Here's something that has somehow escaped my attention all these years: The Dirdy Birdy, the animated short that John R. Dilworth did right before The Chicken from Outer Space, the one that Cartoon Network picked up and turned into Courage the Cowardly Dog.
As delightfully twisted as its successor was, this one has an uncomplicatedly goofy charm to it that's just plain fun.
Wow... the stories you never hear about are often the ones that make the most riveting reading. Especially when they're penned by people who have a real knack for narrative.
This dates from 2004 (via Cartoon Brew), and is the many-parted story of Big Idea Productions (the studio behind VeggieTales) and the sordid bankruptcy that seems to be such a well-kept secret that it isn't even mentioned on their Wikipedia page.
The auction was over. Bob & Larry had new parents and a whole host of new siblings, including Lassie, the Lone Ranger, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Underdog, Rudolph, Richie Rich and, more curiously, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Witch and Li'l Hot Stuff, a cute little devil in a diaper. In their divinely ordained but ultimately unsuccessful quest to buy Big Idea, the mysterious late arrivals from Minnesota managed to spark a bidding war that knocked every other Christian bidder out of the race. A curious episode punctuating the curious resolution of a curious tale. As the leader of the Minnesotans left the courtroom that day he noticed me sitting in the back and whispered, “God's will will be done.” Looking back on the events of the last year, I believe he was correct. But more about that later.
. . .
So the members of that first executive team are the villains! You could probably come to that conclusion, but I don't think so. I mean, can I really blame packaged goods executives for attempting to use packaged goods marketing techniques to sell films that ultimately show up on store shelves as – packaged goods? And VeggieTales success itself had become a huge challenge. Whenever you have an unprecedented hit, future planning becomes extraordinarily difficult simply because there are no precedents. There were no comparables for VeggieTales. Our sales had skyrocketed 3300% in four years! Against that backdrop, how do you project the future? More skyrocketing? Was our growth almost done, or just getting started? Look at another example: Between Christmas 2003 and Christmas 2004, sales of Apple's iPod increased by a staggering 500%. A huge success, but also a huge challenge. How many iPods do you make for Christmas 2005? 500% more than 2004? 100% more? 10% less? Unprecedented success is extremely difficult to manage simply because it is unprecedented. Every year is a big ol' guess. Guess wrong one way and you'll choke your success by running out of product or not having enough man-power to support the demand. Guess wrong the other way, and you could crash and burn right in the midst of your success. As wrong as the forecasts my team made in 1999 ended up being, I honestly believe they did the best they could with the information and the experience they had.
Business is a strange and unnerving world... but reduced to fundamental terms, it's all the same stuff we all do every day, just on a much larger scale. None of this seems all that outlandish, and perhaps that's what creeps me out more than anything.
At the very least, it's hard to be as cynical about certain properties once you've seen them behind the scenes.
And either way, at least Phil Vischer's done it more right than this guy...