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Book Review – Me, Myself, & Bob

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I never really caught on to the VeggieTales craze. I was introduced to them by friends when I was in my late teens but couldn’t bring myself to watch and enjoy a kids’ show featuring talking vegetables. I could appreciate some of the humor, but I usually opted out of the VeggieTales evenings others enjoyed. At that time I had no idea, and nor did anyone else, I suppose, what a phenomenon the Veggies would become.

VeggieTales was created by Phil Vischer in 1990 with the first video being released three years later. It was a significant film as it was on the cutting edge of computer animation and was, in fact, America’s first widely-distributed computer animated video production. Where’s God When I’m S-Scared? marked the founding of an empire that has gone on to sell over 50 million videos and countless plush toys, games, neckties and every other conceivable piece of merchandise. The flagship product of Vischer’s Big Idea Productions, VeggieTales was meant to be only the first franchise produced by a media empire Vischer hoped would soon rival Nickelodeon and Disney, but bringing Christian values into a marketplace saturated with a complete lack of values. Writing about these competitors, Vischer says:

By the mid-1990s, the media industry had consolidated so aggressively that the vast majority of children’s entertainment was controlled by just three companies – Viacom, Time Warner, and Disney. Each employing more than 50,000 people, these companies were now so large that one industry analyst described working with them as more like working with nation-states than companies. The problem with these giant, publicly traded media goliaths isn’t that they are immoral, but rather than they are profoundly amoral. They are valueless. They are simply too big to focus on any specific value system or moral code, and instead must be all things to all people. … Why do they sell good values to preschoolers? Because there is money in it. Why do they sell lousy values to the same kids ten years later? Because there is money in it. When faced with the choice between doing what is beneficial and doing what is profitable, these companies chose profitable every time. Their shareholders require it.

Convinced that he was fulfilling God’s dream for his life, Vischer attempted to rival these companies but was shocked to see the empire crumble and fall into bankruptcy just as it seemed at the pinnacle of success. Big Idea was eventually bought out of bankruptcy by Classic Media, the company that now owns the rights to all things VeggieTales. This book, Me, Myself, & Bob is the story of Phil, Big Idea, and VeggieTales. It begins with the author’s birth into a devout Christian family and ends with him wrestling with what the future will hold now that his beloved vegetables are outside of his control.

Laced with the trademark humor that helped make VeggieTales a success among both children and adults, this book is fun and enjoyable to read. There are many laugh out loud moments. And yet there are also plenty of poignant moments, particularly as Vischer begins to see his world crumble and loses the company he worked so hard to build. He makes many astute observations about himself and human nature, admitting that it was his own sin (not just his shortcomings or mistakes, but sin) that contributed to the company’s downfall. He accepts responsibility for causing Big Idea to crumble and apologizes for this.

And then he looks to the future. Unfortunately, in the days since Big Idea, he seems to have spent a great deal of time reading books by authors such as Henri Nouwen and Henry Blackaby. While he feels that these authors have equipped him to live life in a way that will not allow him to repeat the sins of his past, I’m not so sure, based on his reflections, that he is a lot further ahead. The final chapters discuss “living in the center of God’s will” and other troubling concepts associated with men like Blackaby (I’ll admit that these include concepts that may be more troubling to me, as a cessationist, than they would be to my continuationist friends.). And so the final chapters, those that wrestle with the “how?” and “why?” and “what now?” are a mixed bag. There are some valuable and mature reflections, but others that just don’t seem to measure up.

Me, Myself, & Bob was a book I was not expecting. It showed up in the mail and I immediately consigned it to the “don’t bother” pile. I soon thought better of this and was rewarded with what I found to be a fascinating, funny and enjoyable book. While I would not necessarily recommend it for its theological precision, it does contain fascinating biography of Phil Vischer, the company he built, and the characters he created.

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