Veggie Tales make me chuckle. A lot. Here’s In the Belly of the Whale, with footage from the “Jonah” movie and music from the Newsboys. Gotta love a song that legitimately includes the word “expectorated”.
Wise Guy Son and I were driving a remote highway in rural New Brunswick (Canada) last month, and we kept seeing “deer crossing” signs – and “moose crossing”.
Deer grazing on the green slopes near the road are cute. Bounding across the road a safe distance in front of you, they’re still cute.
Deer crossing the asphalt right in front of your vehicle are not.
Apparently wise New Brunswick drivers avoid country driving after dark, at least certain times of year. We saw chain-link fences paralleling sections of the highway where the moose and deer were most active.
As it got closer to dusk (prime feeding time for deer) and I kept seeing the signs, I watched even closer for any sign of off-road movement. Sometimes the highway was elevated enough that a grazing deer would be out of sight until it decided to climb up and cross the road.
Vigilance is important, but I found myself getting tense. Each yellow warning sign felt more menacing than the last.
A person could really start to fear these creatures! Instead of gentle, liquid-gazed deer faces, my imagination caricaturized them as grim-faced, wild-eyed creatures surging up the slopes in a suicidal guerrilla raid to stop the traffic.
A good laugh restored my perspective and got me thinking about danger and about sin, how as important as it is to be vigilant, we need to be careful not to blow what we’re watching for out of proportion. That’s where unhealthy fear comes from.
Deer on the highway: something to see and avoid. Menacing, mutant killer-deer that stalk our nightmares: something fear can use to paralyse us if we let it.
To paraphrase the words of Jr. Asparagus from VeggieTales: We don’t need to fear what’s out there, because God is the biggest.
I’m learning that if I can turn something potentially fearful into something absurdly funny, I won’t freeze up. And there have been times lately that I’ve reminded myself “God is the biggest!”
Prayer and humour are good tools. What works for you?
[I first posted this at InScribe Writers Online, earlier this month. Sorry if it’s a repeat for you!]
Pistachio: The Little Boy that Woodn’t, from VeggieTales (Big Idea, 2010)
“Once upon a time in the small Italian town of Bologna-Salami, there lived a lonely toymaker named Gelato and his assistant Cricket.” [from the back cover]
In typical VeggieTales style, the humour flows as freely as the family values. Obviously from the subtitle, Pistachio’s theme is “listening to your parents”. Pistachio, exuberantly portrayed by Jr. Asparagus (rendered as carved-but-living-wood) is quick to tell toymaker Gelato (it’s Larry under that distinguished mop of hair) “You’re not the boss of me!”
Trouble—as well as general hilarity—ensues. Parts of the story seemed like they might be too scary for a sensitive child, but with parental reassurance (and emphasizing the funny bits) it shouldn’t be an issue. Most kids wouldn’t have a problem. As I recall, the Disney movie Pinocchio was much darker and scarier. (Here’s where I confess to not having read the book!)
The writers go to town with the Italian theme. As the story opens, Gelato’s three brothers have been lost at sea, en route to deliver meatballs to the island of Boyardee. The brothers’ names are Milano, Espresso and Dorito, and one of them looks suspiciously like Marlon Brando. I haven’t seen the Godfather movies, but I suspect there are a slew of little insider references for those who have.
Cricket, played by the half-caterpillar Khalil, will be especially funny to those who’ve seen VeggieTales’ Jonah. Suffice it to say, this is not his first time being swallowed by a big fish.
In another inside joke, Cricket proclaims, “I’m no fool, no sirree.” Anybody remember Jiminy Cricket doing that number in a Disney short? We also have Madame Blueberry instead of the Blue Fairy, and in general, plenty of groaner jokes. Typical VeggieTales fun.
Gelato loves to teach his adopted ducklings, and now his wooden asparagus. He’s a fine example of a parent, if a bit absent-minded at times. He teaches by example as well as by words, and in sharing his wisdom and experience he hopes they’ll grow up to be wise parents to their own children.
I found the message “listen to your parents” to be clear and uncomplicated. As an adult, I’d prefer something more subtle, something that examines the possibility that occasionally a parent does not have the child’s best interests at heart or doesn’t know best how to care for the child.
However, as an adult I’m only the secondary target audience for VeggieTales. There’s plenty to entertain an adult, but the main audience is children, many at an early enough stage in cognitive development that short and direct is best.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the bonus features, which include a discussion guide, a visit to a real marionette theatre, art and commentary and… the traditional Sing Along with Larry. You can also download a Pistachio Family Fun Guide at the Big Idea site.
For anyone unfamiliar with VeggieTales, the standard format is to take a break half-way through the story for a Silly Song. This time it’s “Obscure Broadway Show Tunes with Larry,” where he and a pretty female vegetable sing “Where Have All the Staplers Gone?” The song claims to be from the unknown musical, Office Supplies, and the writers missed a chance with one: instead of a red Swingline stapler, it was purple. It did, however, develop a delightful set of fangs at the end.
Pistachio was a lot of fun, and it reminds me I’ve missed out on the last few offerings from the folks at Big Idea. My 13-year-old says the stapler song is one of the best silly songs they’ve done yet. Of course, that sparked a lively discussion of what is the best VeggieTales silly song. And what is the best VeggieTales song, period? Feel free to leave your vote in the comments!