(RNS) — Phil Vischer, co-creator of the kid-popular "VeggieTales," talks about what makes a movie "Christian" and what kids need to know about being a hero.
Q: Is it hard for a Christian movie to compete with mainstream movies?
A: Eight out of 10 Americans still identify as Christian, even if they haven't gone to church since their parents made them when they were kids. But when they become parents, all of a sudden they look at their own kids and, "What values am I passing onto them?"
Q: As an artist, do you sometimes feel suffocated by the Christian community?
A: Honestly, many do. I know Christian artists who just can't take it; they walk away from the Christian world and get on with their art. I am more a teacher than an artist, which is why I have been so happy making VeggieTales, where a tomato gets down on his knees and says, "God made you special and loves you very much." At the end of the day, I've got more Mr. Rogers in me than van Gogh.
Q: What makes a movie religious? Is "Finding Nemo" a Christian film?
A: It's not an un-Christian film. There are very strong Judeo-Christian values in most successful family films, though not all. It's hard to tell a compelling story that goes against those values or disregards them. You'd have to be wildly cynical as a filmmaker to craft a kids' movie that throws Judeo-Christian values out the window.
Q: In your newest film, "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything," what do you hope kids will learn about being a hero?
A: What we don't say is, "Every one of you has such extraordinary capabilities that you can, under your own power, be a hero." What we're really saying is: Regardless of how you view yourself, God has created you to do something really cool. That's why we're here, and it involves helping others, and it has nothing to do with how big and brave and strong you are, and everything to do with trust in God to give you what you need to do what he's asked you to do.
Q: Is your simple message that everyone can be a hero?
A: Yes, and the message is also: Stop being a consumer and be a producer, because our culture is all about consumption. If you reach adulthood under the impression that the world exists to entertain you, you are going to be on the couch your whole life. That's not what God is telling us to do. The world is on fire. God wants us to jump in, grab a bucket, and start putting out fires.