Thursday, March 22, 2018

What's Going On With Big Idea?

Hey there fellow Veggie fans. I know it's been way too long since I last posted anything. It's partly due to the fact life has been busy, but also a lot of it has to do with the state of VeggieTales today.

I'm absolutely not complaining about In The House/In The City, I still want to write some on my favorite episodes in the series. But admittedly, the shorter-length Netflix format doesn't make it as easy to write about as the longer direct-to-videos. There are so many new stories at once! It's hard to know where to begin sometimes. But I'm not writing this post to discuss my reasons for not writing in three years, I'm writing because I have some questions I'm hoping someone might know something about.

I believe the last episode of In The City aired last year. Bye Bye, Bacon Bill was the only ITH/ITC episode to end with a "the end", and felt like a sweet way to close out the series overall. But this came without any announcement or warning. And since then, I've noticed some things that have me a little concerned...

First of all, it seems the only thing on the socials lately have been these promotional images featuring Bible verses, inspirational quotes, jokes, and the like. You've most likely seen them and know what I'm talking about.They're very cute, and it's always good to have something encouraging pop up on the feed, but they don't give us much idea of the goings-on at the company or what they may have planned next after ITC.

Second, it seems that has become solely a shopping site. And its spot under Dreamworks/Classic Media doesn't give much information either (except, perhaps, for the interesting note from four years ago that they had more releases planned than actually happened). Again, on both accounts, I wish there was more to say from the company directly about news and updates, especially if something's wrong.

Perhaps the most alarming was the company address I found today:

Big Idea Entertainment, LLC
386 Park Avenue South
16th Floor
New York, NY 10016 

They moved to New York? When did that happen??
This could just be the merchandising branch of the company, but I'm not sure.

None of this is truly to say they aren't still a thriving company with some new, exciting tricks up their sleeves. But... I don't know. I wish I did.

The biggest "sign of life" I've seen with Big Idea lately was a Facebook Saturday Silly Song Sing-Along with Nicole C. Mullen a few weeks back. It was encouraging to know they were doing something, but it still doesn't really answer my questions.

I recently re-read the portion of Phil Vischer's book Me, Myself, and Bob regarding Big Idea's original downfall, and I was re-reminded of the challenges and difficulties of running a small animation company. I'm sure there are still challenges and difficulties today, even with Dreamworks' ownership.

I know that seemingly much of the fandom is divided on ITH/ITC, but as far as I knew, the shows were still doing well overall. Could there have been enough of a dent from viewers who didn't like it to ultimately hurt the company? I certainly hope not.

I care about Big Idea and the amazing people who work there. I miss hearing from them through featurettes and audio commentaries and interviews and articles. There is so much creativity there, and most importantly, a fierce desire to make sure kids -- and the rest of the world -- know that God made them special and loves them very much! I want to know what they have planned next for VeggieTales, or if they have something totally new and different planned. I'm glad they're still making some neat merchandise (I love my mini blind bag Larry!), but I don't think that's the future of Big Idea.

VeggieTales is not merely a lifestyle brand for preschoolers and parents.
VeggieTales is not dead.
VeggieTales is something special.
It's funny, it's genuine, it speaks truth.
It's for everyone.
And there's never been anything like it.
Same for the brave little company and the amazing people who created it 25 years ago.

I know most of you out there don't know the answers any more than I do, but I just wanted to put these thoughts out here, just in case.

Keep Big Idea in your prayers for whatever happens, whether The Bob And Larry Movie will finally be realized, or if it's ultimately the end of VeggieTales silliness.

Hopefully you'll see more posts soon!

GMUS & <3sUVM,
 - Chandler

Monday, March 2, 2015

Noah's Ark Review

Hey to my fellow Veggie-Heads! A new chapter of VeggieTales has begun and I'm incredibly excited to be bringing you my review on the fantastic new episode Noah's Ark! So get on board and let's dive in! And I'm sorry about the puns but they couldn't not happen :)

So the first thing you might notice is indeed the new reincarnation of the intro. Its overall very akin to the 2010-2014 one, but now Bob and Larry are going it solo. I'll admit, I'd just gotten used to Jimmy and Jerry coming in on the second verse, but it's doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Seeing Bob and Larry with their new looks is really cool, and the fact they're doing this on their own reminds me a lot of the original intro. But perhaps the coolest thing about the new intro on this is that, instead of a clip show, they show off a variety of "photos" of each episode's cover art throughout the years, which is really cool and makes me all the more nostalgic. Just a reminder of how far they've come, and how many wonderful episodes they've made! I'm guessing once they get some more episodes under their belt in the new style, they'll go back to the clip show, but this is definitely a preferred method over just using clips from the episode itself. So yeah gets you all excitedy for the new chapter, doesn't it?
We also get to see the new countertop! I just adore how Bob and Larry subtlely comment on each other's new looks. Larry did mention on an interview with that working out did bring out the color in his eyes :) Oh, and if anyone asks, Qwerty hasn't changed a bit. But yeah the elephant in the room isn't all of the new looks, it actually is an elephant. Because the first episode of this new era is Noah's Ark! And it's the only Noah's Ark retelling thus far to have a giant squid... and several flying machines... and told from Shem's point of view. I do like how they get it off the bat real fast that these things are all Larry's additions. Smart plan when you want to avoid confusing younger viewers. Anyhow, off the countertop and onto the story itself...
As I mentioned earlier, while Bob and Larry being on the cover seems to make this episode appear to be about them, it's actually Shem who's at center stage in this episode. Shem, played awesomely by the awesome Wayne Brady, has big plans. Having just come off his honeymoon with his new wife, Sadie, Shem is full of ideas for their new home. But he doesn't expect to come back and find his dad built an ark while he was gone. This new perspective is absolutely a breath of fresh air and is one of the most original concepts I've ever seen. Shem reacts a lot like us would in this situation. Noah and the rest of the family just go with what God says, but Shem can't help but wonder if maybe his plan would be better. Throughout the story, Shem finds himself having doubts one way or another, and it's only until he allows himself to trust God that he's able to understand why His plan is perfect. Aside from the excellent storytelling method he helps execute, Shem is absolutely hilarious. He's witty and real and appropriately sarcastic at times. Honestly I would not mind if Shem became a permanent character on the show :)
And of course, I can't not mention Shem's better half, Sadie, played awesomely by the awesome Jaci Velasquez. Sadie is a constant source of support and encouragement for Shem. She's sweet-natured, bubbly, and trusting (though as you will see, she can be tough when she needs to). I love that VT decided to give the unnamed wives of Noah's sons some real personality and make them more than just a few supporting characters.
And thinking about characters, I was very interested in seeing how VT would fill the roles. After watching In The House for a while, you get used to each character's individual personality, and it can make it sorta hard to imagine what it would look like for them to don new personalities and costumes. Ultimately, it's not that different than it was before. Each character stays pretty true to their actor's persona, but also sprinkles in some new personality traits to keep them unique. It will definitely be interesting to see over time how some characters might play other characters (like the next time Larry plays a hero-type character, after being his playful silly self a lot lately), but really, the differences are minute and don't take away for a second the joy, creativity, and excellent storytelling VT has always brought to the table.
Then there's the music! There's literally a boatload-- er... ark-load of songs in this one, and each one of them is fantastic. And then you throw in Mr. Brady and Miss Velasquez's singing voices and you've got something majorly special. The songs, written by Drew Fornarola and Marshall Pailet, are amazingly well done and really give a unique sound to this one. With 9 unique tunes throughout the episode, it's impossible to pick a favorite. The whole musical stylings of this one really throw back to the classic VT Bible stories. I can't help but love that VT hasn't let go of their roots! :D
Speaking of songs, we also are getting the new era's first Silly Song, My Golden Egg! Only Larry would be a serious participant in an Easter Egg Hunt... and only Larry would take it as seriously as he does! Going all Indiana Jones on it as he searches for that prized golden egg with every possible piece of adventuring gear. The song's upbeat and super clever with a great rhythm, and of course, a few well-placed Indy nods (the French Peas as background-singer jungle natives couldn't be more perfect!). But Larry mayyyy let it slip from under his nose amidst his catchy song... or will he? Well either way I really want a chocolate egg right now, and Easter's not for another month! Ah well, it's definitely a fun one!
Fact is, there's a lot I could go on and on about... the adorable animals, the fantastic character animation, all of the effects, the incredibly funny gags and one-liners... basically everything. But I don't want to forget to talk about the beautiful truth of this episode.

Between being stuck in the rain for 40 days and being stuck on the ark a year afterward, Shem finds himself desperate to chart his own course. But when he actually listens to God and allows himself to trust His promises, he finds himself playing an unexpected role in God's plan. In the end, Shem finally understands what it means to embrace what God wants for his future. I think it's safe to say we all have times in our lives when we'd rather be in control, and when we don't understand the hardships and frustrations around us. But isn't it amazing being reminded just how much God loves us and how perfect the course He charts for us is! Noah's Ark is a beautiful reminder of such and is a absolutely no-questions five-star episode! Well done, Big Idea! Well done! You'll never see the story the same way again... and that's a good thing!

GMUS & <3sUVM,
- Chandler

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

News On Noah + Jaci Velasquez Interview!

Hey Veggie fans! There's been quite a flurry of news coming out regarding the first DVD release of the new VT era, Noah's Ark! So I've hopefully gotten all the newest dish on board along with some of my own thoughts on this exciting next chapter!

When I first heard that our next episode would be a new retelling of the Noah story, I was a little surprised. I was all "wait... didn't we already do this on Minnesota Cuke And The Search For Noah's Umbrella?". On the commentary for that one, they did state that the Minnesota Cuke stories worked well for retelling darker Bible stories (such as Samson, and yeah Noah's not all rainbows and fuzzy animals, y'know). So I wasn't expecting them to do so. But the more I've heard about it, the more excited I am for it. Plus, the original VeggieTales movie concept before Jonah was Noah, so I'm curious if the new Noah has any similarities to concepted movie. And really, this is where VeggieTales began -- retelling Bible stories in a fun, fresh way! So I can say with great certainty that Noah's got me excited for more reasons than one.

The first thing that I'm definitely looking forward to is that they're clearly doing this up as a musical. Playing with that musical-on-a-boat vibe just works for so many reasons. Of course, VT has always rocked at doing musicals, as no episode to date has been without a song, but I think that's a nice way to flip the story of Noah around a bit; a little less "doomsday" and a bit more "Anchors Aweigh"!

Another thing I'm extremely excited for is that this episode's got a couple amazing voices on board: Wayne Brady and Jaci Velasquez! They will be playing Noah's son, Shem, and his wife Sadie, and I am seriously too excited. Wayne Brady is both hilarious and an epic singer and Jaci Velasquez, of course, is a master of amazing singing and radio show-hosting! I love their character designs, and I think they'll fit in perfectly into the VT world. I really love how many great actors and singers have been showing up in VT lately, from Rob Paulsen and Tress MacNellie's roles in In The House to Terry Crews' stellar performance as Bruce Onion in Celery Night Fever! Phil and Mike can do perfectly on their own, but it's always great seeing their world expanded :)

And yeah I'd be completely wrong if I didn't mention how adorable these animals are. I'm uberimpressed since the massive amount of fur was the reason why the Noah film didn't fly in the first place. I don't yet know what company's doing their animation, whether it will still be Huhu or if Bardel (animation company of In The House) will take over. Bardel's work with furry creatures in DW's Puss In Boots and King Julien series has proved to be awesome, so they'll look great if they go that route. Either way, I'm really glad that VT is in a place now where they can continue to push the envelope and actually do something they couldn't ten years ago!

One of the most interesting things that we'll be seeing with this new chapter will be the format in general. I've already heard they're reanimating the original intro to fit the new style, so that's definitely going to be exciting to see come to life. Will they ever give Larry a break on that tuba so he doesn't nearly pass out?? Probably not XD In addition, we'll likely get to see the countertop for reals, and hopefully Qwerty too (though I'm not entirely sure on this, considering there isn't a Qwerty in ITH's kitchen, but we'll have to wait and see). It'll overall be quite an experience seeing how these new versions of the crew we've gotten to know in ITH will translate to a regular VT episode format. Either way, I'm excited for this one for sure!

Finally, I'm very much looking forward to seeing their spin on the lesson. Noah's Umbrella chose to talk about having the confidence to do what God wants us to do, while the new Noah's a lesson in trusting God. I really like the twist they've come up with... I could easily see Noah and his folks having some questions about God's plan in all of it. So that really works well as this episode's moral, finding something unique to set it apart from the already awesome Minnesota Cuke.

And if nothing I've said has you pumped up yet, this interview with Sadie herself, Miss Velasquez, ought to!

Why did you want to make a VeggieTales movie?
VeggieTales is like the Mecca of our house – I’ve got two little boys, and they cannot get enough VeggieTales.  So, to be a part of this is just a wonderful thing for me.  My husband and I like to sing to our kids, but they could care less – it’s to the point where we’ll sing and practice a song with them while we’re giving them baths and they’ll plug their ears and say, “Mommy, Daddy! Stop!”  To be part of VeggieTales and do something for the first time that my kids might actually enjoy is wonderful.

The story of Noah and his ark has been told many times.  What makes the VeggieTales version different?
Well, I’m pretty sure it will be the only version with singing vegetables and a giant squid!  I think it was pretty brave of VeggieTales to take on the story of Noah because it is so familiar – but they make it feel completely new.  The animals are absolutely adorable, and there’s so much comedy; I’ve always thought VeggieTales movies were funny, but this one is really funny. They’ve also really discovered something important about the story, because Noah’s Ark is about patience, trusting and believing. Kids need to understand those things. Whatever we pour into our children is what will pour out of them – what they learn as children is what they will be as adults.  We are planting seeds in their hearts and souls, and it’s important for them to understand that God has a purpose and a plan.  We don’t always understand it, and we have to trust in it. That’s a big lesson, and Noah’s Ark helps parents start to teach it.

Who is your favorite VeggieTales character?
Sorry to be so typically “normal,” but it’s always Larry!  I love Madame Blueberry, as well, but really… Larry. He just makes you happy. He makes you laugh. It’s like he’s every kid you’ve ever known, but he’s not – because he’s a vegetable!

Why do you think VeggieTales has been so popular for so long?
I think parents want good entertainment for their kids, especially in the world we live in. You know, human beings are born knowing how to do the wrong thing, but we need to be taught how to do the right thing, and what better way to do that than through entertainment?  As a mom, I know that it can get really overwhelming to try to teach kids everything they need to know.  You say prayers with them at night, you read books with them, you take them to Sunday school – but that’s only one day a week.  So it helps to have entertainment that teaches them the truth and that teaches them fundamental things about life.  As a parent, VeggieTales gives me such gratitude!

Yeah now I'm even more excited. Definitely looking forward to seeing this one and talking about it in my review! Until then...

- Chandler

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eye On The Tiger: Perseverance For The New Year!

We're at the end of the first month of the new year, and so begs the question... how're your resolutions? Or if not resolutions, your goals? Your promises to yourself? I know at the beginning of the year, you get invigorated and feel like you can take on the world, but after a while, it starts to feel hard, or after not getting what we wanted fast enough, we start losing hope. Well I know for a fact that there's a VeggieTales episode for you -- Sumo Of The Opera! I know this because I've energized myself many times by singing "A Sumo Can't Go Wrong"! Seriously though, this episode is loaded with awesome moments, reminding us to persevere and keep on keepin' on! So in case you're having a case of the Mondays, feeling overwhelmed by work or school, or really don't want to attend that fitness class, here's a breakdown of the most epic training montage known to Veggie-kind to make you smile and get you pumped!

Fueled by young Hadrian's drive and an awesomely awesome song by the men's choir, Scallion goes from quitting to keeping his eye on the tiger, both metaphorically and literally! C'mon there's not one of you out there who doesn't want that tiger bike...

Then that rock music kicks in and Scallion's takin' it to the escalators! Look at that determination on his face... he's got his head in the game as he scales that metal mountain!

Sit-ups. Not fun, but a necessary part of his journey. Also, major props to the fact he's doing this without arms or legs.

CAN Scallion do it? Yes he CAN! Sorry.

Just look at him... takin' it like a champ! Some days we hit the recycling bag, and some days the recycling bag hits us. What matters is getting up again!

He does some more sit-ups, more can crushing, and then... something epic happens. HE BLOWS THE THING UP. #Winning

And look at him eat that sushi! AND the "all you can eat" sign! Now that is perseverance, 'cause I'm not sure people who like sushi could stand eating that much at once. Not even sumo wrestlers who like sushi could eat that much. (If you're a sumo wrestler who likes sushi and could eat this much, feel free to correct me)

Watch him own those cans! Seriously! Scallion is boss!

His skillz with the mop make us green with envy... and maybe with motion sickness, too...

And when we succeed and come out victorious... no feeling could be greater! :D

So whatever you're fighting, whatever you're working for, don't give up and don't lose hope. Because however it ends, you're a winner in God's eyes. And that's a feeling as welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring!

- Chandler

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Reasons To Love VeggieTales In The House!

So most of you by now are aware that a new chapter in the history of VeggieTales is starting on Wednesday on Netflix. And it's a sad thing that most people have mixed opinions on the new series. But having myself seen the first episode, I can reassure you that if you love VT (and I know you do), you will still love In The House! I'm here to present my review as a spoiler-free top ten list as to why In The House is awesome :)

1. The Character Designs
I know I know... this is what most peoples' mixed opinions are about! But as I clarified on my previous blog on In The House, the designs, while different, are actually really fun and charming! My favorite designs personally are of Jerry, Petunia, Junior, and Pa. I would've never imagined what Pa Grape would look like with eyes, but his new design is adorable! He reminds me of the Mayor in The Powerpuff Girls! Hehe :D All of the designs are really well-thought-out and an absolute delight, and tied together with the great voice acting and beautiful animation, it makes for a seriously amazing show! I understand it'll take some getting used to for some, but it most likely won't take long for them to steal our hearts the way they did back in '93 :)

2. The Music
Songs and VeggieTales go together like baby carrots and ranch dip, and if you worried that they would skimp on that in ITH, you have nothing to worry about! Every episode has a fun Silly Song-worthy tune that still maintains the charm and silliness of the 45-minuters' songs! Oh, and the new theme song! Talk about catchy! The ITH theme is upbeat and a whole lot of fun, delivering an entirely new sound to the show that still holds on to its roots. Plus, Scott Krippayne worked on it, so that should be enough to get you excited! What... just me? Anyway, the new musicians at the helm, Terry Scott Taylor and Robert Watson, really capture the spirit and sound of the Veggies we've always known in a whole new way!

3. The Art Direction Overall
There is so so so much detail in this world our Veggies call home! The new artists, with Joe Spadaford's guidance and supervision, have created a whole new world surrounding the countertop that is just too amazing, even in building the house's exterior itself! All of the locales are just loaded with attention to detail, Pa Grape's shop being one of the most detailed of the bunch. And not a single prop has been reused from the original series! That is quite the feat to truly build everything from scratch! And as if we need any more reasons to love it, the design overall calls back to the earliest VT episodes, with a wonky, slightly-lopsided charm that one might remember from Junior's bedroom or LarryBoy's mansion. Along with the character designs, the artists on this show have made it truly a visual delight!

4. The Laughs
The trailer showcased on the Beauty And The Beet DVD was chock-full of comic action and hilarious slapstick humor that got me giggling beyond belief. But if you were worried that the physical humor would tilt the balance between slapstick and one-liners, that is far from the case! One of the funniest lines I've ever heard in the history of VeggieTales was in the first five minutes of the first episode! The humor remains as it always has with VT, just a little faster-paced and bringing in a very wacky sense of comic action that kids (as well as adults) will love!

5. The New Characters
It may not seem that the VT cast has changed much, but a few new faces have already made their debut thus far. Aside from a very colorful array of background characters, with some corn and broccoli in the mix, we have primarily in the first two episodes Ichabeezer and Rooney. Do not be confused, Ichabeezer isn't Mr. Nezzer, despite the resemblance. He's a bit more of a grumpy old man than Nezzer is, though I could definitely see them being related. If he sounds a lot like Mr. Beet, then you'd be right, because he is indeed voiced by the great Rob Paulsen! Ichabeezer is very practical, kinda gruff, and very good at nailing the occasional bit of sarcasm (nothing VT wouldn't do already, of course). I do miss seeing Nezzer around, but Ichabeezer's an easy character to love, even if he doesn't come off that way.
We also get to meet his olivehound Rooney! Yes you heard it right... he's an olive-dog. I can't help but adore the concept they came up with, and they made quite the endearing character out of him! Boy does that Rooney love fetch... a little too much, perhaps, for Ichabeezer, as you will see XD
And while other new characters are currently unknown, we do get some new versions and voices of the original cast, including Petunia, Laura, and Madame Blueberry, who all happen to be voiced by the great Tress MacNellie. Petunia still keeps her roots as a very confident, but kind, girl, and I love the way she's played out in these first two episodes. She comes off in a way that makes her seem like she'd got it all together, but that trailer footage proves that she'll have a few off-moments :)
I could talk more about Laura, but she overall hasn't changed as much, except maybe that she's a bit more bubbly and excitable, which makes her all the more adorable. Madame Blueberry, however, deserves some discussion as well. Ms. MacNellie has made Madame a bit less French a bit more high-society-rich-lady, which is still very in touch with her character. Her role has been one of the most enjoyable to watch, especially since she's one of the main characters in the second episode. The characters may have changed in looks and in voice, but they are still true to who they've been since '95, '98, and '05, for sure, and I can't help but love them.

6. The Animation
I know I've already mentioned this, but seriously the animation really is great! It's very fluid, appropriately fast-paced, and, again, is dripping with charm and personality. What you might not've thought about concerning the new character designs is that they're actually made to animate a bit more realistically in some ways. Not that the originals weren't, but the characters were also built differently back then. Larry's super-bouncy personality is accentuated perfectly with the "bounciness" of the character animation and all of the animation itself! The cartoony-realistic feel just suits VT to a T!

7. The Pacing
ITH's faster pace is really a great thing. Not that there was anything wrong with the 45-minuters, of course, but this really does work well for the episode lengths as well as the overall feel of the show. That cartoony, or as Phil Vischer described it, Tom-and-Jerry-like, vibe just makes the show all the more fun, and will definitely appeal to kids and parents alike. It also makes the comedy punchier and all the funnier. While longtime VT fans may need to get used to it, I think you'll get into quickly. Plus, did I mention the well-placed goofy sound effects they use when necessary? Like that bit in the trailer where Bob and Larry's scream is a chicken squawk? Sue me, but I think that's pretty hilarious!

8. The Heart
Of course, all this great comedy, art, and storytelling would be nothing without the heart. And ITH does not skimp! The first two episodes artfully and awesomely teach about responsibility and the power of words in a way that only VT can do. They weave it into each episode masterfully and oh-so-originally! And there is no shortage of Bible verses, which I know we're all glad for after VT on TV skimped in that area. These amazing truths and heartfelt story moments mixed together makes for a truly strong-hearted cartoon, not just your usual Looney Tunes short (again, not that there's anything wrong with it... you know what I mean).

9. The Exposure
Just think about this for a second: ITH is a Netflix exclusive right now. One of a handful of Christian-value-based programs on the service. Just let it soak in as you realize how much exposure the show will get! How many kids and parents who may've never seen or heard of VT who will see it! How many lives just might be changed, even in a small way, because of this! WOW! ITH's new home on Netflix is the perfect place for it to be :)

10. The Quintessential Truth
Even though the show is structured differently than the 45-minuters, they always end with the most important truth, the one that VT has been telling and clarifying since its beginning... "God made you special, and He loves you very much!". THAT is awesome.

So yes, I am more than excited now to be a part of this new era of VT! I can hardly wait to see more episodes in the near future as Bob and Larry take over their house... and houses all over the world! I hope I've helped in getting you truly excited for this seriously fun show! That's all the time I have for today, so remember...

GMUS & <3sUVM,
- Chandler