The creators of the children’s Christian cartoon “VeggieTales” may face a change of ownership after losing a recent court case, Christian Retailing Online reported, July 10. The company, Big Idea Productions, lost a breach of contract lawsuit against its former distributor, Lyrick Studios Inc., for moving its mainstream market distribution to Warner Home Video in 2001.
According to Lyrick Studios, the Texas-based distributor of children’s characters such as Barney and Wishbone, Big Idea broke a verbal contract by expanding the company too soon. The judge upheld the $11 million lawsuit, and added court fees, attorney fees and interest.
The CEO and chief creative officer, Phil Vischer said the action to move Big Idea to Warner was justified because of three reasons.
"We thought we were right in leaving Lyrick for three reasons," Vischer told Christian Retailing. "No. 1, we had never signed a contract. No. 2, we had inserted a 'key man' clause in the contract we were negotiating that would allow us to leave Lyrick if the Christian owner Dick Leech left the company. Third, we had also put in a 'change in control' clause to allow us to leave if the company was sold. When Dick sold Lyrick and died two months later, we clearly felt that both of those clauses had been invoked."
Big Idea is also feeling the reverberations to its premature growth; just before releasing “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie,” BI employed more than 200 people. The company is now down to 45 employees.
"We got ourselves upside down financially when everything was working wonderfully," Vischer told Christian Retailing. "When things were doing so well, I thought that was God wanting us to expand, so we grew like crazy. Now I think it was more me having all these great ideas in my head and being so excited that I wanted to do them all at once."
However, despite the financial challenges facing the company, Vischer said the original creative team is still in place and plans to move forward even under a new owner.
"We are just as dedicated as we ever were," Vischer told Christian Retailing. "The future is not going to look exactly like the picture I had painted in my head, and I don't know exactly what it is going to look like. But I think I am supposed to let God shape it, and if He wants to shape it with more than just me, so be it."
Big Idea hopes to release its new VeggieTales video, “:The Ballad of Little Joe,” by August 2003.