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!