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