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Phil Vischer Projects

Survey update and bad news from VeggieLand

My apologies to those of you who were unable to take the JellyTelly survey yesterday.  Due to a technical glitch, the survey was unavailable for a couple of hours last night.  It's up and running again, so if you were unable to take it, now you can.

Click on this link to take the survey and give us your opinions!

And now for the day's bad news… an era has ended at Big Idea.  2/3's of the staff of Big Idea Inc. was let go yesterday, shrinking the company down to just 11 people.  All that remains is the marketing team, one designer (Ron Eddy), one director (Brian Roberts), and Mike Nawrocki.  The rest of production, including old-timers like editor John Wahba and music maestro Kurt Heinecke, are all gone.  Ron Eddy, the very first designer I hired way back in 1996 to launch a team that at one point totaled 30 people, now has the distinction of being Big Idea's first designer, and last designer.

The layoffs weren't a surprise for any of you following the news about Big Idea's parent company.  Entertainment Rights has been flirting with bankruptcy for the last six months, and recently revealed they only have enough cash to survive through January.  So drastic cuts were in order.

As for Big Idea, VeggieTales video sales peaked nearly 10 years ago and have been steadily declining ever since.  Classic Media squeezed profits out of VeggieTales not by innovating, but rather by reducing costs, renegotiating distribution agreements, and then pushing as many videos into the market as they possibly could.  The kids video business has been in steady decline for more than a decade (mirroring VeggieTales decline), and the prior owners of Classic did nothing to seriously address this decline.  While putting VeggieTales on NBC was billed as a strategic move to grow the audience and ministry, it was, in reality, part of the former owners' effort to sell their company.  It worked.  Entertainment Rights, blinded by the "dazzle" of TV deals with NBC and movie deals with Universal, grossly overpaid for Classic Media and Big Idea, and, as a result, is fighting to survive with $200mm+ of debt and a market capitalization of less than $20mm.  (Astonishingly, the total value placed on Entertainment Rights, Classic Media and Big Idea by the stock market today less than what Classic Media paid to buy VeggieTales out of bankruptcy back in 2003.)

I could write a whole book about the strategic blunders that have resulted in the loss of a quarter-billion dollars of value for Entertainment Rights shareholders, but that really isn't the story here.  The real story is that any sense of the original team behind VeggieTales was lost yesterday.  Big Idea is now a logo only, representing a marketing team, and Mike.  (Okay, and Ron and Brian.  But Mike remains symbolically as the "face" of what Big Idea used to be.)

There are a couple more videos in production, which, apparently, will be completed and released.  What beyond that?  Who knows.  God is good, and he will accomplish his goals in his timing, according to his perfect will.  If God has additional ministry in mind for the cucumber and tomato I created in a spare bedroom in Chicago 18 years ago, I believe it will still come to pass.  The sad thing today is that a bunch of good friends are staring down a Christmas season in a tough economy without jobs.  But God knows that, too, and he has a plan for each one of them.

Let's keep them in our prayers this Christmas. 

57 CommentsLeave a Comment


  • Reply

    Kyle Goodman

    10 months ago

    Man, that’s harsh. Especially this time of year. I’ll be keeping them in my prayers for sure.

  • Reply

    The Cookie Lady

    10 months ago

    My heart is broken, but I know not nearly as much as yours, Mr. V.

    I will definitely be praying.

  • Reply

    angela

    10 months ago

    Man that bites. I hope that before they go out of print all together that they will allow itunes distribution rights. At least that way people can still buy them.

  • Reply

    Connie

    10 months ago

    My heart is broken too. I will never forget the day that my daughter who was 3 at the time brought home a VeggieTales video from our church library (it was silly songs 2.) I had no idea what it was, but we popped it in the VCR and became instantaneous fans. We were signing songs and quoting lines, even the adults. We would make adult relatives watch the videos with us, and they got hooked. Some very fond memories were created around loving Bob and Larry. Our lives were richer and more fun for the experience. So, thank you for that. I will be praying for those affected by the layoffs.

  • Reply

    Rhonda

    10 months ago

    I don’t know if I’m hitting a sore spot or not, but is there any possibility for Mike Nawrocki to join JellyTelly? We miss his off-beat sense of humor. And his voice reminds of Larry.

  • Reply

    Carl

    10 months ago

    wow. hasn’t kurt heinicke written, like, very single musical score for all the veggietales videos? gee.

    i’ll be praying.

  • Reply

    Lydia Williams

    10 months ago

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa….how are they gonna produce videos with no one to do preproduction, or editing, or sound, or music? That sounds like a pretty dead video with none of that stuff.

  • Reply

    Charla

    10 months ago

    Our prayers are with the Veggie team. I know that they have stuck around all these years because their hearts are truly in it, and the videos and music produced reflect that. My son just asked for King George and the Ducky this morning, and so I’ve got the “selfish” song stuck in my head all day.

    I remember how heartbroken I was the day my mom’s Christian bookstore closed shop, even under new owners. I still took it personally. Again, let me say, Phil, that your personal testimony was used magnificently by God in my own life. I just hate to see the pain of it all continue for you. My prayers are for you and your wife, and children as well (who must consider Bob and Larry to be brothers).

  • Reply

    Brian Stewart

    10 months ago

    Oh wow – that’s awful. The end of an era. I’m so sorry for those guys. And for you too Phil – I know that you’ve let go of that dream, but I’m sure you hurt for your friends that were let go. Well be praying for them too.

  • Reply

    Duane

    10 months ago

    If Entertainment Rights goes bankrupt is there any chance you could regain legal rights to our favorite singing, dancing, story telling vegetables? We would all love for the veggies and the penguins to find a home on JellyTelly some day.

  • Reply

    Phil

    10 months ago

    To Duane…

    If ER eventually is liquidated, the assets would once again go to the “highest bidder,” which, checking my bank account, probably isn’t me. But whoever ended up with VeggieTales would no doubt want to talk to the key players about making new shows. At some point they would likely discover that I was – once upon a time – a “key player.”

    Phil

  • Reply

    Kelvin Kao

    10 months ago

    Ah, that sucks. It’s sad to leave people that one has been working with for so long, but at least truly talented and capable people should be able to find new jobs. The timing is awful though.

  • Reply

    Jesse

    10 months ago

    I had the same thoughts as Duane and Phil: a company in that much trouble and with such an obvious lack of commitment to VeggieTales seems like a company who’d be willing to sell VeggieTales for a song. Perhaps a generous benefactor could buy the rights to the characters (if not to their past episodes) and start the machine up again, perhaps in the form of online shorts.

  • Reply

    Laramie Page

    10 months ago

    I feel like crying right now. Tears are gathering in my eyes. :’( You, and the Big Idea family, whether they still work there or not are in my prayers.
    Even though I’m just an 18 year old kid at heart, I wish I could help. I’ll ask a friend or two of mine to pray as well.

  • Reply

    Ryan Brown

    10 months ago

    What the heck?!?

    Darn it all…I suppose this was inevitable, but come on! That many layoffs?? Those guys worked their butts off trying to keep “Sunday Morning Values” and “Saturday Morning Fun” going and ER’s just going to give them the boot? Just like that? This stinks…

    I don’t see anything else for Big Idea but to be sold, hopefully to someone who can actually look at Bob and Larry without dollar signs in their eyes.

    See, not to be Johnny Raincloud here, but this is why big business is a curse. The big cheeses’ only goal is money, and how many people they can con into giving it to them. More often than not, though, it bites you in the butt. ER’s gonna have to start selling Forgive-O-Matics to make up for all the stuff they’ve pulled…

    I’ll keep Big Idea in my prayers, Phil. Hopefully, things will work out. God’s got a plan, I’m sure. If He didn’t, Big Idea would’ve been lost to us a looooooong time ago, right?

    Be sure to let us know what He says about all that’s happened, ok?

  • Reply

    Sylvia Ropp

    10 months ago

    This is heartbreaking and a sign of the times everywhere right now. May everyone directly affected find peace in the God they have so faithfully served at Big Idea, and look forward to whatever He has in store for them next.

  • Reply

    Brigitte Rottman

    10 months ago

    I love it all! I can’t say there’s one part I don’t like- but, I’m easy to please :) I will take the survey now that it’s up…

    I have 5 little people, 22 months- 8 years old. My oldest three definitely understand it more, but all 5 look forward to it daily! I have been thinking to myself that it’s geared to the “older” kids more than VeggieTales were- those kids will grasp it faster than the young ones, but I think the Muppets were like that, as well, and we all grew into understanding their humor. At first we were just enthralled with their faces and music! I love that my baby wakes up and asks for “Jai-Tai!” which translates JellyTelly. And my 4 yr.old sings the closing song- if all she knows is that God made her and loves her just the way she is, let her watch it every day forever!!!

  • Reply

    Brigitte Rottman

    10 months ago

    OOOPS! I just posted enthusiasm for JT in the grieving section for VT :(
    You can erase that for me, right?
    Gracias…
    I am heartbroken, as well. Some of our absolute favorite memories are tied into VT, for our kids and for us.

  • Reply

    LG

    10 months ago

    wow. i mean, really wow. i’m so sorry for all of the great people that lost their jobs. at least mike is still there. if he’s gone, they’re pretty much toast.

    i really wonder what God’s doing here. i mean, what’s His plan for this heartbreaking time. but i suppose thats none of my business.

  • Reply

    Jody Nilsen

    10 months ago

    Wow! I just stopped by and saw your news! I heard the buzz on Facebook from Andy Youssi and Greg Hardin and was, quite frankly, totally shocked.!!!!

    I’m just really glad to hear that Ron Eddy is still there as he is irreplaceable! Yay for Brian and Mike!! I’m really saddened by this, truly. God is in total control through all these black times though.

    I wish you could buy it back, Phil!

    Hey, I’m really really glad that you still have the portrait I did for you. I’m linking your site to mine (not that mine gets more hits) but it’s good to spread the word on the internet of better places to go, like your site. Hopefully I can post it soon.

    Jody

  • Maybe us former bippers can poole our money together and buy it back!? One can dream, can’t they????

    Sorry to see B.I. go through lay-offs . . . God has done some wonderful things even in the midst of sorrow. I am praying that He is not done with Big Idea, just yet.

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Phil, you said:
    “I could write a whole book about the strategic blunders that have resulted in the loss of a quarter-billion dollars of value for Entertainment Rights shareholders, but that really isn’t the story here”.

    If anyone could write that book it certainly would be you because you know from first hand experience the pitfalls, false promises. compromises and strategic blunders that led to the demise of Big Idea in the first place. The empty promises to well paid and experienced creatives and the stifling of their contributions to the productions, the promise of profit participation that never materialized, the idea that anyone but you could do the Veggies right, the constant struggle for and mismanagement of company finances and let’s not forget that it was you and Jelly Fish who managed to actually clear a profit on the re-edits of the original Veggies for NBC….which by the way, from rumors I’ve heard, was something you swore would never happen and was a promise that you
    made on several occasions to the staff in Chicago and last, but not least the very fact that you post open criticisms of Classic Media and Entertainment Rights and yet, still continue to receive full compensation for your services to them on each production.
    Phil, I don’t doubt your sincerity or your heart in this, but I do feel that you’ve been less than honest in your assessment of how this situation started in the first place and who actually steered the company toward the current crisis it is facing. These people believed in Big Idea and what it did, these people were sold on the fact that they would be coming in to help not only develop the Veggie brand, but also to create new content and stories that would grow the studio into a full service, multi-faceted, family entertainment company, but what happened was the visionary who hired all of these experts to help him, couldn’t get out of the way and allow them to do the job’s they were being paid to do. I think Luke 6:42 covers this situation pretty well.

  • Reply

    Kyle Goodman

    10 months ago

    Ragnar,
    I consider myself a Star Wars fan, but like a lot of fans I don’t agree with where George Lucas has headed that franchise. Phil has every right to voice his opinion on what’s been going on at Big Idea. His statements aren’t directed at the employees and friends that he has at Big Idea, it’s about CM or ER because a secular company doesn’t know how to do Christian media. The staff does, but you can only do so much when your hands are tied.

    As far as the NBC thing, it as a tool to introduce new fans to VT. Let’s ALL read Luke 6:42 and move ahead.

  • Reply

    Phil

    10 months ago

    Hi Ragnar,

    Phil here. I thought I should respond since you were addressing me pretty personally. I agree with you (and have said as much in my book) that the collapse of Big Idea Productions was ultimately my fault. No argument there. Did it collapse because I didn’t let people “do the job’s they were being paid to do?” That may have happened in a few cases, but in other cases we got into trouble because I gave people too much freedom to reinterpret the company according to their own goals and ideas. So you’re kind of correct, but you’re also oversimplifying a bit.

    I hope I’m not coming across as insulting to ER or Classic’s current management, because that wasn’t my goal. It’s clear to everyone involved that ER grossly overpaid to by Classic and Big Idea. No one will dispute that, not even ER’s management. I did sign a contract to help Classic with VeggieTales, but I clashed with the leadership quite a bit about the direction they were taking. Should I have broken my contract and walked away? Or continued to do the work but refused to be paid? I think I did the right thing in honoring my commitment. I’m certainly open to being wrong, though.

    As for the NBC project, I did insist in the past that we wouldn’t edit God out of VeggieTales to boost sales or distribution. And I agreed to work on the NBC project because we had been assured that God could stay in the show. Then, when we were halfway through the project, NBC came back and demanded the edits. Kinda caught me off guard. I considered dropping the project entirely at that point, but it would have left my friends at Big Idea in a terrible position. So I finished the project through gritted teeth, but decided I could no longer work with the leadership at Classic. Then the leadership changed (with the sale to ER) and I’ve been trying to work with the new management for the last year or so. And they’re good people, and I’d like to help them.

    So, yeah, I’ve made some big mistakes in all this. But fundamentally, Big Idea started to decline when it stopped being a spirit-led ministry and started being a marketing-driven company. And part of that was my fault.

    I appreciate hearing your point of view, as you make some good points. The real story is never quite as clear and simple as we would like, and while you’re partly on track, you’re oversimplying things a bit. But I’m guilty of that too, at times, so no hard feelings.

    Phil

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Phil;
    No hard feelings, but your comment of my over-simplification of the events I listed are simply my way of providing clarity to the issues that I believe were the catalyst for the situation that has impacted BI. These are conditions that existed and festered prior to the bankruptcy. I am in no way saying that Classic or Entertainment Rights hasn’t made mistakes, but the issue I have is the fact that you have on several occasions used your blog to throw out facts and figures and your disappointment with the direction of Big Idea and how wrong the new owners have been in their approach to the property and then turn around and continue to work for them. I appreciate the work you did on the Veggie Tales edits for NBC and believe it was a tremendous opportunity to reach a much wider audience with the Veggie brand. I also fully support your attempts to impact the world for Christ in what ever situation God chooses to place you, but to then turn around on your blog and bite the hand that feeds you, does come across as slightly hypocritical in my opinion.

  • Reply

    Lisa S.

    10 months ago

    I was so sad to hear about the layoffs at Big Idea. Like you said, Phil, this is a terrible time of year to have that happen. My prayers are with all of the folks who are going through this tough time.

    What we must remember is that even in the midst of a bad situation, our God has a plan and is ultimately in complete control. If it is part of His plan to further the life of our dear Veggie firends, then it will happen. Like most on this board, I certainly hope that Bob and Larry will remain a part of our lives for years to come!

    As for the success of Big Idea or VeggieTales, I think we must measre that using a different unit of measure than what the world chooses to use. Perhaps by the lives that have been impacted and (as in one example Phil gave…) actually saved by the ministry of VeggieTales. The numbers may say one thing, but the work you ALL did has mattered…a lot.

    Continued prayers for everyone touched by this situation. Don’t lose hope, miracles are our God’s specialty!!

  • Reply

    Lydia Williams

    10 months ago

    Ragnar,
    I have only one thing to say: Freedom of speech!
    Phil can say whatever he feels cause it is HIS blog, not yours. Thats what people do, voice their opinion of stuff that belongs to theeeem.
    And you are given the opportunity to voice yours in his comments section.

    Let Phil speak his mind as much as he’s letting you speak yours.

    Instead of continuing the bickering, why not just forgive and forget, move on with our lives and pray for those who are at these companies that they will find work before the holidays loom even closer.

  • Reply

    Mike Sage

    10 months ago

    Phil – I got an e-mail from Kurt. So sorry to hear about the layoffs. I can’t say I followed all of the changes, but my twins – now three – are huge lovers of veggie tales. I think we have them all. A memory that I will carry with me for a very long time will be when my son, who is considerably behind in speech, sang his first recognizable melody in his crib one night, “God is So Good,” which he learned in the car hearing it from one of the Veggie Tales CDs we have. I was blesed to get to play my very small part, and that blessing has come around so many times in now seeing my kids now get to enjoy them. God’s blessings to you all. Scallion #3.

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Lydia;
    You misunderstand. I agree and have no problem with Phil, nor do I wish to limit his right to speak his mind as he pleases. My point is that in voicing his opinions on his blog he is expressing himself in ways that I believe contradict his actions.
    As a Christian, I believe that if your heart is in giving your very best to any endeavor you undertake, then I think it is unethical to turn around, and using any soapbox available, to criticize that effort.
    I for one want the very best for those that have been impacted by the recent lay-offs
    and know that God’s hand is in this in ways that we can’t begin to perceive or understand right now. I also know that as difficult as the situation is that some good will come from it.
    Sure, it’s HIS blog, but he is Phil Vischer and his words carry some amount of weight in the Christian industry, which means people are listening very closely to what he has to say. You know what I’m saying?

  • Reply

    Kyle Goodman

    10 months ago

    Ragnar,
    First, I want to say I appreciate you not turning this into a flame war, which could happen rather quickly. And second, I think that you do have some good points. I do think that what we’re talking about is what’s for the greater good. Veggietales is still effective, but it’s not been living up to it’s full potential as of late. That’s what I was talking about when I said that a secular company can’t succesfully lead a Christ focused company. I don’t think Phil is making comments to bash anyone, just stating that things could be done better.

    I know how this works firsthand. I work for a church but I don’t agree with a great deal of what happens there, but for some reason God still has me there for a while longer. I continue to do my best work while I am there, because I don’t work for those individuals, I work for God. When I feel like something isn’t right, I make it known to the people that can change it. Doesn’t mean that I get my way, but I do speak out against the things that I feel aren’t right, or that send the wrong message. I said all that to say that I still get my check from a place that I don’t agree with, and I think that most people would say that about themselves. I don’t know of anyone that agrees with every policy or decision that’s made in their workplace.

    Bottom line is, VeggieTales is a tool that God is making changes to, and we all need to remember the families that are being impacted by this news. Even the ones that are staying on will have to make major changes I’m sure.

  • Reply

    Kyle Goodman

    10 months ago

    When I said “you” in the flame war comment above, I meant “you not letting this turn into a flame war”. Sorry about that!

  • Reply

    Phil

    10 months ago

    Ragnar,

    I think I understand your point, but I’m not absolutely sure. If you’re saying that, by continuing to work on VeggieTales videos and accepting money in return for my services, I was giving up any right to express my opinion about the business decisions the new owners were making that were affecting the ministry I founded, we might just have a difference of opinion.

    I have tried to monitor my words very carefully, and as a result have said very little about the decisions the prior owners were making. If you feel I said too much or was too negative at some point, you may be right. I haven’t reread every blog post I wrote over the last five years, and I may have written a paragraph or two in anger or frustration.

    But if you believe, as a general principle, that it is unethical to critique a company for which you are doing work, I’m not quite with you there. History is full of “whistleblowers” who accomplished good things by challenging their employer’s actions. I kept working on VeggieTales videos because I love the characters and love working with Mike and Kurt and the rest of my friends there. Walking away would have left them in a very difficult situation, and probably would have hastened the loss of their jobs.

    Again, I’m not at all saying my actions have been without fault. I do think we may have a difference of opinion though when it comes to what can appropriately be communicated about an employer.

    Having said that, I appreciate you making your points and giving me the opportunity to respond.

    Phil

  • Reply

    Jessica

    10 months ago

    Oh, Mr. Vischer, I’m so sorry to hear about all of your friends losing their jobs. I’m 22-year-old college grad completely in love with Veggie Tales and it makes me so sad to hear of these troubling times with the Veggies family.

    I’ll keep them in prayer…….along with you and JellyTelly!

    -Jessica

  • Reply

    Kyla

    10 months ago

    Wow, just…wow. I’m shocked. No Kurt Heinecke??! and Wahba and…how can they make more videos? what can happen? I’ll pray. I’ll pray…a lot. I’ve loved VeggieTales for years, and…Ill pray. Very sorry to hear this. Thanks for letting us know, Mr. Phil

  • Reply

    Nic Kramer

    10 months ago

    Boy, that’s depressing. Just like what happen to Atari. I hope for-and I hope a certain kids workshop company dosen’t mind that I borrow this phrase- a true blue miracle. I’m real sorry, Phil.

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Kyle thanks and no worries and I think you hit the nail right on the head when you said:
    “I work for God. When I feel like something isn’t right, I MAKE IT KNOWN TO THE PEOPLE THAT CAN CHANGE IT. Doesn’t mean that I get my way, but I do speak out against the things that I feel aren’t right, or that send the wrong message.”

    Phil, you misunderstand my point when you said:
    “But if you believe, as a general principle, that it is unethical to critique a company for which you are doing work, I’m not quite with you there. History is full of “whistleblowers” who accomplished good things by challenging their employer’s actions”.

    You will say that you’ve gone that route and openly discussed your feelings about all of this with the current , now past, regime of BI.
    And you may very well rationalize yourself as a “whistleblower” but by broadcasting via the web, your grief and frustrations about a company you work for is, in my opinion, counterproductive and in some ways subversive toward your Christian cause.

    Kyle’s said it perfectly when he wrote:
    “I MAKE IT KNOWN BY THE PEOPLE THAT CAN CHANGE IT”.
    We both know that you have been very good about making your case in regard to BI and your efforts to reach children with your stories and lead them to the knowledge of God and his love for them. I also know that losing a company that you created and nurtured can be a difficult pill to swallow.

    You said:
    “Again, I’m not at all saying my actions have been without fault. I do think we may have a difference of opinion though when it comes to what can “APPROPRIATELY” be communicated about an employer”.

    With that, we will part ways and have to agree to disagree on the tactics you’ve used to criticize, and in some ways express your superior knowledge, via the web, about the running of a company that was ultimately felled by your very hands and all while collecting a generous salary for your continuing efforts, to me comes across as slightly bitter and in some ways not truly honest toward the Christian message of genuine forgiveness.

  • Reply

    Brigitte Rottman

    10 months ago

    Ragnar- I have a question for you:
    Did God appoint you in watchcare over Big Idea/Veggie Tales, its employees or over Phil Vischer fans? I’m not even trying to be sarcastic- have you prayed about your comments?
    I sat under the teaching of a very powerful, very humble man at a conference one day and he taught me this awesome principle: If you have a hard word to give someone in the Body of Christ, you should be willing to fast and pray for a few days, preferably a couple of weeks before you try speaking into someone’s life… ESPECIALLY someone that you do not know.

  • Reply

    Charla

    10 months ago

    Ragnar (and to Phil).

    I must say that I have appreciated your dialogue up to this point, as it has been thought-provoking. However, I am a seasoned Christian that learns from the differences others may hold. I would ask, Ragnar, that if this discussion is to continue that you confront Phil in a more private manner (as outlined by Matt 18:15). You may not have had a private venue to do so, and I understand. That may be more of Phil’s call.

    I make the request for this conversation to further itself in private only in a concern for those who may follow the blog without a firm faith.

    With that said, I have also (along with Kyle Goodman) appreciated the way this was handled, thus far, in love.

  • Reply

    Brigitte Rottman

    10 months ago

    Just hopped back on to say I have no business speaking into anyone’s individual life on here, either. Time for me to eat humble soup. Sorry if my earlier comment was read with any bite.

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Here’s my wrap-up for Charla:
    Brigitte, thank you and I would have commented on your mistake had you not realized it yourself. In fact, your first post perfectly illustrates the very thing I’ve been commenting on all along in my posts to Phil. Hence the reference to Luke 6:42.
    We are all fallible and I do not have any reservations in expressing my regrets for what has been occurring at BI and the people that will suffer through this round of lay-offs.
    “What could have been” immediately comes to mind, but “Where we are” is the reality, and we need all be in prayer for those who will be struggling to support themselves and their families during this time.
    Charla:
    Thank you, I understand and totally agree with you on going any further with this line of dialogue on the blog as it could easily go into much deeper, darker waters if we aren’t careful. My concern has been for accountability and the innate propensity of many good and well intentioned Christians to publicly air our grievances in a way that contradicts the very message we are trying to deliver. In my opinion Phil has chosen a public forum to do just that and I felt compelled to meet him on his own turf.
    I understand you concerns for others that may be reading this exchange and will gracefully bow out and avoid posting any further on this subject. Thank you and God bless!

  • Reply

    The Cookie Lady

    10 months ago

    Brigitte, do not apologize for your words. You make a very valid point.

    I will not belabor any points made by anyone on this issue. There’s been enough said. However, I feel impressed to say the following, and Ragnar, if you want to vent on me, then respond here and I will post my email address. Then you may vent on me privately.

    Ragnar, with all due respect, you need to go read the following scriptures:

    Matthew 5:23 -24 and Matthew 18:15-17

    You did the very thing that you accused Mr. Vischer of doing. You accused Mr. Vischer of talking bad about others in a public arena, and then you did the very same thing. You accused him and rebuked him and ridiculed him in a public arena. Pause and calmly think about that.

    If any good came from Big Idea, no matter who was in charge at the time, it was because GOD BLESSED and GOD HONORED and GOD ANOINTED what was being created. And EVERYONE that worked there, whether they worked there for just one day, six hours, or ten years…. they all played a part in that. ALL OF THEM. And God Knows who was there, and who did what, and He rewards openly what is done in secret. Pause…. and calmly think about that.

    Thank you to all of you who were able to keep this discussion in a somewhat positive light. Thank you, Mr. Vischer, for not being afraid to respond to Ragnar, and for responding with graciousness and Christian love and godly patience. That right there is a strong testimony of God’s power working in your life.

    Now, this may seem like an unfair question, but if Mr. Vischer was bold enough, brave enough, and willing to respond to this attack on his person, would you, Ragnar, be bold enough, brave enough, and willing to let him know who you are? You don’t have to let us know on this blog, because it’s not our concern. But it would be a step in Christian love, and would agree with those scriptures mentioned at the first of this post, for you to do just that.

    Because if you’re going to confront someone about something that has offended you, then they should be offered the opportunity to know who they are dealing with.

    I pray for healing and restoration to happen between you and Mr. Vischer, Ragnar. Sounds like it needs to take place.

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Cookie-lady;
    Uhm.. wow. Strong words indeed from such a sweet name. Well, I’m sorry but I don’t recall ridiculing anyone, much less Mr. Vischer.
    I simply chose to meet him on the public ground he established on this blog and clearly stated why I felt compelled to do so. If my directness was perceived as animosity or ill will toward Mr. Vischer then I will apologize for that. But, as I said several times in my posts, I fully respected and supported his original goals for Big Idea. I simply disagreed
    with the venue he chose to place his soapbox to vent to an agreeable audience that are only given one side of a much deeper argument.
    My name is of no consequence and would do nothing to pacify your anger toward me or the issues I chose to speak about on this blog.
    I appreciate you and the verses you referenced and will prayerfully read them and apply them tin my daily walk with HIM.
    God bless!

  • Reply

    Heather Neff

    10 months ago

    Phil, My goodness I don’t know what to say. I wish there was something we could do to help Veggietales and Big Idea to survive… My prayers and many others are with you all during this time.

  • Reply

    Phil

    10 months ago

    Sorry… I’ve been in meetings all day and didn’t know this conversation was continuing all on it’s own. I’m back now.

    Ragnar, I take very seriously your assertion that I am a hypocrite for “broadcasting via the web” my “grief and frustrations” about Classic Media and Entertainment Rights. I wondered if perhaps you were correct, and that perhaps I have, in fact, been misusing this platform to complain about these companies. So I went back through the site archives and read every post I ever wrote dealing with Classic or Entertainment Rights, and, frankly, I couldn’t find the complaining you’re so worked up about. I went through 4+ years of posts (fortunately I’m not that prolific a blogger so it didn’t take that long) and couldn’t find a single example of openly complaining about Classic Media or Big Idea.

    So I was hoping you could point out a few examples of the complaining you’re describing. I’m completely open to being in the wrong on this one. I just can’t find the examples.

    Your initial post logged a laundry list of complaints about my behavior while leading Big Idea Productions. I compiled a pretty long list of my shortcomings myself in my book about the Big Idea years. But many of your examples are simply untrue. You claim that I promised, then didn’t deliver, a profit sharing plan. We put a profit sharing plan (an Employee Stock Ownership Plan) into effect in the Fall of 2000. It never paid out any profits, unfortunately, because the company lost money for the next two years, and then fell into bankruptcy. Profit sharing, we learned, requires profits.

    You also complained that I brought in good creatives and then didn’t let them do anything. 3-2-1 Penguins was entirely controlled by other creatives. I gave Ron Smith almost complete creative control on that show, with scripts coming from Mike, Tim Hodge, Ron and others. I held VeggieTales more closely because VeggieTales was the show I created. It was my ministry to kids. What “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” was to Fred Rogers, VeggieTales was to me. So arguing that it was a character flaw for me to insist on controlling VeggieTales is akin to saying Fred Rogers was flawed for maintaining control of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. It doesn’t really make sense.

    Yes, I talked about making a much broader media company where many more creatives could express their unique voices. And we opened up a pitch process to everyone who worked at Big Idea. But by the time we got to that point, we didn’t have the money left to pursue any of those ideas. And frankly, we really weren’t set up to develop and launch new properties. We were set up to produce and sell VeggieTales videos. And we got way too big and expensive to only sell VeggieTales videos. Again, that was ultimately my fault and I’ll take the blame. I let the company get too big. It finally collapsed under its own weight.

    Big mistakes were made, and I am very sorry that you were hurt so badly. I’ve apologized publicly and privately for my role in the disappointment of so many people. I’d be more than happy to take you out to coffee and let you vent or scream at me or do whatever you need to do to get all of this off your chest. I’ll even buy the coffee.

    If you instead choose to attack my character publicly and anonymously, however, I would just ask that you substantiate your claims very carefully. If they can’t be substantiated, I would ask you to withdraw them.

    Phil

  • Reply

    Ragnar

    10 months ago

    Phil;
    I understand that my initial post may have been too harsh and I apologize for that, and I make no excuses when I say that the pain I feel for the current round of lay-offs, the loss of good people and the Big Idea brand to a market that desperately needs quality Christian content has only fueled my rant.
    I am not worked up, angry or feel the need to vent or scream at anyone, but I do appreciate the offer for coffee.
    Your explanations of some of the issues are very clear, but I feel only paint a small section of a larger canvas of unfortunate events which may or may not have been anticipated during your control of Big Idea.
    I regret that I may have allowed my emotions to dictate my posts to some degree and am sorry if I have offened you and ask for your forgiveness.
    I am entirely too close to these events and cannot in good conscience continue to drag you or the current events into further criticism. What should have been, or could have been are now behind us and we need to press on and except the fact that we’ve all made mistakes. Your blog is your blog and I am in no position to judge you or your actions. I leave that to God alone, and will seek him first before relying on my own desires to respond without thinking about how my posts will effect others. I wish you the very best in your endeavors.

  • Reply

    blenderman345

    10 months ago

    Man I thought BigIdea falling on its knees was sad but this is even sadder. :(
    What the heck are you people fightin about?
    All of you ought to go back and watch Veggietales Epsiodes 1 through 29! X(

    But why Kurt and Wahba??????
    That’s CRAZY!!!
    Without Kurt, no music!
    The time has come…… Let it fall, and we will catch it with our arms.
    Phil, my free trial subscription has finished, and I wish that we could choose a price and subscribe for 10.99 a month.
    All those that say, “Phil 4 BIGIDEA CE*” let’s do the same!!!
    PUMP U FIST IN THE AIR!!!
    (Ok, sheesh, that’s a little overdoing it……. :) )
    But my prayers r with u Phil, and with those poor 32 who left Bigidea, or got thrown out)

  • Reply

    Diane Howard

    10 months ago

    Dear Phil:
    As a childen’s pastor for over 20 years, I want to thank you and Big Idea for helping me in my ministry! Plese send this on to those wounderful Big Idea brothers and sisters who also helped me in my ministry by obeying the Lord’s calling and using the talents and gifts He gave them to serve and grow both kids and adults in their spiritual walk! All of you have been a vital part of my ministry team for so long and will continue to be! Because of what you did and do, I can do what I am called to do! Times are tough right now and my own church is facing a tighening the belt budget. What has happend to Big Idea is also happening to other good, vital ministries and it is just part of the time. The LORD is still in control and sometimes His ways are not our ways (as you taught me in your book) and good ministries do come to an end at times. (look at Petra and other fantastic CCM bands that the LORD used for his glory and now are doing other ministries) So, thank you all, Big Idea! The Lord isn’t finished with you all yet!

  • Reply

    Jennifer

    10 months ago

    VeggieTales has also been a huge part of our family, our church, and our ministry. We’re involved in foreign missions work with orphans and kids from abusive families, kids with no moral upbringing and who have no idea that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them. Missionaries serving full time in this country have asked us to send them more VeggieTales DVDs because the kids really respond and learn from them (and the DVDs motivate the kids to learn English). VeggieTales’ message will continue to be spread throughout the world, His good news will not be stopped.

  • Reply

    Thom Falter

    10 months ago

    Hey Phil, sad news this week, but I suppose someone will probably buy the company and maybe do something good with it. I hope so, because I still enjoy animating Veggies when I get the chance. They’re so round, so firm, so fully packed — oh wait, that’s Lucky Strikes cigarettes…

    Keep up the good work!

    Thom

  • Reply

    Samuel

    10 months ago

    Wow, kurt heinecke? That’s too bad, well maybe there’s hope for Jelly Telly to air veggietales programs….

  • Reply

    Natalie

    10 months ago

    I’m so sad to hear about this…the Kurt let-go is a total shock to me. My mom and I were just saying how truly disappointing it is to see something as wholesome and wonderful as VeggieTales go through struggles such as these.

    My family and I have been with VeggieTales almost since the time it began, and, as an almost eighteen year old, I still enjoy the new videos and use them when I teach Children’s Church. I have always thought and still do that VeggieTales is an incredibly well-written, funny, creative show with serious heart, which is why I love it as much as I do.

    Big Idea and the former employees will be in my prayers, and I’m rooting for you and JellyTelly, Phil. Keep it up, and God bless!

  • Reply

    Steve

    10 months ago

    I think a certain poster up there needs to go and watch “God Wants Me to Forgive Them?!?” three times.

    Phil, as always, the vast majority of us who read your blog (but never post) have nothing to say except…thank you and everyone at Big Idea for bringing Bob and Larry to the world. Maybe it’s the end of an era, but what an era it was!

    None of us have the right to judge. But we can offer our prayers and our encouragement to you to keep on fighting the good fight for Him. I learned that from a certain tomato.

  • Reply

    Harry Halibut

    10 months ago

    The whole thing has been in decline since before 2003. Let’s keep all involved in our prayers all year. Not just at Christmas time.

  • Reply

    Geralyn

    10 months ago

    Dear Phil,
    I’m so sorry to hear about all of this, and my husband and I have just prayed for you and all of those laid off. I first fell in love with VT when I saw the Hairbrush song in a Christian bookstore and we bought it before we were even planning to have kids! Now our boys, 10 and 6, have almost every DVD and still sing the Pirates song and the Cheeseburger song around the house. Thank you again for your awesome ministry. And if you need any voice talent for your next endeavor, my husband does a mean Larry, Pa Grape, and about 98 other voices.

  • Reply

    (Rev.) Jack Brooks

    10 months ago

    Dear Phil,

    Never visited your website until now. All I can say is what my wife often says:

    Nobody’s perfect.

    And what Martin Luther said to his buddy Phil:

    “Go and sin boldly, Philip; then repent boldly. Because the righteousness that saves us is entirely outside of us.”

    And what I said to the entire leadership team from Frankfort Christian Missionary Alliance, when they had to close their doors after 23 years of ministry and a year alter all serendipitiously ended up over at our struggling little E. Free church:

    “To you, all of this is a shock. But on our side of things, this is an answer to our prayers, even though you didn’t even know we existed until two months ago.”

  • Reply

    Katie Hayes

    9 months ago

    Oh man. Remind me never to get into the ‘industry’. It’s so confusing, and I’d probably screw up anyways. That’s why we leave the entertainment thing to you, Phil. I really love VeggieTales, and I pray that if it ever does somehow get off tv, that my church won’t throw away their collection of videocassttes of it!

    You’re all in my prayers, and I’ll light a candle for you at church!

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