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Big Idea Serves Up 25th ‘VeggieTales' Episode

9 Feb, 2005 By: Meryl Schoenbaum

Apparently some vegetables have a very long shelf life.

Big Idea Inc. is celebrating a milestone 25th episode of its long-running (12 years) “VeggieTales” series with the March 8 (prebook Feb. 8) release of its latest title, VeggieTales: Duke and the Great Pie War ($14.98 DVD, $12.98 VHS).

Greg Fritz, marketing VP at Big Idea, attributes the success of the series to its lessons of basic, yet fundamental, life skills told in an easy-to-swallow manner.

“The stories teach the importance of things like forgiveness, friendship and acceptance of others, and they explore situations families face today,” he said. “They are told with cleverness and a wackiness that both children and parents appreciate.”

Parents need not be concerned that the word “war” appears in the latest episode. Fritz explained that it's a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pie-throwing that is often played out in carnival-like atmospheres.

Big Idea is getting the word out about this landmark in “VeggieTales” history with an extensive marketing campaign.

“We've got placement in retail locations, Christian bookstores, basically any store that carries video,” Fritz said. “We're doing a Web-based contest to win cash and product prizes. We have a strong consumer print ad campaign in magazines like Nick Jr., Parents, Parenting Magazine, Christian Parenting Today and other religious publications.”

He added that the company will soon be announcing restaurant and consumer packaging deals as well.

Churches and schools are also big factors in the marketing plan.

“We have a significant promotional arm with churches,” he said. “VeggieTales: Duke and the Great Pie War will premiere at about 1,200 churches to start with, and we expect to expand that to 1,400 or 1,500.

The churches will receive coloring sheets and distribute coupons to their congregations in addition to premiering the video, Fritz said.

About 10,000 schools will also participate in the program's curriculum for up to a week. The kids watch the show, do activities and get coupons for the video.

The Regal Cinema chain is also part of the marketing strategy.

“Regal Cinemas will have showings of family films on Saturday and Sunday afternoons beginning in February. [The new ‘VeggieTales' episode] will be shown in 25 new theaters a month, with 125 theaters at the outset,” he said.

To round out the marketing effort, VeggieTales: Duke and the Great Pie War will also be aired on public television in April, and an on-pack lightswitch cover will be included with the DVD.

Some of the most popular titles in the “VeggieTales” series have been The Toy That Saved Christmas (3 million units sold) and Madame Blueberry (2 million units sold). The company has accrued sales in excess of 40 million units.

The Franklin, Tenn.-based supplier is looking at the viability of VHS.

“Last year's sales were about 70 percent DVD, 30 percent VHS,” Fritz said. “Now it's 80 percent DVD, 20 percent VHS. We want to continue offering VHS, if there's a need. But we think the days of VHS may be numbered.”

Is the company worried that after 25 episodes the “VeggieTales” writers will run out of story ideas?

“The writers get much of their inspiration from situations involving their own families,” Fritz said. “There's a lot of inside humor, such as giving characters the same names as their friends and relatives. Our challenge is to present these stories to a new generation.”

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