New Christian Cartoon Series for Kids "Theo Presents"

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Sample videos are available on Theo's official website

I just finished watching four online preview videos of Theo Presents. The following statements in quotes are included in the press kit prepared by Whitestone Media. I respond to each paragraph based on my observations.

Theo Presents is centered around the adventures and teachings of the main character, Theo, a student of God’s Word and a theologian. Theo lives in a cozy corner of a quaint English village, in the heart of the Cotswolds, and entertains many guests, including two mice, Belfry and Luther.

Theo is an elderly gentleman who introduces each video by singing hymns which might not be familiar to many children, but certainly will be recognizable to older folks who have spent time in more traditional churches. I like that the hymns are brought into play in a children’s video series, and it is in keeping with the age of Theo and his role as a church going theologian. However, some children, particularly older boys and girls in suburban or urban settings, might immediately perceive it to be a bit boring if they are not accustomed to such music. Preparation might be needed to overcome potential distractions in terms of negative comments from these kids.
Belfry and Luther are absolutely adorable mice with an unceasing penchant for trouble. Kids of all ages should enjoy them. Both the mice, their attending theologian, and the primary animation sequences are wonderfully drawn with professionalism which hearkens back to the classical era of Disney animation. The voicing and music synch beautifully with the characters, as well.
http://vimeo.com/15993778

Theo was created to reach kids of all ages. The lessons and teachings of Theo can be used for Sunday school lessons, Christian school curriculum, missions evangelism and homeschooling. The overall purpose of Theo Presents is to provide as many tools as possible to help present the Gospel to many kids and audiences all around the world.

I see great potential for use in Christian school curriculum and homeschooling, where there might be a smaller, more intimate environment less given to potential distractions. There is a lot of talking in comparison to action in the videos, which could tend to lose the attention of children.

The animation series of Theo guides children and their families through a careful study of systematic theology. Doctrines about sin, God’s character, the Bible, salvation and godly living are discussed with easy-to-understand illustrations that make children want to learn more about the Christian faith.

I appreciate the systematic approach to this series and I think the characters Belfry and Luther add a much needed dose of sweet humor through pratfalls and predictably unpredictable errors in judgement, but I wonder if the series might be strengthed through less discourse about the various topics, and more emphasis on narrative? Children identify more easily with stories, rather than abstract concepts such as the various categories of systematic theology. It is helpful that each episode of the series includes a situation in which Belfry and Luther get into some sort of trouble related to the day’s topic. Likewise, Theo narrates a relevant Bible story in each episode with the use of a shoebox tale (a more rustic version of animation, far below the production standards of the primary animation). These are both good and helpful as far as they go. Indeed, they hearken to the model established by Veggie Tales with their good animation and story illustration accompanied by a corresponding less impressive animation in Bible story form. Yet, even with those two narrative forms deployed, the primary form of instruction in the videos is lecturing by Theo, particularly since he narrates in full the biblical stories.

The entire premise for Theo Presents centers on one universal fact: children and adults alike love cartoons. Theo captures the attention of young minds with liberal amounts of humor and high-quality animation to present the Gospel of the Christian faith through the teachings of Theo and with the use of his two object lessons, Belfry and Luther.

Theo Presents is designed to serve as a multi-media resource tool that will help men, women and children fulfill the Great Commission of Christ, to go into all the world and make disciples and to teach those disciples God’s word. The multi-media outlets include a DVD series, curriculum, books and audio CD series. Each facet is designed to work with other media, corporately or individually.

I recently contacted Whitestone Media concerning the availability of the resources listed in their final paragraph. They replied as follwows,

We only have digital downloads available to the public with plans to release physical DVDs sometime this year.  We will have curriculum, but that will not be released until June 2011.  We have not set a release date for our CDs, which will be audio songs primarily, but when we do, we will make an announcement.

I recommend Theo Presents particularly to smaller churches, families, homeschoolers, and Christian schools. It may also be helpful for larger children’s ministries which break out into smaller groups. I am not yet persuaded that the videos would be received well in a large group setting of children, given the slower pace of the videos.
To learn more or purchase any of their available downloads, simply go to www.theopresents.com.

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