Add up the words Jesus, clay animation, and movie, and "cinematic excellence" may not be the result most viewers expect. For those of us with imaginations shaped for life by Sunday-school felt boards, clay animation may sound about as artistically exciting as watching homemade sock puppets reenact the separation of the sheep and the goats.

Well, fellow adobe-phobes, it's time to admit that with The Miracle Maker—which ABC will broadcast at 7 p.m. (EST) on April 23, Easter Sunday—a medium has come of age. Like Wallace & Gromit (PBS) and The PJs (Fox) before it, The Miracle Maker proves that clay animation's storytelling potential is as boundless as a talented artist's imagination.

Better still, The Miracle Maker tells its story without tampering with the basic Gospel accounts or sounding like the Royal Shakespeare Company. True, the voices include those of prominent British actors such as Ralph Fiennes (Jesus), Ian Holm (Pontius Pilate), Miranda Richardson (Mary Magdalene), and scenery-chewing David Thewlis (Judas Iscariot). But the British accents are muted rather than the "stained-glass voices" often heard in biblical dramas. In one whimsical touch, Peter's voice is noticeably Irish, setting him apart as he denies Jesus three times.

A PROVIDENTIAL CONNECTION

Judith Tukich, director of special projects at ABC in Los Angeles, knew the treasure that had landed on her desk when the distributor Artisan Entertainment sent over a copy of The Miracle Maker for her consideration. She has been on the job for 10 years, and watches about 20 movies in a typical month.

"Obviously I don't get excited about a lot of them," Tukich told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. "I'll never forget the day I popped that movie into my VCR. I ran down the hall to the ...

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