I walked into CMLeaders yesterday and was heading to the registration table to grab my name tag when I saw him — THE PHIL VISCHER, maker of Veggie Tales and What’s in the Bible. I was careful not to make eye contact. I mean, what could I possibly say to him? This guy is a total creative genius! A few minutes later, Phil stopped over at the blogger hang-out table and chatted for a few minutes. Turns out, he’s totally approachable and (of course) a ton of fun. I asked if I could chat with him for a bit to do a write-up on the blog and he happily agreed.
After finding out we’re both from Christian and Missionary Alliance backgrounds (Phil is like 7th generation Alliance!), we launched into a discussion about Phil’s childhood. I was curious about the development of his creativity. Was it always there? Was there a key event that brought it out?
Phil shared that one of his key memories in childhood was getting in trouble in Sunday School.. for talking. He explained, “This was so memorable because I HATED getting in trouble!! I remember my DAD had to come in and then he had to talk to me.” Turns out, Phil’s an introvert and he wasn’t even really talking to the other kids – he was just adding little quips into the story line. Apparently, the teacher didn’t appreciate it. From that point on, Phil stayed really quiet at church.
When he was six, he remembers walking through a hotel with his grandfather and going into the gift shop. He was allowed to pick out a toy and he zeroed in on a puppet. As soon as he got home, he started practicing different voices and realized he might actually have some talent in this voice thing! (Of course, we have seen that incredible talent displayed in both Veggie Tales, What’s in the Bible, and now at CMLeaders!) Though he had two siblings (both of whom are now teachers), Phil remembers spending much of his childhood playing alone (the introvert thing again!). He did do some Star Wars action figure playing with his little brother, but he spent much of his time drawing, and tinkering with the animation process. Phil drew inspiration for his work from Sesame Street, the Muppets, and some obscure Monty Python movie (I didn’t really know what he was talking about!).
When it came to developing his first character, Phil knew he needed something flat and easy to draw. The perfect solution? A candy bar! However, his wife quickly informed him that mothers everywhere would hate him if he made the star of the show a sugary snack. Cue the cucumber.
Of course, there’s so much more to the Phil Vischer story, but I wanted to give you a little taste of what a cool guy Phil is!
I was absolutely delighted with Phil emceeing the event. He brought so much life, humor, and a lightness to the whole event. For instance, this morning he played an original song about Children’s Ministry an his ukulele. Last night, his interview with Michael Chanley was a blast and his introductions for the speakers were without compare. He was always smiling, always missing his cues, and made everyone feel like they were a part of something special.
Thanks for spending a few minutes chatting, Phil. It was great meeting you!