Phil Vischer, a Visionary
I thought this blog was about puppets and puppetry related! Why are you doing a post on Phil Vischer?
Yes, Phillip Vischer is mostly known for his animation, but he is a great puppeteer in his own right. American animator, puppeteer, writer, voice actor and songwriter, Phil Vischer can do it all as far as creating compelling characters. He is most known for creating the computer-animated video series VeggieTales with his seminary classmate, Mike Nawrocki. Along with his animation skills, he provided the voice for many of the beloved characters such as Bob the Tomato and about half of the other characters in the series.
In fact, a story he likes to tell is how he and Mike were basically kicked out of seminary because they kept missing classes to stay in their dorm and work on Veggie Tale creations.
Big Idea Productions was actually set up in an old mall that went out of business, so there are tons of behind the scenes videos of the fun that often ensued having access to the escalators, the merry-go-round, yes a merry-go-round. If you want to see some of this, watch the special features section of Jonah: a Veggie Tale Movie.
I Was Almost In
For those who know me, they know that, in 2001 I was studying animation and had been in contact with Big Idea Productions to possibly intern once I completed school in Arizona, but literally months before I graduated, they changed their policies, so I was told, and you needed to have actual experience in the field to start working with them...DOH!
After selling Big Idea Productions to Classic Media in 2004 because of having to file bankruptcy (a lot of businesses just couldn’t recover after 9/11 no matter how hard they tried), he started a small film company in his home town of Wheaton, Illinois that he named Jellyfish labs. After selling Big Idea Productions, he stayed on as a contracted writer and voice actor on the Veggietales series until 2017.
Since 2012, Vischer has been the host of a weekly podcast discussing ministry, business, faith and family as it pertains to what he characterizes as a post-Christian America.
The podcast is also co-hosted by writer and former Christianity Today editor Skye Jethani as well as actress Christian Taylor and regularly ranks in the top 100 podcasts on iTunes.
Along with his new film company, he created an online subscription-based streaming media provider that works like Netflix but concentrates on faith-based programming. JellyTelly specializes in Christian programming for children. Subscribers have access to 1,540 episodes from 111 shows. Video is made available through applications for smartphones, tablets, and popular streaming devices such as Roku.
IN today’s climate of Youtube Red, Netflix and on demand programming, the new network featuring content for kids came about at a perfect time.
After working for over three years on the project, he officially announced it on March 1, 2008, but it wasn't until November 4th that it actually launched. Obviously, after a bankruptcy (been there, done that) through ups and downs with creating a new project from scratch, funding was always a concern, until Focus on the Family stepped in in September ‘09 to provide the backing that Vischer needed. Since then, the content on JellyTelly has continued to grow with its new funding and support.
Now About the Puppets
Of course I was going to get to puppets at some time. One of the most successful series put out by JellyTelly is a new DVD series based on the network titled "Buck Denver Asks … What’s in the Bible?"
Buck Denver is a news reporter/game show host that gives history lessons on the bible. The only human interaction is from Phil Vischer, himself. Everyone else in the series is a collection of lovable foam based puppets.
This series was so popular that is spawned quite a few other off shoots like Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9, Buck’s Mailbag and so many more.
Why did I do a post on Phil Vischer, because I wanted to show that puppeteers are not pigeonholed. Puppets, animation, magic, balloons, story telling, clowning, it all goes hand in hand and can be used to create an amazing program, not just with puppets. If you are laying out a puppet team, think outside of the box and incorporate other things to enhance your performance.
As always, contact me if there is something specific I haven’t covered that you would like to learn more about. We are getting closer to VentHaven ConVENTion. As we get closer I am planning on doing more spotlights of people who will be at the event, and I will be making further announcements as we get closer to the event, so stay tuned.