It is hard to believe, but VeggieTales has served up Bible messages to millions of children for more than two decades. The computer animated series is celebrating 21 years with new partners, a new television series and a growing roster of celebrities joining the cast.
Mike Nawrocki is one of the original creators at Big Idea Productions, which launched the series in 1993, just days before Christmas. Nawrocki recently sat down with CBN News to talk about his work.
"Computer animation at the time was so limited, you really couldn't do limbs or arms or hair or clothes," Nawrocki, remembering VeggieTales's start, said.
"So, if we were going to tell a half hour story, we needed simple characters," he continued.
Joining Forces with Dream Works
The 1993 limitations of computer animation is why Nawrocki and his friend from Bible college, Phil Vischer, chose to animate vegetables. But after 21 years, neither fully understands how they have managed to create more than 40 episodes; sell more than 70 million DVDs; and now join forces with animation giant, Dream Works.
"I just remember finishing that first show and thinking, wow, we did it," Nawrocki recalled.
"We did one show of animation. And then we were able to do a second and then a third and then it really caught on with Christian book stores and with fans," he added.
Fan favorites are the series hosts, Bob the tomato, who is voice by Vischer, and Larry the cucumber, who is voiced by Nawrocki.
"We felt there was a real need for stories that were told from the viewpoint of the assumption that there is a God who made us, love us and has a plan for our lives," Nawrocki said.
Celebrities, like Wayne Brady, are now adding their voices to the vegetable plate to tell new stories. Country music singer Kellie Pickler plays Mirabelle the sweet-potato in "Beauty and the Beet." And actor Terry Crews is Bruce the onion in "Celery Night Fever."
Terry Crews may be best known for his roles in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Expendables and Everybody Hates Chris. But the actor and former NFL linebacker wasn’t a success in his children’s eyes until he landed this latest role as Bruce Onion in VeggieTales.
When asked about joining the vegetable cast, Crews said "I have been a fan for the longest time. I mean my oldest, she is 27 now. But I remember the songs and the lessons. They just come back at you. It really stays in your brain and it never leaves. But that goes for parents too because you have to play it over and over again. But the good thing is we enjoyed it too."
The added star power is expanding VeggieTales' audience.
Looking back at the success, Nawrocki told CBN News, "It's been an amazing journey over these past 20 years."
Bringing Biblical Values to Families
"The why we do what we do it still the same for me. I want to help bring Biblical values to kids and families everywhere," he explained.
The Big Ideas team recently renewed that commitment to family and opened its doors exclusively to CBN News and moms from across the country, who write some of the leading parenting blogs.
The VeggieTales Day included a look at the artistry and audio work behind the animated series and a sneak-peek at VeggieTales In the House, the company's new Netflix television series. That preview gave the blogging moms the chance to fall in love all over again.
Blogging Mommies Fall in Love
Jennifer Burg is a Florida mom who owns the blog thesuburbanmom.com. Burg described VeggieTales' long term success saying, "I think it's the fact that there are adults who are my age and younger who remember it from their childhood and there is nothing like introducing your kids to the things that you loved when you were a kid."
Jen Jamar owns the blog lifewithlevi.com. She told CBN News she loved the VeggieTale Brad because "It is unique in that it is faith based, but it is not preachy. It is not pretentious."
"I think they've just done an amazing job of doing a melting pot of so much into one show. And being a pretty strong Christian myself I love having those faith based values in everything and still making it funny," Joanna Price with the braggingmommy.com told CBN News.
And at 21, the talking vegetables are still fresh with a message for another generation.