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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jonah - A Veggie Tales Movie
Jonah - A Veggie Tales Movie
Artisan // G // March 4, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted March 6, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Movie

Big Idea Productions started out just as its name suggests. In 1989, Phil Vischer had an idea to teach children solid moral values via new cutting edge computer animation. After a few years of brainstorming and development, Vischer finally obtained the resources to begin production of the very first VeggieTales episode. So in July of 1993, computer animator and storyteller Phil Vischer founded Big Idea Productions in his spare bedroom with just one computer. With the help of two art school graduates and his college buddy Mike Nawrocki, they successfully completed the first full-length 3D computer animated children's video in North America, Where's God When I'm S-Scared. From here the rest is history, or shall I say, Biblical history.

The VeggieTale phenomenon is really quite staggering. Through virtually word of mouth alone, Big Idea Productions has now sold well over 8 million videos worldwide, and this trend shows no sign of slowing. Their product, what once could only be found at Christian bookstores, can now be purchased at almost any major retail outlet in the world. It's clear these crazy vegetables have quite a following.

If you've never heard of VeggieTales before don't feel bad. For, if you would have asked me six months ago what VeggieTales were I'd have told you they are some kind of mutant growth that occasionally graces the butt end of an enormous orange gourd. But today I'm much wiser, and I am now very familiar with the show and its Bible-related messages. Now it should be made clear that I'm not even remotely religious and would have never sat down to watch these shows if my cousin's little ones hadn't been mesmerized by them, constantly glued to the TV like sap on a tree. But once I sat down to watch an episode I thought the shows were fantastic and effectively taught decent morals and good virtues. However I still cringed every time these loveable animated vegetables mentioned that you should act a certain way because "God wanted you too," and not because it was merely the courteous thing to do. Despite the peachiness of these shows, they are witty, comical, and always educational.

Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie is Big Idea's first crack at a feature-length film. Needless to say they pulled it off well, making a remarkable movie that looks 100 times better than their previous releases of the flagship show. If you play any of the VeggieTale's videos side by side with Jonah, the difference in the quality of animation is so dramatic it will hit you like the aftermath of slapping Mike Tyson on his ass in a lonely locker room. The animation is still quite a few notches below the computer animation giant Pixar, but it's safe to say that Big Idea is gaining on them faster than Pixar is pulling away. To sum it up, Jonah looks, sounds, and plays substantially better than any other VeggieTales video preceding it.

Jonah tells the story of the famous prophet Jonah, who defied God's will because he didn't agree that really bad people deserve second chances. The story is meant to teach people compassion and mercy. Now even though I don't personally believe in the authenticity of this Biblical story, I admire the method and humor that is used to help children understand the importance of being compassionate. The movie begins with our beloved gang of goofy, limbless vegetables heading to a concert to hear their favorite musician, Twippo. However, the selfish actions of Laura Carrot cause the gang to crash their microbus next to a mysterious seafood restaurant. At the restaurant Junior Asparagus meets a misfit trio of root beer slurping, cheese curl craving, pirates (the self-proclaimed Pirates Who Don't Do Anything) who then tell him the tale of Jonah. Before too long, the entire VeggieTales gang is caught up in the grand story of the ancient prophet. And not surprisingly, everyone learns a valuable lesson in the end.

Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie is a fantastic looking DVD that offers an amazing soundtrack, a plethora of special features, and tons of fun. If you're big into the Bible and its teachings this movie has to be in your collection, period. And if you're not religious or a Christian, you may still appreciate the terrific humor and hugely entertaining supplements this disc has to offer.


Video: Jonah is presented in both 1.33:1 full screen and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture here is nearly flawless. If it wasn't for a minor touch of pixelization found in the background shots this would be a perfect 5-star video. The pristine look of this DVD should be of no surprise to anyone seeing how this was a direct digital-to-digital transfer. The pixelization is no doubt due to the compression administered in order to fit the feature on this DVD. Perhaps the video might have looked better if they would have dumped one of the three audio commentaries, offered on Disc 1. Oh well, this is a minor quibble.

Like I said, everything here is almost perfect. Colors are as bright and punchy as you could ever hope for. The picture is as clean and crisp as it gets. Black levels look true, and the print is totally absent of any blemishes, streaks or dirty flaws. Edge enhancement? Not a trace. In short, this is a nearly perfect looking DVD.
(EDIT) Upon closer inspection, this DVD will look "almost perfect" on a small TV set, however if you view it on a large projection system, the picture will greatly degrade in quality. The pixelation I found earlier becomes a much larger problem for those using projection TV's. Potential buyers should be wary of this fact.

Audio: Jonah offers two audio soundtracks, a Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 audio track. The clear winner here is the 5.1 track that thankfully follows suit with the spectacular video transfer. There really is nothing bad you can say about the audio. The dialogue is crystal clear; the bass is nice and strong when appropriate scenes call for it, there's nice separation in the surround speakers, and the musical score along with the ferociously fun songs make you feel like you're in a cathedral listening to them live. The surround usage can get very involving at times, and is most notable in the storm scene when our cast is out at sea trying to figure out whom to throw overboard in order to please God. The crackling thunder sounds very realistic and makes you feel like you're in for some big trouble.

In the VeggieTales universe the religiously aimed songs are just as important as the action, so naturally the sound crew made sure this DVD sounded as good as it possibly could. I think it's safe to say they achieved their goal.

Extras: Hold on now, I'm going to need to catch my breath before tackling this section, because this disc is practically overflowing with enjoyable, upbeat, and creative special features. Jonah is a kid movie, and Big Idea Productions went out of their way to make this DVD as fun as possible for children.

Disc 1

On disc one, we find three, yes that's three, separate audio commentaries. They are all great additions to this package and each one offers something unique.

Phil Vischer & Mike Nawrocki: These two co-directed and wrote the movie, Jonah, and are both highly entertaining and never let up. There's never a lengthy spot of dead air and for the most part give very interesting information as to the development of the movie. But it's clear these two love to have fun, because they tend to go off at times about things that don't really pertain to the scenes at hand. However this is never annoying because their constant banter is always amusing.

Ameake Owens & Marc Vulcano: Owens is the producer and Vulcano is the director of animation. Here's where you'll find most of the meat and potatoes of useful information. These two both offer a wealth of production notes that are both interesting and informative. The only downside is that this pair lacks the hyper enthusiasm of Vischer and Nawrocki, so it may be harder for most to make it through to the end.

Larry the Cucumber & Mr. Lunt: Here we have Vischer and Nawrocki returning for another commentary, only this time they do it in their special character voices. This was without a doubt the craziest, outright pointless, and most enjoyable commentary I've ever had the good fortune to hear. Talking as if they were real life actors in the movie, these two often go off in insane tangents about the oddest things that have nothing to do with the movie. The crazy thing is, this kind of commentary could spell disaster if not done right; however the constant and always hysterical antics of Larry and Mr. Lunt never ceased to make me laugh. What makes this commentary even better, is that it is 100 percent adlib, so everything they say is totally on the fly. It's incredibly impressive to see just how well these two friends can improvise together so flawlessly. The only possible downside to this feature is that I found it substantially funnier than the movie itself. For me, this is no doubt because here they can just be goofy, without all of the religious talk. Anyone who watches this movie owes it to them self to listen to this commentary. I promise you won't be sorry.

Disc 2

Behind The Scenes
Making the Movie: (11:12) This is a featurette that gives you some inside information as to the making of Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie. Here you'll learn about Big Idea's new building, casting choices done for the film, software development that needed to created to finish the movie, and computer problems they encountered.

The Studio Process: (7:00) This featurette takes the viewer through the various stages of the studio process, such as the story, storyboards, pitching the storyboards, hand drawings, voice recording, 3D modeling, camera workers, animators, lighting technicians, the render farms used to finalize the picture and the musical numbers and score added for the final edit.

Big Idea Tour: (12:00) This is a silly tour administered by Big Idea Productions CEO and founder, Phil Vischer. Basically Phil takes you around the building to meet the staff, and make fun of everything he sees. This was fun to watch and is definitely worth viewing.

Jonah and the Bible: (5:30) Here we learn how the writing crew determined exactly what lines from the actual Bible story would make it into the movie script. They wanted to make sure all the important plot points from the story were there, without bogging down the movie with boring dialogue. After all, this is a kid movie.

Khalil Auditions: Here are four failed auditions for the brand new character, Khalil. After listening to these auditions, it's clear why these candidates weren't chosen.

Character Bios: Here are humorous bios of the various VeggieTales gang.

The Music
The Score: (8:00) This is basically an interview featurette with Vischer and musical composer Kurt Heinecki. It was interesting to hear how crudely the musical elements for the movie were created. Probably half of the score elements started out as on-the-spot humming by Vischer.

Score Progression Reels: Here are some early concept tunes hummed by Vischer playing aside rough versions of video footage.

Superchick Pirate Remix: (2:46) This is a remixed song sung by the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

Belly Of The Whale: Here are music videos of the songs "Belly of the Whale" and "Million Pieces" performed by the Newsboys.

Billy Joe McGuffey: Here are music videos of the songs "Billy Joe McGuffey" which is heard in the opening sequence of the movie, and "The Other Side Of The Radio" performed by Chris Rice.

Bonus Material
Outtakes/Outtakes (Spanish): These are funny outtakes from the movie. On the average, I found these not as humorous as the outtakes found on the Pixar movies, but there were a couple that made me chuckle a little. Still, it's nice to have these as a special feature. The Spanish outtakes were almost funnier at times, but I think I thought this because I'm not Spanish.

Progression Reels: Here you have three scenes that have been broken down into the progression stages of development for you to view how they came together as a finished product. The three scenes are: "Jonah enters Joppa/Ship Deck Fun/Rescuing Jonah."

Concept Art: Here you have two segments of concept art to view, but the really nice thing about this feature is that you may view the art with commentary by Michael Spooner and Joe Sapulich. This was a nice touch.

Digital Dailies: Along with the audio commentary with Larry and Mr. Lunt, this was probably the funniest special feature on this DVD. Here we have our familiar VeggieTales friends Larry and Mr. Lunt, paired with Jonah newcomer Khalil (a half worm half caterpillar creature) to give commentary of the daily scenes to edit. They call this process "the dailies" where they view the scenes that were shot for the day and decide if they work or need to be re-shot. The scenes used for this segment are obviously rough attempts at animation, and can look extremely funny. So naturally, our opinionated trio has a lot to say about it. If you feel like laughing, check this feature out.

Extra Countertop Scenes: (6:20) Here we find a segment where Bob the Tomato and Larry talk about the lessons that can be learned from their new movie Jonah. They then must try to convince their friend Archibald Asparagus that it's safe to come out of his dressing room to start shooting the movie. This whole segment is rendered exactly how the regular VeggieTales episodes are, so it doesn't look nearly as good as the movie Jonah. Also, I found this segment to be rather boring.

Trailers & Previews
Trailers & Previews: Here you'll find six separate trailers and previews for, Jonah, Little Joe, Larryboy, 3-2-1 Penguins!, Jonah Game, and the Jonah soundtrack.

Khalil's Answering Machine: Here you can listen to both Khalil's incoming and outgoing messages from his own personal answering machine. This is fairly humorous, as you get to hear some of Khalil's more quotable sayings, as well as messages he leaves to himself as reminders. This is definitely worth a listen.

Jonah Sing-Along: This is a sing-along with the final musical number sung by Jonah, A.K.A Twippo. The lyrics to the final song are always displayed at the bottom of the screen, but you have the choice of cutting out the lyrics sung by the VeggieTales if you want to sing it all on your own. This was a very nice feature.

Trivia Challenge: Here we have two sets of 10 trivia questions pertaining to the movie. You can choose between hard and easy.

Interactive Storybook: This is a rhyming tale about the town of Nineveh told in the same manner as a Dr. Seuss book. You may choose for Larry the Cucumber to read it for you, or you can read it yourself without Larry's help. The animation for this segment is 2D, and looks quite nice for a read-along. This is a good feature to enjoy with your children.

Family Fun Activities: Here are two games that you can play with your family. The first game is Blind Puzzle. The purpose of this game is to teach you compassion. The second game is called Second Chance Card. This purpose of this game is to teach you mercy.

Games: Pop this DVD into your computers' DVD ROM drive and you'll find no less than six interactive games. I swear, Big Idea Productions thought of everything didn't they.

Menus: Jonah has the most stunning and utterly hilarious collection of animated menus I've ever come across on a DVD. The 3D menus look fantastic, and if you listen to each of them long enough, you can pick up some hilarious dialogue from the VeggieTales characters.

It is here in these menus where you'll find all four of the Easter Eggs found on Disc 2.

Rusty Sprocket Show Interview: (3:10) This Easter Egg is found on the fish tank in the opening main menu. This is a short interview of Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato given by Rusty Sprocket, the robot comedian of 3-1-2 Penguins fame.

Khalil's Motivational Speaker: This Easter Egg can be found as a highlighted bowling ball on the guitar in the menu for "The Music." Here you'll hear some additional quotes from Khalil's motivational tape he uses in the movie.

Bootleg Movie Recording: This Easter Egg can be found as a root beer bottle in the "Bonus Material" menu. Here you'll see a hilarious incident where the pair of French Pea's attempt to make a bootleg recording of Jonah in a movie theater. The dialogue is intentionally similar to a famous Monty Python sketch from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Chinese Bootleg Box Cover: This Easter Egg is found as a bowling ball in the "Trailers & Previews" menu. This is exactly as the title suggests.

Alternate Jonah Plush Toy Slogans: You can find this Easter Egg by highlighting the button on the Moby Blaster game in the "Fun!" menu. These are some different slogans made by Khalil's cuddly Jonah plush toy.

Final Thoughts

Jonah - A VeggieTales Movie is huge step forward for Big Idea Productions. The overall animation is quickly catching up to the current animation heavyweight champ, Pixar. And if what we're seeing is any indication of things to come, I'm sure we can expect great things from Big Idea in the future.

Jonah is funny, well written, and perfectly voiced by its entirely in-house cast. The special features are a real hoot, and can at times create more laughs than the main feature itself. Even if you're not a Christian, there is something you can gain by watching this movie. Religious or not, there's no denying that Jonah is destined to be one of the best DVD's of 2003.

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