Friday, January 11, 2008

Exclusive Interview: Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber on Morality and Film

Cross-post from The World...IMHO

The newest Veggie Tales movie opens today.

The latest Veggie Tale movie is coming to the big screen tomorrow. Hence, interviewed Veggie Tales creators Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki yesterday on why they do what they do.

Veggietales' half-hour shorts, filled with Biblical morality, have become ever more popular since their launch in 1993, and have been a mainstay for Christian parents in North America.

Asked what inspired the morally-themed, Biblically based productions, Vischer explained that he "grew up in Church" with his grandfather, a preacher in Omaha Nebraska. He described himself as "a really shy kid who liked to tell stories," who started making films at age 9. However the ultimate push to make moral films came from an unlikely source - MTV.

Vischer explains: "In high school I was watching MTV. I remember thinking this is really cool, the kind of stories they're telling and the technology they're using, and these little mini movies that they make. But my second thought was 'this is trouble.' Because the values that I had learned growing up in Sunday school were not the values that were coming across in music videos, and in many cases were the exact opposite.

"So I remember being really convicted, 'I think this is what I'm supposed to do in my life. I'm supposed to use the same creativity, the same technology, the same kind of story telling but kind of flip the polarity on the values and fill my stories with what I learned in Sunday school, Biblical values rather than the world's values.' For me that was really the inspiration."

Mike Nawrocki recalls the he and Phil met in Bible College. There they became friends, enjoying working doing puppets together, putting on performances which led to the now famous characters Bob the Tomato (voiced by Phil) and Larry the Cucumber (voiced by Mike).

Vischer has three children and Nawrocki two. They explain that their children have assisted in productions. Nawrocki told that the children have also been an inspiration. "The inspiration of having children who are going through issues," he said. "As a parent it'd be great to tell a story to help them go through this issue."

The dynamic pair play off one another so well in the three-way phone interview that the seamless changes between speakers makes it sometimes difficult to discern who's speaking. They warn that the huge business of children's television is something to be countered as it is geared to "get commercial messages into kids brains at a very young age - trying to turn them as early as possible into rabid consumers of pop culture."

Vischer says, "There's really good stuff for kids when they're very very young because the TV programmers know that's when Mom controls the remote control . . . But when they're ten and eleven they're trying to transition them into MTV."

story here

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