Phil Vischer–the original creative mind behind the uber-popular kids video series Veggie Tales–was interviewed recently by Christianity Today. Here’s an excerpt that mentions his inspiration behind the latest Veggie Tales video, Lord of the Beans:
What was your inspiration for Lord of the Beans?
Phil: My kids are now 14, 10, and 8. And they’re not as excited about VeggieTales as they used to be. But they love The Lord of the Rings movies. They love the drama and the depth of those worlds that J. R. R. Tolkien created. I discovered that some of our more rabid VeggieTales fans–ex-high school kids and college kids–were also rabid Lord of the Rings fans. The Christian values were so strong in The Lord of the Rings films that it set them apart from the typical action movies. So I thought it would be fun to encourage those values and to take Tolkien’s world and populate it with veggies.
Was it difficult to make the story relevant to 4- and 5-year-olds?
Phil: Yes, that’s why I really had to look into the core teaching of the Rings. It’s one thing to say “Look at this great world full of Christian archetypes that Tolkien crafted” and to throw vegetables into it, but we also had to figure out what the lesson should be. The Lord of the Rings has lots of lessons and themes, but in VeggieTales we need just one. Since we’re dealing with younger kids, we wanted them to walk away with one little nugget that they can put in their hearts and carry around.
So I started focusing on the idea of the gifts that we’re given and what we do with them. Then I started looking at the responsibility this involves. You see it in the movies where Frodo has this ring, but unlike everyone else, he doesn’t want to use it for his own benefit. That was the most inspiring theme for me, because if God is giving us gifts, what are they for? The world tells you it’s all about making yourself rich or famous. Our kids are drenched in those kinds of messages. So I wanted to write a story that would subvert that and turn it upside down.
So instead of a ring, you have a bean?
Phil: That’s right. Toto Baggypants is given this amazing gift–a bean that can give you virtually anything you want. But Toto doesn’t want to use it until he knows what it’s for. And in the end, he realizes that God wants to use our gifts for the benefit of others. That’s why He gives them to us.