As some of you know, one of my clients is VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. Over the past few months he’s hired me to do little snippets of animation here and there for his new educational series “What’s In The Bible?”. Recently he wrapped up a 9-DVD series on the Old Testament and started work on the New Testament, which is the part of the Bible that covers everything from the life of Jesus onward.
I’m an OK animator but one of my specialties is character design. I was pretty excited (and a little humbled) when Phil asked me to design several of the major characters from the life of Jesus, including the Disciples. Another artist had already designed Jesus so my job was to create characters that looked like they belonged in the same “world” as Jesus, visually and stylistically.
I started with the Disciples. Since I wasn’t animating the characters, only designing them, to simplify things I used only three body types – large, medium, and skinny/small. That way the animators only had to build three “puppets” and then just decorate them with different heads and clothing.
I was also asked to design members of the four major Jewish sects that existed in Jesus’ day – the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots
The Pharisees (pictured above) were the religious conservatives of their day. They took the Scriptures very literally and were extremely strict about following all of the rules. They were also very self-righteous and spent a lot of time following Jesus around trying to trap him or trip him up.
The Sadducees were sort of the religious liberals of their day in that they held to a looser interpretation of Scripture, even going so far as to say there was no life after death. They were very wealthy and seemed more interested in politics than religion. They bent over backward to keep the Roman Empire happy.
The Essenes were a bit like monks. They pulled themselves away from normal society and started communes in the caves and hills, where they spent much of their time praying, reading, and making copies of religious texts.
The fourth group were the Zealots. They had a fiery religious passion and they hated being ruled by the Romans. They believed God should be their only ruler, and many Zealots had no problem using violence to achieve their goals. Interestingly, one of Jesus’ disciples (Simon) was a Zealot while another (Matthew) was a tax collector who had spent his life working for the Romans, yet both found peace and friendship through following Jesus.
I also designed the apostles Paul and Stephen, but since they don’t show up until the next DVD I’ll have to wait to show them to you.
Here’s a YouTube trailer for What’s In The Bible? Volume 10, the episode that uses these character designs. It should be available for purchase in February. In the mean time, Phil Vischer is currently offering a free download of the first episode using this link. If you have kids you might also want to know about JellyTelly.com, a subscription site (only $5/month) that gives you instant access to over 100 hours of Christian media for children, including every single episode of What’s In The Bible?. Just thought I’d mention that.
EDIT: Volume 10 is now available for order.