Co-creator of VeggieTales and now vice president of creative development for Big Idea, Mike Nawrocki oversaw the production of this month's release, Sweetpea Beauty—A Girl After God's Own Heart, the first-ever VeggieTales episode just for girls.
How did the idea of a girls-only episode come about?
When General Manager Leslie Ferrell, offered a woman's perspective and said, "Let's make a show about inner beauty." To be honest, it's not the first thing a development team of three guys would think of. But we embraced the challenge and, being fathers of daughters ourselves, created a couple of stories that we would love for our own daughters to watch.
What did you do differently to reach this niche audience?
We didn't really change much of what we usually do in that, with any story, you want to try to write from a place of experience and truth. You need to speak to your audience with the story you are telling—whatever the niche. As male writers, we needed to rely on the input and feedback of our wives, daughters and female co-workers.
Isn't the message of Sweetpea one that boys need to hear, too?
Absolutely. Boys are also under a tremendous amount of pressure in our culture to "look good." The message that God looks at the heart and not on our outward appearance is also important for boys. As Petunia says (in closing), "Anyone can learn a thing or two from a princess story, Larry."
Will there be other targeted episodes, and if so, on what kind of topics?
We're currently working on an episode where we are partnering with World Vision on a lesson in serving others.
How did Nichole Nordeman come to write a song for Sweetpea?
She has some huge fans at Big Idea. Because of how she has addressed the topic of true beauty in the past, both personally and professionally, we felt that her unique perspective as a singer-songwriter—in addition to her role as a mother of two small children and her love of VeggieTales—would be a great fit. We were so thrilled when she agreed to write a song for the show and were absolutely floored when we heard it. "Beautiful For Me" is a wonderful and moving song that captures the lesson of Sweetpea Beauty perfectly.
How is today's VeggieTales audience different from the one in your beginning in the early 1990s?
People are much more visually sophisticated than they were at the birth of 3-D computer animation. Twenty years ago if it was computer animated, it was cool. VeggieTales benefited from that early wave of enthusiasm. As I go back and watch the shows, I notice the stories and lessons hold up well, but they look very rudimentary. Visually, we've had to improve as the art form has improved, and our audience's expectations have grown.
Will there be another full-length VeggieTales movie?
We have a script for The Bob and Larry Movie, which tells the story of how Bob and Larry met, that we would love to make into a movie when the time is right.
For an extended audio version of this interview, visit the specialty blogs at www.christianretailing.com.