Monday, June 18, 2012

HT Mockingbird: The make of VeggieTales repents

http://www.worldmag.com/articles/18626?CFID=1201670&CFTOKEN=f433564e61709e6e-7375275E-B176-65B7-12B61551AA0A4879

A fascinating piece on Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales. The company that made the films has since gone bankrupt and Vischer talks with WORLD magazine about what he believes he did and thought wrongly over the last ten years.

The lead is telling ans intriguing, "Make no small plans" was Vischer's motto.  Big Ideas went bankrupt in 2003. When budgeting began to be based on projected revenues rather than actual revenue things began to tip southward.

Vischer's observation that in ten years he taught moralism than Christianity is striking.  He sounds like a man who wishes he could take back what he invested his life in both in terms of what films he made and how he went about pursuing that vision. When he speaks about how Christians have co-opted a Disney style "follow your dream" praxis he sounds like a man who has seen that fail and seen that pursuit cause him to lose the thread of core elements of Christian life. What is striking and (to me) encouraging is that he's able and willing to talk to someone at WORLD magazine about this.  He's willing to talk about failure.  Anyone else sense a resonance in this theme of failure as process of discovery with, say, Conan O'Brien's 2011 commencement address at Dartmouth?  Maybe it's just me.

When Vischer talks about how Americans are a people who walk away from marriages and abandon children to pursue dreams I think he's got his finger on the pulse of something problematic in American culture and yet it is something he describes Christians being able to do.  They may not do this in the same way but sacrificing people and principles for the sake of a vision and a dream can certainly be something Christians do. Vischer touches on something obliquely that I have been thinking about directly that as Christians vision casting and pursuit of a dream or goal should not be predicated on human sacrifice.  We're too modern and sophisticated and too well-fit with our Christian American practice to admit that human sacrifice is something we're capable of, but we're more than capable of it.

Wanting, as Vischer put it, to develop the Coca-Cola or McDonald's of evangelicalism to create something so big and sure that it can't fail is not necessarily Christian even if it can be highly effective. Vischer nearly seems to phrase things that the Oprah sort of god is to pursue impact, of following your dream and being the right kind of Christian so God will bring about your awesome dream. In a time when certain Christians sincerely believe that ambition needs to be rescued or something that will inevitably appear it is useful that people like Vischer can speak so plainly about failure.  A failure to realize your ambitions in their substance or to realize that the success you attained was at the expense of pursuing what you originally set out to do is not an easy thing to discuss even privately, let alone with a newspaper. I never really watched VeggieTales.  It didn't catch or keep my attention and I was not in a situation to have any incentive to seek it out.  Some people have remarked on problems in VeggieTales in the past and I have no wish to rehash those observations.  Vischer's own confession that seeking impact was part of how he veered off course fascinates me. At this point this blog entry may be longer than the interview itself.  Take a gander at the article if you're so inclined.

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