Inside Move: ‘Veggie’ pics keep it lean and green

Tale of tomato and cucumber should have B.O. bite

You don’t have to blow a bundle to create a computer-generated movie hit — especially if you have a ready-made aud.

With a solid $24 million-plus domestically since its release in October by Artisan, Big Idea’s “Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie” has already spawned a follow-up feature, “The Bob and Larry Movie,” which revisits the exploits of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.

With its lower-cost CGI and family-friendly themes, the “Veggie” pics have B.O. bite.

Artisan marketed “Jonah” heavily through church groups and plans a similar approach with “Bob and Larry.” And though the new pic won’t be an overtly religious yarn, it will depict family-friendly themes.

“We think there’s a very substantial audience that tends to be under-served by other media interests,” Big Idea prexy Terry Botwick says. “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.”

With those priorities, “Veggie Tales” patrons will settle for a little less CG sizzle. And that saves bigtime on software development and other production costs that, to date, have made $30 million-plus the point of entry for even modestly budgeted TV tooners like last year’s “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” from Paramount.

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 on the new pic.

Artisan acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to both “Veggie” toons last March by agreeing only to cover prints and advertising, which amounted to $15 million for “Jonah” and figures to run about the same on “Bob and Larry.”

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