Veggie Tales hops to Netflix, is God in it?

by Karen L. Willoughby |

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – Veggie Tales, a rage hit with a faith and families market from the first video released in 1993 – "Where is God When I'm S-scared?" – will take up residence on Netflix.com starting the day before Thanksgiving, with an animated sit-com, "Veggie Tales in the House."

The question on long-time fans' minds is whether God will be part of the content produced for the new partnership.

A previous alliance of the faith-based franchise with a secular media company -- and one of two big screen attempts it has made to reach broader audiences -- reduced and even eliminated direct references to God and the Bible. Its one attempt to take a clearly biblical message to the big screen met with disappointing marks, and poor managment related to production of the feature doomed Veggie Tales' parent company's future as an independent company.

Big Idea Productions which originated the Veggie Tales brand was forced into bankruptcy over a 2003 lawsuit ruling about distribution rights. The details of its arrangement with the distributor are complex, but the result of the conflict was the sale of Big Idea assets to Classic Media in New York. A subsequent judgment in 2005 favored Big Idea, but by then the clock could not be turned back in terms of the damage done to the company, according to Phil Vischer, Veggie Tales' creator.

In 2006, NBC began airing the series on Saturday mornings after signing an agreement with Vischer, but with a drastic change. The show's famed signoff, "Remember kids, God made you special, and He loves you very much" was replaced with a simple "goodbye" to conform to NBC's standards and practices with regard to religious neutrality of content.

Veggie Tales also was criticized for no direct reference to God or the Bible in the 2008 movie, "The Pirates who Don't do Anything."

This cinema feature taught a lesson about heroes not always being the bravest, smartest, strongest or best looking, but instead are people "who do the right thing, the good thing." There were allusions to Christianity in the characters and some of the dialog, but no outright mention of Christ or Scripture. ("Pirates" followed the 2002 release in theaters of the overtly Christian, "Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie" and related poor financial decisions Big Idea made in moving from primarily DVD distribution of Veggie Tales to the big screen.)

DreamWorks bought Classic Media in 2012.

The deal between DreamWorks and Netflix involves development of 75 episodes over a three-year period. Each episode will have two, 11-minute stories, with new songs, according to a DreamWorks news release. The series will feature a bit of a new look for Veggie Tales characters, incorporating technology that was not available when the characters were birthed 20 years ago.