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In the beginning, there were veggies

Now there are penguins. The Christian video shelf just got bigger.

By SHARON TUBBS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000


God must have created penguins on the fifth day, along with the birds, great whales and other creatures that moveth. But King James records nothing of winged fowl quoting Scripture or teaching the golden rule.

Never mind. Big Idea Productions, the creator of VeggieTales children's videos, will launch a line of animated talking penguins today at the Kennedy Space Center in hopes of continuing the company's crossover success in religious entertainment for kids.

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Midgel
Like the VeggieTales series, 3-2-1 Penguins! advances biblical themes, with characters singing songs and sometimes quoting Scripture. The difference is wisdom won't be dispensed from the mouths of animated tomatoes and pickles, but from cartoon penguins Midgel, Zidgel, Fidgel and -- for some reason -- Kevin.

The penguins travel from planet to planet, always leaving kids with a biblical or moral principle by the show's end. In the first title, Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn, 7-year-old twins Jason and Michelle argue over who gets to do what first. Jason then travels with the penguins to planet Wait-Your-Turn, where inhabitants spend all day fighting over who is first in line. Jason learns that going first is not all it's cracked up to be.

Big Idea premieres the first video in Cape Canaveral today. It will be sold in stores beginning Nov. 14, initially only through Christian retailers.

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Kevin
The company will continue making VeggieTales titles, which last about 30 minutes.

"(3-2-1 Penguins!) will still have all the silliness that VeggieTales has," said marketing vice president Cornelius Lee, but "we have always dreamed of doing more." The new series will target a slightly older audience, Lee said. While VeggieTales appeals to kids from ages 3 to 8, 3-2-1 Penguins! is aimed at kids as old as 12.

Big Idea has sold more than 22-million VeggieTales videos since it was founded in 1993, Lee said. The series is one of the few Christian products to succeed in a big way in the largely secular children's entertainment market.

"VeggieTales are among the top sellers in children's non-theatrical video," said Tonya Bates, general manager of VideoScan, a Los Angeles company that tracks video sales. "As far as I know, there are not any other (Christian video lines) that have crossed over in that way."

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Fidgel
The VeggieTales series ranks fourth in sales among children's videos sold to the mass market, Lee said. It ranks second when sales from Christian stores are figured in, he said.

VeggieTales originated seven years ago with Phil Vischer, who worked in Chicago as a computer animator for production houses. Vischer turned a spare bedroom into an office and advertised his first video in Christian magazines and newsletters. He filled orders by mail for the first video, Where's God When I'm S-Scared?

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Zidgel
Later, VeggieTales videos were sold in Christian bookstores. The product has since branched into larger retail venues, including Target, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. The videos are also available for rent at Blockbuster video stores.

The Target store on Dr. Martin Luther King (Ninth) St. N in St. Petersburg sells five to 10 VeggieTales videos each day, electronics manager Eric Holmes said. In recent weeks, a few parents have started asking about the penguins at Tampa Christian Supply in Tampa, manager Jerrie Pellizze said. As for VeggieTales, Pellizze said, the store sells at least five a day.

"We keep them stocked," he said.

CLICKS

For more information about 1-2-3 Penguins!, go to http://www.bigidea.com/penguins/.

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