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What's in the Bible, and Phil Vischer's Head, besides VeggieTales?,
This review is from: Battle for the Promised Land! (DVD)
Tyndale gave me the opportunity to review a new kid's DVD as long as I could coax some children to watch it with me. I tried convincing my 10-year old son to watch it with me, but he wasn't very excited when he heard it was from the same creator of Veggie Tales. It isn't that he doesn't like Bob and Larry, but I don't think he appreciates that I've memorized many of Larry's Silly Songs and like to perform them on occasion in our family van.
Thankfully I have some friendly, animated kids in my neighborhood who are a little younger and a little less jaded about my singing. They agreed to watch the video and help me with my "homework." After a meal of toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup we sat down with their mom to watch what Phil Vischer has been creating other than animated vegetables.
The What's in the Bible series is a set of 13, hour long DVD's using children friendly storytelling to teach young audiences about the content of the Bible. We watched #4, Battle for the Promised Land that covers the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Unlike the VeggieTales animated series, What's In the Bible's characters are based on puppetry- some of it as simple as static characters fastened on popsicle sticks. What makes the viewer's imagination come alive is the creative writing and songs. Vischer uses a vast array of characters (besides himself) to walk through the Bible: a newsroom host, a cowboy, a southern black preacher, a Scottish pirate, two British explorers, a piano playing priest, a Swedish scientist, a Sunday school teacher, and two uptight church ladies who give commentary like the Muppets' Statler and Waldorf. The story is shared almost too rapidly by bouncing between multiple characters, scenes, and songs. I'm sure that watching the video more than once, along with the others in the series, would help the viewer get used to the characters and the rapid fire exchanges. Vischer uses pop culture references that the kids will recognize (In this DVD he mentions the cartoons, Blues Clues, Sponge Bob, and Donald Trump.) and he isn't afraid to use bathroom humor to get a few laughs (underwear references and pirates that have to potty).
Did the kids like it? You bet. Their toes tapped, their lips synched with the songs, and they were able to mirror back the summaries of each of the books of the Bible covered in the DVD. My 6 and 9 year old friends even learned big words like "historical" (which they remembered because it was "hysterical") and "apostasy" (even though James remembered it as "apostrophe"). Arabella liked one of the colorful church ladies and the Sunday school teacher. She enjoyed the songs, but would have liked to have seen more "action." James thought the Scottish pirate in the hot air balloon was the best and he "loved" the opening song. Both wanted to see more of the videos and hoped that Tyndale might send me some more.
Did the parents like it? Yes and no. If you are interested in going through the scripture with your young kids, the What's In the Bible? series is a fun way to get the conversation going--and there are some really good conversations to have. Vischer doesn't dodge some interesting and tough questions in the book of Joshua. He provides a scientific reason of how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry ground (which will garner various reactions, I'm sure), and he even gets into the theology of why it was okay for the Israelites to claim the land and kick out the current inhabitants. Truthfully I didn't agree with all of the theology points on this video, or even the summary points of the books; but then I don't depend upon kids videos to teach my children; however they can be a fun way to open up the conversation for age and heart-appropriate conversations.
Final score? I'll give this video, and this concept of this series a 4 out of 5. It feels a bit more grown up in content and purpose than VeggieTales, but it's missing some of the magic and childhood innocence as well.