Phil Vischer: “I’m sorry.”

Fascinating tale by Phil Vischer, the man behind Big Idea Productions (Veggie Tales), of how Big Idea Productions died. There are a lot of factors that entered into it, and it’s worth reading through if you have any curiosity about the company.

Here’s a very short version of the same story, from last year.

It’s interesting how much of the debacle seems to have been caused (according to Phil himself) by his conflating a wild idea of his own (“we’re going to be a gigantic media company, like a Christian Disney”) with a divine mission/mandate.

It’s interesting because you can hardly find a guy more likeable or well meaning than Phil “Bob the Tomato” Vischer. And yet by his own admission, in this article, he did utterly, utterly irresponsible things, allowing his company to engage in really dubious financial dealings, take ridiculous risks, put its trust in unwise management plans, hide the truth about the financial straits of his company from his employees till he had to lay them off with no warning, all kinds of really horrible things. He did a lot of things that hurt a lot of people terribly, and he ended up losing everything about the company he valued and dreamed of (it passed into the hands of a completely secular media group).

And all those things are completely out of character for him — except that they all spiralled out of this confusion of a dream he came up with as an exercise in a business book with the will of God. So that all the things he did, all the risks he took, he took in a spirit of a leap of faith, trusting in providence, with the belief and hope that it would really work out in the end.

I find it interesting to read this story as a metaphor for things like, well, the Bush Administration, or the more triumphalist/empire-building religiously oriented conservative movements in general… (Not that religion is an essential part of the story — it’s possible for other things to give you the same feeling that the rules don’t apply to you, because you’ve got an inside track on reality.)

It gives me a way to empathize with some of the people involved that I would never be able to otherwise. If Bob the Tomato himself can turn into a destructive, “on a mission from God” empire builder, running his company into the ground on a mad quest for media empire… Well, I guess you don’t have to be some kind of psychopath to do the kinds of things that I see the Bush Administration as doing. All you need is to fall asleep at the wheel of self-awareness and humility long enough to take a few steps down the wrong path.

Important to keep in mind that we’re all just humans here. All of us.

3 thoughts on “Phil Vischer: “I’m sorry.””

  1. “The Will Of God” is a funny thing. Who’s to say that it *wasn’t* God’s will for BIP to go under? God has created bad situations in the past to be examples for the rest of us. Jonah is a classic, and it’s ironic that it was the Jonah movie that really hammered BIP. A major point of Jonah is that we’re never told whether Jonah repented of HIS sin of wanting to see the Ninevites blasted.

    I agree with everything you said though. I tend to have a pretty fatalistic view of world events in the light of God’s will. I do what He wants ME to do, and the rest isn’t my responsibility.

  2. I, for one, am glad to see that whole Veggie Tales thing fall by the wayside. They looked waaaay too much like, er…marital aids than they should have.

    As for trusting your multi-million dollar business to what you think God wants you to do…man, I’m not even gonna touch that one. Point and laugh, maybe. But no touching. I’m gonna go to my happy place now. :)

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