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Artisan harvests 2nd ‘VeggieTales’

Big Idea's 'Bob and Larry' eyes 2005 release

Artisan’s again helping a couple of talking vegetables make the leap from the produce counter to the bigscreen.

New York film distrib is dishing up a second “VeggieTales” toon, “The Bob and Larry Movie.” Big Idea-produced pic, which revisits the computer-generated exploits of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, is aimed at a 2005 theatrical release.

“Bob and Larry” reps the second of a two-film pact Artisan inked with the Chicago-based family entertainment company last March. Distrib has grossed a solid $24 million-plus domestically with Big Idea’s Biblical toon “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie,” which unspooled theatrically in October and heads to homevid in March.

Artisan acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to both toons by agreeing to cover only prints and advertising, which amounted to $15 million for “Jonah” and figures to run about the same on “Bob and Larry.” Big Idea anticipates production costs on “Bob and Larry” in the $20 million-$25 million range, a bit north of the estimated $14 million negative cost on “Jonah” due to the inclusion of some CG human characters in the new pic.

The “VeggieTales” movies under CG maven Dan Philips follow Big Idea’s long-running history with the franchise in direct-to-video release. Biblical backdrop to most of the series has made the “Veggies” a vidstore fave with Christian constituencies, and Artisan also marketed the “Jonah” movie heavily through church groups with assistance from Big Idea.

” ‘VeggieTales’ always had an established audience, and the question was whether they would come to the theaters to watch it,” said Glenn Ross, prexy of Artisan’s family entertainment division. “The answer is obviously that they will.”

Distrib plans a marketing approach similar to “Jonah’s” with “Bob and Larry,” which Artisan plans to unspool in 1,000-plus theaters initially. “Jonah” was distribbed less heavily in the Northeast to build pic momentum in the Bible Belt and elsewhere, and execs said they may take a like tack with the next “Veggies” pic.

The storyline of “Bob and Larry” charts the friendship between the central “VeggieTales” characters, who also figured in “Jonah.” Throughout the “VeggieTales” series, Bob and Larry host a TV show that presents a cast of vegetable thesps in theater repertory.

Unlike “Jonah,” “Bob and “Larry” won’t feature an overtly religious yarn. But like all “VeggieTales,” it will depict family-friendly themes.

“We think there’s a very substantial audience that tends to be underserved by other media interests,” Big Idea prexy Terry Botwick said. “It’s a family audience that’s concerned enough in the raising of their children that they look for a product that’s consistent with their Judeo-Christian world view. (We) get a lot of support from parents that feel like we’re helping them to do their job.”

Artisan will release “Bob and Larry” through its fledgling FHE Pictures label, a recent offshoot of distrib’s well-established Family Home Entertainment video unit.

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