DMA professors' work to be featured in 'VeggieTales'

Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University professors Steve Leeper and Bryan Ballinger have created a segment for the “VeggieTales” animated series to be shown this fall on NBC.

“VeggieTales” conveys Christian ideals to children through funny, humanlike vegetable-shaped characters.

“Mr. Lunt’s Popsicle Stick Puppet Theater” will debut on Oct. 7. Ballinger, assistant professor of digital media arts, created the designs, art and building of the puppets while Leeper, instructor in digital media arts, animated the characters. Mr. Lunt, a decorative gourd who grew up in New Jersey and speaks with a Spanish accent, was first featured in “VeggieTales” videos and movies.

“These are short pieces designed to string together some of the existing videos for television time slots,” Leeper explained.

“When Phil Vischer—co-creator of ‘VeggieTales’—asked that I do the all character designs and drawings for this segment, I jumped at the chance,” Ballinger said. “And Steve’s animation of the characters is fabulous.”

The following is a schedule of “VeggieTales” episodes that will include the work of Leeper and Ballinger:

All of the episodes listed will air at 10 a.m. on NBC and will feature a segment of “Mr. Lunt’s Popsicle Stick Puppet Theater.”

Episode 6—“Dr. Jiggle and Mr. Sly”

Air Date: 10/07/06

Episode 3—“Madame Blueberry”
Air Date: 10/28/06

Episode 9—“Duke and the Great Pie War”
Air Date: 11/18/06

Episode 11—“King George and the Ducky”
Air Date: 11/25/06

Leeper and Ballinger have a history with “VeggieTales,” having worked on videos and movies including “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.”

“VeggieTales” came to television Sept. 9 and drew criticism from some groups who felt the series had “sold out” because references to Scripture and God were removed. Not true, says Big Idea, Inc., the company that produces “VeggieTales.”

“When we were presented with the opportunity to reach a mass television audience, we knew that certain religious references would not be allowed on a children’s block under current TV network guidelines,” according to a post on Big Idea’s Web site. “And we recognized that we were not going to change the rules of network television overnight.

“In light of this, ‘Can Big Idea continue to fulfill its mission of enhancing the spiritual and moral fabric of society through creative media?’ became the question we had to answer. Can ‘VeggieTales’ make a difference on Saturday morning? We think so.”
 Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).


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