The Reimagination of Superbook
By Hannah Goodwyn
- Chris, Joy, and Gizmo are making a comeback!
These beloved Superbook characters are being reimagined in CBN’s updated version of the animated classic. First airing in Japan in the early 1980s, the series sparked an interest in the Bible in the minds of kids around the world. Today, a team of talented artists, including a few industry veterans, is bringing these adventures back to life.
Recently, CBN.com sat down with John Schafer, senior producer of the new Superbook series, to talk about the project and how it will be used to teach kids about God.
You’ve finished the pilot episode, “A Giant Adventure,” about David and Goliath. How do you know what to focus on when telling this incredible story?
For “A Giant Adventure,” there were key moments that Gordon Robertson (Executive Producer) really wanted in there. The biggest thing was that the anointing of David had to be a powerful moment. He wanted to really show that no one saw value in David, not even his own father. Gordon wanted the children of the world to know… “You have a purpose. You have a destiny, and no matter what anyone says about you God has a plan for you.”
Of all the episodes we could have done as a pilot, we thought of David and Goliath mainly because we could show people the cool fight scene. Gordon approved it not because of the action scene, but he thought that it could really speak to people. He wanted to show that this kid was plucked out of obscurity to all of the sudden one day he is going to become king. The anointing scene was a very powerful one, and then he was in the chambers with Saul. At that moment, he wanted there to be a powerful time when Saul saw something David.
What Bible stories are you planning to do next?
We’re doing Creation to Revelation for the next 13 episodes. There are going to be prophetic signposts in each of the episodes that will point the viewer towards the birth of Jesus, his death, and resurrection and His eventual return.
We’re going to push the envelope. We are not going to do the typical Garden of Eden. It’s actually going to start off with the war in Heaven. That is the one thing that is unique with Superbook. Everyone just assumes, like with “A Giant Adventure,” Chris is going to face a bully and by going back into time, he’s going to learn how to deal with him. No, it wasn’t about the bully at all. His giant is his fear. We’re trying to make the stories relevant to kids, whether they’re Americans, Chinese, Indonesian, or Japanese. The one thing that will be consistent is the signposts that will point to Jesus.
Where are you at in completing these other episodes?
Right now, nine scripts are completed and three other scripts are almost finalized. Once those scripts are approved, then we go to Vancouver to record the voice-over actors. Then, we will move toward animating the episodes.
The original Superbook was broadcasted in more than 100 countries That’s a big act to follow. How do you plan to re-introduce Superbook to the world?
The U.S. roll-out is what we’re really working on now and internationally India is going to be our first market. After India, we’ll hit the rest of the countries where the original series aired and then move on to new markets, such as China and Indonesia.
The campaign in the United States will focus on Bible literacy, and the bigger focus is to bring the Bible to the children of the world. The original Superbook was able to get into areas of the world that no other Christian media could. Animation isn't threatening to most people, so Superbook was even able to get into Russia before the fall of the Iron Curtain. It’s a cartoon, so it’s a non-threatening form of media and we’re able to get in most anywhere.
What is your biggest hope for this project?
For me, watching people get excited about the Bible story itself. Kids today are inundated with so much media. Our competition is fierce. We have to be visually as cutting-edge as possible because if kids are flipping through the channels, we ’ve got less than a few seconds before they make a determination to stop and watch our show. So visually it’s got to be there.
We want it to be accessible to everyone. It’s written with modern-day kids that are going through modern-day dilemmas, situations that today's kids are going through. When Chris and Joy don’t know what to do, that's when Superbook takes them back into Bible times to show them how someone was able to overcome similar challenges. We’re doing it in a way where kids can interact with those main characters of the Bible. Kids that are watching it are part of Chris and Joy’s team as they interact with David.
When you’re sending the characters back in time, you’re automatically changing the Bible story. But, we’re doing it in such a way that they can’t interfere with David to help him beat Goliath; they are just spectators. They interact with David before the fight to find out how he thinks he can defeat Goliath when everyone else doubts him; and this is what any modern-day child would want to ask David.
One of Gordon’s big causes is to help Bible literacy in America, and Superbook is a tool CBN can use to address it. We want kids to get excited about the Bible after viewing Superbook, and then to go visit the show's Web site. You can only address so much in a 22-minute episode, but there will be an interactive site built for Superbook, where kids can learn more about the Bible. The TV show will excite kids to want to learn more about God and the Web site will offer them the opportunity to dive deeper into that relationship.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as a producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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