Netflix gives VeggieTales' Bob, Larry a new world

GLENDALE, Calif. (BP) – "VeggieTales in the House" premieres today (Nov. 26) as a new series exclusively on Netflix featuring the veggie characters that have modeled biblical principles for 21 years.

Yet, had it not been for Lisa Vischer, wife of VeggieTales co-creator Phil Vischer, children might have been giggling instead to "candy" tales.

Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato will continue their silly, educational antics in the new Netflix series “VeggieTales in the House,” debuting Nov. 26.
Vischer, a computer animator at the time, needed characters for the series that could be created simply by computer animation. "I decided I needed characters that had no hands, arms, hair or clothes, or I wouldn't be able to animate them. And I started out playing with a candy bar character," Vischer told Baptist Press upon the debut of the Netflix series.

"And then my wife saw the candy bar and said, 'You know, moms are going to be mad at you for making their kids fall in love with candy bars.' And I thought, 'Ooh, good point. What wouldn't moms be mad about their kids falling in love with?'

"And the next thing that popped into my head was a cucumber."

VeggieTales in the House will feature two all-new stories with original songs in each 22-minute Netflix episode.

"The all-new series marks the first time in the 21-year history of VeggieTales that Bob [the Tomato], Larry [the Cucumber] and the veggie crew venture off the countertop for exciting new adventures, while remaining true to the values-driven storytelling that has long made VeggieTales such a beloved part of childhood," Netflix and Dream Works Animation announced in a joint press release.

When Vischer created the original VeggieTales through Big Idea Productions, VHS players were state-of-the-art technology, which progressed to DVD, Blue Ray and now online streaming. Netflix allows the series to continue in the latest technology, Vischer said.

"It's been clear that if we want the characters and the ministry to stay alive, then they need to keep moving as kids move to viewing media in different ways." Vischer said. "Bob and Larry need to be there.

"The great thing about Netflix is they have 50 million subscribers, so Bob and Larry will be a push button away for all those people to watch whenever they want, and also on whatever device they want," Vischer said, "whether it's their phone, or tablet, or smart TV, or you name it. Whenever parents are looking for Bob and Larry to help teach values to their kids, it's just a push button away."

Mike Nawrocki, who co-created VeggieTales with Vischer, said VeggieTales in the House will pick up where the VeggieTales DVDs end.

"Bob and Larry sign off and tell the kids, 'God made you special and loves you very much.' And then the camera backs up from the countertop they're on, and you see that's actually where they live. Their house is there, they go shopping, they have little vegetable pets and drive vegetable cars in this house that they live in," Nawrocki said leading to "You know, VeggieTales in the House."

DreamWorks Animation acquired Big Idea Productions in 2012 by purchasing Classic Media. Margie Cohn, DreamWorks Animation's head of television, promises the new series will retain VeggieTales' original characters and values, teaching such virtues as friendship, forgiveness and neighborly love.

"In VeggieTales in the House, the veggies will explore a much bigger world while retaining the values-driven storytelling, memorable music and silly antics that are their hallmarks," Cohn said in the press release. "It's both an honor and a lot of fun to create new stories starring Bob, Larry, Junior Asparagus, Petunia Rhubarb, Laura Carrot and all their friends for a whole new generation of fans."

DreamWorks Animation paid Boomerang Media Holdings $155 million to buy Classic Media and Big Idea. Classic Media in 2003 rescued Big Idea from bankruptcy, buying the company and retaining the name.

Vischer and Nawrocki still perform VeggieTales voice work in the new series but also are actively creating other children's series. Vischer spends much of his time creating the more in-depth children's series "What's in the Bible?" featuring the character Buck Denver, and Nawrocki is directing a story of Jonah scheduled to debut next Easter.

Vischer said he is delighted that VeggieTales has survived generations.

"It's kind of amazing to see how well the characters connected with people. There was a hunger for something that was fun, but also was faith-honoring and God-honoring, that parents just couldn't find," Vischer said. "Veggie Tales has been parodied by Saturday Night Live; it's been mentioned five different times on the Simpsons. So to see how far little Christian vegetables can go into culture is pretty amazing."

The first five 22-minute episodes will be available for instant viewing by Netflix members in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, U.K., Ireland, the Nordics, Benelux and France.

Netflix markets itself as the world's leading Internet television network with over 53 million members in nearly 50 countries, viewing more than 2 billion hours of TV shows and movies per month, including original series.

Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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