Phil Vischer, founder of the company that produces VeggieTales, describes three years of financial woes at the children's video firm as "falling down a flight of stairs in slow motion." But he hopes to jumpstart Big Idea Productions this year with the release of three new VeggieTales videos.
The new year brings major changes to Big Idea, which filed for bankruptcy in September 2003. Vischer will retain a creative role but will no longer be responsible for the business side of the company. New York-based Classic Media, which bought Big Idea in December, takes over that role.
Vischer admits that he mistakenly assumed Big Idea could continue its meteoric growth in video sales, from several hundred in 1993 to 7 million in 1999. When sales flattened in 2000, the company started losing money and was more than $40 million in debt by 2003.
"The valuation of the company and everything [it produced]," Vischer told CT, "was based on these forecasts that in hindsight … were just based on bad assumptions—just flat out bad assumptions."
Big Idea sold 5 million videos the first 11 months of 2003, topping sales during all of 2002 (4.8 million).
Vischer said he was relieved to no longer be the "top tomato" at Big Idea. The stress of trying to save the company and the jobs of employees he considered family broke his heart, he said. It also took a toll on his health. He said he got so caught up in VeggieTales' potential influence for the kingdom of God that he "became no good for God."
"I was Big Idea," he said. "I think that's one of the things that God wanted to knock out of my head with a baseball bat. I almost wasn't perceiving myself as an individual anymore—but as a mission, as a ministry, as a corporate slogan or an icon. I don't think that ...1