all intents and purposes the whole thing could be just as Jewish as it is Christian.  My wife pointed out they have an Easter Carol, but that’s the exception to the rule.  A pretty recent exception at that.  I’ve listened to church pastors do basically the same thing as Veggie Tales cartoons, and that’s use Old Testament Bible stories to teach a moral lesson.  That’s why this statement from Vischer in the interview really popped for me:

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.

Vischer’s new project is called Jellyfish Labs.  It features puppet characters instead of cartoons.  He describes it as “Muppets gone to seminary.”  The interview is more about the failure of Big Idea than what Jellyfish is doing next, but I’m still looking forward to it.  It apparently takes a long time to wear out a DVD.

UPDATE: Visit the Jellyfish Labs website and see what Phil’s been up to.

4 thoughts on “An Interview with Phil Vischer

  1. I have some good friends involved the children’s ministry who are focusing on this issue. This is truely a great concern, because as your post states, it is very much distorting the gospel message, and replacing it with a call to better moral values. And unfortunately left to ourselves, we will never become a moral people… it’s just not in us, the depraved. By the way, I’ve nominated you for the Most Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks and God bless

  2. I think you have to divide VeggieTales into two different periods: pre-NBC and post-NBC. When Big Idea started working with NBC, the show became more of a morality show rather than a Bible show. (I’ve read that Phil felt he really screwed up on that one.)

    Pre-NBC, though, many of the shows were fantastic. The one about Joshua really stands out to me. Despite the fact that it was a baby asparagus delivering the message (man, that feels funny to write), Caleb’s speech to the Israelites had never come alive like that for me.

    The Bible is one story, so I don’t have any problem with them focusing on the Old Testament. As with others, though, I don’t have much use for the moral-only versions of the shows.

  3. I agree that the Bible is one story. I believe that pretty much everything in the Old Testament helps us understand what God is doing in the New Testament. But still, Christians are called to be Christ-like, and all the Joshua, Ester, Jonah and Joseph stories in the world are never gonna quite do it. We have several videos and DVD’s at our house and will continue to watch them; but they don’t tell the whole story. Hindsight being 20/20, Phil Vischer now realizes the same thing.

    After getting Veggie Tales onto NBC, people would point out to Vischer that the stories became sans-God. His response was usually “Yeah, but Veggie Tales is on tv!” I’ve read the same things you have; he knows he screwed up.

    Thanks Shane!

  4. Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. Children do not need the Bible to be silly and cartoonish for them to understand how important God is and how they need to behave. “You don’t have to do away with the deity of His great Name to get them (youth) to hear you!” -Sam Goodman

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