1Glories

Refining Life, on Purpose

How Phil Vischer’s Second Act Rises Above the Loss of Veggie Tales

Veggie Tales had a legendary rise and just as legendary fall. Phil Vischer, through the experiences of it all, learned about setting our motives rightly on God and serving God’s will over our own. It’s a lesson he takes into his second act, focusing on deeper discipling and inspiring focused ministry.

As my home church was launching a young disciple’s study from Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer, I was reminded of his Vischer’s own tale. It’s one of brokenness, challenge, triumph, defeat, loss, sorrow, regret, and coming back. I thought more about it and concluded it would be a good contribution to the Year of Listening Up topic of Finding Value In Disaster.

I’m particularly struck about his realization of God’s goodness after having lost everything. His realizing that God gave him the loss to refocus the motive for dreams and earthly work.

The Rise and Fall of Veggie Tales

Phil Vischer, at age 24, launched Veggie Tales in the early 1990s, featuring characters like Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. He and his wife were financially broken, yet very rich in ambition when a couple acts of generosity enabled them to move forward with a “big idea.” A few months later, the first Veggies Tales episode was completed. (Christianity Today)  

With a successful faith-based series and a studio employing 200 employees, the meteoric rise was the stuff of legend. Vischer was well on his way of becoming everything he had dreamt of being.

And then disaster struck.

Just as quickly as Veggie Tales rose, it all came crashing down. A series of financial mishandlings lead Vischer into declaring bankruptcy and regrettably selling the company. An appeals court later overturned a decision that significantly contributed to the downfall, but it was too late by that time. He lost his studio, his characters, his wealth, and (I am sure) an enormous level of pride.

The Disaster of Veggie Tales’ Success

Veggie Tales experienced success that few could have envisioned. They were popular among many Christian families, yet criticized for perceived shallow teaching and Scripture deviation. Vischer didn’t exactly argue that point and, in fact, aimed to take younger disciples deeper in later learning. Success at making a film was the first goal. The next goal was getting the content through the metaphorical gates of Christian Education committees. Vischer again succeeded and set his sights on depth.

However, the mass popularity of Veggie Tales instead buried its creator in a multitude of meetings for his growing studio and new market. Depth of content took a backseat to merchandising and operational management.

Veggie Tales had a legendary rise and just as legendary fall. Phil Vischer, through the experiences of it all, learned about setting our motives rightly on God and serving God’s will over our own. It’s a lesson he takes into his second act, focusing on deeper discipling and inspiring focused ministry.

Veggie Tales had a legendary rise and just as legendary fall. Phil Vischer, through the experiences of it all, learned about setting our motives rightly on God and serving God’s will over our own. It’s a lesson he takes into his second act, focusing on deeper discipling and inspiring focused ministry.

God Allowed Disaster to Strike the Veggie Tales Empire

One key lesson I take away from the rise and fall of Veggie Tales is the need for proper motive in the ways we serve God. It’s very easy for us to want to achieve worldly defined success with the belief that it’s all for God. Yet, how authentic is that belief? Vischer, through his experiences, learned this first-hand.

Vischer later described his misery during the peak success and later downfall, saying:

I realized that He let it all fall apart, because He loved me so much, not because He didn’t love me. He wanted to save me from myself and my own ambition. That turned my whole life upside down. I realized that I was more important to God than anything I could do for God and He would love me even when I wasn’t doing anything at all.

Our Epic Fails Can Set Our Second Act onto Straight Paths

Big Idea went bankrupt in 2003. Vischer, with renewed focus in his service, has been making up for what he believes Veggie Tales lacked. He describes his moment of realization, saying:

Wait a minute, did I just spend 10 years persuading kids to behave Christianly without teaching them Christianity?’ And that just stopped me in my tracks, and that led directly to ‘What’s In The Bible.’ I can’t just tell kids to behave like Christians. I have to teach them the tenants of the faith.” (Christian Examiner)

In 2010 he launched “What’s In The Bible?,” a 13-part DVD series starring a character named Buck Denver who explores the Old and New Testaments in strong detail. Of course, his new work isn’t without criticism – though I found very few instances and have personally viewed much of the content without concern.

Vischer is also a frequent guest on Family Life Radio, Focus on the Family, Moody Radio and more. His story has evolved into a national speaking ministry at conferences and colleges. In addition to “Me, Myself & Bob,” Vischer has also authored, Sidney and Norman: A Tale of Two pigs and 47 Beavers on the Big Blue Sea,

When Disaster Set’s Us Toward Greater Desires

When I first set out to launch 1Glories, one of my concerns was the motive. Was the ambition self-driven or God-driven? As Vischer suggests,

“My first advice is to be aware of your dreams.”

What he means here is that the things we most want to pursue sometimes (maybe often) have more to do with our personal brokenness and less with God’s will. For instance, Vischer’s dream was to be the Christian-version of Walt Disney.  

Vischer continues: “Working for God starts by letting go of our dreams and desires and our will…. We have turned dreams into idolatry.”

Dear Heavenly Father – grant us the wisdom and favor to be humble even as we dream. Grant us heart and mind motivated fully for the purpose of serving you and not our egos or pride.

About Chad Gramling

Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.