'VeggieTales' bring their message of faith to Calvary Baptist March 24

Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato are two ordinary vegetables with ordinary names, and watching one "VeggieTales Silly Song" will keep you searching for more.

The animated characters, with their creative accents and lively antics, are bringing their "VeggieTales Live! God Made You Special" tour to Columbus with a performance Saturday at Calvary Baptist Church. The show features costumed performers, Larry is eight feet tall, and a cast of humans who join Larry in his search for lost Silly Songs in the Silly Songs Warehouse. The cast performs "VeggieTales" classics like "The Hairbrush Song," "His Cheeseburger" and "Love My Lips." Combining music, dance and cute songs, the faith-based production tells engaging stories with the message for children that everyone is unique and special.

"The motivation was and has been to create a clear biblical world view," said "VeggieTales" co-creator Mike Nawrocki. "Some songs are just silly, but every story has a core biblical value at the center of it."

Nawrocki, who is the voice behind Larry the Cucumber, and his creative partner, Phil Vischer, met while performing puppet shows for children when they were students at St. Paul Bible Colleg. Vischer was learning 3-D computer animation and the two began to play around with animating candy bars. When Vischer's wife Lisa, suggested that mothers would prefer something healthier that a candy bar as a role model for their kids, the pair chose the vegetable.

"It was new technology at the time. Animals and humans were too difficult to animate in the early days of computer animation, so the characters needed to be simple," Nawrocki said. "The original two, Bob (who is Vischer's voice) and Larry were based on our own personalities and our interactions as friends."

They founded Big Idea Entertainment in 1993, and have created a core cast of veggie characters, including Jimmy and Jerry Gourd, Ma and Pa Grape, the French Peas, Junior Asparagus and Madame Blueberry, who is fashioned after Nawrocki's mother. With developing 3-D technology, Bob and Larry's veggie universe has become a bit more sophisticated with more complex designs.

"But the veggie characters have remained just their same simple selves," Nawrocki said, "they just have a charm in their simplicity."

Influenced by Monty Python, the Muppets, Mel Brooks and Looney Tunes, Vischer and Nawrocki create songs, short videos and full-length films that are entertaining for pre-schoolers and clever enough for adults. The partners and their team spend six months to a year developing a story script for a 50-minute direct-to-video production. Each episode features a Silly Song, a short story and the feature presentation with its core lesson. The latest release, Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men, is about dealing with hurt.

"It's the idea that there is no hurt too big for God, that you can bring to God," Nawrocki explains. "That's at the core, and we hope that a 3 or 4 year old can walk away after watching it having learned that lesson."