Jellyfish Labs’ latest project What’s in the Bible? is available now in 4word’s online store! This faith-focused resource is an excellent Christmas gift option for not only your own family, but every family in your life that desires a deeper understanding of God’s word.
JellyTelly, a unique online video and game network for families, is also available in the 4word store for a special reduced subscription rate! Click here to purchase your What’s in the Bible products and JellyTelly subscription today!
Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, JellyTelly, and What’s in the Bible?, had his dreams of becoming the “Christian Walt Disney” come to a screeching halt when his former company Big Idea Productions was forced into bankruptcy. In that moment in his life, Phil had to stop and listen for God, and the plan He had in store for him took him on a new path that has been nothing short of life-changing.
4word: We are thrilled to partner with you on your latest adventure, JellyTelly (available now in the online 4word store!), a safe and wholesome portal for children’s online video content. It sounds like it was an experiment. What were you hoping to do with it and has it lived up to your expectations or exceeded them?
Phil: It’s still an experiment! First VHS cassettes gave way to DVDs, and now DVDs are giving way to online streaming. JellyTelly is an experiment to see if parents would appreciate an online streaming service solely dedicated to Christian children’s media. We launched the original version of JellyTelly five years ago, and we were definitely ahead of the curve. Parents weren’t there yet. But each year, as we tweak our “experiment,” we see parents more excited about putting the shows they trust on whatever device they have handy.
4word: We also LOVE your latest project, “What’s in the Bible?” (available now in the online 4word store!), where you take viewers (children AND parents) through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. What was your motivation here?
Phil: To do just that – take families all the way through the Bible! After VeggieTales, I was looking for a way to take families deeper into their faith. So many parents struggle to disciple their kids, because no one discipled THEM. A resource like What’s in the Bible? can lay a foundation of faith for the whole family together. I talk more about this in the video below.
4word: You’ve been quoted saying that you wanted to be the Christian Walt Disney. How did creating VeggieTales fit in with that ambition, and then how did its success affect you?
Phil: I actually decided God wanted me to be Walt Disney AFTER VeggieTales became a success. Surely that was why God handed me the success, right? To build something truly huge and world-changing. But the more I chased impact, the more stressed and miserable I became. Was I doing enough? Fast enough? Couldn’t I be doing more if I worked just a little harder? I was working myself nearly to death, and the frantic growth I pursued ended up putting my company into bankruptcy.
4word: After your production company Big Idea Productions was forced into bankruptcy, resulting in you having to sell the company, what kind of toll did you find yourself under, both mentally and spiritually, and how did you go on?
Phil: In the months following the bankruptcy, God showed me that I had made the work I was doing FOR Him more important than my relationship WITH Him. My “Walt dream” had become an idol – and it was making me miserable. God led me into a new life of walking with Him, and letting my work flow out of that relationship. Focus on the relationship, and the work will take care of itself!
4word: Your new company Jellyfish Labs has a unique mindset in terms of planning ahead. Can you tell us more about it and why you decided to adopt that particular idea?
Phil: I realized where I went off track with my first company, Big Idea Productions, was when I started making 20 year plans for my life and ministry and then just asking God to “bless” them. I was acting like I was a big, studly salmon, swimming up stream, leaping up waterfalls, charting my own course through life. God showed me that a life walking with Him – in His peace – looks more like a jellyfish, suspended in the current of His will, trusting that He will carry me exactly where He wants me to be.
So I named my new company Jellyfish Labs as a sign of complete release of my own goals and plans and reliance on the goodness of God. We have only one rule at Jellyfish Labs – no long-range planning. I’ll make a plan for a project, but never for my life or my ministry. That’s in God’s hands.
4word: What advice would you give to the Christian entrepreneur wanting to make it big in his industry and become an icon?
Phil: Read my book! No, seriously, they really should. “Me, Myself & Bob” – it tells my whole story and the lessons I’ve learned. I speak a lot at Christian colleges, and kids come up to me wanting advice on how to bring their own “big ideas” to life. How to make their own “dreams” come true. My first question is always the same: “How would you feel if that never happened?” By the look in their eyes, I can tell if that dream has become an idol. I can tell if they’re in real danger of hurting themselves and the people around them. If they say, “Oh, I’d be fine – it’s just a fun idea.” I say, “Great! Let’s talk about your fun idea!”
4word: What’s next for Jellyfish Labs? Any upcoming projects you can give us a sneak peek of?
Phil: I’m actually in a time of waiting on God for clarity about what is next. I have lots of ideas, of course. I ALWAYS have lots of ideas! Some of them are good, others are terrible. I’m too close to tell which is which. So I’m praying and waiting on God. Like a jellyfish. It’s all good.
When one door closed for Phil, he took the opportunity to completely realign the direction for his life and career and was rewarded with clarity of purpose and exciting ways to minister to families. If you find yourself reaching a “dead end” in your life, whether it be at your job or in your spiritual walk, don’t give up! Take some time to wait for God to indicate His plan for you and then get ready for blessings to abound.
Have you had any doors closed in your life? How did you recover from that?
In 1990, Phil Vischer created VeggieTales, an animated video series crafted to teach Christian values to kids in a delightfully different way. More than 60 million VeggieTales videos have been sold around the world. These days, Phil continues pursue innovative new ways to integrate faith and storytelling through his creative company, Jellyfish Labs. His latest projects include a 13-DVD series called Buck Denver Asks…What’s in the Bible? which walks families all the way through the Bible, and JellyTelly, an interactive, online network that provides faith-based daily programming for families. In addition, Phil hosts a light-hearted weekly podcast called The Phil Vischer Show, in which he discusses pop culture, media, theology, and Christian life.