Review by Ruth E. Ferguson

Voices:  Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer and others
Director:  Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 5.1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Artisan
Features:  See Review
Length:  83 Minutes
Release Date:  March 4, 2003

“My mother was a caterpillar, my father was a worm, but I’m comfortable with that now.” - Khalil, the caterpillar

Film ****

In 2002, Big Idea Productions and Chordant took their immensely popular VeggieTale characters from the little screen to the theater for their first feature film, Jonah – A VeggieTales Movie.  The film is a clever re-telling of the well-known Biblical story of the prophet Jonah, a messenger from God, who received a rather unwanted assignment, a trip to Ninevah to tell the citizens of the city to change their ways. 

Jonah is a delightful film and like many recent successful animated kid flicks, very funny for children and adults alike.  There are so many little jokes and moments – far too many to list – but just a few of highlights include a prayer for a dearly loved rubber ducky, a Motown-like gospel choir and those sinners in Ninevah who are notorious fish slappers!

In addition to well-known VeggieTale characters like Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, Jonah introduces new members of the Veggie Tale family – including the two French peas running the seafood restaurant and the scene-stealer Khalil, a Persian rug-selling caterpillar. 

Video ****

Some have said it is not as good as Pixar’s films, but it is very comparable, especially considering their much smaller budget and staff.  The colors are vibrant and crisp really enhances your enjoyment of the movie.

Audio ***

As with most kids’ films, the soundtrack is an important element of the movie.  The audio for the disc is crystal clear and enhances the fun of the movie.

Features ****

A small sampling of the bonus materials on the two discs include:

The Main Menu on the Bonus Disc features two French peas, talking while busy working at their Seafood restaurant.  The menu vignettes are so funny, that you occasionally forget to make a selection.  And you have so much to choose from:  Behind the Scenes, The Music, Bonus Material Trailers & Previews, and Fun!  Each selection leads you to another menu of four or five choices.  With over five “making of” featurettes you learn all you want to know and more about how the film was made, including the fact it took about 500 computers to generate the final renderings of the animation. 

Making the Movie – Creators Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki discuss why they chose this particular Biblical story and how the assigned the popular Veggie Tale character to particular roles for the film.    It took more than two years to create the film, which included a year of hiatus while they beefed up their staff for their first feature film.   

The first disc includes three audio commentaries – creators Vischer and Nawrocki; producer Ameake Owens and director animation Marc Vulcano; and Larry the Cucumber and Mr. Lunt.

The Music – The Veggie Tale franchise has sold over not only 30 million videos since their debut in 1993, but also over three million albums.  So, it is no surprised to find an entire section of the bonus disc devoted to the music of the film.  In addition to “Scoring A Movie,” there are music videos by Chris Rice, the Newsboys, and Superchick.

The Studio Process – Short feature walks the audience through the process of making a CG animated film.  Beginning with the story, to storyboards where they bring visual life to the story the follow the process through to the end.  Fans of animation will find this interesting look behind the scenes.

Big Idea Tour –The tour serves as an opportunity to introduce you to the staff behind the Veggie Tale franchise.  The studio is actually housed in an old mall store, hence the non-working escalators.  Their studio is not luxurious digs, it is pretty much what you expect for a place of creative computer geeks – cluttered but colorful.  Do not watch the visit to the regrettable edible collection of one employee on a full stomach; trust me there are food items out there you do not want to know about!

Summary :

The Big Idea team clearly enjoys their jobs and are very committed to not only entertaining children, but also teaching kids learn important lessons, such as the need to give others a second chance.  Making the Movie ends with various staff members sharing why they love being involved with the Veggie Tale franchise.  As one team member stated, “The miracle and blessing of working here is that we are making a film that says ‘God wants to give a second chance to everyone.’ We made a film that is suppose to make a difference and that is a whole different ball of wax.”  Unlike live-action, Christian oriented films, Jonah not only successfully shares the message of God, but it entertains as well.