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Artisan Will Cultivate A New Theatrical Unit With Veggie Tales

21 Mar, 2002 By: Joan Villa

Artisan Entertainment will distribute the first VeggieTales movie in theaters in October and launch a new label, FHE Pictures, to release one to two family films a year, the company announced.

The two-picture deal, with VeggieTales creator Big Idea Productions, includes video and television rights to the computer-animated feature Jonah – A VeggieTales Movie, expected on video from Artisan's Family Home Entertainment in the first half of next year.

“This particular property is one that will attract a lot of promotional opportunities,” promised Glenn Ross, president of Family Home Entertainment and EVP of Artisan Home Entertainment. Among book, music and toy licensees, “there's tremendous enthusiasm and cooperation for this product.”

Special features such as a “making of” segment are already planned for the DVD release, and the VHS version will likely be priced at sellthrough, he added.

The VeggieTales franchise has sold 25 million videos without television airings or theatrical play, Ross noted. The new film -- slated to open on 1,100 screens -- will tell the biblical tale of Jonah and the whale utilizing VeggieTales characters Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. Past videos involve Judeo-Christian stories that are modern, relevant and accessible to today's culture, he added.

“There is a moralistic theme, yet you don't sell 25 million cassettes and only sell to the Christian marketplace,” he explained. “They've got a sense of humor, wonderful stories and moral lessons to be taught.”

The brand has produced popular audio titles and established a strong mass-merchant presence with 13 categories of consumer products and 24 licensees, including toys by Blue Box and Fisher Price. A live stage show debuted Jan. 28 in Minneapolis and is moving through 40 cities in the next two years.

Terry Botwick, Big Idea president and COO, expects VeggieTales' “crossover success” to create promotional opportunities for the film.

“We have created a unique marketing partnership which will combine Artisan's theatrical marketing expertise with Big Idea's existing promotional relationships and excellence in grass-roots marketing to bring this film to a wide audience,” Botwick said.

Big Idea's other productions have won several family honors including Parents Choice Awards. Their latest original video, Lyle the Kindly Viking, won best direct-to-video production at the 2001 World Animation Celebration.

Artisan's Family Home Entertainment unit distributes video for such brands as Mattel's Barbie, Discovery Networks, Hallmark Home Entertainment and Scholastic's Clifford the Big Red Dog.

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