A show for those who like to waltz with potatoes

It’s not every day that Bob the Tomato pays a visit to Southern Adventist University.

The big red fruit may not be taking the stage this week, but Phil Vischer, the creator of Christian cartoon “VeggieTales” and the voice of the popular character, will make a special appearance at the Collegedale campus Thursday, Jan. 10.

The animator, voice actor, writer and songwriter will speak to the student body at 11 a.m., visit classes and spend time with those studying in the School of Visual Art and Design, and then deliver another talk for the general community at 7:30 p.m.

Explaining that Vischer does not have a particular connection with Southern Adventist University, editorial manager Lucas Patterson said, “We really wanted him to come to campus. Our student services department placed calls twice a week to his people, and we are honored that our persistence paid off.”

Vischer and Mike Nawrocki first introduced Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber in the summer of 1993 in the direct-to-video episode, “Where’s God When I’m S-Scared?” as a part of their business venture, Big Idea Productions.

To date, the “VeggieTales” series includes 45 episodes, with three “Silly Song” sing-a-long videos and two feature-length films-“Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie” and “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie.”

The series’ content focuses on moral issues, such as why a white lie to get out of trouble with parents can have larger consequences, with the enduring message to young audience members that God loves them.

Though Vischer rarely makes these kinds of public speaking appearances, Patterson noted that the animator will likely share his personal story of declaring bankruptcy in the process of financing one of the “VeggieTales” movies and rebuilding his career.

“We wanted the students to hear that story firsthand,” Patterson said. “It can be a humbling experience to think you have an awesome vision and that you’re following God’s plan, and then you go through what Vischer went through.”

When possible, Southern Adventist University also tries to bring those actively working in the industry to campus to share pointers with the students.

Both talks will be free and open to the public. The morning engagement will take place in the Iles P.E. Center, and the evening event will be held at Thatcher Chapel. The campus is located in Collegedale, Tenn., at 4881 Taylor Circle.

Updated @ 8:32 a.m. on 1/8/13 to correct the date and location of the event, which was originally reported as being on Jan. 7 in Cleveland.