It was early 1992, and Phil and Lisa Vischer were down to their last $10. Phil had quit his job to work on his "big idea"a video series for kids starring computer-animated vegetables that loved Jesus. But all he had to show for his efforts was a stack of unpaid bills. There was no food in the pantry for their large and hungry dog. The cost of a large bag of dog food: $10.
While Lisa went out to buy dog food, Phil sorted through the bills and pondered what do next. Then he found an envelope containing a cashier's check for $400. An anonymous note inside read, "God laid it on my heart that you might need this."
The next year, a couple in their Bible study lent Phil $60,000, saying, "Go make your movie."
By Christmas 1993, Vischer and two friends completed the first VeggieTales episode, Where's God When I'm S-Scared? Over the next 10 years, VeggieTales sold more than 25 million videos. The Abbot and Costello-like Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, stars of the series, gained millions of adoring fans. And Big Idea Productionswhich Phil started in a spare bedroomgrew to a 210-employee animation studio and entertainment company that he hoped would one day rival the Walt Disney Company.
Whenever there was a need, especially in the early years, something extraordinary happened.
"There were many times Big Idea was dangling on the edge," Lisa Vischer says. "It seemed that every time we were in need of a miracle, we prayed for and got a 'dog food story.' "
Big Idea ran out of miracles last fall. After a series of financial crises, the company filed for bankruptcy, and in December it was sold to New York-based Classic Media.
The low point for Vischer came in April 2003 in a federal courthouse in Dallas. Lyrick Studios, ...