VeggieTales’ Phil Vischer Launches JellyTelly

JellyTelly

“Is it any wonder that our kids are growing up knowing more about Hannah Montana than about the Apostle Paul?”

That’s the question Phil Vischer is asking with his new faith-based company Jellyfish. He is the co-creator of VeggieTales, an idea which had its heyday a decade ago before Vischer’s company, Big Idea Productions, imploded in 2003. Jellyfish has created a show called JellyTelly, which is designed exclusively for on-line audiences. The segments are mostly puppets, with some live-action and animation. There are a number of episodes viewable on the JellyTelly site, as well as this short intro video that explains the concept. When Vischer launched the idea earlier this year, he had started with a subscription-based model but has since moved to giving away the episodes for free. He wrote on his blog that they’re currently trying to figure out a sustainable business model, or in his words, “awaiting the new direction God has in mind.”


  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com emily

    Who’s Apostle Paul? I’m Jewish.

  • Trevor

    Good on the big idea guys for keeping up their work and ministry, but I’ve watched about 20 minutes of this and there’s no real animation…what gives!

  • Scott

    Great—more fairy tales for animation.

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    I like the style of the puppets and animation. Pretty nice.

  • Tee

    Emily said: “Who’s Apostle Paul? I’m Jewish.”

    So was Paul…

  • Mike

    ugg – brainwashing the youth. before they can even tie their shoes, hook your dogma claws into their skulls. you should be ashamed!

    • Lonny Neely

      the philosophical core of the Bible is far superior to evolutionary dogma, it’s balance of right and wrong is perfect and the greatest civilizations of human history reflect these same axioms. your revulsion to the truth is typical of the confused double-minded and ignorant and the evidence of your undisciplined mind is the use of fear anger and hate as actual arguments for your position

  • Scott

    Wonderful – They keep finding new ways to lie and indoctrinate our children… and with sub par animation and entertainment. I don’t know which is worse.

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    Not only the oceans are experiencing an explosion of jellyfishes due to global warming and the overfishing, now they are taking over teh interweb!

    Besides, a jellyfish is nothing but a mindless blob of gelatinous mass that does not think and acts purely on instinct, and you’re using it as the mascot of a website intended to teach… oooh!

  • Bernhard C. Moffitt

    Before things get out of hand, I want to throw my thoughts out here:

    Are these people shoving their religion-based creation down your throats? Are they forcing your children to watch their work to, as some have already said here, “indoctrinate” and “brainwash” them into believing what some consider “fairy tales”?

    No! No, they are not. What the people of JellyTelly are doing is namely creating content that they feel is important to exist, and making it freely available for anybody who might be interested in it.

    While I personally, as a spiritual and religious man, cringe whenever Mr. Vischer kept saying “the church” like he did, I respect the fact that, just like any other animator who say, wants to do animation that has an anti-war (Howl’s Moving Castle) or environmentalist (Wall-E, Princess Mononoke, to name a few) message, these people also have the right to provide what they feel is spiritually and religiously significant to them and those who might like it.

    Now, I personally think that there are better ways to share the stories from the Judeo-Christian scriptures than what the people of JellyTelly and those like them have in mind. For example, I remember growing up with a series called SuperBook, that presented the stories in a way that made the characters relatable, that made them HUMAN.

    Another example would be The Prince of Egypt from the early 2000s; it simply told the story. It did not try and preach, it did not try to evangelize. It. Just. Told. The. Story.

    Can these people from JellyTelly do that? I don’t know. Based on past experience I doubt it, but I do think that there is a place in animation for those who want to do religious and spiritual work for themselves and those who would like it, and to go and say that while one group can (Hinduism from Sita Sings the Blues), while another (in this case Christianity) can’t, seems very hypocritical to me.

    But then, that’s what I think.

  • amid

    Bernhard: Thank you for the thoughtful comment. Hopefully others can take a cue from your words. Any further intolerant comments specifically towards the content of Vischer’s work will be deleted.

    He’s had success in the industry with his past work, and this post is about how he’s switching his game from home video to creating a business online. Crude opinions about the religious nature of his work will not be tolerated.

  • http://www.vujade-ent.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    Bernhard, I’m Jewish and I agree with you on all of your points. I wish these people the best of luck in spreading their teachings in the way they see fit.

  • http://www.piratoslocos.com/WordPress Craig

    It’s amazing how the internet allows people to be so disrespectful. Hats off to ya Amid!! Phil wrote a great post mortem years ago when Big Idea fell apart, it is a great read for anyone with prospects or dreams of opening their own place.

    3, 2, 1 Penguins was a fun little series. Big Idea had some great ex-Disney artists…if I recall correctly, Michael Spooner was an Art Director there for a stint. Its always nice to see great artists produce work that they are passionate about!!

    Good luck Phil!!

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    I’m mature enough to admit I made a mistake, and in this case I was excessive on my critique of this project.

    Having said that, I think that when you put to much emphasis on transmitting your POV, instead of teaching a compelling story the best way you can, then you might not get the results you intended. Many people (including myself) thought Wall*E was great in transmitting an environmental message, but then you research and find out that Andrew Stanton’s first concern was to tell a story worth telling, and that he had no agenda to promote.

    I think Phil should keep that in mind.

  • vzk

    I’m not religious myself, and I cringe every time someone starts to bash something just because it’s targeted at a Christian audience. As far as I remember, the VeggieTale videos were fun and inoffensive. It’s not like their creators are religious-right propagandists like Jack Chick and Dick Hafer.

    That being said, I wish artists didn’t sugar-coat it when making projects based on the Bible and told it exactly how it’s written. I want to see gore, sex, obscenities, etc. Also, showing the “gentiles” as real human beings rather than depraved monsters and sharing their POV with the audience would be good for a change; after all, it was Yahweh who hardened the Pharaoh’s heart! I think Mel Gibson is the only person who had the balls to make a non-family-friendly Christian film (oh, and Martin Scorsese, although would “The Last Temptation” count as a Christian film?)

  • http://pierreportfolio.blogspot.com/ Pierre Fontaine

    The internet is a big enough place that Mr. Vischer can carve out a little corner for himself to promote his beliefs. I like the format too…it borrows alot from Sesame Street with its combination of live action, puppets and animation. What’s more, he proves that humor makes even the most stubborn doctrine go down like a spoonful of sugar.

    And yes, his book “Me, Myself, and Bob” is an incredibly interesting read for anyone who wants to understand what he felt was his goal when creating Veggietales and how it all went terribly wrong.

    If you read the book, you’ll also understand why he chose a Jellyfish to be his new mascot (and it’s precisely the reasons Red Pill Junkie gives!).

    I have to confess that I have a soft spot towards JellyTelly because I contributed a bumper animation for the website, though I honestly don’t know if it was ever used. However, I loved the idea and I hope Mr. Vischer succeeds with his new entertainment website.

  • Spencer Brandt

    Glad to see that Vischer back, even if his work its simpler and not as ambitious as half an hour of a cgi cartoon.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    I appreciated the Veggie Tales series as well told stories that did their job way better than most religious kid-vid out there. They were like a Jot or Davey and Goliath for the 90′s.

    But I’m doubtful of the idea of evangelism as an enterprise with a “business model”. One doesn’t read of any of the Apostles ever checking the books for cash flow or fretting about how many units they’ve sold.

    So maybe Phil has reached the correct state by giving it away for free.

  • Karen

    “Phil wrote a great post mortem years ago when Big Idea fell apart, it is a great read for anyone with prospects or dreams of opening their own place.”

    Please—a link?

  • amid

    Karen: The link is in my article post above.

  • Tom D.

    amid said, “…The segments are mostly puppets…”

    this brings up a question that i’ve been wondering for a long time:

    does god hate puppets, or does the devil see puppets as the ultimate tool to turn children away from christianity?

    there are tons of christian-based puppet shows for kids… with poorly made puppets and horrible voice work.

    i can’t decide if god decided to punish all puppeteers for the sins of bil baird (who let his lust for women destroy his lifetime of work), or is it an evil plot to provide children with a negative association with christianity early in their life?

    come to think of it, other than jot the dot, most of the christian-based animated cartoons are also poorly done.

  • Stephanie

    What I’m interested about is the fact that it is some sort of animation online. I really hope more people follow this and use the internet to broadcast their cartoons, since television seems to be showing less of cartoons anyway. Plus, with ads, I imagine one could make money off of it too. Using a website like a channel…yeah! Good idea!

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    That post mortem is AMAZING! If anyone hasn’t yet read that you should really go do it now like I just did. You might think it’s not interesting but it’s a great story and something to learn from.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Vischer deserves credit for (more or less) honestly blogging the details of the failure of the original BIG IDEA and copping to what part his judgment played in that failure. He was forthright and ballsy to spill those ugly beans.

    His message and work remain not-for-me, though, including Jelly Telly. “Faith-based” entertainment always seems to be based in a sensibility from 20-50 years ago in terms of tone and humor, translated into Esperanto, then back to English by a befuddled grandma machine.

    However, a faithful animated adaptation of a Jack Chick comic would probably be irresistible entertainment.

  • http://www.myspace.com/pilsnerspicks Pilsner Panther

    robcat2075:

    “But I’m doubtful of the idea of evangelism as an enterprise with a “business model”. One doesn’t read of any of the Apostles ever checking the books for cash flow or fretting about how many units they’ve sold.”

    Maybe that’s because they just didn’t care to write it all down? How would it have looked, public relations-wise? And intangible “units,” that is, so-called miracles and eucharists and a virgin birth and 28 flavors of indulgences, how could anyone ever have called them on all that crap? Luther did, but he was no bargain either, being one of the worst anti-Semites that ever lived.

    Let me ask you, what Christian church have you ever been to where they didn’t pass the collection basket? It looks like they’ve done pretty well for themselves, the perennially freeloading professional clergy. 2,000 years of fleecing the “sheep” means that you can get very good at it, with THAT much practice.

    And what’s to be said about the founder of any major religion who referred to his followers as “sheep,” anyway? Sounds like a major insult, at least to me. I don’t say “Baa,” I don’t graze grass, and I stand on two feet, not four hooves.

    Even today, the American president has to seek the approval and blessing of the Pope, and he just did. Simple-minded me, I thought that the year was 2009, not 1209…!

    Oh well, let’s go back to talking about cartoons. But not propagandistic, brainwashing ones, as the whole subject is giving me a splitting headache. Maybe Jesus will appear and cure it, if I pray hard enough.

    Right…

    “Don’t let that cross cross you up!” —Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977)

  • Gobo

    Pilsner Panther, your comments have nothing to do with animation, JellyTelly, or the subject at hand and everything to do with being offensive, insulting, and intolerant. Not to mention ill-informed; you don’t even have your facts right. Your post doesn’t belong on this website.

    As for Phil Vischer, I hope he can keep JellyTelly on the side of “smart, universal messages” without delving into uncomfortable preachiness; he did a great job of that on VeggieTales, using Bible lessons in context. I know plenty of parents who don’t consider themselves Christian who love showing their kids VeggieTales (or, for that matter, “Azur & Asmar” or “Kirikou”).

  • Jody Morgan

    Pilsner Panther says:
    Oh well, let’s go back to talking about cartoons. But not propagandistic, brainwashing ones…

    So, no talking about Happy Feet, Igor, Ratatouille, etc… I guess the classic WB cartoons are still OK to talk about, at least, except “One Froggy Evening”, which we all know is a pinko Commie anti-capitalist screed.

    Seriously, most animation (especially most good animation) espouses some viewpoint or another. Does it become “propagandistic” and “brainwashing” if you disagree with its viewpoint?

    I was going to respond to more of Pilsner Panther’s post, but I realized that I really didn’t want to talk about religion on an animation website. Suffice it to say that I think Pilsner makes some good points, but is misinformed on others; and that as a lifelong sheeple I disagree with most of it, but realize I’m not going to change anyone’s mind on those particular subjects.

  • Some Guy

    I watched tons of Veggie Tales when I was a kid. They were entertaining enough to hold our little 4 year old attention spans and still taught the basic, NON-controversial aspects of scripture with important life lessons. They’re completely innocuous. I know this man has talent and wish him all the best with this new project.

  • http://www.dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    “Seriously, most animation (especially most good animation) espouses some viewpoint or another. Does it become “propagandistic” and “brainwashing” if you disagree with its viewpoint?”

    I guess it can be considered propaganda when the story comes second with the spreading of the message.

    Does that mean Sesame Street could be propaganda for education? Probably, but I doubt anyone sees anything wrong with that ;-)

    ” What’s more, he proves that humor makes even the most stubborn doctrine go down like a spoonful of sugar.”

    I was thinking about that when I was heading home last night (after writing my apology). It seems that most of the Religious animation projects are attempts to give broccoli a coat of chocolate to make it more attractive! Does that mean I’m against broccoli? No, I actually think a little broccoli in your life is healthy and good for you; but maybe —just maybe— broccoli is meant to be an acquired taste, somethng you appreciate just the way it is. And if you as a parent are incapable of having your children to eat vegetables, coating them with sugar or chocolate won’t make things any better.

  • http://pierreportfolio.blogspot.com/ Pierre Fontaine

    The direct link to Phil Vischer’s blog and an essay on the collapse of Big Idea and the beginnings of Jelly Telly are here (as Amid had posted):

    http://www.philvischer.com/?p=38

    A link to his book on Amazon is here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Me-Myself-Bob-Talking-Vegetables/dp/1595551220/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247339096&sr=8-1

    Both are well worth the read.

  • vzk

    “However, a faithful animated adaptation of a Jack Chick comic would probably be irresistible entertainment.”

    I had that idea for a while, but rather than an adaptation of a single comic, it would be a biopic of the guy. Think “Crumb” meets “Ed Wood” meets “Jesus Camp.”

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Re:
    –Jack Chick…I had that idea for a while, but rather than an adaptation of a single comic, it would be a biopic of the guy.–

    A documentary exists. It played in town a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it.

    See:
    God’s Cartoonist
    The comic crusade of Jack T. Chick

  • Tim Hodge

    Didn’t Jelly Telly launch almost a year ago?

    I worked with Phil for a few years and consider him a friend (besides being my former boss), so I’m happy to see him get a plug. But this post is a little late in coming.

    What he should be commended for is attempting to tap into the new avenue for distribution. There are only a handful of online networks (Hulu, etc) and they are all funded by ad revenue. Phil is attempting to bypass that since he is aiming the content at kids and doesn’t feel right about selling cereal and soap along with a message. Something along the lines of the way PBS funds its programming.

    If he can pull it off, it will be pretty revolutionary.

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    Hey, I did not mean to offend. I was completely referring to the quote about kids knowing more about Hannah Montana than Apostle Paul, and it was just my reaction. Not everyone studies or knows the New Testament. I’ve only read portions. Also, just because Paul was Jewish (before he converted to Christianity), doesn’t mean all Jews know who he is. I certainly didn’t until I wikipedia-ed him.

    Anyways, I’m sorry if my little comment came off as disrespectful. I did not meant it to be taken that way. I should have been more thoughtful before posting. Wishing success for Mr. Vischer. Veggie Tales is fun (and highly successful).

  • http://www.cementimental.com Tim Drage

    However, a faithful animated adaptation of a Jack Chick comic would probably be irresistible entertainment.
    John K was planning to do this a while back.

  • silas

    I think it’s great when cartoons really have something to say.

    Contrast that to the all-too-often flood of stuff that comes out and seizes on something from current events, does a “funny” take on it without actually saying anything.

    The difference is that the former is about the message, the latter only about itself.

    I’m glad I left the church, and it was intolerant people from within the church that made it easy. We non-religious people still have to take care to not to become the intolerant ones ourselves.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Re:
    God’s Cartoonist
    The comic crusade of Jack T. Chick

    So, my brother says yesterday, “You want to see that? I got comped a copy of the DVD when I wrote an article about some related topic. It’s still in shrink-wrap”. So, I grabbed it. I scanned through it real quick and it appears to have some animated versions of Chick comics on it. Yay! Will watch it in full later today.

    Now back to Vischer talk…..

  • http://www.sitasingstheblues.com/ Nina Paley

    vzk said:
    That being said, I wish artists didn’t sugar-coat it when making projects based on the Bible and told it exactly how it’s written.

    Me too, which is why the best Bible cartoon of all time is Brad Neely’s Professor Brothers: Bible History.

    Also, kudos to Vischer for sharing his vision for free. I often point to the Bible and other Scriptures as examples of important cultural works that would be nowhere if they required user fees. If you have a message you want to reach people, treating it like “property” will kill it. There are other ways to make money than selling the message itself. Vischer is wise to be “awaiting the new direction God has in mind,” taking a leap of faith even this atheist can get behind.

  • vzk

    ^^ That was funny.

    Also, check out The Brick Testament. A stop-motion version of it would be amazing.

  • Rene aka FATMIME

    Alright Christian Community, let’s spread the word about this!

  • http://yahoo Sonny

    do you know where i can contact Phil Vischer???